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.
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.
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.
#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
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: The Brothers Grimm
Every year, a king’s apple tree is robbed of one golden apple during the night. He sets his sons to watch, and though the first two fall asleep, theyoungest stays awake and sees that the thief is a golden bird. He tries to shoot it, but only knocks a feather off. The feather is so valuable that the king decides he must have the bird. He sends his three sons, one after another, to capture the priceless golden bird. The sons each meet a talking fox, who gives them advice for their quest: to choose a bad inn over a brightly lit and merry one. The first two sons ignore the advice and, in the pleasant inn, abandon their quest. The third son obeys the fox, but when the fox advises him to take the golden bird in a wooden cage rather than a golden one, he disobeys, and the golden bird rouses the castle, resulting in his capture. He is sent after the golden horse as a condition for sparing his life. The fox advises him to use a wooden saddle rather than a golden one, but he fails again. He is sent after the princess from the golden castle. The fox advises him not to let her say farewell to her parents, but he disobeys, and the princess’s father orders him to remove a hill as the price of his life. The fox removes it, and then, as they set out, he advises the prince how to keep all the things he has won. It then asks the prince to shoot it and cut off its head. When the prince refuses, it warns him against buying gallowsflesh and sitting on the edge of wells. He finds that his brothers, who have been carousing and living sinfully in the meantime, are to be hanged (on the gallows) and buys their liberty. Theyfind out what he has done. When he sits on a well’s edge, they push him in. They take the things and the princess and bring them to their father. However the bird, the horse, and the princess all grieve for the prince. The fox rescues the prince. When he returns to his father’s castle dressed in a beggar’s cloak, the bird, the horse, and the princess all recognize him as the man who won them, and become cheerful again. His brothers are put to death, and he marries the princess. Finally, the third son cuts off the fox’s head and feet at the creature’s request. The fox is revealed to be a man, the brother of the princess.
Every year, a king’s apple tree is robbed of one golden apple during the night. He sets his sons to watch, and though the first two fall asleep, theyoungest stays awake and sees that the thief is a golden bird. He tries to shoot it, but only knocks a feather off.
The feather is so valuable that the king decides he must have the bird. He sends his three sons, one after another, to capture the priceless golden bird. The sons each meet a talking fox, who gives them advice for their quest: to choose a bad inn over a brightly lit and merry one. The first two sons ignore the advice and, in the pleasant inn, abandon their quest.
The third son obeys the fox, but when the fox advises him to take the golden bird in a wooden cage rather than a golden one, he disobeys, and the golden bird rouses the castle, resulting in his capture. He is sent after the golden horse as a condition for sparing his life. The fox advises him to use a wooden saddle rather than a golden one, but he fails again. He is sent after the princess from the golden castle. The fox advises him not to let her say farewell to her parents, but he disobeys, and the princess’s father orders him to remove a hill as the price of his life.
The fox removes it, and then, as they set out, he advises the prince how to keep all the things he has won. It then asks the prince to shoot it and cut off its head. When the prince refuses, it warns him against buying gallowsflesh and sitting on the edge of wells.
He finds that his brothers, who have been carousing and living sinfully in the meantime, are to be hanged (on the gallows) and buys their liberty. Theyfind out what he has done. When he sits on a well’s edge, they push him in. They take the things and the princess and bring them to their father. However the bird, the horse, and the princess all grieve for the prince. The fox rescues the prince. When he returns to his father’s castle dressed in a beggar’s cloak, the bird, the horse, and the princess all recognize him as the man who won them, and become cheerful again. His brothers are put to death, and he marries the princess.
Finally, the third son cuts off the fox’s head and feet at the creature’s request. The fox is revealed to be a man, the brother of the princess.
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.
Birds On the Lawn
By: Dylan Lenz
Virginia Lyon lived at the end of Baker Drive in the house her father built. It was a handsome house, white with black shutters and black roof, and a bright red front door to greet the guests that never came. The lawn was well groomed, ordered in long even cuts while cedars lined the white picket fence that separated her yard from the neighbors. A lone oak tree adorned the right corner of the yard; her son had planted it in his youth years ago.
Virginia Lyon lived alone. Her husband John had passed away years before, and her children lived up in Ohio now. They never called anymore. So Virginia was left to dwell with her vices, taking a special interest in the garden that happen to consume half of the backyard.
The garden was kept like the rest of the household, well-ordered and organized with great care. It was home to vegetables, berry briers, and to some of the finest Roses and Tulips in town – come summer time. The garden could only be entered through a large white arbor in the middle, which at dawn, with the dew just right, made it shine like the gates of Heaven. Or so Virginia Lyon thought.
Each spring Virginia would plant her garden, and each morning Virginia would sit in the arbor with a cup of coffee and a pellet rifle and pick off the birds that would intrude on the fruits of her toil. Years prior she employed a scarecrow to save her garden from the birds, but only found it gave them a roost to watch from while their fellows would rob her briars. Later she tired firecrackers, but that just sent the neighbors dog into a fit and caused an unfortunate conversation with Todd – the homosexual across the street – and eventually one with Sheriff Bill Henderson. Virginia then tried a slingshot, but the sling was too hard for her eighty-seven year old frame to pull with any accuracy, so she bought a pellet rifle. It was lightweight, deadly accurate, and seemed to do the trick, as long as she left the bodies in the yard to ward off the other birds. Yet each spring they returned. Virginia figured they told one another about her garden. Birds after all were terrible gossips in her opinion. Why else would they need to make such a constant noise? She often thought.
This spring was worse; for with it came a new addition: a woodpecker. Each morning just past dawn when the sun would just touch the steel lip of the chimney, the fellow would peck and drill, waking Virginia long before she intend to rise. The woodpecker made its nest in the old oak out front at first. So Virginia hired a man to cut the tree down. However the bird came back each day. So instead she planned and kept a pen and page on the nightstand to write when he would arrive and when he would depart each day. After a week she was ready.
Virginia woke before dawn Monday morning, long before the neighborhood would rise and made herself coffee and filled a thermos. She dressed in light cotton slacks and an old plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled tight. Then went outside and set herself down in the arbor with a direct line of sight to the roof of the house, and loaded the rifle.
Virginia thought of her children as she waited, of her resentment for them leaving after her husband’s death, leaving her alone. She pushed them to the back of her mind and poured a second cup waiting on the sun. As it rose she heard it, softly at first as he pecked the neighbor’s smokestacks flying from one to another. Soon he would arrive on her roof and she would have to be quick. She stood setting her feet apart for a solid stance and brought the rifle to her shoulder. The bird landed on her chimney and began to make the noise that woke her each day. She took aim, let out a slow breath, and squeezed the trigger letting the rifle crack; and with it the bird fell to the lawn. It made one attempt to right itself, shuddering in a quick fit as life left it, then it lay still.
Virginia was triumphant. She put a cigarette to her lip, lit it, took a long draw and let the smoke escape slowly. She loaded a second pellet into the gun and walked towards the bird with a slight swagger and her cigarette hanging loosely to the left of her mouth. She put the barrel of the gun to the bird’s head and pulled the trigger once again then picked it up by the left leg, walked across the street, and tossed it over the hedge for the neighbor’s dog.
Virginia felt at ease the rest of the day. She worked in her garden without the unwelcome guests that usually frequented the berry bushes, and by noon had worked up quite an appetite. She went in, made herself lunch, and called a neighbor to join her for coffee. They declined, but she made the most of it and finished a book she had been reading, watched the evening news, made herself dinner, and went to bed excited about the prospect of a full night sleep.
The next morning Virginia woke up to the sound of her doorbell. It was early still, near seven-thirty, but she was satisfied to be caught up on her rest and headed downstairs to see who was at the door. It was Todd.
“Is this your idea of a joke?” He asked as she opened the front door. They had never gotten along. Most likely because Virginia got drunk one Fourth of July and called him a queer in front of the neighborhood. After that she couldn’t get away with even using weed killer on her lawn without a call to the Sheriff.
“And what would that be Todd?” Asked Virginia with a sly smile as she added a cigarette to her lip and lit it in front of him.
Todd opened the plastic bag he was carrying and showed her the mangled remains of the woodpecker.
“It’s a Red-Cockaded. You can’t kill them Virginia they’re endangered.”
“Who says I killed it?”
“Don’t give me that, I know you killed it. Every morning I see you shooting at birds until noon.”
“Prove it Todd.” Said Virginia.
“I’ll have to tell the Sheriff about this Virginia.”
“Goodbye Todd,” Said Virginia blowing her cigarette smoke in his face as she closed the door.
“I’m reporting you this time.” Said Todd through the door. “And quit smoking, it’ll kill you.”
“I’m eighty-seven Todd, I’m on borrowed time as it is.”
Virginia didn’t give another thought to Todd that day. She went about as she typically did. Outside she went and sat in the arbor. She waited. No birds came. She went back in the house and paced waiting for the phone to ring, for the mailman to come, for the newsboy to drop off the paper so she could scan the obituaries. It was only times like these she noticed her children who never called. She was stubborn, and refused to call first. She pushed them from her mind, and went about doing the menial jobs requisite to maintain her household. Around four o’clock the Sheriff’s car arrived at Todd’s house and the pair of them walked across the street. When they knocked Virginia went to the front door but did not open it. Instead she sat underneath, smoking while they waited.
“I know she’s home.” Said Todd.
“And you’re sure she did it?” Asked Sheriff Henderson.
“I asked her this morning.” Said Todd.
“She said she shot it?”
“Well, not exactly, but she is shooting birds everyday out back.”
“Unless you saw it there’s nothing I can do.”
“But she did it.” Pleaded Todd. “We both know she did.”
“The woman is almost ninety years old Todd, just let her be.”
“You’re not going to do anything?”
“You know we’re not going to do anything.” Said Henderson matter-of-factly.
Virginia smiled from her spot on the floor, happy with herself for avoiding Todd. Once she knew they were gone she stood and picked a new book from the bookshelf. She took the book and her supper with her to the arbor and sat in the fleeting light. She looked out at her garden and smiled at her pride. At seven-thirty Virginia Lyon went to bed, she fell asleep with the book in her lap, glasses on, fully dressed.
By: Dylan Lenz
His scalp was lightly sun burnt, his cheeks flushed, red veins ran across his face. He lay back in his lawn chair until the shed hid his eyes from the light. There he sat on his front yard with worn clothes and no shoes. He kept a portable phone clipped to his neck incase someone called. They usually did.
Despite the fact that he lived alone in his mothers house, god rest her soul, Mr. Sinclair was good company. He had many friends across many countries, states, and provinces, yet few lived near enough to sit with him on such sunny days. Instead they would call and he would recommend courses of action for their lives, give advice, and tell tales about his days, present and long gone.
It was this day, the third day of June, that a young man happened upon Mr. Sinclair leaning back in his chair in his yard. At first the young man did not see him and instead went to the front door and knocked twice before Campbell decided to speak up.
“Are you with the Census Bureau?” Asked Campbell. He had not filled out the forms for his household, hoping that an agent would swing by one of these days and save Campbell a stamp and a trip to the post office, and also offer good conversation.
“No, actually I was curious about the boat.” Said the young man.
By: Dylan Lenz
David Lowe was a well built man at the edge of his youth. At twenty five years, he stood tall with shoulders back and well kept hair that by the end of summer looked like polished brass. He kept himself in good order and was known to be of good spirts most days, but was capable of handling himself if words or fists were to be exchanged. He was a man of great generosity, conviction, and was known to be steadfast in the decisions he made. He was a man of ambition and had spent much of his youth bringing himself forward from the mediocrity of his parents living. He was smart, witty, adventurous, honorable, dependable, and always full of good conversation. David Lowe was a good man if anything.
Curse Your Branches
At birth Adam killed his mother so his father left. Adam lived with his grandfather, but his grandfather’s hands wandered, so Adam decided to leave at eighteen. Adam met Kate at a bus stop in Kansas; she was his father’s age.
Adam moved in with her. He gave her a child. He worked and met Carla. Adam was only twenty-five, and Adam fell in love. Adam left one night without a word or note, just like his father.
A Love Story
They were born on separate sides of the country in similar homes in similar towns. They met on a sidewalk in Chicago at a red light. The fell in love quickly and were married one weekend in Paris. They had four children all of whom were not without their own problems, though they loved them anyways. The lovers worked, saved, and then retired to travel. The argued, but made up often, even in old age. At eighty-nine she died first with him going later that same year. They were buried next to one another, forever in love.
By: Dylan Lenz
Having both been sent north to study at what their parents considered a well established university, the two came upon one another after an evening class. He offered her a ride, which she accepted gladly. Had he not, she would be forced to wait for the train which had a tendency to be late that autumn. They spoke little the first night.
These brief encounters continued until he eventually asked her to a theater performance. He was not necessarily enthused about asking her, and had no romantic intentions at the time of asking, though he did find her quite attractive and good company. In fact he only asked her because he had a spare ticket. They both enjoyed the evening, however he was taken by her, and did not sleep the following two nights.
Ten days later he told her of his feelings. She did not reciprocate them. He told her he was content with friendship, though he was lying. Unable to have her, he dated two other women in attempt to feel some sort of vindication. These two other women did not help.
A month went by and they strayed to their parents homes in their respective countries for a break from school and to celebrate the holiday of Christmas. This was something she was exited for, he less so. He had a severe distaste for family gatherings, and only stayed home a day before returning to school. All the time apart he thought of her. She did not think of him.
Upon returning to school for the spring semester he wrote her no fewer than three letters confessing his love for her and his opinion of the course of action they should take. It should be said that, at this time, he was not well versed in the art of women. Months later he became actually quite well versed with the subject and spoke at great length to both strangers and friends on how to become acquainted with finer specimens of the opposite sex.
She did not respond well to the three letters he wrote, she wanted to remain friends. He did not.
Time passed and he tried to forget about her, though cutting off contact was hard with their overlapping social circles. At the end of school term he was able to cease contact and walk away for roughly two months. By this time he was convinced he no longer loved her.
Both stayed in the northern town for the summer break. They happened upon one another again one warm evening at a birthday party for a dear friend. In the two months he had changed in both aspect and spirits. He tried to leave early. She followed him, and convinced him to stay. They climbed to the roof of her building and had a mildly intellectual and mildly scandalous conversation. Previously, they had been able to talk at great length as friends, about nothing in particular. She had missed this, and realized that no one else was able to talk with her as he did.
That night she thought of him. Although he was not the man she had envisioned herself with when she was a child dreaming of marriage, she found herself quite in love with him. She called for another reunion.
A month later they kissed on a roof-top at dusk. They moved in a few months later and were in love. They were happy. They met one another’s parents. They took trips. They thought of the future. They continued this way for the next three years until they finished their degrees and were ready to pursue ambitions outside of the small northern town. Before leaving he bought a diamond ring, which she accepted gladly.
She also accepted a position with a very famous photographer in New York who promised to show her the world and all its majesty. He moved to California and continued his studies focusing on Law. He did not think he could make an elegant enough living as a novelist or newspaperman, so he did not try. In that sense he was a coward, though he hid it well. Law was not something he particularly enjoyed, but it was a trade he felt would support the family they intend to have. His father and mother were proud.
They wrote letters. He wrote fourteen, she wrote fourteen back. The last included her diamond ring. She was now in love with the photographer who did not speak to her with care nor show her the majesty of the world as he had promised.
Later that season, the photographer left her for a young model from Belarus who spoke no English. She cried for two nights then flew to the Orient to travel and make a name for herself as a photographer. Her name became widely known.
He did not cry when the ring was returned. He traded it for a motorcycle. He became a lawyer and stayed in Los Angles working with the film industry. He sold the motorcycle to rent an office and in turn became quite wealthy and equally unhappy. He met an actress who shared his adopted interest in money and success. They did not talk at length. They saw other people on the side.
The photographer and the attorney did not talk, nor write, nor keep in contact in any way. They had children, she four, he two. They passed away at the age of eighty-nine, three thousand miles and five days apart with their families at their sides. They had thought of one another often, but both being cowards, neither one called.