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Spring 2012

“Venti Cup of Courage”
by Paul Laudiero

“Tall vanilla latte on the bar”

I spend a fair amount of time in the Starbucks on campus.

“Venti iced coffee cream no sweetener”

Maybe too much time. With over 30,000 students on a campus built for 7000, things can get a tad crowded. The Starbucks is a way to “get away” from campus while not really leaving. Its soothing brown and green themes provide the very Arthurian forest needed for an escape.

“Grande iced green tea, on the bar!”

This particular evening, the hipster haven was especially congested. I couldn’t turn left or right without seeing half a dozen pairs of skinny jeans and vans. They were like scarecrows. If scarecrows could walk and listen to indie bands and have useless political opinions.

“Cappuccino, extra shot of espresso, on the bar!”

As much disdain as I have for the natives, this douchester filled environment was where I was most productive. In fact that’s where I’m writing this tale of courage right now.

Now, just a quick premise, ladies: I am not an asshole. I am not a jerk. I am a nice boy. I am very much disease free, I shower twice a day… I even floss. Do you know how rare that is? A man who flosses regularly? Let’s just say I am quite the catch. Looking back at the events that are about to transpire before you, I’m beginning to think they were caffeine fueled. In fact, if I recall correctly I had consumed 3 lattes, which when one is 5’8 and 140 lbs as I am, are equivalent to 7 lines of cocaine off a stripper’s bare ass. I was jazzed up. Lets just leave it at that. Jazzed up.

I had been seeing this girl for 2 weeks. We had been on three dates, held hands twice, and kissed, ever so briefly, once. She was a pleasant girl, but to be completely frank she was boring. Talking to her was like talking to a brick wall. That was deaf. And had clammy hands. Her favorite T.V. show? Friends. Her favorite band? Lady Gaga. Humor was lost on her. As were the Beastie Boys. I tried to explain the concept of sarcasm to her once and it was like trying to teach a mute German how to speak Chinese. It was the end of the semester, I was a sophomore, she was a senior… need I say more? It wasn’t going to work and we both knew it…or at least I thought we did. I was just the one caramel latte infused enough to bring it up.

It was a Thursday night, which means people were elated. People were cheerful, people were chipper, and people were aroused. It was almost Friday. The excited chit chatter around me combined with the copious amounts of sweet Arabian nectar I had been ingesting for the past 3 hours, had my mind racing. There were a number of attractive, seemingly-single ladies in this coffee shop, and since I model myself after a Knight of the Round Table (preferably Sir Gawain), I could not woo any of them. This girl I had been “seeing” was keeping me from pursuing these sirens of Starbucks who, against the deep brown leather couches and forest green walls, looked ravishing. I needed to end this now.

I took a deep breath (of coffee fumes) and lifted my cell phone from the table, my sword from the stone, and sent the green knight the death text: “We need to talk. Come to Starbucks.”

Now, I feel like I speak on behalf of 99% of Americans… no, human beings. 99% of human beings, when I say that “we need to talk” directly translates to “I am about to poop on your heart.” This rings true throughout history as well. Henry the 8th to Anne Boleyn. She didn’t know the lingo and look where she ended up.

“Tall white mocha, on the bar”

This girl, the green knight, was my Anne Boleyn. She was my Catherine of Aragon. She was my Jane Seymour. She was all 6 wives, and she was keeping me from having a male heir. This Starbucks was my throne, this phone my guillotine, and yet, she couldn’t take the hint. “What do you want to talk about? Be there in 5 ;)”

A winky face. This is going to be… unexpected.

“One ice water, on the bar”

She arrived as calm as an art major in a flannel shirt ordering a triple non fat cappuccino with one hand and passing out his band’s demo in the other. She was non-threatening. She was innocent. And she looked thirsty.

Get her a drink, take the edge off. “Can I get you something?” I asked.

“A hot chocolate, with extra whipped cream. And make it a venti” She smiled sweetly. “Thanks”.

A venti. A venti! My mind was moving a thousand miles a minute. That’s the largest drink. One could take a bath in that cavern of a coffee cup. It will take her years to finish. And extra whipped cream? She’ll need 2 bathroom breaks to just get through that. I need her up and out. I need a tall. But I looked at her unassuming face. She had no idea it was coming. My chivalry complex kicked in.

“No problem” I answered.

I walked to the bar and ordered. The barista smiled at me when I said, “extra whipped cream”. She smiled like she knew. Like she was the executioner in a long black mask. This was the last gift. The final meal on death row. And people were watching. Not just some people, hordes of people. This was going to be public and brutal.

I can’t do this.

The Thursday night crowd that so inspired me before was now daring me. Double dog daring me. My hands began to sweat… They began to sweat like the hands of the boring brick wall I was dating.

I need to do this.

“Venti Hot chocolate. Extra whipped cream. On the bar.”

by K.M. Sawyer

Allyson stepped out of the movie theater and into the orange glow of an early summer evening. She clung to the arm of her lanky, dark-haired date and laughed as he joked about the film they had just seen. Allyson was truly enjoying herself for the first time in a long while. When the boy turned to ask her if she wanted to grab something to eat rather than head back to her apartment as planned, Allyson let the “yes” reach the tip of her tongue before grinding it to a dead halt and reaching for her phone. She had silenced it before the film started, but had felt the multiple vibrations against her thigh throughout the movie and now dreaded what would appear on the screen. Eight missed calls, all at fifteen-minute increments, all from her.

Allyson heaved a sigh as she looked up into her date’s hopeful eyes and apologetically declined his offer. She saw the confusion and the slight flash of hurt that crossed his face. There would be no second date. She wanted to explain everything, to force him to understand that she really did want to stay with him, to make up a convincing lie as to why she couldn’t, but she was tired and it would be too weird anyway. She got behind the wheel of her car as the sky faded to a deep purple and drove away.

“Shit”, Allyson muttered as she struggled to find her key in her large leather bag. She was already at the front door of the run down house, paint peeling off the doorframe and a shutter hanging by a lone hinge. She knew the key was somewhere in there. This was still her house, after all, even though it hadn’t been her home in over a year now. Exasperated, she gave the door a series of knocks, three sharp raps, and three open-palmed smacks. That way she would know it was her knocking. It would shave a good thirty seconds off Allyson’s wait.

It was dark and the porch light hadn’t been cut on as it could hint to a possible presence within the house. Allyson sat on a nearby planter and waited as the ritual was completed. She saw the flutter of the flimsy lace curtains and felt the eyes peering out at her. She heard the jingle of a large ring of keys, the individual eliminations until the correct one was found. There was a loud scrape as the heavy chair was pulled back from the door, and a gentle thump of the two-by-four shifting its weight as it was grabbed from its resting place by the door. The bolt clicked and Allyson stood as the key turned in the lock. The figure inside cracked the door just enough to peer out suspiciously before finally opening it just enough to let Allyson’s slim frame slip by.

“Hi, Mom”, Allyson muttered lightly as she stepped into the house.

Karen looked at her daughter and immediately started in. It was too cold outside for just a sweater. Allyson should have worn a coat. She would catch her death and then she would understand how important it was to listen to her mother. Barely acknowledging her mother’s tirade, Allyson allowed herself to be pulled towards a closet and stood stiffly as Karen opened the straining doors and pulled out a thick fleeced-lined winter jacket, which she then forced into Allyson’s hands.

“But Mom, it’s not even cold outside! It’s the middle of June. I don’t need…”

Allyson was cut off by the sharp snap of the closet door being firmly shut. Karen gave her short, hard stare and replied, “You never know when you might need it, Allyson. You just don’t understand. Someday you will.”

As her mother turned towards the kitchen Allyson surveyed her. She had put on more weight and her slight limp caused by a deteriorating knee was more pronounced. She looked sloppy and unkempt in her stained t-shirt and tight grey sweatpants. Allyson wished she had known the young, thin, pretty redhead from the old photographs of her mother. Relatives had been giving the pictures to Allyson for years, wanting her to see what she would never truly understand, that her mother wasn’t always this person.

As a girl Karen had lived in a small southern town inhabited by a strange mix of drawling, beer guzzling, Nascar-enthusiasts and pot-smoking hippie artists. One of three beautiful sisters, Karen had little trouble garnering the affections of young men who took her out to watch them race their cars down dark country roads. Sometimes she would ride in the passengers seat, rolling the joints they would smoke later in the grassy fields between her palms, dampening them with sweat.

Karen was gullible and malleable. She would bend and give to the molds that the boys created for her. When she met Allyson’s father no one could see how she could fit this time. The mold was too strange. It would break her. But somehow she forced herself to contort and her young bones shifted and re-set to grow at odd angles.

Upon entering the kitchen, Allyson noticed the heavy, stacked boxes blocking the side door, drinking glasses and various heavy artifacts balanced on top to fall and create noise if the boxes were disturbed. Her mother cut and plated a thick slice of a sickly looking store-bought lemon cake and handed it to her as they sat down at the kitchen table.

“Why didn’t you answer my phone calls, Allyson?” asked Karen in a hurt, accusatory tone. “You know I can’t sleep without knowing where you are.”

“I know. I’m sorry Mom, I know”, replied Allyson. “I was on a date, in a movie.”

Allyson chose to ignore the barrage of warnings and admonitions that she knew Karen was about to unleash and, instead, looked around the house. The once white carpet was darkened from years of dirt being pressed into the fibers, a thick layer of dust visible on nearly every surface. More stacks of boxes and obstacles in odd places were meant to thwart potential intruders.

“You don’t know, Allyson, this guy could be anybody…”, her mother rambled on in the background.

Allyson had moved out last year, a week after her twentieth birthday. She didn’t have the money to get her own place at the time so she slept on a different friends’ couch every week for a couple months until she could get a small, but homey apartment. She just couldn’t stay in the house with her mother anymore. Things had gotten out of control. It wasn’t healthy. Allyson had tried everything she could think of to make things better, but Karen would not allow it. Moving out was the hardest thing Allyson had ever done. She tore herself away from the house in the early hours of the morning, Karen yelling after her that she couldn’t survive without Allyson. How would she sleep at night? What if something happened? Anything could happen. Karen listed scenarios, one after the other, growing increasingly frantic, delving into the deepest recesses of her paranoia as Allyson pressed her foot onto the gas pedal and sped away. It was apparent to her now as she looked around her childhood home that her mother had not been able to pull herself out of that moment even a year later.

Allyson’s eyes lighted on an old, dusty picture of her father that was set in a cheap gold frame. The only thing she remembered about the man was his voice, always raised, always irate, always directed at Karen as she quietly bowed her head and caved to his will. He yelled at her to not be stupid, to not trust anyone but him. Karen would sit with Allyson and focus on the television to escape her screeching husband. She only watched the news, which reported more dead, more missing, more taken every day. She feared her husband, but she feared the world more, and she relied on him for protection. Allyson was six when he died and before he was in the ground Karen began stacking boxes, collecting two-by-fours, and buying padlocks by the dozen. She had lost her protection and now she had to make her own.

“Have you heard a word I’ve said?” demanded Karen.

“Yes, Mom. I’m not going to see him anymore. Don’t worry”

“Good. You know all that I care about is your safety, right? I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Karen softened her eyes as she continued, “Why don’t you come back home, sweetie? That apartment of yours can’t be safe.” Bright tears appeared in her eyes. “I worry about you all the time. I can’t think about anything else. I’m so scared here all by myself. Please, Allyson.” Karen’s voice cracked and she picked up a left over fast food napkin to dab at the corners of her eyes.

“Mom, you know I can’t do that. You know I can’t live here, in this, with you. I’ve told you a million times.” replied Allyson. She felt a stabbing sensation in her heart as her mother reached across the table to grab desperately on to her arm.

“You can’t leave. Not again. I can’t let you. It will kill me, Allyson. Is that what you want?!”

Karen’s pitch heightened and her breathing became panicked as she continued. “I have to know you’re safe! If you leave here again I don’t think I could handle it. I might do something really stupid, Allyson, something really drastic. If you stay then we won’t have to worry about that, okay?” Karen was freely bawling now, her words barely audible, and nearly falling out of the kitchen chair in her effort to keep a hold on her daughter.

Allyson stood up and tried to pull free from her mother. The look in Karen’s eyes was almost deranged. She tried to pry her mother’s fingers from around her wrist and when that didn’t work began attempting to harshly pull herself free. Karen’s grip was too strong and when Allyson pulled away with all her strength the two women fell to the floor, Karen’s large frame pinning Allyson to the ground.

Disoriented by the fall, Karen released her grip and Allyson heaved her mother off of her. She stood quickly, Karen grabbing for her ankles and set off running. She reached the front door only to realize that her mother had padlocked it again after letting Allyson in. She had no choice but to return to the kitchen and the side-door.

“Allyson, Please!” Karen sobbed from the kitchen floor.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

She looked into her mothers eyes, tears now gushing from her own, and stepped over Karen to reach the door. Allyson had only just reached the large pile of boxes when she felt Karen’s hand wrap around her ankle and pull hard. Allyson attempted to regain her balance, but not before stumbling against the tower blocking the door. It swayed slowly and heavily, back and forth, the objects shifting and rolling on top, until finally, a large antique marble bookend came crashing down to land directly on Allyson’s head. She crumpled to the ground and the pool of crimson blood spread quickly around her as Karen leaped to reassemble her boxes.

Winner of the Spring 2012 WGMU-Volition Songwriting Contest:

“Would You Believe”
by Jay Holland

Would you believe
The two of us alone that we
Could take this world we’re standin’ in
Hold it, mold it, with our hands, ‘n’

If I said to close your eyes
Just wind your fingers into mine
Would you?

We’ll suck the ocean dry
We’ll use that blue to paint the sky
We’ll turn the world right upside-down
Flying fish, a clouded ground, and

We’ll take the meadows whole
Fold them up like rugs and roll
Them down and lay them out in our rooms
wake up to fresh-flower’d afternoons

Some people blur by and they never leave a trace
Walking with their heads down so you never see their face
Some people like to count the months and weeks and days
But I’m here to tell you none of that
None of that matters anyway

We could make the stars our light
Make Saturn’s rings our swings tonight
Bounce around the moon to mars
Claim this universe as ours

Toss asteroids in catcher’s mitts
Hide inside a dark eclipse
Pull the shadows over our head
We’ll pretend there’s only us, pretend

Some people blur by and they never leave a trace
Walking with their heads down so you never see their face
Some people like to count the months and weeks and days
But I’m here to tell you none of that
None of that matters anyway

Would you believe
The two of us alone that we
Could take this world we’re standin in
Hold it, mold it, with our hands, ‘n’

If I said to close your eyes
Just wind your fingers into mine
Would you?


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