Eddie and His Peacoat

Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Tom Matthews


By Sirimiri at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

By Sirimiri at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Eddie Florence usually wore the peacoat. It was his best winter coat, a Christmas present from his his mother. He never left the house without it on.

Eddie got off his train at Union Station and took the city bus to his house. He climbed up the steps of his family’s modest two-floor home and burst through the front door.

“I’m home!”

No reply. A bit surprised, Eddie placed his bags on the living room floor. He walked out into the kitchen and hollered. No answer. Not wanting to waste a minute of break, he grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down a note: “Going out. Call if you need me. -Eddie”

Eddie called up Sally and asked her to pick him up, and  minutes later he heard a car honk outside. He threw on his peacoat and hurried outside. Sally was parked in front of his house, checking her makeup in the rearview mirror.

Eddie climbed in. “Long time no see my friend, how are you?”

“I was awful, but now I’m great because it’s break and I get to see you, but mostly because it’s break.”

“Ah, but you said it, so you mean it.”

“Yes, Eddie, I was just dying to see you.”

He put his hand to her forehead, “Ms. Hayward, you are looking rather ill and could faint any second now, please, let me treat you.” He quickly leaned over and kissed her.

“I forgot to tell you I have mono.”

Eddie rolled his window down and spat.

“Looks like you’re gonna die with me.” She  winked at him.

They headed toward downtown.

“I can’t remember the last time I ate today,” he said.

“What do you mean you can’t remember?”

“I don’t know, but please pull in somewhere before I pass out.”

“No. You are a prisoner in my car now. We aren’t going anywhere. Except for a really long drive until you pass out, and I can throw your body in a ditch somewhere.”

They pulled into the parking lot of The Fix, a small 50’s style burger and shake joint. They were seated at a red booth across from one another.

“I want a chocolate shake,” she said.

“Just a shake?”

“Yeah, I’m not too hungry.”

“Are you sure? I don’t wanna hear you whine later.”

“Yes, I’m sure and shut up!”

Sally ordered her shake. Eddie ordered water and a burger with American cheese, lettuce, mustard, and ketchup. He stood up to take off his peacoat and hung it up on a hook attached to their booth.

He sat down and pulled a cigarette out of his pocket. He put it to his lips and raised a lighter to it slowly.

“Eddie, stop! You can’t smoke in here!”

“Why not? I thought this place was like the 50’s.”

“You can’t smoke in here! What are you, crazy?!”

“Relax, Sally-boo, I was just messing with you.”

“You are such a jerk.”

“If you don’t relax we really will have to call up a doctor.”

Their waiter, a tall, burly man, who showed no sense of urgency, brought their food.

“Anything else?” he asked insincerely.

“Yeah, can we get an EKG for this lovely lady?”

“Stop it!” Sally blurted as she playfully hit his hand.

The waiter let out a sigh, mumbled, “Good one,” and walked away.

“Gosh, you’re an idiot. You can’t even make a waiter laugh, and they get paid to pretend to like you.”

“That guy probably doesn’t laugh.”

Sally mumbled, “Mhmm,” as she stirred her straw around in her chocolate shake.

Anyways, how are you? I mean, how’s school and all?”

“It’s good, I mean it’s, you know—school.”

Eddie was putting his burger away quickly. Sally noticed him eating aggressively and warned, “Slow down before you choke.”

Eddie looked up and nodded.

“Anyways, how’s school going for you? And please, don’t talk with a mouth full. Chew first.”

“It’s okay.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“Uh. Not really.”

“Okay. Let me call Jake West, he’ll talk to me.”

“He’s a douche.”

Sally struck a stern face at Eddie and looked him in the eyes.

“Okay, okay, I’ll talk. But he’s still a douche. Anyways. I hate school. It’s awful. I’m surrounded by all these pseudo-intellectuals, and I can’t stand it. I mean, you can’t have a normal conversation with any of these guys. They all think what they have to say is the most prophetic, earth-shattering jargon to come out of a 20-year-old.”

Sally sat silently. She watched as Eddie became more and more excited with his words.

“They all walk around in their Oxfords and peacoats as if what they’re doing is so important.”

With a confused look on her face Sally interrupted, “You wear a peacoat.”

“What?” Eddie snapped.

“You wear a peacoat. You wore one here.”

“Seriously, Sally? My mother gave that to me for Christmas. You know how she takes gifts so personal. What, am I not supposed to wear it?”

“No, but why are you criticizing other people for wearing one?”

“Because they wear it for a different reason. They wear it because they think it makes them look important and that it accentuates their pseudo-intellect.”

Sally recoiled at  each word.

“Okay, whatever, Eddie. I was just asking how school was, I wasn’t looking for a rant.”

“Rant? Who’s ranting? You asked me how school is and I’m telling you.”


“Am I not allowed to have an opinion? Am I supposed to think everyone is great? Is that what you think? Everyone is great? Everyone is just so damn funny and smart and nice?”

“Eddie, can you please stop. You’re causing a scene.”

“You think this is a scene? This is a conversation. We’re talking.”

“No. You’re being obnoxious.”

Eddie starting laughing in a high-pitched hysterical laugh.

“You think I’m obnoxious? Hahahaha!”

Sally was turning red. She stared at her shake.  She lifted her purse from the booth and put the strap over her left shoulder.

Eddie took a loud sip of water and finished it off.

“Are you gonna finish that shake?”


Sally’s phone rang.


Eddie sat there with a bored look on his face. Sally pulled the phone away from her ear and mouthed “sorry” to him.

“I’m at the Fix with Eddie…who’s there?”

Eddie got up and put his peacoat on and headed to the men’s room. Walking with his hands in his pockets and a pissed off look on his face, he replayed in his head Sally telling him she wasn’t looking for a rant. He kicked the door open and stormed in. “Rant! That wasn’t a damn rant. I can rant if you want!” He shouted to himself.

He walked up to a sink and turned on the cold water. He cupped his hands and let the water fill them and splashed it on his face. He grabbed a paper towel, and dried his face. He stood briefly staring at a picture of a jukebox hanging on the wall. He started thinking about how many fights jukeboxes must have caused when someone used the last quarter on songs no one else liked. He walked back over to the mirror and looked at himself for a few seconds. He punched the mirror. The mirror shattered instantly, and his hand started bleeding, dripping blood on the black and white tiled floor. He walked over to the paper towels and ripped a bunch out to wrap his knuckles. He took his peacoat off, walked over to the trash, and threw it in. He crouched down and frantically started trying to pick up pieces of the broken mirror.

The bathroom door swung open, startling him. It was their waiter. Trying to collect himself and not look too spooked, Eddie said, “Scared me there,” and walked out.

Sally was off the phone, and was sitting at the table reading the back of a ketchup bottle. Eddie walked up to the table.

“I don’t feel so hot, let’s go.”

The waiter opened the bathroom door and hollered, “Hey, kid!”


Contributing Editor, Thomas Matthews, is a Senior at Clark University where he majors in English, specializing in Creative Writing and Journalism.

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– Sam Hutchings


    “The remembrance aspect being one of the primary differences between the two.”
    “Between a nightmare and a night terror?”
    “And go ahead and remind me real quick how this relates to my initial inquiry, like at all?”
    “Restrain your ponies, I’ll get to it. I’m told patience is up there next to cleanliness in the hierarchy of virtues.”
    Oggie and P— at this point had assumed the ossified postures of Post- Vigorous-Copulation atop Oggie’s now sheetless and near-narcoleptically soft bed. The pair both now completely sated and utterly spent, physically speaking; sporting their respective suits of birth, and facing a ceiling whose color in this particular light could only aptly be classified as devoid of color. Oggie is flat on his back, right ankle X’d upon the left, with his right arm laced beneath P—‘s femininely wettish neck, absently spooling the ends of her long tawny hair on his pointer finger. From this particular position, he was never quite 100% on where exactly to rest his free arm. P— is angled in slightly to his torso, her right leg draped somewhat demurely over his; her right middle finger drawing to & fro in soft vectors from Oggie’s navel to that knobby-thing at the base of his ribcage.  Her left arm cannot be seen.  Their aggregate flesh is damp. It seems almost reptilianly moist.
    Oggie had ruminated internally a few times on just why exactly it was that post-coital snuggling had asserted itself as the preeminent forum for divulging psychic traumas, (and/or) previously untold tales of woe; like this sort of chitchat and spiritual-tilling seemed almost requisite after the tidal surge of hormones and personal fluids had ebbed. He strains to raise his chin to chest level, emitting little throat noises as his head reaches 90° to survey the whole scene.  The apartment’s unbolted door is rectangularly hemmed with light the color of neglected teeth, and articles of clothing are strewn about in reverse-dress-order in a trail leading to the bed, which to Oggie sort of resembled a perverse and thoroughly disturbed retelling of Hansel & Gretel. This observation was left unvoiced.
    The TV at the foot of the bed was still on full blare, its blue pacifierial light insinuating itself into the bedrooms equalizing darkness.
 “See, nightmares, more often than not, are lurid visual experiences.”
 “Yes, I’m familiar with the basic concept of nightmares.” P— is raising her voicing incrementally in an attempt surmount the television’s deafening roar. She recognizes the two-toned program as I Love Lucy.
“Okay, then I’m assuming you can probably recall the general feeling of waking up following one of these subconscious horror-shows as a child.  When you jolt awake in black desperation with fluttering lids, snuffing that stale nighttime air, clawing at an image that both recedes and remains in the nothingness that encircles you.”
“That sure is the long way around of describing it. I would just say I remembered awaking in horror.”
“Yes, horror. Horror is exactly what I am referring to here.” Oggie pauses a beat, taking the silent moment to perform a slight genital readjustment; that which he promptly suspects is not as quite as discrete as initially intended.
“Oh sorry, am I like crushing your…thing?”
“Nonono I’m okay.”
“Are you sure, I can–”
“No, no. I assure you, all four of us are just fine. They’re a fickle bunch.”
“Hmpph…Okay.” Laughter chased whatever quiescence remained in the room. Lucy is once again grappling with chronic ineptitude, this time at her new occupation, tasked with wrapping chocolates at spine-snapping speeds at the local candy factory.  P— had always found something markedly unnerving about the laugh tracks in these television shows that seemed to exist long before the advent of color.  It dawned grimly on her once that the majority of the laugh track’s participants from these prehistoric programs had more than likely at one point or another, well, expired; like, what she was currently hearing was the disembodied laughter of the dead.  It was a realization that had risen in her like some dim astral body. “So horror…”
“Ah, yes. Okay, so horror.” Oggie seemed insistent on elongating the first syllable of the word, making it sound more like ‘hawwwr-or.’ He continued. “The nightmares horror is being exerted onto you by some thing separate from the self. Some ghastly threat placed upon your personhood.  Now what that thing or threat is exactly, well, you are entirely at mercy of your dank subconscious. But make no mistake about it; they all act as antagonists whose main prerogative is to apply menace and horror on the protagonist. On you. Whether it be a machete-wielding maniac, or some perpetually grinning clown from hell’s very own flames, or-”
“Or a fully-tumescent Mr. Peanut,” P— inserts vacantly.
“Or a what? A what now?
“Never mind. Different story. Different day. Keep going.”
“You are like Freud’s wet dream, woman.”
“Am I going to see a point to all this galloping across the horizon any time before dawn breaks?”
 “Again, patience. I’m getting to it.”
The drapeless window parallel to the left side of the lover’s tousled bed gave way to a view of the bare boughs of an incongruous and thoroughly withered willow tree, that which presumably had succumb to some ghastly botanical pathogen or something like that; it’s prematurely nude and stricken appearance making it stand out more so among the encompassing trees, those which were almost lambently twinged scarlet and the color of pressed bronze in the early stages of their autumnal ritual. The complex webbing of branches, still black and slicked wet from a light sheet of dusk rain, appeared vaguely vascular overlaid against the faint milky lume of a now cloudless urban night sky.  It was a sky that possessed the dilute purplish hue of a real nasty bruise.  The thumbnail of moon had a somewhat somber pathos about it; it looked sick, like the rind of something citrusy long past its prime; and amid, there lay a smattering of meek and pallid stars, which neither P— nor Oggie could hope to identify with any semblance of accuracy.
    “The lion’s share of my attempts at a point here remain that a nightmare’s horror is applied on the self through means of an extrinsic force. A person. An object. An entity.”
    “Yes, we’ve established this. Some thing to repel against at sleep’s ragged edge.”
    “Exact-a-mundo. Some force to fear, to flee from beneath quivering and potentially soiled bed sheets.”
    “Which you are saying was not, in fact, the case during your prolonged childhood stint with night terrors? There was no thing you feared…or bed sheets you soil–”
    “No, as far as I can recall there was none of that in any of these episodes of mine. There was no force or entity applying horror. Nothing winged and nefarious that would chase and pursue, that would nip at my heels before inevitably jettisoning me out of a hellacious slumber and into that sort of soft malarial light that accompanies all predawn awakenings.  Actually more often than not, it was my very own mother who would wake me.  It wasn’t until much later that she would inform me that my – and I quote here – ‘blood-curdling’ screams would snapshot her awake, sending her hurtling off the downstairs sofa as if shot out of some imperial canon, through our dim-lit kitchen, over the family dog, up the 13 creaky steps to the second floor, and into my room; where – again, I was not made cognizant of this until much
later in my adolescence – she would discover the grim sight of her son, and again I quote, ‘thrashing epileptically’ and in full-on death sweats, and apparently largely unresponsive to any sort of soft coos or fervent reassurances of maternal love and safety.”
    “_____.” P— cranes her neck to look up at Oggie’s face, that which was only partially illuminated in the television’s ghoulish sheen.
    “Now I of course, as previously stated, remember none of these preceding occurrences.  My memory of these bouts skip on like a scratched disc; I can only recall coming to, all frazzled, breathless, my throat all sandpapery, undoubtedly from all that sleep-screaming, and my heart thwamping inside me like some tribal war drum. That’s all I remember. Well, that and the sweat. And believe you me, when I say sweat, I mean S-W-E-A-T. I’m talking perspiration akin to that of a promiscuous woman stuck in a religious assembly.”
    “But you have absolutely no recollection of what may have caused all the screaming and thrashing and sweating and what not?”
    With his free hand, Oggie theatrically curls his pointer into his thumb in an annular fashion to form a large fleshy 0. “Zilch. Nada. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.”
    Any movement that ensued following the gratification of sexual desires seemed to posses the languid economy of post-feast carnivores, or like people navigating beneath really deep water. Oggie readjusted again – genitally speaking – this time more conspicuously.
    “Shitshit, are you sure I’m not-”
    “Don’t fret. The Kingdom’s Crown Jewels remain, in large part, unharmed. A little chaffed, but unharmed.”
    P— rotates her eyeballs, which Oggie cannot see, per say, but rather can like intuitively sense.
“‘Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!’” The choir of disembodied laughter sings.
    “Can you at least turn it down for a bit?”
“Fine. I relent.”
“Thank you.”
“What I can recall, however, is one night in particular before all this night terror business got started.  I must have been around 7 or 8, y’know that age when you are still vaguely cherubic and moony-eyed; and as was per usual for these times, I was fending off the seemingly omnipresent threat of bedtime, that which seemed to descend upon me alongside dusk’s gauzy veil; a threat which I, like most children at that age, attempted to ward off as if it were some occult deity, utilizing what modicum of guile I had at my disposal within my interior arsenal.  And after much hemming & hawing, and pleading, and cajoling, and slitty-eyed bargaining that my bedtime be lengthened for just one, just one more commercial break; I finally acquiesced to my mother’s gray insistence that it was, in fact, ‘Bedtime for Bonzo,’ a phrase that she employed ad nauseam, and still even to this very day induces a full-body wince in me, that which is no doubt some sort of Pavlovian type response after years and years of dreaded repetition.”
“‘Bedtime for Bonzo?’ As in that old ancient Reagan flick? The one where our former POTUS’s primary opponent for screen time was a literal chimp?”
“The very same.” Oggie employs the heel of his right foot to rub what appears to be a severe itch on the mid-level of his left shin, an act that is performed in a very cricketish fashion indeed.
“A chimp, which he attempts to infuse with his own 50’s brand of Father-Always-Knows-Better-Than-Your-Dumbshit-Ass streak of moral probity? Like that ‘Bedtime for Bonzo?’”
“_____.” Oggie lets out a chilly shiver.
“Boy, is that movie steeped in a grim sociopolitical irony.”
“And I can still remember trudging up each one of those creaky stairs with that especially heavy-footed mournful weight in my steps, which was and always will be the ubiquitous signifier of adolescent dissatisfaction; and like slogging through all those paternally mandated “Nite-Nite” rituals, e.g., putting on my PJ’s, brushing my first set of chompers, the cleaning and general maintenance of my various creaks and crevices-”
“I hope you remembered to tinkle, young man.”
“–and finally after much ado, getting under my sheets and shutting off my bedside Roadrunner Collectible lamp, and finally being there alone in this formless black silence of my childhood bedroom, I remember… I remember this sensation.”
“This sure as shit was no mere feeling. It was visceral, it was clearly and distinctly a sensation.  Lying there alone, on this fairly traumatic and seminal night, I can recall with bell-like clarity the sensation of being utterly entombed in this desolate silence that seemed to sweep over me all at once, like the billowing of a black and formless cloud not only around, but within me.”
“Are we sure this wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill childhood aversion to the dark? There’s only a little shame in–”
“No, I remain certain that what I felt at that very moment was not your standard issue sphincter-loosening fear of the dark, well, at least not this particular time.  At that moment, in that room, there was no outward force applying horror, nor any fear at what terrible thing may be behind all that blackness.  Only terror. Capital-t Terror, which arose from within the self, induced by the sheer fact that there was nothing there at all.  And lying there on this particular night, at that particular moment – I wasn’t trembling or cowering or anything like that – I was still, wholly and deadly still, with my eyes fixed upwards at a ceiling that I could not see; at that particular moment, I came to realize something for the very first time–”
“- that one day – a day that may or may not lie far off in the distance, but one day nonetheless – I would die.  That I would like keel over and kick the bucket and die and like completely cease to be something, and instead of being that something that I’ve always been, become nothing, and then be this nothing for the remainder of time; time which stretched out before me in this grotesque and almost immortal silence and into a bleak and edgeless infinence; and while I am this nothing; planted or scattered, or buried at sea or whatever, the world would just keep turning and turning without me, like I was never even here. Like all of this never even mattered. I now understand the U.S. adult’s unconscious terror of involuntary silence; the silence that we seem to spend our days avoiding.”
    “Now, I know this must sound kind of melodramatic or banal or whatever, the whole coming-to-terms-with-your-imminent-mortality shtick, but to a 7/8 year old kid, a child – a child who is kissed and coddled and wholly reassured to the fact that the world is like constructed around them, that they exist not in the world, but rather that the world exists for them and their own very personal and private pleasure and utility – this is a tremendously jarring realization.  For example, do you remember the first time you encountered one of your grade school teachers outside of their designated confines of authority? Like in the chilly fluorescent-lit produce aisle of the grocery store, or in line at the local Cineplex buying Sno-Caps?  When that icky feeling of stunted peculiarity swept over you, and all you could do was stare a glazed stare, head cocked to the side like a perturbed mutt as you came to realize that your teacher didn’t like dematerialize after the clock struck 2:15 in the PM and then rematerialize at 9:30 the following AM to aide you with sticking all your shit in your custom finger-painted cubby and usher you to and from recess to play kickball or wipe the dribble off your chin after naptime? That
this teacher not only existed outside of your field of awareness and independent of your personal needs and usage, but also presumably had a life separate from your own, and rote chores to perform, and eggs to purchase with expired coupons, and Sno-Caps to eat, and maybe even kids of their own to kiss and coddle and wholly reassure.  Make no bones about it, every child is a solipsist. And for any and all children who are taught and hammered with the supposition that the world exist solely for them, the onset of the surefire reality that they will one day cease, and that the world shall and will continue on just dandy-fine and peachy-keen without them is a ghastly moment of awareness to say the least. I say to you here and now, that right there was the very first of an innumerable line of tiny death’s in my short life.”
    “So getting to your question.”  



Fighting for the Home Front

Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Noah Keates

Over the centuries, the nations of Europe have gone to war over religion, land, political influence, and countless other points of contention. In the nineteenth century, however, we see European wars being fought not so much to overpower foreign enemies but to further a nation’s internal agenda, using war as a kind of political activism.

The aim of war was often to encourage nationalism, and politicians regarded death and destruction a price worth paying to achieve a spirited national unity. In some instances, however, this drive for national pride yielded horrific results and left nations vulnerable and unstable. The trick was to find an acceptable level of death and destruction while gaining the socio-political advantages of going to war.

German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and Russian Tsar Nicholas Romanov II both played this dangerous game.  Bismarck successfully led the nation-states of Germany into wars that furthered his agenda of uniting Germany, while Nicholas watched his regime collapse as the Russian army fell to the Japanese.

What led to such drastically different results?  On the 150th and 110th anniversaries of these two campaigns, it’s interesting to analyze the social and political factors that produced such varied outcomes and observe the reverberating effects that these conflicts have had on modern warfare.

The Proclamation of Wilhelm as Kaiser of the new German Reich, in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles on 18th January 1871, painted 1885 / imageuest / Bridgeman Art Library / Universal Images Group

The Proclamation of Wilhelm as Kaiser of the new German Reich, in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles on 18th January 1871, painted 1885 / imageuest / Bridgeman Art Library / Universal Images Group

During the last half of the 19th century, no politician manipulated warfare to aid his internal agenda more successfully than Bismarck.  When Bismarck entered the political arena in the 1860s, Germany was a divided array of nation-states lacking central leadership or organized politics.  Bismarck saw an opportunity for a powerful German nation of unified states under a central government, but tensions among political parties throughout the German states made this nearly impossible to achieve internally.   In 1862, Bismarck, then Prussian prime minister, turned the eye of the German people towards the small Danish provinces of Schleswig and Holstein, which were populated by many native Germans.  Bismarck declared war on Denmark, putatively to protect the political freedoms of the Holstein region from Danish influence, though he kept a shrewd eye on the long-term political progress that the move could incur.

It worked. Bismarck’s call to arms not only united the German states but also strengthened the political bond with Austria, a powerful neighbor. Hostilities broke out in early 1864, and after only eight months of fighting the Danish suffered major casualties at the hands of the far more powerful German and Austrian forces and were forced to sign the Treaty of Vienna, surrendering nearly all of Schleswig and Holstein.

The success of this relatively small war was not lost on Bismarck. It instilled a sense of patriotism in the citizens and demonstrated Germany’s military might.  Buoyed by this triumph, Bismarck manufactured two more similar wars.  He first turned the animosity of the German people towards their recent ally, Austria, using the excuse of a small dispute over the ruling of the newly acquired Schleswig and Holstein provinces.  This short war of 1866 produced an overwhelming German victory and helped achieve Bismarck’s goal of uniting Prussia and its surrounding states into the North German confederation, which was segregated from any unwanted Austrian influence.  Bismarck went on to a third decisive victory, this time against the French, resulting in the unification of Prussia and most other German states.  Bismarck would have a lasting effect on Germany, leading to the nation’s bold military aggression in the First World War.  Bismarck’s public agenda of instilling a universal empathy among all German speakers would be later warped by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler as a justification for his tyrannical conquests in the 1930s.
The German wars of Unification showed the usefulness of warfare for political progress. By capitalizing on the growing patriotic fervor and the desire of the German people to protect their fellow German speakers, Bismarck was able to execute his military operations with general public support.  Each of these brief but impassioned wars encouraged a growing nationalist sentiment that led eventually to unification.

Tsar Nicholas II blessing a regiment leaving for the Russo-Japanese War, 1904, Russia /imagequest /  Universal Images Group / Rights Managed /

Tsar Nicholas II blessing a regiment leaving for the Russo-Japanese War, 1904, Russia /imagequest /  Universal Images Group / Rights Managed /

In contrast, according to scholar Chris Trueman, Tsar Nicholas Romanov attempted to manufacture a war to create a sense of patriotism in his restless nation.  When Nicholas came to power, the Romanov family had ruled over Russia for three and a half centuries, and critical flaws in the Russian political system had been revealed.  The Russian people felt repressed by the traditionally strict regulations set by the Romanov leaders, and a lack of food brought a new sense of discontent towards the Tsar.  Nicholas hoped that a military success would engender nationalist sentiment, and he turned his attention to remote Japan. Tensions had existed over control of the crucial Russian trade post Port Arthur on the Korean peninsula, and in 1904 these tensions erupted into the Russo-Japanese war.  Shockingly, the far superior size of the Russian army yielded no apparent military advantage as Japanese forces continually drove back the foreign militants, and by 1905 the crippled Russian army was forced to retreat from the Korean peninsula nursing a wounded honor and thousands of wartime casualties.  Anti-Tsar sentiment increased, as did the decay of Nicholas’s authority over his vast nation.  Roughly a decade later in World War I, once again in the midst of Russia’s military failures, the deflated Russian populous finally overthrew Nicholas.

Why did this military operation fail so dramatically while Bismarck’s were so successful?  A key difference lay in the simple geography of the combat.  In declaring war on Denmark, Austria and eventually France, Bismarck aroused an animosity of the German people towards their closest neighbors. According to historian James Graham, the citizens of Prussia and all other German states had experienced the past political tensions with these neighboring nations, and Bismarck was able to fan the flames of these tensions.  Additionally, Bismarck argued that his forces would be fighting to protect fellow German speakers, with whom they could identify.

In contrast, Trueman points out, Japan was a distant, shrouded island to most Russians. The task of mobilizing the Russian armed forces across such a vast expanse simply to reach the battlefields proved thoroughly dispiriting.  Additionally, a lack of knowledge of Japanese society and of the true Russian military objectives sealed fate of the Russian army as they fell at the hands of the Japanese forces.

These two wars, fought not for the purpose of extending political influence, but rather to improve the internal influence of their respective leaders, displayed several key factors about modern European warfare.  Even in the midst of such new powerful military technologies as the industrial revolution had brought, the emotional mindset of the soldiers still proved a critical factor in the success or failure of each war.  The German wars of Unification and Russo-Japanese war illustrated an important element of nationalism: citizens will fight to extend their national pride, as in the German states, but citizens lacking any initial sense of patriotism will be hard-pressed to increase their national pride when thrown into the horrors of modern war.  These two military confrontations certainly displayed the true equation of success for manipulating warfare to aid an internal agenda; although the conquests of Bismarck and failures of Nicholas each played out on a relatively small scale, these wars of nationalism laid a strategic blueprint for many of the wars that would follow.

Works Cited

The editors of Encylopaedia Brittanica. “Russo Japanese War.” Encyclopaedia Brittanica. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

“The Franco Prussian War.” World History International Project. History World International, n.d. Web. 25 May 2015.

“German Danish War.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. N.p.: n.p., 2015. N. pag. Print.

Graham, James. “History Orb.” Was Bismarck the Key Factor in the Unification of Germany? N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2015.

“Issues Relevant to U.S. Foreign Diplomacy: Unification of German States.” Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 25 May 2015.

Kohn, Hans. “Nationalism.” Encyclopedia Brittanica. N.p.: n.p., 2014. 1-4. Print.

Trueman, Chris. “The Russo Japanese War.” History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2015.

Lighting a Path for Women Writers: Maria S. Cummins’s The Lamplighter

Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Tom Matthews


“America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women” were the famous, spiteful words of Nathaniel Hawthorne in a letter to his editor, William D. Ticknor. Hawthorne was incensed at the success of Maria S. Cummins’s novel, The Lamplighter, published in 1854. “What is the mystery of these innumerable editions of The Lamplighter,” grumbled Hawthorne, “and other books neither better nor worse?”

Granted, this was the nineteenth century; Hawthorne’s question was probably circulating the minds of many competing writers. His term,  “damned mob of scribbling women,” was a clear attack on the significance and credibility of women’s writing, yes, but it may also be that Hawthorne was perplexed as to how this “mob” was achieving such success.

                                                                             Nathaniel Hawthorne / Photo. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 15 Sep 2015.  

                                                                             Nathaniel Hawthorne / Photo. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 15 Sep 2015.  

Like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Lamplighter was a bestselling novel published by John P. Jewett. Although forgotten now, the novel was a huge success in its time, a success commonly accredited to the savvy marketing of Jewett.

Jewett began the marketing campaign with advertisements that explicitly predicted the success of the novel. ‘A GREAT BOOK COMING,’ Jewett announced, noting his company had “in press, and will publish about the First of March, a work of extraordinary power and ability, one which will rank among the very best productions of American or Foreign Genius.” It is interesting to note that Jewett says nothing about the author, giving the work an air of inherent mystery.

Ironically, Cummins’ acceptance of this anonymity was a submission to the very marginalization of women highlighted and challenged in the novel. This doesn’t mean, however, that Cummins was a hypocrite. At the time, male writers dominated the American literary world, and female writers faced much more difficulty having their work published and taken seriously. Cummins’s decision to agree to anonymous advertisement can be seen as a sacrifice in order for her work to receive fair and equal treatment. She may have felt such a sacrifice was the only way to give voice to the ideals she felt were unrepresented in American literature.

                                                                                                                                                     Maria S. Cummins / Wikipedia

                                                                                                                                                     Maria S. Cummins / Wikipedia

Cummins was unknown before The Lamplighter, and Jewett feared the novel would flop if the public knew its author was an unpublished woman. His advertisements piqued interest in the novel, as he hoped. Cummins’ anonymity did not last long, however, and she was asked to contribute to several Massachusetts newspapers. So Jewett’s strategy not only garnering interest in the novel but also (unintentionally) created a demand for Cummins’ writing.

The novel achieved bestselling status and was released in multiple editions, targeted at a wide-ranging audience. Scholar Susan Williams writes, “Soon after The Lamplighter was published in 1854, it became readily available in a variety of formats: children could enjoy a picture book with a heavily abridged plot; art lovers could admire sumptuously illustrated editions; and travelers throughout England and Europe could purchase inexpensive railroad editions.” This ensured an audience beyond that of middle-class American women.

The book’s success was more than a financial one. Cummins not only produced a quality story with The Lamplighter but also created an activity for women that was entertaining and full of value—one that women could feel satisfied engaging in. “This cult of domesticity sanctioned reading,” writes Williams,  “especially for women, as a productive way to fill one’s leisure time: to read a female Bildungsroman such as The Lamplighter was to participate in an activity that combined entertainment with the inculcation of virtue.”

Hawthorne was merely playing his part in a literary period of elitism that looked down on bestsellers. This highbrow literary elitism, although very much alive in the nineteenth century, did not affect readers’ response to The Lamplighter or their perceived literary value of the novel.

It may also be that Hawthorne felt his publisher was not as competent as Jewett and that he was losing sales. Williams points out that Hawthorne’s publisher was a competitor of Jewett and suggests, “Hawthorne may also have been diplomatically questioning the comparably poor performance of his own chosen publisher.”

With The Lamplighter, Maria S. Cummins claimed a place for women in the literary market. Furthermore, it both proved that women are more than capable of producing valuable work and paved the way for future women writers. Whether Jewett knew it or not, he was part of something significantly bigger than a successful marketing campaign.

Photo credits:

Contributing Editor, Tom Matthews, is a Senior at Clark University where he majors in English, specializing in Creative Writing and Journalism.

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The Essay

Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Sasha Kohan


Like speak I can if write I could, easily come
the essay would.

Building the tower of Babel. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.  

Building the tower of Babel. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.  

To spell the what I paint out words —
to light from shadows, and thoughts
or birds.

Bursting of minute hands full my gray mind,
fragments or phrases without which I’m blind.

The letters a little feel some like their sound
(sinking up floating shapes or in the ground)

but made of what are they
and do they stick how?

Gilt so my voice is and thin is my head —
to ever cling possibly voice can what’s said?

Shall it I string like a drag through wood dense?

There’s a sky in no ink
and no pencil in sense.




Contributing editor Sasha Kohan is a student at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, pursuing a degree in English and Screen Studies. For more of her work, see http://www.sashakohan.com.  


Photo credit: http://quest.eb.com/search/132_1241113/1/132_1241113/cite


Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Tom Matthews


Close-up of a suture held in a pair of forceps. / Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Close-up of a suture held in a pair of forceps. / Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

A dog bit me once. And dragged me on the ground. Scraping skin against asphalt. And they all asked, “Well, whose fault was this?” Surely not the dog’s. He was guarding his territory. He was in the right, in his head. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I felt his sharp white teeth dig into my leg. The stitches healed the holes. And as I think of that dog tonight, I can’t help but sympathize with it, for it was brave in a moment of danger. And to this day I am fond of dogs, even after feeling the deep bite of that Rottweiler’s teeth.

And you’ve shown me your teeth many a time: laughing, crying, or singing in rhyme. I come knocking at your door just to see it once more. Will you open up and present it to me? Or sink them in and scrape my skin across asphalt for whose fault none other than my own, for I, and the stitches, will reap what I have sown.


Contributing Editor, Thomas Matthews, is a Senior at Clark University where he majors in English, specializing in Creative Writing and Journalism.

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Photo credit: Web. 15 Sep 2015. http://quest.eb.com/search/132_1273072/1/132_1273072/cite


Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Akriti Sharma

                                                                                                           “Destruction of Heritage and Culture” / hoto by Drishika Dugar

Four a.m. on a Friday, exhausted after a night out with friends, I am stirred by the familiar notification ring from BBC news on my phone. I turn over in bed to face away from my phone, now shining brightly, demanding that I check it. I wonder if there is an option to mute the news notification at night. Frankly, I don’t really  care if the Duchess of Cambridge goes into labor.

A heartbeat passes and there is a tap on my door. The tap turns into a knock and before I know it my roommate, Shreya, is pounding at my door. She sounds scared. “There was an earthquake back home,” she says.

“Oh again?” I’m thinking of the 4.0 magnitude ’quake  that hit three years ago. But when I open the door and see her face I know something is wrong. I pick up my phone to read the notification. “7.9 Magnitude Earthquake slams Nepal, hundreds presumed dead.” My heart drops, my brain stops momentarily, yet somehow I find myself out in the dining room with my laptop and phone. My roommate sits by me, going through the news on her phone.

“The minute I read Dharahara fell, I knew it was a big one,” she says.

Dharahara was a national monument, a tower that overlooked Kathmandu city. Hundreds of people climbed it everyday.

“I still hadn’t climbed it yet,” I find myself foolishly saying.

The images on my laptop are horrific. At my side, my phone is trying to connect to my parent’s number, but keeps failing. According to the news, the lines were down. According to the images online, half my country is rubble. I stare at the photographs mindlessly, feeling numb, scared, and lost. The phone call cancels, and I notice three missed calls. My mother called me three times an hour ago.

It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. She had called not once, not twice, but three times, and I had failed to pick up because I had been out. Had she called me to tell me she was okay? Or had something terrible happened? My roommate was frantically trying to contact her family too.

Shreya and I stared dumbstruck at images of the destroyed neighborhoods where we had grown up. I stare at an image of Patan Durbar Square, which was a 20 minute walk from my house. It was one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built almost 500 years ago by the Malla Kings, this complex of temples, courtyards, and a magnificent palace built mostly of iconic red brick had been a magnificent example of Newari architecture within the Kathmandu Valley.  The images on my screen showed piles of these lying on the ground, tourists and locals alike looking shell-shocked.

The house was quiet and Worcester slept  peacefully. Halfway across the world, Nepal was in ruins, people buried under collapsed buildings, and many were injured. I would later find out that thousands were dead. In our little dining room, my roommate and I sat silently , still unable to contact our families. Right now, there was nothing we could do from so far away.

An hour later, another news alert  set off my phone. Two people were dead. The earthquake had been of a “violent intensity’, the ground swaying at unimaginable magnitude.

“I wonder what it felt like,” I thought out aloud.

The last earthquake to hit Nepal had been in 1934, and since Nepal lies on a major fault line, another devastating earthquake had long been expected. We had several earthquake drills in school each year, I used to always look forward to them as a way to miss class.

The thirteen-year-old me who had no conception of the destruction an earthquake could cause her country. The thirteen-year-old me who did not know at the time that she would be fortunate enough to never have to experience the horror of April 25th 2015. That’s what I was told later, by friends and family over the weekend, that I was fortunate to not be there. But that does not sit well with me.

My family had been separated at the time of the earthquake. My younger brother was at home and my parents had been driving. Was I fortunate to not be with the three people that I without a doubt love the most, during such a traumatic experience? I am fortunate enough that an hour and a half later I received a call from my father. I am fortunate enough that my family survived. I do not, however, feel fortunate to have been in Worcester when the earthquake struck.

This might be an emotional and irrational thought of a twenty-something, but my initial feeling that weekend and the following week was guilt. I felt guilty for sleeping in a bed while my grandparents slept under the night sky, their home on the verge of collapsing. I felt guilty for laughing with my friends on the morning after,while thousands of children cried over lost family members. I felt guilty for living comfortably a thousand miles away from what really was my home.

I stayed up until the crack of dawn that day, unable to sleep and responding to messages from friends, including some that I had not spoken to for years. Many of us were scattered around the world, and we felt helpless. We shared the guilt, too. We asked ourselves why we were away. Nepal was suffering, and we were out of the country, seeking “a better future.”

Aspiring students leave Nepal to gain a better education. Less than a third return. Some of those who return are dying to leave again. It took a natural disaster that destroyed our country to make us realize how much we wanted to be home close to our families. Everyone cried, everyone was scared, but from so far away there was nothing we could do but wait for more news.

My father’s first words to me that night had been “Don’t worry.” That is something I was and still am unable to do. It hurts to see a country that had been shaken by a royal massacre and has endured a decade long civil war finally get back up on its feet, only to be knocked down again. All of this, within my lifetime. I feel guilty right now, sitting in the comfort of my apartment writing this, while my brother and a hundred of other high school students in Kathmandu sit down to write their final examinations, a week after this disaster has struck. Most of them, having already been accepted to Universities for the fall of 2015 in America must give the exams to be eligible for their offers.  So they can come here and make a better future for themselves. So they can come here and join us in what I can only describe as an immigrant’s guilt.

Akriti Sharma is a senior at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, majoring in Economics. She grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal, and has been volunteering many years. She loves books and dogs, and she greatly misses her two German Shepherds back home.

Photo credit: “Destruction of Heritage and Culture” by Drishika Dugar – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Destruction_of_Heritage_and_Culture.jpg#/media/File:Destruction_of_Heritage_and_Culture.jpg

God’s Eye

Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Emma R. Collins

                                                                                                                                      Helix Nebula / Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

                                                                                                                                      Helix Nebula / Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

    The day she died, I became a man of God.

    All my life, ever since Dad went up with the Jupiter missions, I was a child of science. I grew up truth-seeking. I was all-knowing. There was no myth nor legend that could escape my inquisitive, ever-probing mind. I hollowed out the world one line at a time between the pages of books upon books upon books. All the planet was a wonder to me. I marveled in the majestic and fragile beauty of circumstantial chemical bonds.

    When Earthly wonder became mundane I turned my lusting to the stars. It was only natural that as an adult I found myself stepping into Dad’s silver boots. Twenty-two years later, I watch over the Genesis Project, a lone, benevolent engineer drifting through the infinite emptiness. I am inside the womb of the Eden shuttle. I am her child, we are her children, cradled so lovely within her titanium and steel. She is a good shuttle.

    My shuttle.

    Yes, it is mine, all of it. All of them, my cosmic siblings in utero. They sleep in their artificial wombs, sleeping while I drifted, while I watch.

    I became a man of God the day she died.

    I look out into the thunderous black beyond Eden’s sound womb and hold the edges of the viewport with white knuckles. I am still sick in the seat of myself, that place where hot things go when you feel good, and cold things when you don’t. I am pale around the edges of my jaw and lips, but it had been at least twenty-four hours and the vomiting was finally over. There is nothing worse than vomiting in zero gravity. I try to collect the mighty calm of the universe from that small, insignificant window, breathing slowly, tasting Eden’s faint, metallic breath. It will take me several moments to slow the rapid beating of my human heart.

    A tear wells in the corner of my eye, rippling free with the faintest trembles. It is a tiny silver pinprick of glinting life that catches the light of God’s Eye as it drifts before the view port. That’s what I have decided to call the nebula that came into view off the starboard wing over a month ago. For a long time I called the roiling blue dusts that haloed the core of brilliant gold Draco’s Eye, but now, remembering her rubies, I know what it truly is.

    God watches me.

    I gaze into the brilliant shimmering of that omnipotent nebula as though I could take it into my skin and dissolve into its dust. I want nothing more than to return to that place of peace, the place we all must come from, and to which we all must return. That is where Eden is taking me. I close my eyes to force away the last of the tears. They drift from me and I must turn from them, because the sick feeling is back, and I need to distract myself to make it stop.

    But I cannot keep the memories from resurfacing. I am not God. I am not strong enough to face this on my own. I need His grace to hold me and protect me from myself. I move slowly as my body drifts through Eden’s hollow. I try to keep myself busy with the electrical system. There had been a few shorts recently and I know that if I don’t keep a close eye on them, Eden may turn on herself. But even as I sift through the and fibres and tracts, I cannot stop it.

    I am not God.

    In hot, heavy flashes my chest tightens and I taste something at the back of my throat. I am thinking of her, how she was before. I am thinking of the smell of her hair, of the way it moved in the sunlight. All the women on the mission cut their hair, but she had kept it long. She had kept it long even through training, even when she was no more than a sailor on a ship. She flew for the Navy, that’s why they wanted her. Pilots, it was always pilots. They kept a close eye on the men and women who dared to do what God had not intended.

    But maybe it was just because she was beautiful.

    To me, there were no other women. From the first moment I saw her face, to the moment they put her away in Eden’s womb, I was in love with her. I am still am, in love with her, even though I must bear the burden of her absence now. The space she left in the fabric of the universe is a festering pit in my chest.


    I am completely alone.

    Her name was Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn Eve. She was kind, intelligent. She spoke to me sweetly, even though the others thought me odd. I like to keep to myself, and to the people who are strong and sought out for these kinds of things, keeping to oneself is odd. But, that was one of the reasons they had picked me, because they knew I could be alone.

    But now, I am so completely alone.

    I strip a wire to fix a connection, but my mind is no longer with Eden. I am back in the days when I would watch over her as she slept. I was her guardian, her protector. I was charged with the responsibility of her life, all their lives, but hers was the most precious. Every day I went to see her, every night wishing her peace before I slept. I grew to know her even in her silence. No man could have loved a woman more.

    But it was lonely.

    Is lonely.

    I am so completely alone.

    To think of it now will only make me sick. But I can’t help myself. I should have seen it coming. Humans are not meant to be alone, even if they seek it. Humans are not meant to be left with only the sounds of their thoughts to keep them company. You see, our thoughts, our racing whispers that spin and spin and spin in the infinite emptiness of the universe, are louder than a rocket’s roar. I was drowning in the sound of my own mind. And she was there, my riptide, my unrelenting tsunami, washing over me and taking me under.


    She dragged
me down, down, down into the darkest reaches of man, until the unraveling of loneliness was more than I could bear. I remember it as a daze, but I know I was completely awake. It was no dream. It was no fantasy. I was in charge of every flicker of every fibre of my body. And still, I did not stop it. The surging and crashing in my mind were too great, and I had been drowned too deeply by her undertow.

    I didn’t think she would wake from the stasis. They’re aren’t supposed to unless Eden tells them to. That’s the beauty of technology, the beauty of God’s plan. Because even as I held her, kissed her, I never thought she’d wake. I was blind.

    It happened in the midst of my drowning. I was gasping for air and suddenly her eyes were on me, eyes like brilliant sapphires. I could see all our world, all myself in them. I saw God, and He saw me. He knew me, knew what I had done, and so I knew what I had done, and suddenly the tides fled and my oceans dried up. I became parched and barren. All that was left was the weight of my sin.

    Blood in zero gravity looks exactly like rubies.

    As it drifts through space, it catches the artificial light, magnifies the star light. It sparkles, brilliantly. It is one of the most beautiful things you could ever see.

    She screamed. She wasn’t supposed to be awake.

    Her body was fragile, my sweet Gwendolyn, after sleeping for so long. What I did is unforgivable. Her heart seized from the shock. All I had wanted was to love her. I tried to bring her back, tried to force Eden’s pulse into her. But Eden would not have her. She was aborted and my hands were red. With every shock she convulsed hideously and I think that was when I first vomited. I couldn’t do it. I am not God. She was gone, and I had killed her.

    And God had watched me do it.

    I gave her back to Eden’s womb, because I could not bear the idea of her body being lost.  She would go with them, wherever it was they ended up. They would take care of her and I would go to God.

I must go to God,there is no other place left for me now.

    But first, I must fix the wiring.

    I slip the panel back into place and check the circuits. Everything works. There is no illness of Eden’s that I cannot cure. I just can’t bring the dead back to life. I am not God. I wipe away more tears as the memories begin to subside. My hands are shaking as I return my tools to their bag. I need to check the panelling in the upper compartments. If I don’t keep myself busy I know today I will go to God.

    But she’s there.


    My Gwendolyn.


    I cannot breathe. I am frozen, holding on to the wall so that I don’t drift away like a fool. I cannot speak. I can only stare.

    As naked as the day she was born, she is more beautiful than any goddess. Her hair is undone. I undid it. I set it free. It moves softly around her face, as though in water. I grimace, catching my breath then. Her face, her beautiful, gentle face, it is a mask of rage. There is a darkness in her soft blue eyes, one that fills me with a cold, hollow feeling. I swallow back the sick of my guilt, the tears floating away from me in great numbers now.

    “Gwendolyn,” I gasp. I want to reach out to her and beg her forgiveness. Dear God…please. Let me repent. But my body refuses to move.

    I do not see what she holds in her hand.

    When the pain goes in between my ribs, it is short and quick and makes me give a little gasp. At first I do not understand. And then I see them, all around me.

    Brilliant, beautiful rubies.

    I look down to see the utility knife buried in my chest. She has made no sound, her jaw tightened up in an ugly snarl. My rubies float slowly towards her as my pulse forces them out. They splash against her bare skin. She screams and the moment is shattered. She has killed me and she sobs now, trembling, heaving, shaking in her birth throes. She comes alive now, violent, thrashing and screaming. She is so unlike my Gwendolyn that I am scared, not for my death, but for her rebirth. What have I done?

    I try to speak, gasp. She slaps me and screams again.

    I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…

    I see God in her eyes. I see His wrath, feel it plunged into the chambers of my punctured heart. My rubies go everywhere in Eden’s womb. They splash and break across her smooth, plastic surfaces, slithering little ounces of me into her. Gwendolyn is still screaming, a ragged, terrible sound.

    I reach out a hand to soothe her and she slaps me again, hard. I see flashes of white, my head twisting to look now out of the view port. It has grown dim. My world grows dim. But I want to see it. Just one more time. I want to see God’s Eye.

    I reach for it, but the rubies are all around me. I am sick.

    I feel small.

    I am not God…

    I am not God…

    I am…



Emma R. Collins of Ashby, Massachusetts, studies English and Psychology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and hopes to become a literary editor.

Paddy’s Pub Gets No Respect

Fall 2015, Uncategorized
                                                                                                The cast of always sunny in philadelphia / Photo courtesy of fx networks

                                                                                                The cast of always sunny in philadelphia / Photo courtesy of fx networks

Dumpster babies in tanning beds. Cannibalism. An abundance of glue huffing.  Milk steak, rum ham, and an obscene amount of alcohol. These are just a few of the key tenets that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is built upon. Set in the dive bar Paddy’s Pub, Always Sunny revolves around the lives of the bar’s five employees. “The gang” consists of Dennis Reynolds, bar owner, narcissist, and sociopath; his twin sister Dee Reynolds, who alternates between bartending, nursing her own alcoholism, and trying to revive her failing acting career; Ronald “Mac” McDonald, co-owner of Paddy’s and degenerate/karate enthusiast; Charlie Kelly, the insane bar janitor and self-proclaimed “wild card”; and Frank Reynolds, father of Dee and Dennis, lover of eggs, and the financial support behind most of the gang’s schemes. From this description alone, one would think that this show is purely trash—and at times, one would be absolutely correct. Yet despite the copious amounts of literal garbage, scenes in strip clubs, and general debauchery, the charm behind Always Sunny comes from the razor-sharp writing and satire employed by the creators of the show (who all star as main characters). The show has gained a huge cult following, airing on FX from 2005 until 2012; it then moved to the sister network FXX, where it currently runs (and has been renewed for its twelfth season).

With consistently impressive ratings and a plethora of fans, the next logical progression would be critical acclaim. And while Always Sunny is commended by critics, its cult status seems to be set in stone, as the show has yet to win a single Emmy award. With sitcoms such as Modern Family, 30 Rock, and The Big Bang Theory sweeping awards, it is important to identify what separates Always Sunny from these similar yet radically different programs. Always Sunny is a potent genre mix of “friendcore” sitcom and workplace comedy, whose interest in making points through shocking satire overpowers any desire for mainstream appeal.

Mittell Jason’s  book, Television and American Culture, references shows like Friends as examples of narratives that “focus on a group of adults bound by friendship instead of family or career”. Always Sunny follows this model of a “friend sitcom,” three of the characters are actually related, but the relationship between all the characters regardless is one of both utter hatred and dysfunctional dependency—similar to a family. Combine this with the classic setting of their mutual workplace—Paddy’s Pub, perhaps the least professional work environment of all time—and you have It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Both friend and workplace sitcoms are not a revolutionary idea; in fact, one could argue that television is currently going through a genre cycle in both instances, with the surge of popularity in mockumentary-style shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, and friend-centric sitcoms like Big Bang Theory and New Girl. The difference between these shows and Always Sunny, however, stems from a lack of genuine love and compassion between the friends. As a result of every character being morally askew, they are all incredibly self-centered, and each is appallingly willing to sell out the others in a heartbeat. They steal each other’s money and cars at every chance and physically harm each other in attempts to get ahead; the self-explanatory episode “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire” (Season 3, Episode 7) is a prime example of this. It is truly questionable how any of these people are even friends with each other, until it becomes apparent they do not have anybody else. Their friendship is built upon mutual need for some semblance of a job, and the fact that their personalities are totally incompatible with people who exist outside of their depraved playground, Paddy’s Pub. Episodes rarely, if ever, end with a “happy ending” or “lesson learned”; more common are arrests or fistfights.

The show’s dark humor and constant iniquity is clearly a point of contention for many, as pointed out by Always Sunny’s apparent lack of awards. The episode “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award” (Season 9, Episode 3) is a thinly veiled metaphor for their deficiency of academy acclaim. The gang unites to try and win Paddy’s Pub the “Best Bar” award; this goes exactly as well as their real-life attempts at winning Emmys. Feeling that they are too “fringe,” the gang takes a trip to a nearby award-winning bar, where they observe charming banter between the staff, a token black friend, and a “pretty but benign” female character. They then try and replicate these facets (all common tropes of award-winning shows), with absolutely disastrous results: their amiable jokes come off as crass, their token black friend brings more friends (“Black bars don’t win awards. I don’t know why, but they just don’t”), and Dee’s poor comedic timing and excessive makeup fall flat. The episode ends with a rousing song from Charlie in which he eloquently proclaims: “I don’t need your trophies or your gold/I just want to tell you/Go fuck yourselves.”

And at the end of the day, what is more representative of Always Sunny’s approach to comedy and awards than this? The gang questions whether it’s their location, but dismisses this idea saying “that new bar down the street won a ton of awards” which is presumably in reference to Louie, the critically acclaimed show that also airs on FX. They try and change their approach, style, lighting, and patronage, but at the end of the day, there is no other explanation for their failure than the characters themselves. And yet this is the source of the show’s appeal; the characters, which serve as “turn offs” for many, are also the sole reason for the show’s success. This is not only in a literal sense, as three of the main characters literally created the program. Always Sunny, functioning as nearly a purely episodic show, relies on its deadbeat, alcoholic, morally-corrupt characters to move the plot forward. And whether that approach is appealing or horrifying is truly up to the viewer—and the Academy—to decide.


Eva Maldonado studies journalism and media/screen studies at Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts. She is pursuing a career in creative journalism and/or writing for television. Her interests include breakfast, food, comedy, and napping.

Denise Levertov, Poet and Mentor

Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Michael True

                                                                                                                                      Denise Levertoc/Photo by Michael True

                                                                                                                                      Denise Levertoc/Photo by Michael True

A major American poet of the 20th century, Denise Levertov left her mark on the rich literary history of Worcester, Mass., through her readings from the late 1960s to the 1990s, her friendships with local writers, and her 1974 poetry workshop at Assumption College. She, Robert Bly, and Stanley Kunitz helped to launch the Worcester County Poetry Association, Inc., now in its forty-fourth year. In addition to her recently published Collected Poems, she is the subject of two excellent biographies: Donna Hollenberg’s Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Revolution, and Dana Greene’s Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life.

A special legacy is Levertov’s influence on local poets, including the late Chris Gilbert, Mary Fell, and John Hodgen, who have since received national awards. At a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Worcester Review, Hodgen remembered Levertov’s reading at the conclusion of the Assumption College workshop: “Denise filling La Maison Auditorium on a hot summer night, the crowd so enraptured, the room spilling over, so crowded each poem made you hungry for more, so crowded I sat out on the lawn under the window where she was reading, so filled up with poems I was writing even then.”

Sometimes regarded as a political poet because of her powerful renderings of the effects of the Vietnam war, that is a misleading classification. Poems such as “Live at War” do convey a sense of that tragic conflict and the suffering of the Vietnamese people:  “We are the humans, men who can make/ ….who do these acts,/ who convince ourselves/ it is necessary/…burned human flesh/ is burning in Vietnam as I write.” The same is true of ”The Altars in the Streets,” a response to that war based on Levertov’s time there with Muriel Rukeyser: “all the shed blood the monsoons cannot wash away/ has become a temple,/ fragile, insolent, absolute.”  As with poems by veterans such as Bruce Weigl, it speaks for the Vietnamese people struggling to sustain themselves in the crossfire. As with her love poems and religious poems, the war poems succeed through an artistry of image, sound, and argument.

During the years of her involvement in the anti-war movement, including the arrest and trial for civil disobedience of her husband, Mitchell Goodman, Levertov was occasionally overwhelmed by the effects of the war on people back home. The natural world offered her some solace, as in “Concurrence”:

each day’s terror, almost
a form of boredom—madmen
at the wheel and
stepping on the gas and
the brakes no good–
and each day one,
sometimes two, morning glories,
faultless, blue, blue sometimes
flected with magenta, each
lit from within with
the first sunlight.

Her friend and mentor, Robert Duncan, worried about how all this might threaten her poetic gift. But her admiration for the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who faced a similar dilemma, encouraged her to face the challenge as a person and as an artist. As did other major poets such as Rukeyser and Robert Bly, Levertov provided a vivid and reflective rendering of what it felt like to live in the U.S. at that time.

Although born in England, where her first book was published, Levertov successfully appropriated a style in the American tradition of Whitman, William Carlos Williams, and the early Modernists.

Her lyrical gifts were astonishing, enabling her to convey a sense of awe, not only in the early love poems, such as “Bedtime,” but also in the religious poems, such as “Annunciation” and those set in the Pacific Northwest, such as “the mountain’s daily speech in silence.”  Her selection in The Stream and The Sapphire traces the growth of a deep religious sensibility in poems comparable to the great religious poems by John Donne, George Herbert, and 17th century metaphysical poets.

The daughter of a Hasidic Jew who became an Anglican priest and of a descendant of the Welsh mystic Angel Jones, as a young woman she considered herself a skeptic. She returned to Christianity, the religion of her youth, and was baptized a Catholic while living among the Catholic community in Seattle, where she died in 1997. It was a gradual unfolding, one might say, described attentively and movingly by biographer Dana Greene. It originated, she said, in the process of writing “Mass for the Feast of St. Thomas Didymus” and an oratorio on the disappearance and deaths of innocent clergy and laity in El Salvador in the 1980s.

The reader can trace Levertov’s assent to religious faith in “Flickering Mind” and “A Traveler,” which concludes, “I’ll chance/the pilgrim sandals.”  “Annunciation,”which first appeared in the Catholic Worker, is a powerful rendering of the Virgin Mary’s assuming a responsibility imposed upon her: “We are told of meek obedience./ The engendering Spirit/ did not enter her without consent./ God waited./ …Consent,courage unparalleled/ opened her utterly.”

Now, two decades since her death, the eloquence and power of Levertov’s work are more obvious than ever, as her work is appreciated by larger audiences of readers, critics, and scholars. And the younger poets among her Worcester audience were fortunate to have the benefit of her presence and her influence.

Michael True, Emeritus Professor, Assumption College, Worcester, Mass. He is the Co-founder of the Worcester County Poetry Association, Founding Editor, Worcester Review; and Co-founder of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions. He has taught at colleges in the U.S., India, and China. His books include An Energy Field More Intense Than War: The Nonviolent Tradition and American Literature, 1995; A Daniel Berrigan Reader, 1986; People Power: Peacemakers and Their Communities, 2007; and Prairie Song and Other Poems, 2013. True is a Featured Writer and is happy to be contacted by Journal writers seeking advice. He can be reached at mtrue@assumption.edu.                         

Old Things Are Always Worth More

Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Nick Porcella

“Come’ere and take a look at these,” he’d say. “What do I got here?”

“Oh, more coins, Grampa Ted?” I’d respond.

“Huh? What?” He was slightly hard of hearing, mind you.

Coins. Coins, yes?”

“Yeah. Well, take a look through ‘em and take what you want.”

There would be a pile—of varying sizes each visit—that contained random coins. Most were simple denominations: pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Occasionally, I would find something more intriguing or valuable, like a half-dollar, or a foreign or antique piece, which was always a thrill.

Grampa Ted would tell me not to take the whole pile because I should “save some for the other grandkids” as well. (My cousins and I were in the midst of teenagehood and therefore had to be imbued with the art of sharing.) He would ask me what the coins were, as if he hadn’t seen them before, even if the coin in question was a humble penny. I would oblige, of course, and tell him what it was if I knew. And because I visited so often, I would get the most from the piles. Not only that, I would get to cherry-pick the best of the bunch. I was a self-made coin collector because of Ted, though for him, the name of the game was learn quick or get called an asshole.

The ordinary ones coins I rolled in coin-wrappers and deposited at the local bank. The extraordinary ones, which were older (thus deemed “rarer”) than their lackluster counterparts, I kept. I also held onto the special coins that were unique in origin or age.

There was kind of a fourth category: the “what the heck is that?” category. Anything that wasn’t a coin went here, and no, there was absolutely nothing valuable in these piles. Bus tokens, car fuses, and tiny chunks of metal were common.

“Grampa, this isn’t a coin. It’s a washer.”

“Huh? Goddammit, do you want it or not?”

I can remember one occasion when I was presented with a green, gallon-sized glass whiskey jug full of pennies. Frankly, the sentimental value it had to my grandfather, I was told, did not outweigh—although it seemed that the jar outweighed a neutron star—the fact that the container of pennies was just plain cumbersome. This jar contained nothing more than post-1980 pennies. They literally weren’t even worth their weight in copper since the government began using zinc and other fillers instead. And they really weren’t worth being put into coin rolls. After I had rolled them, I realized that I had earned fifteen bucks, which was like working for two hours at a minimum-wage job. It took an hour and a half to just sort them and roll them. I never told Gampa Ted that I deposited them. I can imagine his reaction.

“You did what?!”

Other occasions were more “profitable,” a word I didn’t like to use because it made it sound as though I only visited Grampa Ted for the coins. That was true for a while, I suppose. There were many visits where he would give me extremely special coins. Sometimes he’d give me pure silver. I would often get half-dollars, and I liked to hold onto the ones from before 1970.

One time, he gave me a coin from 1827, which I later had appraised. Turns out it was worth about $200. He was excited to hear that but disgruntled that someone would spend that much money on a coin.

One day he handed my dad a scrap of newspaper to bring home to me.

“Grampa thinks you should go to this,” my dad told me.

“Lemme see,” I said.

It was a newspaper clipping for a coin show in some town nearby. It mentioned sales, appraisals, and trading, as well as the opportunity to rent spaces.

My dad continued, “He also sent you this.”

He handed me a twenty-dollar bill.

It couldn’t be.

“Jesus, dad…” I paused. “I would love to go. Will you go, too?” I finally asked.

“Well, we’ll make a plan—maybe some weekend—to check it out. It’s about a forty minute drive from here.”

    It wasn’t more than a couple weekends and we were off to the show. I was really looking forward to it. Grampa Ted had never been to one of these, but he seemed to have an intuitive sense that I would enjoy it. I still could not get over the feeling of the twenty-dollar bill in my hands. I wanted to keep it forever, but he would certainly not have approved of that. If he was going to give me a small fortune, he would at least expect me to use it as he had intended.

When the day arrived, we drove off not knowing what to expect. The hotel where the show was being held had numerous signs advertising the event, so I figured it must have been popular. One of the signs read “Monthly Rare Coin Show.” Upon entering the building, we walked past some dealers who sold coin essentials such as coin-rolls and sleeves, as well as guidebooks on coin values and those pre-assembled collection kits like the 50 State Quarters Collection people bought for their kids all those years ago.

The admission was usually one dollar—because that would keep those who weren’t all that serious about coins from taking up room on the floor—but with our newspaper clipping from Grampa Ted we got in for free. He would have been so proud. We also got to enter a raffle for “a randomly selected coin valued between ten and twenty dollars.” While we were standing there, I signed up for the mailing list, so that I would always know when the next coin show would be rolling in.

We stepped onto the floor, felt the musty air of mildewed coin wrappers, and quickly realized our rookie status. Everyone looked the same, they all looked like Ted. Why wasn’t he here? Oh right, the only thing he hated more than hordes of humans confined to small spaces was the act of spending money.

“Um, where are the people other than the old white guys?” I asked.

“You think you’ll find women or children here?” my dad quipped.

There were more than sixty tables, and each had its own stacks of coins, paper money, rare metals, stamps, and similar items. Old white men held out magnifying glasses to inspect their purchases. Elderly customers bought from elderly dealers, who yelled across the coin cases about the price of silver bullion being particular high that day.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn’t care.

Approaching one table, I talked to a dealer—in a very suave tone, might I add—about my h
ope to pursue mercury dimes.

“The 1916-D I have here is worth more since it is above XF grading,” the first of the old, white dealers said.

“Ah, yes, 1916-D. XF. Of course,” I followed up. Smooth.

Walking table to table, I managed to buy many one-dollar items, such as a 1943 German 1 Reichspfennig coin which attracted me with its moss-green color (though when I arrived home and turned it over, I realized it had a Swastika on it…oops). On a lighter note, I found beat-to-death buffalo nickels that some guy was selling for fifty cents apiece. I was unsure what year they were, but I didn’t even care! Then I thought I hit the jackpot with a 50 Franc Moroccan coin dated from 1371. “Old things are always worth more,” I thought. I learned after my purchase from another dealer that the date was relative to the calendar of Islam. So 1371 really meant something like 1951. Lame.

With a pile of coins in hand, my dad and I left more enriched than when we walked in. From many of the dealers, we had learned about the rating systems of coins. We learned which ones were the best to start a collection. We were taught how to keep our coins in the best condition for resale. I even kept the silver dollar I received as change at one of the dealer-stands.

No, neither of us was an expert at coin collecting. But Grampa  Ted wasn’t an expert at this either, so I didn’t have to worry about impressing him. I couldn’t wait to tell him about these people spending all that money on little chunks of metal! On second thought, I had better spare that detail. Old or new, he didn’t believe that anything was worth more, especially a coin sold by some anonymous dealer. All I know is that the older our relationship got, the more it was worth to me.

Nick Porcella  is a recent graduate of Clark University, Worcester, Mass., where he studied English and philosophy. He is now a part of the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the same institution. See more of his literary work at Entropy Literary.



Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Anashua Madhubanti

                                                                                                                                                      photo by sasha kohan

                                                                                                                                                      photo by sasha kohan

The day I finally find myself visiting a sequence of past events in my life, Mother had slipped into a coma, where I imagine her surroundings are darkness, as opposed to the bright, sterile light of the waiting room, where I sit without feeling, unable to distinguish where the hard edge of the chair ends and my thighs start, where one more hour of a machine beeping and the vapid reports of a subordinate doctor will push me farther into the numbness of my own mind. The hospital glass is dark with specks of light that shine like stars, and I look out, trying to find another space in time, only to be drawn back to the reality of my own existence, the stars burning into my reflection. Mother is distant from me now, more distant than she has ever been, more distant than the day in March when I heard her hushed voice on the phone with the doctor, more silent than the silence in the ultrasound room when the core of the curve of my belly was projected onto the screen for the world to see in the first of a series of violations to come.

That day in the doctor’s office, my life really started. Before, everything swam in a haze of incoherence. But after those few minutes in that office, I achieved a new awareness – the awareness of my womb, which held the capacity to be the size of a raspberry and a cavern, all at once. Suddenly, in a moment, those narrow confines of muscle, mucous, and liquid made room for a lifetime of dreams, possibilities, and unbearable losses, each the size of blue elephants. A whole sea of submerged marine animals filled up the space in my womb. There were trees whose trunks were hung with yellow and green mosses, and an undergrowth alive with creatures that looked strange and smelled strange and hummed darkly.

With the knowledge of the new universe I carried within me, I walked out of the doctor’s room, and the world outside became remote to me. I saw everything from a distance; it was as though my feet did not touch but merely glided over the crowded streets of my city, Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. I heard the usual noises, the cacophony of cars honking, the chicken seller’s coarse calls rising out of the bazaar. But over the din of it all, I could not recall anything I heard. They meant nothing to me.

It was spring and the sun was still making its way to the tropics. The day was warm but not unbearable, and when I reached home I found father sitting on the front porch, drinking sweetened milk tea and eating digestive biscuits. Avoiding his eye contact, I crept into the bedroom, closed my door, cried, and made the call to break the news to D. We were both silent for a long time, because we did not know what to say or do, and the silence was comforting. When I saw him in the afternoon, I knew I had changed, but though he could feel that I had changed he could not define what had changed. ‘Why do you have your thousand yard stare,’ he asked, and all I could think about was something I had read in a book, the name of which was lost to me then. If two people meet after a long time, they both imagine themselves to have changed greatly, but neither can perceive the other to have changed very much. To him, I remained the same person that I had always been.

That afternoon, D and I made love unhurriedly, slowly, painstakingly, as though it was the most important thing in the world. But it would be wrong to say that D and I made love, for, really, the three of us made love. The whole ecosystem that had grown out of my womb made love with us. The tops of the trees bristled together, the tall elephant grass danced in the wind, a tidal wave rose from within the sea and swept over everything. And afterwards, the three of us were together on his big, white bed which seemed to rock like a boat.

Later, we reached a decision. Or rather, a decision was reached. “It would be stupid,”’ he said, “And what about college?” I agreed, for life was long, and we were just at the start. He stroked my hair as the last of the sun seeped in and warmed his bed. ‘I never noticed your hair was brown,’ he said.

After a while, I asked him, “Should I tell Mother?” “You have to,” he replied.

That’s when it started, the silence. Silence when I told her, silence afterwards, it was as though her voice was silenced. Even on the phone she whispered. And I, sitting in my room, put together all the S-words I knew like a string of pearls. Silence. Shame. Society. Seclusion. Sex. Silence. Shame.

One day soon, she said, “Come, Daughter, we have to go. Tell your father we’re going to your aunt’s.’” But I sat in my room, not in any hurry to get moving, and I stared at the open pages of a book before me. At some point, my tea turned cold, someone came in to put fresh laundry in the drawers, and finally, the shadow of my father crossed the door. ”What are you reading?” he asked me. ‘Siddhartha,’ I said. Father talked at length about his dislike of Herman Hesse and words streamed out of his mouth, of which I only caught a few. My father looked old in the light. He had missed shaving spots of his beard, which were grey specks against his dark skin. His was a life that had no time for mysticism or romance. Having come of age in a decade of wars, he was truly modern, and the specifications of bombers interested him more than magical realism. The images of burning Buddhist monks were burned into his mind, and he had quit Eastern mysticism altogether. Though I felt immense affection for the man, I also knew that if he knew my situation he would never forgive me.

My mother entered the room in haste, made excuses about where we were going, and soon I found myself in the car, the unreality of the city rushing by. Though she sat only a seat away from me, the distance between us was so great that I could not touch her, even if I had reached out for her. The rest of what passed between us that day remains hazy to me, for all I remember are the cold whitewashed walls of the medical facility and waking from a deep sleep with a start, only to confront a hollowness that resounded within me. The calm waters with landscapes of hills underneath had disappeared; now there was the tremendous crashing of waves on barren sands. And I found myself more alone than I had ever felt. Everything I had imagined was no more, the name that was so real to me now sounded laughable, and I felt my worth as a person to have lessened. I was without purpose. I found myself stringing together S-words once again. Silence. Stillness. Sanity.

At that time, one thing I had not wondered was why she had helped me, especially when that meant going against her morality, religion, and honor. It had meant days spent making excuses for my appearance, as intrusive relatives had asked her one question after another. “Why does she look so sickly? Why did she lose so much weight?” What had happened to me, asked my father, unable to put together the connection between my sudden emotional withdrawal from the world and my hourly physical withdrawals into the bathroom. Many other things surfaced to me at that time, the most ironic realization being that I was only beautiful when I was sickly. Relatives, fat aunties in monstrous hair buns, snickering cousins in skin-tight jeans, suddenly took it upon themselves to comment on how much weight I had lost, and how beautiful it made me look. As they complimented me and suggested new clothes that I was now worthy enough to fit into, all I could think about was the dead-chicken smell I carried in my nostril everywhere like a bane, that would make my stomach turn when faced with food.

Mother, Mother, I had always wanted to ask, why are you still here for me? For the next five years, neither of us ever mentioned what had happened. I moved on with my life, broke things off with D, flew ten thousand miles to painfully separate myself from my roots, changed house, found bits and scraps of paper that were clues to my Mother’s life, of which I took no notice in the perpetual hurry I found myself in. Yet, sitting in the waiting room, I had begun to piece my mother’s life together.

I recalled the love-letters, hidden away from prying eyes for many years, containing illicit conversations with boys, testimonials to the subversive South Asian teenager that existed within the Mother figure I had always known. I thought of the imprints upon the notebook pages where her first rose must have been, and I thought of her first kiss, which must have echoed from her feet to her breasts. I imagined her marriage at eighteen, a hasty affair, pushing her forward into a societal role that she was not braced for, only to be solidified by her first and only pregnancy, me.

I had always held Mother in such reverence, that I too had been a part of the societal forces that shaped her. My own secret was so taboo that I had to tuck it away and forget it, in doing which I had to put away a part of my own history. It left many gaping questions that I should have addressed, except both our selves had been shadowed over by the same system of shame and silence. In the waiting room, for the thousandth time in my life, I was putting together S-words. Shame. Silence. Suppression. Subversion. Self. The list would keep growing longer in the years to come.

It was only when faced with impending loss of such magnitude that I could put into perspective the other great loss of my life.

Anashua Madhubanti, a geography major at Clark University, Worcester, Mass., is from Bangladesh, but believes home has no geographical location.



Fall 2015, Uncategorized

by Scott David

Ian Grimm wanted to be part of the Boston Marathon bombing.  

“We’re all victims, Marcy,” he told his wife. “You, me, anyone who was touched by this.  As much as those poor bastards who actually got limbs blown off.”  

“If I were you,” his wife advised, “I wouldn’t tell anyone about this.”

But it was too late.  Ian had already begun experimenting. He had started with non-Bostonians, of course, those sweet yearning souls who had reached out from the West Coast and Budapest and Auckland to see whether the Grimms were OK, persons whose concern was gratifying and touching, but ultimately based on the same impulse Ian had: to be a part of something greater.  

To satisfy the needs of this audience to feel connected, Ian had fabricated a few details that exaggerated his personal involvement: shrapnel embedded in his backside; ringing ears; blood-spattered forearms; and the shrieks and wails of the dying nearby.  None was precisely true, but his sister in Cleveland was especially grateful for these particulars, because she had desperately wanted to talk about the incident with someone who would understand Boston’s draw on native daughters like herself. The bombing, she said, had literally changed the course of her life. She could offer no sympathy for the killers (mercy was not hers to authorize), but she had experienced a profound and renewed sense of gratitude for her own health, her children’s brilliance, the lack of a military draft, the first ripening tomatoes in her garden, and the relative peace of Cleveland Heights.  

“Thank you, Ian, for your service,” she whispered.  

Unable to retreat from his inventions, Ian doubled-down.  He protested that he had only done what anyone in his shoes would have done: rescued a grown man with a leg wound by putting his fingers three inches deep into the man’s femoral artery.

“You’re so brave,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it.”

“Sometimes,” Ian said, “when you’re tested, you learn things about yourself.”

Having achieved such a gratifying connection with his sister, Ian turned to studying the genuine victims’ first-hand accounts of their experiences.  According to most accounts, there were 275 wounded, and he pored over the account of each and everyone of them and purloined only the best details.  When he had the facts sufficiently committed to memory and had polished and developed his story for a local audience, Ian tested a provisional version on select Bostonians.  

The feedback was good, the commiseration most gratifying.  

“I had no idea,” most of them said.

“Yes,” Ian confirmed, “I had come down to see Marcy finish, with the girls in tow. Had it been a moment earlier….”

“You’re lucky.”

“Thanks be to God,” Ian agreed.  

Patiently correcting people when they got the facts wrong, Ian variously positioned himself and/or the girls near the first bomb or the second, outside the Forum Restaurant or at the finish line, or, finally, looking out for his beautiful bride on the catwalk above the finish line among the press and paparazzi.

Marcy, who had in fact been stopped just short of Kenmore Square by the cops and told the race was over, initially hoped Ian’s story would quietly go away if she ignored it. Later, she shot him dirty looks, and yet, when his interlocutors at a dinner party politely involved her in the telling, she offered very careful, very noncommittal answers so as not to give Ian away.  

She was the first to agree the experience had changed him.

She was the first to say he was not the same man.

Ian loved her for these concessions.  For her restraint. If she hadn’t truly loved him, Marcy never would have humored him and indulged his storytelling.

At the prompting of well-meaning friends who heard his tale, Ian set up a foundation. It was nothing formal. The funds he collected he just deposited in his own bank account and tracked them in a separate spreadsheet until his Kickstarter and Facebook pages went viral and he lost count.  

Soon after, at a dinner with Marcy’s extended family, Ian solicited additional donations from her relatives.  Marcy’s brother the lawyer was present.  Playing idly with his smartphone, he asked whether the foundation had applied for and received nonprofit status from the IRS, and he politely suggested that Ian again recite the facts of that terrible day so that all might be edified by his example.

Gratified, Ian launched into his account.

Marcy’s brother let him rattle on for half an hour, before he took one of the story’s inconvenient loose threads and pulled.  

“How exactly was it,” the litigator asked, “that you saw the bomb explode and yet shrapnel hit you in the ass?  Not the front side.  The ass.”

“Well, it was sort of on the ass.  I was kind of turned sideways.  You know what I mean?”

“On the catwalk?”


“Shrapnel shot a half block down the crowded street and hit you standing twenty-five feet in the air on a catwalk.  On the ass.”


“Show me the scar.”

“It healed nicely.  There’s hardly any ….”

“Show me.”

Marcy begged her brother to stop, just stop, and her mother repeated, “Stop, just stop,” and someone spilled a gravy boat, and Marcy’s brother zeroed in for the kill.

“Pull down your pants, you son of a bitch!”

With great dignity, Ian loosed his belt and pulled his pants and underwear down about a quarter inch.

The litigator snorted derisively.

“There was no shrapnel, was there, Ian?”

“Not exactly.”

“And you don’t have a press pass, do you?”


“So you weren’t on the catwalk?”

Ian hiked up his pants and buckled his belt.  

“More like, sort of close by,” he admitted.

“In fact,” the litigator said, as if delivering a closing argument, “if I had to guess, at the time of the blast you were actually holed up in a bar in Southie nursing your fifth beer and complaining to anyone who would listen that Marcy had decided to run without inviting you to join her. Isn’t that right?”


Her brother pounded the table. The spilled gravy boat jumped.

“Isn’t that right?!” he shouted. 

Ian gaped and stammered and finally said, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say that you are a liar,” the litigator suggested politely, “trying to fleece your own family for a few bucks.”

“Stop it!  Just stop it,” Marcy cried. “I wish this damn bomb had never happened.”

She looked directly at Ian.

“I wish,” she said, “I had never married you.”

After the dinner, which Marcy’s family would be talking about for years to come, Marcy begged Ian to give his story a rest.  

“For God’s sake. Turn the money over to the OneFund.  If you really want to do something for the victims, run with me next year, OK?  Isn’t that enough?”

 “Run?  The marathon?”  Ian was aghast.  “I couldn’t even consider running.  Not anymore.  Don’t you understand, sweetheart?  I thought you understood.  The bombing traumatized me.  Crowds — they skeeve me out.”

“I understand that right this minute I’d love to loop a shiny pair of New Balance around your neck and pull the laces tight.”

Despite his wife’s misgivings, and despite his grand humiliation at the hands of her brother the litigator, Ian persevered in telling his story.  He had no real choice in the matter.  There were greater truths than what could be proved by some pompous windbag.

Besides, Ian had spent much of the foundation money. Though he had tried valiantly to meet expectations of the donors by spending on things and causes he believed anyone would support, like for example, a bomb-free marathon (with a bit on the side to pay himself a small salary and housing allowance, of course), Ian eventually siphoned some funds to support causes equally worthy but perhaps not equally universal (e.g., casino gambling in Massachusetts, in which he had a small stake as a real estate broker). Ian had reasoned that the giver was happy and the recipient more so.

    Moreover, the genuine fraudsters, who were in Jersey on the day of the attack but filed for recompense from the OneFund on behalf of a dead aunt formerly resident in West Roxbury, made Ian’s claims to having been present positively benign by comparison.  Unlike them, Ian’s heart was in the right place.  And, truth be told, it could, after all, have been Ian.  He hadn’t been in New Jersey that fateful day.  As Marcy’s brother had so skillfully gotten him to admit, he had been in a bar in South Boston complaining loudly about his wife.  Not ten blocks away.  Well, maybe ten.  Or twelve.  But the point was, it had been mathematically possible for Ian to have been present at the finish line.  Had his luck been different.  Had he been, for example, more supportive of Marcy.

Accordingly, as the pain of Marcy’s brother’s cross-examination faded, Ian quietly shored up some of the more obvious contradictions in his account.  He retold the story frequently, and he told it well, and he didn’t give a damn what anyone thought.  Indeed, though he didn’t reveal this conceit to anyone, Ian considered himself to be the unofficial poet laureate of the bombings.  None other had yet emerged, except the unnamed bastard who fashioned the phrase Boston Strong but failed to trademark it.  

And no matter what Marcy’s brother had to say about it, Ian was now a better person than he had been.  A kinder and more patient father.  A more empathetic lover.  A more engaged citizen of the Commonwealth.  Now, for example, Ian genuinely welcomed — even craved — another municipal emergency, so he could respond to it with the same grace and courage with which he had imagined responding to the bombing.  He was absolutely certain that he would rise to the occasion.  Or, maybe not certain, but part of the thrill was not knowing whether he’d run from the blast of toward it.

In the next few months, while waiting patiently for that next municipal emergency to present itself, Ian steeled himself against intervening with bullying parents or abusive boyfriends too much in their cups.  Such injustices simply weren’t a big enough stage for his ambition.  He only cheapened his connection to the bombing by getting involved in these essentially domestic matters.  So he didn’t respond to people who called his bullshit.  Or those who tailgated him or called him a faggot or treated his wife or children badly.  

At the bombing’s anniversary, while Marcy gave a second shot at completing the marathon, Ian brought his girls to the crime scenes.  He explained the physics of the pressure cooker bomb (which he called the Crockpot Bomb, because he thought it was endearing). Together, he and the girls recited the names of the dead and injured.  Not all 275 claimants, which number seemed preposterously high to Ian relative to the twenty or so actual victims.  Just the principal injured.  He wasn’t accusing anyone of faking it, but in Ian’s humble opinion a booboo on the knee couldn’t compare to a prosthetic limb.

“Isn’t that right, girls?” he asked.

As they had been taught, the girls loyally agreed that only bona fide amputation could elicit their sympathy.  (Their mother’s road blisters, for example, would earn only studied contempt.)

Outside the Forum Restaurant, Ian and the girls left a pair of sneakers.  They were a child’s size five, which not only made them more pathetic and cute and entirely devastating, but also would deter homeless people from taking them, and they’d be therefore more enduring and more likely, for example, to be preserved in the future bombing museum.

When Ian learned authorities were no longer allowing backpacks at the Marathon, but instead requiring all belongings to be carried in clear bags, he trained his eagle-eyed daughters to spot non-conforming bags.  As they identified likely suspects, he personally hacked apart several such packages with an axe he had brought along because you never know when you are going to have to cut your way through police barricades or temporary viewing stands to reach the victims of some civic disaster.  

The judge who presided over Ian’s case let him off with a mild warning and a fraternal fistbump, after Ian testified to his intimate connection with the bombing and his still fragile mental makeup and his adorable girls and his plucky wife, who had finished the course in record time, all of whom he loved so very much.  

Years later, Marcy would make jokes at Ian’s expense, saying, “I stayed with Ian because after the whole bombing fiasco I
felt I had seen the worst of his character.”  

Everybody laughed at her wry recollections, and Ian was OK with that.  He had nothing to prove.  He had been in the right, and he knew what it took to be a hero, and he knew what it was like to be in the shit when the shrapnel was flying. And when you’re right and a hero and have been deep in the shit, it was OK when people laughed and called you ridiculous.  When it came to questions of homeland security, Ian would rather his wife and his girls rested easy and stayed unafraid and remained blissfully unaware of the dangers that lurked in backpacks and crockpots and the terrible things men had to do to keep the enemy at bay.


Under various pseudonyms, Scott David has published dozens of short stories, a memoir, several novels, and a guide to wine and cocktails.  He lives in Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.  For more information, go to scottdavidboston.com. Scott David is a Featured Writer and welcomes correspondence from Journal writers.