Born to nothing we will dream as kings and oh the kingdoms we will build. It was times like these that David Lowe would recall the last words of Harry Bradshaw but it was not the time for memories of better men and simpler times.
He stood before the union offices. The Pacific Shipbuilders inhabited a small corner of the second floor of a building that was not grand, or worth discussing. The union was not trying to impress anyone and that impressed Lowe. Part of him was jealous that the minimalist simplicity was not afforded to men who could command it with the wealth and power they had collected. David Lowe would have been perfectly happy in an old office in an old factory with a single chair for himself so those who met with him would have to walk or stand and not waste his time. After all time was short, and there never seemed to be enough.
David was to meet with Solomon Schule the president of the PSU. David liked Solomon. Once they had been friends. David had been a groomsman, but that was years ago when they were young men and ambitions took them in different directions through different means.
David opened the glass door and took the stairwell on his right. The stairs smelled of cigarette smoke. He liked that. There was a certain honesty about the stairs and the fact that their simplicity made them timeless. There are things you can’t change, and things you can’t make better. Thought David. Things like shoelaces. No matter how hard you tried shoelaces would always be around. Same for ships. The world will always need ships and shipbuilders and shipbuilders will always need men and Solomon had the men David needed.
When David came to the door of the office he paused a moment and checked his watch. He was twenty minutes early. He entered.
“David Lowe to see Solomon Schule,” he said to the woman behind the desk.
“He’ll be a few more minutes Mr. Lowe,” said the woman, she said it flatly but David could detect a touch of reproach. He nodded and took a seat near the door and waited quietly. The window across from where he sat reflected his image just enough that he could make out how he looked. His shoulders were broad and filled his suit nicely. His hair had bleached out slightly over the summer and turned a coppered blond that was done up with ease to look as if it formed naturally. Lowe’s face was attractive enough, with masculine features that made him look older than he was as a young man, and younger now. His eyes had sunken slightly and circles formed under them so that in the half light of his office when he worked late he seemed haunted.
David pulled his eyes from the window and looked about the office. He had not seen it in a number of years since he had fired a large number of workers from Pacific and ended up dissolving his contract with the union. The men who came back were not unionized and their wages were cut. That was when Solomon Shule had also dissolved their friendship. Lowe had liked Shule enough to offer him steady work as a Vice-president of labor for Trans-Pacific Shipping and with it a nice office and competitive salary that was more than the union could offer. Shule was an idealist. He stayed with the Union. Lowe liked him all the more for that and regreeted that he had lost one of the few people he could call in the middle of the night to run his ideas past. If David was in Shule’s position he might have done the same thing.
The walls were aquamarine and starting to show their age. At onetime the building had been new, the culmination of enterprise and labor to a polished final product. In its time it had been an expensive place to lease but with the loss of production the service of the doctors and lawyers moved on as well. The building was not meant to impress the men who came here. The men who were shipbuilders were not rich men, and they were not proud men. They were workers men like David had been who would sit on an I beam forty feet in the air without a harness to weld rivets to steel. They were worth every penny that Trans-Pacific Shipping had cut from their wages but the economy tanked and David couldn’t help that.
Lowe looked across the office at a painting of a sailboat on an inlet. It was a watercolor and the ship was just a pair of black sails against the light blue water surrounded by mountains. The boat reminded David of the first one he built years ago with Harry Bradshaw, when it was appropriate to dream of better times and better men.
As a boy, the lake house seemed like a foreign shore though it was only at the end of the street. The Bradshaw’s who lived there seldom poke with the neighbors but from time to time were known to ask if their guests could park along the lesser yards at their annual Labor Day event. The neighbors would let them and offered a good-mannered exchange and then the Bradshaw’s would retreat to the city and not be seen again until the following summer when they returned to the lake house.
David lived with his mother on the small farm at the end of Franklin Rd. The farm was twelve miles out of town under the foothills where the end of the lake met one of the creeks that fed it. His mother had inherited it when her father died and they moved back to Washington from Portland. Colleen had refused to sell the farm and instead hired a few men to help seed and harvest and had David help her with the day-to-day chores. One of the hired men, Carl had stayed on after the last season had ended. Colleen would smoke and drink with him late in the night and then they would make for the bedroom where David could hear. In the summer on these nights Daivd would sneak out of the house and sleep on the couch on the porch. There was a bug light on the other end so the insects did not cause him much trouble and the hot air made it easy to sleep.
I am a liar. If I told you my name was David Miller I would be lying. I am David Lowe. My grandfather was Arthur Lowe and he was a liar. My farther was Jesse Miller and he was a liar, though I only spoke with him a handful of times and I can’t recall if he ever lied to my face. I am David Lowe because my mother gave me her name when I was born. She was a liar too.
I am awake and it is 3:43am and I need to be up at 6:15am at the latest so I can catch the train into Chicago so I can meet with Hank Gordon. He wants to see if I’m a good fit for the public relations department for his firm. They are venture capitalists. I can’t sleep.
I stand and look out the window of our apartment. I hear Sara breathing quietly behind me on the bed. I turn my neck and see her laying across the twin mattress with her bark hair thrown over the pillow case creating a sharp contrast of thin strands that move as she breaths. She’s peaceful and she always can sleep so easily. I turn back to the window.
I think about the ground below. Directly under the bedroom window is a rosebush in a potted plant that is starting to turn brown at the end of it’s leafs. It’s September and the ground would be cold if I pushed my torso a little further out the window and let go of the windowsill. I don’t think it would hurt if I fell out, maybe I’d get a broken collarbone if I landed on my shoulder, perhaps a twisted ankle. I would not die if I fell out the window, at least I don’t think someone can die from falling from the first floor.
I get away from the window and go back to bed. Sara has one leg up and the other spread out above the covers. I lay on my side next to her and warm my hand by placing it in my arm then move it between her thighs. She is thin and tall and even more beautiful when she sleeps. I move my hand to her stomach and pull her closer to me and wrap myself into her. She turns and pushes her face into my chest. I still can’t sleep.
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.
November 1st I decided to turn over a new leaf of sorts and start waking up early everyday to getmore accomplished. So now when I’m greeted by the cold hardwoods and drafty corners of my apartment at 5:40am, I have something to get done. I go to boxing at 6am, 3 days a week and don’t have any other apointments until 9am usually, so I decided to try NaNoWriMo this November. I don’t have high expectations, I imagine that whatever I write will be rushed and need A LOT of editing, however I made a goal. Yet I can not bring myself to actually work on the project, at least as intently as I imagined. I start writing and then somehting comes up that I deem more important and I get distracted. My apartment is clean. My laundry is done. My kitchen is spotless. My family has been called. My girlfriend satisfied. Now it’s Saturday and I have to actually get down to business. I have to spend the day writing to catch up so I can meet the goal.
So here is to Satuday at home, writing 10,000 words. Let’s see how well that works.
In the mornings there was no routine. Not anymore. David had previously been greatly organized with a timetable for each morning allowing him the capacity to get as much form his day as he could. He would wake up at 5:30am and ride his bicycle for an hour in the summer months, or in the winter join a fitness class so that he could maintain himself. Lately he had fallen from his schedule and proceeded to sleep later and later in the day.
He had gotten fat, but not the bad kind of fat, rather he had added somewhere around 25 pounds to his body and filled out the summertime skinny he usually maintained. His face was still slender, though his cheeks were fuller. When he was younger he had been baby-faced but had been determined in college to get rid of any traces of it. His hair was still well kept, not quite blonde but not brown. He was roughly 6’2” tall with broad shoulders and a thick chest, which helped cover some of his weight gain. David Lowe was handsome and at twenty-five his face still had no wrinkles. He kept himself in good order and dressed well, even now when he felt as lethargic as he did, and despite the bitterness he felt in general he was rather good company.
By: Dylan Lenz
David stood and pressed his back into the wall. He shoved his hands into his pockets and let his head back until it touched the bricks. It was cold. He looked over at Jim.
“Jimmy. Do you even like that name?” David asked.
Jimmy looked up at David and shrugged.
“I like James. Just James.” said David.
“Why?” asked Jimmy.
“Sounds better,” said David.
Jimmy looked out at the drive way.
“We could use your middle name,” said David. “What is it?”
David pushed himself from the wall and sat next to his nephew on the steps. He turned his head and looked at his sisters bedroom window and then his own. He would have to sell the house.
“I think James works just fine. It’s more, more grown up.”
“Okay,” said James.
- Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
So you have just finished your fiction workshop, or submitted an article, or just let someone read your stuff. Perhaps they liked it, perhaps they told you all the things they liked about it. Perhaps they misunderstood the beginning, the middle, the end. They make suggestions. Some understandable, some redundant. One suggestions suggests you rewrite the entire thing from another perspective and start using “I” statements. You cringe because you don’t really want to spend six more hours rewriting. This is your child, a direct creation of you, a manifestation of self. My advice is don’t fret, relax! Literally & Figuratively. Give it a few days then look at the suggestions again. If you still don’t like what they have to say - screw ‘em. It’s your story, though you may want to fix the grammer errors you missed, either way.
#24 Colworth Dr.
By: Dylan Lenz
As of mid-August the lawns of Colworth Drive had paled to a dull tawny except for the few neighbors who had little regard for the watering instructions of the city. These few lawns remained green and stood out to passersby, all knowing these particular neighbors were poor sports when it came to the rules of living in a dryer climate. Other neighbors resented them; while they revered their yards they found themselves rather displeased with their own incapacity to simply dismiss the posted regulations and feared the fines that could be distributed by the city. Little did the law-abiding inhabitants of Colworth realize, these laws were seldom enforced and, even if they had been, the prestige of a well-kept front-lawn would outweigh the discouragement of a ticket.
Frank Woolner and his wife Debra often would walk from their house on Colworth Drive to the end and down Jefferson Drive where the houses became estates and the driveways were gated. The Woolners were not the sort of neighbors who watered their lawns over their allotted time, but were never quick to complain about those few who did. Though some nights they would walk down Colworth gazing into the windows and open garage doors of their neighbors and assign dollar values to the things they saw. This was their time away from their house and family and both Frank and Deb enjoyed these strolls with an unsaid air of superiority they had let themselves become accustomed to.
The Woolners were not materialistic people, in fact they were the opposite. They used only what they needed and often bought used to save the environment the unneeded consequence of the American shopper. They frequented neighbors garage sales, and thrift stores, and auction houses finding the best deals they could, in turn they also had the most eclectic collection of appliances, furniture, and art in the neighborhood. Something the Woolners were again quite satisfied with.
The Woolner house was modest; they were a single-car family though they could afford much more affluence had they chosen it. Frank Woolner worked as a lawyer for a small firm but was paid a very comfortable salary. Debra had her degree in Fine Arts but applied it only as substitute teacher at the local junior high, to the dismay of Carol, their daughter. Debra had intended to have her own career, but had married young and stayed home with Carol. By the time Carol was old enough to be left alone Deb found herself and her degree somewhat dated. Carol didn’t resent this, as she could have. Instead she took it upon herself to fulfill her matronly duties to the best of her abilities, and plan the vacations the Woolner family took each year. Deb Woolner out-did the other mothers of the neighborhood and though she was on pleasant speaking terms with all of them, the Woolners were kept at arms length.
Carol was fourteen and in the last year had adopted a taste for the fringe ideals she encountered in the punk albums she had rescued from one particular garage sale. Previously Carol had been a well-mannered girl, precocious, patient, and well-spoken when it came to encounters with those over twice her age. Now she was convinced that social isolation would ruin her. She had begun to have sex with a seventeen-year-old boy named Oliver Allen who, according to Frank and Debra, was directionless and not going anywhere.
Carol was sure to keep him away from her parents after their first encounter of the boy at a dinner near the end of the school year. Frank had been vigilant and Debra remorseful after they had all eaten together back in May. Though the boy had been polite and respectful of their home, the fact that he was three years older than their daughter and that he would be moving to Columbus in the fall to pursue a music career with his band ‘The Nightmare Flowers’ made it resolute in the Woolner’s minds that Carol was not to see him anymore. Frank made sure that Carol knew it had little to do with the ridiculous name of his band, though he did stifle a chuckle when Oliver had said it aloud. Carol in turn hid her relationship with Oliver and made sure that he dropped her off one street over instead of letting him be seen on Colworth Drive.
In the early summer an event shook the inhabitants of the neighborhood. In June, a week after the schools let out and the parents had begun to tailor their schedules to accommodate their restless youth, a pipe burst on Colworth Drive. The pipe that fed water for lawn irrigation and two of the three fire hydrants on the street was damaged and caused a flood across the road soaking the Woolner’s dry lawn. The pipe burst on the edge of the Jackson property. The Jacksons were middle-aged lawn-waterers with a young son, Brian.
The water came in swift gallons carrying topsoil and mulch as far as ten houses down. The city came out and capped the pipe after Deb Woolner called the problem in during the early morning of June 10th. The man the city sent to fix the water pipe could not explain how the pipe actually broke. The pipe was in good shape and had been buried to spec.
Only seven houses on Colworth Drive lost lawn water the week that the city spent repairing the water pipe. They dug up part of the Jackson yard, though James Jackson made sure it was known that he would not be paying for the damage out of pocket. He assured those who would listen that the alterations to his well-manicured front lawn would look better than before and would cost the city. In the end he filed an insurance claim and Marla Olsen, who was close with Patricia Jackson let the neighborhood know that it was a handsome figure, seeing as James was a high school friend of his insurance agent.
The July 4th weekend was the first distinct instance of vandalism on Colworth Drive. Despite their wavering tempers the neighbors would pull together for specific national holidays and sit at the end of their driveways allowing small groups of visitors to stop and talk and share in the comings and goings since they had last seen one another. At ten o’clock, when the sun would fall, the neighbors would watch as young fathers with younger children lit fireworks from the empty lot between the Jackson and Woolner properties.
Lot #24 had sat vacant since 1978 when Mr. Gerald Colworth subdivided his farmland to make way for new developments. Though the lot was the first to be sold, and the most expensive in it’s day, the family from Minnesota who intended to build on it had never shown up. The current ownership of the vacant lot was anyone’s guess and because no one came to visit it and because there were no fences to keep anyone out, a few of the fathers in the early 90’s decided to seed it with grass and take turns maintaining the lot each week.
James Jackson had set a wooden crate upside-down in the middle of the grass and placed a large fountain firework in the middle. His seven-year-old son Brain was given the honor of lighting the firework and used a BBQ lighter to do so. When the fuse was lit the two stepped back to the curb where the other families stood and watched as the first sparks of the twelve-foot tall firework spilled out on the dry grass. As soon as the first spark touched the ground the grass erupted into flames and spread fifteen feet wide and six feet high.
The children sighed in awe while their mothers pulled them further away and the fathers ran to the Jackson house to pull a hose and extinguish the fire. James Jackson threw the bucket of water he had filled earlier in case of an accident on the flames but it only caused the flames to erupt further.
“It smells like French-fries,” said Brian Jackson as his mother held his hand and stood on the Woolners’ drive way.
Patricia Jackson said nothing to her son and instead watched her husband lead the efforts to extinguish the dry grass and lone fountain firework that had tipped over but was still throwing gold sparks across the lawn.
Debra Woolner as well as a few other neighbors were on the phone with the Fire Department. Debra explained to her cordless phone that every time they sprayed the flames with water they would shoot higher into the air. She listened for a minute into the phone and then ran across the street to her own husband as well as seven others that were carrying buckets and hoses to keep the burn under control.
“FRANK!” Deb called over the panic, “FRANK! Don’t pour water on it!”
Frank turned to see his wife; his brow damp with perspiration reflected the gold flames and sparks. His eyes were wide. “DEB, WHA? – GET AWAY FROM HERE.”
“Frank! The Fire Department says it’s probably an oil fire, just make sure it doesn’t spread.”
Frank nodded, motioned for Debra to go back to the house then turned and told the others.
The fire-truck came fifteen minutes later but by that time the fire had burned out and the ground had been adequately soaked. The fire crew sprayed the entire lot again and removed the remains of the wood crate, now charred black and missing its center. The neighbors pulled towards one fireman as he explained what would happen to the lot and the investigation that would ensue.
“It seems like the ground was soaked with cooking oil, about five-gallons or so. We got it out and made sure there are no hot spots that might flare up later on. Do any of you know who owns this lot?” Lt. J Astrud asked the crowd gathered around him. They all shook their heads. Astrud took a step back onto the curb and looked out at the wives and children on the other side of the street. He asked again, louder the second time, but no one answered. Astrud nodded once and then marked it down on the clipboard in his hand. “I need a name to file the case.”
“I’ll do it,” volunteered Debra Woolner, stepping forward from Frank. “I called it in.”
“I can do it, Deb,” interjected James Jackson.
Astrud looked up from his clipboard and looked at James but motioned for Deb to come to him. As the group began to disperse, knowing there was little else to be heard, Astrud took Deb’s name and number and told her he would call her if there was any further information.
Later on James Jackson made note to his wife Patricia that he found it strange to see, or rather not see, Carol Woolner or her elusive boyfriend at the gathering that night. Patricia said nothing as she lay in bed and made a note to call Marla Olsen from across the street to further investigate the absence of the Woolner girl the next morning.
The second and final act of vandalism that summer was seen as soon and Faye Dunway drove Alex Dunway, her son to his 6 a.m. football practice on the morning of July 14th. Again it involved Lot #24 and it appeared the morning after an officer from the city posted a sign for the Department of Unclaimed Property Offices of US States and Territories. The Woolners had walked past it the night before and read that the lot would be added to the County Land and Title auction next week due to unpaid property tax and abandonment due to unfound next-of-kin for a deceased’s title and debt.
The vandalism was a large exhibition of graffiti that expanded along the fence that ran alongside the Jacksons’ back yard, across the back fence of the Saban’s back yard, and stopped as soon as it met the corner of fence that Lot #24 shared with the Woolners. In large black and yellow letters that were ill-formed and were likely a juvenile attempt at graffiti in the middle of the night, read the words ‘THE NITEMARE FLOWERS’.
Patricia Jackson noticed the cars slowing in front of her house and decided to stand outside to see what the neighbors seemed so interested in. James had cut the lawn the night before, but Patricia was uncertain why so many seemed to have such an interest in her yard this morning. In a robe and slippers she peeked out the front door and saw the corner of the graffiti from the front step. She took seven more steps onto her drive way then went back inside to wake James and let him have a look. On her way to the bedroom she grabbed the phone, ignored the cool air of the open front door and began to dial Marla’s number.
James dressed quickly after seeing the vandalism on his fence and strode over to the Woolner house with the intention of speaking to Frank about his daughter and her boyfriend. Brian had mentioned a few months prior that Carol had raved on the school bus about Oliver Allen’s band and that he too wanted to become a musician. James quickly curbed the dinner conversation, not wanting his son to lose his direction with his academic and athletic careers. Later he found the band online and found that ‘The Nitemare Flowers’ played grindcore metal. James closed the website after hearing the first five seconds of a song.
Debra came to the door fully dressed with a cup of tea in her hand. The Woolner house always had had a strange smell to it, as though it were an older house, not one built by James’s father’s contracting firm in 1980, the one James now ran. In the summer it reeked of cigarette smoke that had found its way into the wood, although neither of the Woolners smoked; and in other months it smelled of stale plastics that had been left in the sun then stored without ventilation. James Jackson assumed it was the mixed array of antiques and vintage furniture that the Woolners collected, but would joke with his wife on occasion that it was Deb & Frank’s inability to keep a clean house with all the ‘work’ they did.
James greeted Deb quickly and then asked if Frank was awake yet. Deb called Frank and then stood behind the door inviting James in.
“No, thanks,” said James, trying to hold his breath. He was a sturdy man, six-foot with a little extra weight around his stomach that came with middle age. His arms were solid as were his calves and they bulged slightly in the work clothes he wore. His chest was broad and his hair cut tight behind his ears. In high school he had played varsity football, but didn’t make the cut when it came to university scouts. He had been a defensive lineman, but wasn’t big enough to compete in the NCAA. He ended up working for his father until Fraser Jackson died in 1998 and left the company to James.
“He should be down in a minute,” said Deb.
“Can you have him come outside?” asked James giving her a soft look.
Deb smiled then nodded as she brought her tea to her lips and then closed the door until it was just ajar and went back to the kitchen.
Frank came outside a minute later, in a loose fitting night T-shirt and a pair of kahki shorts he had pulled on over his boxers. He was a little taller than James and much thinner. He had spent his youth behind a desk and had taken up cycling to stay in shape, but he still appeared slight against his neighbor. He greeted James with a smile though his eyes were still glazed slightly and his voice was hoarse.
“Good morning,” said Frank.
“I wish it was Frank,” said James matter-of-factly. “But I think you are going to need to have a conversation with your daughter.”
Frank looked up with his full attention.
“Come look at my fence,” said James, leading Frank to the edge of his lawn. Frank looked up and again stifled a laugh as he saw the name of Oliver’s band across the fences of Lot #24.
“Isn’t that that name of your daughter’s boyfriend’s band?” he asked. “And Notice how it ends as soon as it gets to your house?” continued James. “Something has to change here, Frank, I mean first a fire and now graffiti. This may not be Jefferson Drive but this is a nice neighborhood.”
Frank paused a moment and looked at his neighbor who was motioning out towards the empty lot. This was not the first time he and James Jackson did not see eye to eye, and likely would not be the last.
“First of all, you have absolutely no evidence and no grounds to base the notion that my daughter had anything to do with the fire last week. So don’t even try to pin that on her. Furthermore, Carol hasn’t seen that guy since May, and besides she is at Deb’s parents house until Sunday so there is no possible way that she was the one responsible for this.”
James began to interrupt, but Frank continued. “Now I will have a conversation with Oliver about this and see what he knows and even talk to his parents, but I don’t appreciate you waking me up at seven in the morning on a Saturday so that I can hear your little theories on the vandalism that is taking place on that lot.”
With this Frank strode back into his house and left James in the center of Lot #24, somewhat speechless and somewhat annoyed with the way Frank Woolner had spoken to him. He waited another minute before returning to his own house to explain an edited version of what occurred to Patricia and in turn Marla Olsen.
Frank spent the morning talking to Carol on the phone and then eventually the mother of Oliver Allen who drove him over in her ’92 Honda Accord for a conversation with the Woolners. At this time Oliver explained that he and Carol had been seeing one another still, and that he was madly in love with her, but not so much so that he would write the name of his band on the side of a fence for her.
“It’s not even spelt right,” said Oliver as he drank a glass of grape juice that Deb had placed in front of him. “We spell it ‘Nightmare’ with a ‘gh’, we used to spell it the other way, but it was already taken by some metal band from St. Paul. And I know people do these kinds of things when they are in love, but I swear I didn’t do it.”
“Do what?” asked Frank.
“You know, big stuff, impressive stuff, for the girls,” explained Oliver. Frank and Deb rolled their eyes. Oliver’s mother Emma put her hand on her son’s leg and looked at the Woolners.
“Frank, he didn’t do this. One, I know my son, and he doesn’t lie about this kind of thing, not to me. And also I know that last night he was with his friend Matt in Ardsberg until five this morning.”
Frank looked at Deb and then back at Emma Allen. He smiled then stood thanked them for coming. He apologized to Oliver and shook his hand. At the door Oliver lingered a moment so Frank could not shut the door.
“Will Carol still be back tomorrow?”
“Do you think I could see her if she’s not busy.”
“Goodbye Oliver,” said Frank as he shut the door. He smiled as he walked back to the kitchen.
That night Frank thought about the fire and the graffiti trying to make sense of it. He stayed up and walked around the block then came back to the front of Lot #24 still charred black in the middle and colored around the corners with the bright graffiti on the fences. Frank went back inside and looked up the Greggs County Debt & Title Liquidation auction, then called his boss and asked for Monday off.
The Greggs County Debt & Title Liquidation is held on the second Monday of each month and typically features a multitude of investors trying to snatch up contracts for country tax collections. When county taxes go unpaid the debt is sold and the buyer is given the opportunity to try to collect the owed property tax for the next six months. If the original titleholders still do not pay by that time, the property is forfeited to the debt holder at a fraction of the market value. In 2006 it had become a good business venture for those with the excess capital to purchase the county debts and try to collect the county tax revenue. Selling the properties once the market flattened out in 2008 was another story and fewer and fewer people came to purchase the tax debts.
The Debt & Title Liquidation would run form 9pm to 4pm with the last hour devoted to the sale of abandoned properties and estates. Few people stuck around after lunch once the tax debts were sold off. This Monday only James Jackson and Frank Woolner remained as the only abandoned property on the market came onto the slide show projected at the front of the room.
The photo of Lot # 24 on Colworth Drive revealed a large burn in the center of the lot and the graffiti on the fences that lined the property. Underneath the photo specifications as to building codes and zoning regulations were explained along with the measurements of the lot and water and drainage requirements. In the corner of the slide was a black and white diagram of the other lots in the suburb and notes about water & mineral acquisition.
“The following property is listed under Greggs County bi-law #45889 ‘failure to pay county taxes from years 1985 to 2011. The property’s title has been classified as abandoned due to lack of response from last recognized title holder and will be sold at auction today. The lot measures .87 acres with additional holdings of water and mineral rights for the adjacent 20 acres as noted on the bottom of the slide. We will begin at $1000,” said the justice of the peace who presided over the small room.
James looked back at Frank with a hard look and raised his hand.
“Thank you, we have $1000, do I hear $2000?”
Frank raised his hand. The two men went back and forth until the justice of the peace began to move in ten thousand dollar increments. James Jackson stopped bidding at $112,000, his face red and a small amount of perspiration around his temples. He looked back at Frank as the Justice of the Peace looked if Frank would bid any higher.
“One fifteen.” said Frank.
James’ face faltered a moment as he stood and left the room. He purposely brushed past Frank as he made his exit and strode out the door.
The watering habits of Colworth Drive remained constant throughout that summer until Frank Woolner decided to stop by each of the lawn-waterers’ homes and explain that he would be limiting their water use to the allotted time in order to stop deviation of water from the creek that allowed their lawns to not completely burn. The lawn-waterers had heard through Marla Olsen that this was part of the reason the Jackson’s had sold their house, though they were unaware of the details and not particularly displeased with Frank, as it was well within his rights as holder of the water and mineral rights of the neighborhood.
Additionally the Jacksons claimed they had run out of room with their house on Colworth and wanted more bedrooms and a swimming pool, but their lot was simply too small. No one was terribly sorry to see the Jacksons go, except perhaps Marla Olsen who somewhat enjoyed the petty gossip Patricia would let her in on.
All the neighbors changed their opinions of the Woolners as soon as Frank began tearing out the fence between his yard and Lot #24. He hired a few of Oliver Allen’s fiends as well as Oliver himself to help landscape the empty lot into a small park with a simple jungle gym, gravel pathway and benches for parents to sit and watch their children as they played. Frank and the teens poured concrete and added a tennis court to one edge of the lot. The park bled into the Woolners own back yard where their vegetable garden formed something of a barrier that stopped people from coming too far into their backyard, though they wouldn’t mind if anyone did stray onto the grass. Frank made sure the park stayed green as long as the seasons would allow, though he only watered his own lawn with the same reserve he had had prior to the purchase of Lot #24.
By: Dylan Lenz
In those fleeting moments before the sun would rise and set the eastern wood on fire and cast long thin shadows over the field of the birch trees that lined the back edge of the farm, I would smile at my mother. She would see me to the door, kiss my forehead, and then turn my shoulders to pack a few odds and ends she had found around the house into my canvas backpack. Today it was two pears from the tree in our wood, a spool of wire I had left on the table, and my pocketknife that I had spent the previous hour trying to find. She would pull the drawstring of the bag and close the clasp then lean against the back door until I had my boots tied. I would stand up to kiss her cheek, swing my rifle over my shoulder, and then move to leave without a word. Quietly my mother would open the door a moment and let me out without letting the autumn air in.
We lived northeast of Ketchum, twenty minutes past the sprawl of the city where the farms lined the westbound highway that would take us to Boise in a few hours to see my brother who was studying agriculture, if we chose to drive out that way. We lived in the middle of the state, just under Sawtooth - but if you stood tall on the top of Berger’s Hill, and if the sky were clear enough from the July heat, you could make out the Teton’s to the east and see Yellowstone. At least that’s what my father had told me, he was gone, and I had never climbed to the top of Berger’s Hill to see the Rocky Mountains.
At the edge of the field a creek greeted the tree line and hawthorns formed a thicket at the base of the white trunks of the birch trees. In warmer months their leaves would hide the inch-long thorns that would scrap arms and could take an eye if unwatched. The frosts of November stole away the last of their cover and left the forest floor covered in the fallen leaves. Without them you could see perhaps twenty feet into the woods if you stood at its edge, though the hawthorns still kept most intruders out. Two summers previous I had spent the better part of a week cutting a thin path into the woods. A path of narrow width and low overhang, a path that could not bee seen unless you knew exactly where you left it, a path for a boy.
It was at the mouth of the path that Jesse met me. As I walked toward him from the house I saw him wave impatiently. I had turned twelve in September and Jesse was roughly two years older. He had a good foot on me, and was strong. He had a sturdy jaw and thick wrists just like his father and his father’s father. Jesse’s family had come west and settled the valley over a hundred years ago. His father farmed the same strip of land across the road from my family’s farm that Jesse’s grandfather had farmed, and his father before him. Jesse was the only son.
“About time,” said Jesse. He slung his own rifle over his shoulder and began to walk towards the entrance of the woods.
I quickened my pace and took off after him. “I’m sorry, you know my mom, always trying to kiss me goodbye and stuff,” I said, looking up a moment as Jesse paused at the creek. He looked down at me with a strange expression.
The autumn had taken most of the remaining water from the creek until it left it with a shallow flow in the deepest parts of the bed. Jesse stood at the edge of it and looked up at the line of birch and cottonwoods that flanked the water. We walked along the bank until we found the bend we usually crossed at where the water narrowed to only a few feet wide. The edges of the creek had already frozen and ice formed an elegant lace tying the stones of the creek bed together. The creek would freeze altogether in a few weeks until February when the runoff made it so we couldn’t cross the creek on our own any longer.
I handed Jesse my rifle and he jumped across the water with ease, his long legs almost allowing him to simply step across. I threw my backpack to him and he placed it on the ground next to the rifles then looked back at me. He braced his legs and opened his arms incase he needed to catch me. I took a few steps back then ran forward and jumped. Jesse grabbed me as I started to stumble on the other side and kept me from losing my footing and stepping into the cold water. He handed me my rifle and bag and then walked beside me as we walked deeper into the woods.
He was quiet for some time. We crossed a small meadow and decided to stop. I found a good tree to sit in and wait for an animal to wander close to us. Jesse took a branch a few feet above me, one I could not yet climb to, while I sat lower in the tree and dangled my legs underneath. I tossed Jesse one of the pears my mother packed as I ate the other and looked around for signs of movement.
“My mom moved to Boise,” said Jesse.
“When is she coming back?” I asked looking up at him.
“She isn’t.” Jesse said. “She got a job and an apartment. They said that I’m supposed to visit her on the weekends.”
“What’s your dad going to do?” I asked, still looking up.
“Don’t know. I don’t know why he doesn’t just go and get her. They’re still married,” Jesse said. He hopped to a lower branch and waited a moment before jumping to the ground. I followed.
I stood still a moment and looked at Jesse and then stared off into the meadow. I had nothing to say. Jesse was my closest friend, both by choice and by circumstance. There were no other boys my age within two miles but I was his friend for reasons besides that. I am confident I could have hated him if I chose to or if we did not see eye to eye. I had no affection for Andrew Briggs the boy who used to live at the farm next to ours – his house was closer than Jesse’s house and I had hated Andrew even though Jesse was his friend. Jesse and I were friends simply because we were. It was never a question of why or what the other had to offer. We would spend our free evenings in one another’s company, talking about girls at school, about our plans, about our families. I wanted to live by the ocean and Jesse never once mentioned that I needed to learn to swim. On the weekends we would go camping or exploring, or we would watch television at my house.
Yet I had no words of comfort for my friend. My own parents had been happily married, they had argued on occasion, but neither ever intended to leave. As my mother often told my sister and I, my father had been the love of her life. She insisted my sister find this for herself, and that I, now a young man, watch for it carefully and be weary of the lusts of youth. I had found love already, or at least I thought I had. I loved Jesse’s sister Sarah and would marry her if I got the chance.
Sarah was eighteen and heading to Lewis & Clark Community College for the spring semester. She also had a boyfriend, Jason Baldwin, who was going to Boise State on a football scholarship. Yet there were times Sarah would smile at me when she would see me, and there was the one time she had stayed in my bedroom with Jesse and I after their parents had a particularly nasty fight. I think it was then that I loved her – while I slept on the floor with Jesse and she slept in my bed.
Looking back that night had been nothing extraordinary. My father had been sick then still, but had walked with my mother across the street to Jesse’s house. They had heard the fight across the road and down the street and decided that Jesse and Sarah would come over for a while. They stayed the night and we brought the television into my bedroom. Sarah fell asleep on the bed as Jesse and I stayed up and read comics. She seemed happy then, but that was before everything else, I suppose. Still, I thought of her most days.
We left the meadow and headed deeper into the woods. Jesse did not tell me anymore nor ask my opinion on the course of action he should take and I was grateful.
“Let’s try trapping,” he suggested. I agreed and pulled the spool of wire from my bag. He began to look for sticks and twigs to rig the traps.
We had never caught anything this way before and had little patience for the monotony of the task. I looked around and found some game trails that ran away toward the creek in the low growth of the woods. We set them there, both trying to figure how something may catch themselves in our novice snares.
In the early afternoon after the traps were set we stopped and ate on a fallen log. We talked about Jane Field from town and how Jesse was convinced she wanted him. She had on numerous occasions spoke to him at length, in private, with no regard for her friends waiting to walk home with her. This assured Jesse he would be the first to have her.
In these conversations I held my tongue, I had no interests in the girls our age and having no personal experience to share, kept quiet to ensure I would not make some falsehood that Jesse could easily reveal as untrue. I loved Sarah though I would not tell Jesse that, not then. Jesse had a different approach to his feelings about women. He was vulgar and the other boys of Ketchum as well as myself liked to hear his stories. I knew of sex only from Jesse and the other young men I knew. My parents hid the subject with the quite reserve they held over politics and religion – two things they would not disclose in mixed company. We were Democrats, that I knew but wasn’t allowed to tell the neighbors.
I pulled out my piece of cake from dinner the previous night. I had eaten some of it, but saved the rest for today. Jesse looked over at me.
“Did you pack any cake for me?” he asked.
“No, this was the last piece,” I said, eating it and staring up at the treetops. We were quiet a moment.
“You know Sarah’s pregnant,” he said, eating the sandwich I’d packed for him. He looked back at me with a knowing glance. My face turned red but I hid it by burrowing a little deeper into my coat. Jesse continued. “That’s why she moved up to Boise early, she’s living with Jason because my parents kicked her out.”
Again I had nothing to say so I left Jesse and walked back to the snares he had set. They were empty but I untied them anyway and rewound the wire onto the spool. I returned to Jesse once my face had stopped burning and my stomach calmed.
“Anything?” he asked, tossing the paper wrappings of his sandwich on the ground.
“Nothing.” I said.
The sun was beginning to fall when we climbed a hill to look out over the woods. Our breaths were deep by the summit, the cold air ripped into our throats and our ragged breaths made us stop. We looked out. I could see our farm and the highway, I could see Jesse’s father driving home down the narrow strip of road.
“Look there,” said Jesse; he stole a glance at me and knocked my arm with his elbow signaling me to watch his eye. I followed his gaze until I saw what he saw, a pair of rabbits under the cover of the hawthorns a few yards from where we stood. They were fat, their fur long and full with the soft down that would keep them warm for the season. They did not know we were watching.
Jesse knelt to his boot and pulled out a rolled plastic bag. He unraveled it and shook out four .22 shells into his palm. I looked in his eyes and he motioned for me to take them.
“Take one,” he said. I picked up the bullet and ran it between my thumb and index finger. They were hot from being kept in his boot. Jesse loaded three into his own gun and brought his rifle to his shoulder. We were not supposed to have these without our fathers present, and I wondered how Jesse had them. The rifles were only for fun, for our adventures.
I loaded mine into my rifle and brought the gun to my cheek. Jesse tapped my arm and pointed left. I nodded and took aim at my rabbit; they still did not know we were there.
“On my mark,” said Jesse, pulling the stock of his barrel closer to his shoulder. I looked forward.
Jesse let out a low exhale, his breath came in a thin white cloud and fogged the steel on the back of his rifle. We fired simultaneously and the report cracked the November cold as our faces flushed. The sound rang for a second longer in the greater woods and then faded just as fast. The two rabbits did not move.
Jesse dropped his rifle to the ground and began to look for a way to reach the rabbits. The hawthorns that had kept them safe still did, and in a frenzy Jesse fell to his hands and knees and began to crawl into the brier. He let out ragged breaths through clenched teeth as the hawthorns dug into him. He wormed his way to where his rabbit fell and grabbed it by the ears and started to pull back out.
“Get mine too,” I said looking to my friend.
“Leave it. It’s too far,” said Jesse slowly making his way out.
When he was free of the thorns Jesse stood before me and held the dead rabbit by the back legs. It was grotesque; the rabbits face was covered in blood. Jesse had shot it through the neck. Jesse’s own face was also covered in blood along with his hands – the hawthorns had cut him just under his eye and stabbed deep into his knuckle.
“Give me your knife,” Jesse said.
I slid my pack off and handed it to him. “What are going to do?” I asked.
“Skin it,” said Jesse, taking the knife and opening the blade.
“Do you know how?” I asked.
“Sure, I’ve seen my dad do this a dozen times. It’s not that hard.”
I left him a moment and began to circle the trees looking for a way in to get the rabbit I shot, but there was no way to reach it without tearing apart my own skin. I looked for a long stick so I might reach the rabbit but couldn’t fine anything long enough. If I had brought a hatchet I might have been able to cut a long branch or a sapling, but even then I don’t think I could have pulled the rabbit out. I sat at the edge of the brier a minute and tried to think of how I could get to it. It was no use.
I returned to see what was becoming of his rabbit and found it in pieces. He had no idea what he was doing and had ill-butchered the creature by cutting off its head and legs. They were strewn across the ground along with the guts of the animal. The meat was covered in stray strands of the down fur and Jesse was kneeling, pulling the pieces from the carcass. I leaned against a nearby tree and stood watching him, waiting for him to look at me.
He let out a cry of frustration and threw the rabbit aside. He grabbed a fist of fallen leaves and rubbed them between his hands, cleaning off the blood of the rabbit. He stood, looked at me, picked up the knife and slid it back into my pack that was leaning against the tree. He picked up his own rifle and began down the hill towards the creek.
“What are you doing?” I asked, catching up with his long strides.
“It’s getting late,” he said.
“You can’t just leave it,” I said. “We have to take them with us.”
“No we don’t, a coyote will probably eat it.”
“We should at least bury it,” I said, looking down the hill at Jesse. I stopped walking.
“David, just leave it. It’s fine,” he said, turning back to look up at me. I said nothing and began to walk back to the rabbits.
Jesse rolled his eyes and turned back towards the creek.
“I’m going,” he called.
“Fine,” I said.
I found the rabbit where he had left it and used a broken branch to help dig up the frozen soil; I kicked the parts of the rabbit in to the hole with my toe and covered it. I found a young birch tree that was about fifteen feet tall and pushed it over until the thin trunk cracked near the base. I began to cut away at the sinews of young wood that held it together, spending the better part of an hour until it fell. Taking the last of the wire my mother had packed me I made a noose at the end of the sapling and returned to the brier for my rabbit. I hooked its neck after only a few tries and pulled it towards me. It was still warm. I packed it into my bag, slung my rifle over my shoulder and headed home.
When I got to the creek I threw my bag and gun across first and then stood back to make my jump over the creek. Perhaps it was Sarah that made me halfhearted about the leap, or perhaps it was Jesse not being there to catch me, then again perhaps it was the fear of explaining the dead rabbit to my mother. In any case I did not leap with the same vigor I had earlier that day when the sun was still rising. Now it had fallen over into eastern wood until the shadows fell in on the trees themselves leaving only a dark pathway to greet me if I did make it past the creek. Despite my footing I jumped and to my surprise I landed with ease and good balance.
I picked up my things and shouldered them then rushed to the pathway through the hawthorns towards my mother, who would be waiting and worrying all alone. I noticed the overhang seemed lower than it had that morning and I made note to come back and cut the archway taller the next day.
This is what I’m reading at an art show this friday:
Re: The Abandoned House on West Hill St.
Arstyce the witch wasn’t the witch in which you would expect. Rather she was the kind of witch who couldn’t cast spells, or cook a cauldron, or do any useful witch things. Arstyce wasn’t really a witch at all, but a woman. One who lived alone, and saved alone. One who had had her legs forced open in her twenties and would not open them again. No, Arstyce wasn’t a witch at all.
Arstyce kept a handsome yard and to herself, mostly. The neighbor boys hated her since she could often spy what they were up to outside their parents view then call their mothers. Often Arstyce would clean the toilet paper and smashed bottles from her lawn after calls such as these.
So Arstyce made a plan then another call, after the next incident of restless youth. She waited outside in the dark. When they boys came to break bottles they saw Arstyce and did not care when she called out at them. They grabbed her wrists and forced her legs. They beat her so she could not stand. When she could not breath they dug a hole and left her there with out a word.
They moved away, one after the other. They went to college and seemed to forget. They did not change nor get what they deserved. They did not visit the forgotten house of the forgotten woman. Yet still under that forgotten soil lay the witch, which was not a witch, just a woman, alone.
By: Dylan Lenz
Martha was considered one of the lesser mistresses of Concord, New Hampshire. She had been born into a lower class family in Lowell Mass., but had been brought forth by Arthur Lancaster of Concord when she was twenty five. She was considered one of the lesser mistresses only because Arthur Lancaster was the youngest son of Walker Lancaster, and stood to inherit little of his father’s empire. Martha and Arthur were of little importance economically speaking.
Arthur Lancaster, like his brothers, had attended Yale College, but only leisurely, knowing that his financial fate would be taken care of by his father’s, as well as his mother’s father’s, trust funds. He attended classes, but did little to heed the instruction of his professors, and only indulged in frivolous merrymaking and occasional sport as his extra curricular activities. Arthur was good fun, rather brilliant when he chose to be, and wealthy as any plain man could hope to become, Arthur Lancaster had little to prove.
By: Dylan Lenz
David was alone. Or, at least that’s how it started out. There was a time when he had great expectations for himself. That was a long time ago though, and most days he was resigned to sit up late, press his forehead against the glass of his bedroom window and contemplate there not being a thin line keeping him from falling out. If he did fall out it would not hurt, or so he reasoned. It would not change anything. No one would feel the impact of him hitting the ground. No one would know. David’s bedroom was on the first floor.