Cali is the author of "Two-Millionths Sneeze".
“It is about two friends who are in some unspoken, petty argument. It relates to the theme of momentum because there is a need to move on: either the friend can apologize to mend the friendship or they both go on to see new, unplagued people.”—Cali
You sneezed and filled my head with a thousand pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, so a sneeze must be worth a million.
The point is, I don’t want your sickness anymore, your lack of self-control to PLEASE cover your nose or at the VERY least bring with you a goddamned box of tissues, it’s an issue when your runny nose drips onto that doorknob, the one I gripped just yesterday so it didn’t hit this sultry lady’s heels.
Those fine, red heels.
Now she has it too, the flu. All thanks to, well, me. See I too am plagued by your friendship, it’s difficult to quarantine myself from a commitment built over ten whole years, a commitment you had “accidently” forgotten, so willingly threw away, just like that tissue you never seemed to get hold of.
And what am I to do? Perhaps I could be like you, abandon everything. I’d rather follow this sultry lady with red heels, I trust that when she gets sick her sneezes aren’t so carelessly lethal, that she keeps them calm and contained and somewhat friendly.
Or maybe you could swallow your pride like that glob of phlegm that just made its way down your throat and utter the two millionths of a sneeze we need to repair our friendship:
Cali Chesterman, a senior at Central High School in Philadelphia, spends her time people watching. These mundane observations develop into fictional characters that she uses in art, writing, and film projects. She plans to study digital animation in college.
"This is a story about an elderly widow who loses her home during a home invasion, but gains something far greater."—David
She was taped to her high-backed chair at the dining room table. There, in front of the bay window, beside her husband’s military portrait over the mantelpiece. Scattered on the floor was the Sunday newspaper she had just walked up the lane. Lying next to the paper was her cane and her Audubon calendar. She put everything on her calendar. The little white boxes were filled with her meticulous print. She included the weather, when her boys drove home, when she visited the cemetery.
She was beginning to lose sensation of her right hand now. They had wrapped the tape tighter on this. It had been the first one. She didn’t recall them taping it. When she had opened the back door, carrying the paper, they had been behind it, waiting. Then she heard the explosion. Later, she had opened her eyes, as if from sleep, to the sound of panting behind her.
Now, the tall one was already upstairs, in her bedroom. She could hear the sound of telephones being torn from the walls and smashed. Of lamps falling to the floor. Of her dresser drawers being thrown open. The other one, the shorter one, was standing beside her. He wore a stocking over his face, with three holes. He had kind, gentle eyes.
When his partner disappeared upstairs with the gun, he put his hand lightly on her shoulder. He wore thin white rubber gloves. The medical kind.
"You believe in Jesus?" he said. "You believe he is the Savior?"
She tried to look around again. Behind, her Labrador retriever was lying on the kitchen floor eyes open, legs quivering, blood pouring from his mouth.
Dan is the author of "Roots".
I never thought I’d go back.
Not to a Homecoming. Not to a class reunion. Not for any reason.
When my aging parents moved out of that god-forsaken town ten years ago —with its closed down businesses, its pot-holed roads, its homes with boarded windows, its yards with rusted out Buicks and Mercury’s and Chevy’s and Fords, its redneck inhabitants who never cracked a book, nor read a poem, nor seen a play; who thought a good salad consisted of two ingredients: iceberg lettuce and French dressing from a plastic bottle—I honestly never thought I would go back again. In fact, the mere thought of doing so—of driving that stretch of open fields to the outskirts of town, where the most hideous sign “welcomes” incomers like a prostitute welcomes a customer—practically nauseated me.
I spent an inordinate amount of time in my childhood and adolescent years dreaming of getting the hell out of the town of Laxton, Iowa—away from the blue collars and the red necks; the bingo and beer and bowling alley; the cigarette-stained ceilings and teeth; the hair curlers and bandanas and belt buckles and 4-H Fairs. I fantasized about literally being thousands of miles away, far enough so that its long tentacles could not pull me back to that cesspool like it had so many others. Far enough away so that I could treat it as if it didn’t exist; actually, as if it never existed.
I was doing chores in the flower bed of my yard in Austin when I got the message on my voice mail asking me to go back to that mind-numbing town.
Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
Jared is the author of "In All Their Squalor".