Celebrating her birthday by invading Cannery Row with a flash mob reciting “I Am Nobody” and eating gingerbread. The Pacific Grove High School Young Writers Club, Poet-In-Residence Dr. Barbara Mossberg, English teacher Larry Haggquist, and probably some students from California State University, Monterey Bay and some bewildered tourists.
by Erika McLitus
I’ve always found my center by wobbling.
I have to skim the guardrails to stay in line.
It’s amusing that they fail to recognize that
Passion isn’t something you can confine.
I’ll never fit in with the nice ones.
It’s the blandness that I can’t survive.
I can’t live like they do, all gray-colored boredom,
And still call myself alive.
I know that my way isn’t the best one.
I strike matches just to watch them burn.
Still I can’t help but feel as I watch them all kneel
That they can’t know what it’s like to yearn.
by Emily Shifflett
Ah, it’s that time of year again.
Once more, you’re called onto a battlefield.
It bustles about, under fluorescent lighting
Until the general purpose is revealed.
The women around prepare themselves
The goal sits full and plump
You see the sea of combatants
Waiting, poised to jump.
Ever later the hour grows
And panic seeps within
You push it down, eyes on the prize
Determined, only to win
And, finally, oh finally at last
The first contender makes her move
All hell falls forth, a stampede awakens
Of obstacles to be removed
And up on high, it sits, surveying
It’s gladiators in the ring
The race, the chase, the frenzy
All for one thing
Late, late, almost too late
You think as you draw to the slaughter near
Must get there, must seize it
Time prompts ever more fear
You reach the battlegrounds and see the others
Their plight clumsy and jerky
You slip past so silently
And, victoriously, claim the last Thanksgiving turkey.
by Erika McLitus
It seems like everything I set out to write
Points out the flaws I see
Through my own flawed sight.
Even this, which should be a celebration…
I can’t help but want to criticize and analyze,
until it’s not a thanksgiving, but a degradation.
I can’t just think of my gratitude,
I am compelled to kill it with reasons,
until my words are tainted with a poisonous attitude.
I wish I knew how to explain
what I do feel, that bliss that exists
before my lips render the pure profane.
During the school year, and while their other classes and test schedules allow, the Young Writers’ Club meets at Pacific Grove High School. We are proud to present selections they offer. At the end of the year, the club publishes a literary magazine.
by Lauren Dykman
“A book about bugs,” Caesar replied from his cot.
The honey-colored light of an oil lamp illuminated his well sculpted face and the pages of the book, Encyclopedia of Entomology, propped on his chest.
“Yeah, I see that, but what is it about bugs that engrossed you for hours?” Angelo pestered. “They have sex a lot. No, just kidding. Check this out, Cordyceps fungus that possesses insects’ brains, then grows out of their bodies, killing them. Each species has a specialized fungus.” “Great.” Angelo didn’t really pay attention to the illustration Caesar stretched forward. He had only initiated a conversation because he felt increasingly antsy sit- ting in his cot. He wanted a smoke, but wondered if the result was worth the effort of getting up and walking into the humid midnight forest. “I want a cigarette,” he offered, trying his luck.
“Take a hike then,” retorted Caesar, “I don’t want to be coughing up your smoke all night.”
Angelo groaned and slipped through the canvas door into a buzzing cloud of mosquitoes. The forest was pitch black around the glowing tent, but still crawled and sang with activity. As he flicked on his torch their native guide, Tarrin, emerged phantom-like from the night.
Tarrin was a local villager who Caesar paid to guide him and Angelo to an unexplored cave in the foothills. Upon sighting Angelo, Tarrin began to speak emphatically in his tribal dialect while gesticulating precisely with his hands. Caesar, who had spent years on this anthropological mission, could speak fluently with Tarrin, whereas Angelo the newcomer merely feigned comprehension and nodded. “Yes…okay…Look, I’m going out,” he pointed to the dark forest, “for a smoke. Cigarettes. Smoke. See?” he pulled his pack of Marlboros from his pocket and showed Tarrin.
“I’ll be right back.” Tarrin responded in his own language equally slowly, as if equally doubtful of his companion’s competence. Angelo nodded, but his face registered no comprehension. Tarrin shrugged and tapped the pack of cigarettes.
“Oh, sure take one. Not like they’re hard to come by out here.” Angelo handed Tarrin a cigarette and lit the tip. Tarrin nodded in thanks.
From inside the tent, Caesar’s voice interjected, “Tarrin said to be careful of poisonous snakes. He saw a Pit Viper just now.” “Thanks for the translation Caesar!”
“And thank you for giving Tarrin a cigarette,” Caesar’s voice spat, “now I’ll have to tell him to take a hike too!”
Angelo chuckled and took off into the forest. In a matter of minutes, night enveloped him. He continued to navigate the labyrinth of ghostly foliage, his torchlight seeming to cut through air thick with moisture and noise. Angelo walked much farther from camp than necessary. He loved finding solitude in the nighttime jungle, a land of mangled trees, choking vegetation, layered darkness rustling with watchful creatures. He felt the struggle of life and death heavy in the air.
In a small open space, Angelo lit his cigarette and flicked off his torch. The cigarette’s amber tip and the spectral flicker of fireflies now provided the only light in the jungle. Angelo heard distant chortling dampened by the rotting earth, felt beads of sweat tickling down his neck, and sensed a strange energy lingering in the air. For some reason new and unknown to him, he shuddered in fear. Angelo chuck- led in surprise. He had never feared any wild environment in his life…but wasn’t the forest feeling suddenly cold? No, the air was still moist and hot like inside a giant mouth. Then why did he feel chilly? He listened. The jungle still sang with life. He continued dragging on his cigarette, and crossed his arms against his foolish discom- fort. Suddenly, he sensed a presence behind him, and a very discernible breath on the back of his neck. Angelo levitated and fumbled for his torch in the darkness, but dropped it in his panic. Angelo found himself suddenly unable to move. Crouching in the abyss, he meekly felt along the ground and groaned when he failed to locate his light anywhere around him. His heart racing, he stretched farther, feeling over leaves and twigs on the wet forest floor. The whole time the presence persisted in sending chills down his spine. Then Angelo’s fingers closed around the torch and with a click, light blazed through layers of foliage. Shadows danced madly as Angelo spun around and the torch reflected off two white eyes. When he passed the light back over them Angelo saw the dark face of a native, more animal than man, painted with blood and suffering, and snarling at him with yellowed teeth and wide eyes. Angelo jumped and lost sight of the face and could not find it again. He played the light over every branch, around every shadow, but the wild man had ceased to exist. Hoping to God he had imagined it, Angelo ran back to camp, forgetting to look out for poisonous snakes. He forced his pace to a walk once he saw the glow of the tent, and slunk inside with laboriously steady breathing.
“Hope you had a good smoke,” commented Caesar from around his bug book. Angelo responded with a nervous laugh. The next morning Angelo recounted his experience to Caesar. Caesar’s only reply was,
“Good thing Tarrin can’t understand you. We had a hard time finding anyone to take us to the cave.”
“The villagers have superstitions. None of them go anywhere near here. Tarrin is the bravest man in his tribe and we still had to pay him exorbitantly. I’m sure one word about your “supernatural encounter” will cost us our guide.”
by Emily Shifflett
Walking to the crossroads
Little box in hand
Shovel swung up over the shoulder
t night, walks a lonely man
When he comes to his destination
The shovel meets the dirt
Digging, digging, deeper down
The box gets put into dark, moist earth
Inside, there is a picture
That’s faded on the edge
Along with a couple leaves and twigs
Clipped, by moonlight, from their hedge
Then the lines are drawn in dust
A beacon for him who rides
Flickering candles at pivotal points
In the middle, man stands in moonrise
Lips move, quickly and quietly
Murmuring the words to call
Waiting for a response:
The sounds as footsteps fall
Then, suddenly, there he stands
Shrouded in the night
Blonder than almost possible
Smirk full of pomp and spite
“Now, how can I be of service?”
He says with a lilt to his voice
The man finally remembers to take breath,
In the final moments of his choice
“I need your help,” he finally says
“You CAN do that, can’t you?”
The smirk remains, and a mirthless laugh
“You have no idea what I can do.”
So, the man makes his request
Signs with a drop of red
Sulfur eyes spark for a moment
As he does business with the King of the Dead
by Eugenia Wang
There was a corpse on the floor of my living room. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, and at that time in my life I lacked that certain necessary vitality motivating me to care about the body rotting, and so I left it there to spoil in the damp carpet beneath my living-room couch. It smelled like my various leftover food items spilled and similarly abandoned- that is, it didn’t quite smell like a corpse, but that was fine.
Actually, I think back then the corpse was in front of my couch. I kicked it under later, and then it came back out during the summer and I had to kick it back under again.
Anyway, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself back then, it being a period of transition for me — I had recently abandoned the less productive of my hobbies, instead spending my time alternating between a deep engrossment in my studies and sitting quietly on my couch contemplating my studies, which I was doing then. When I was done contemplating my studies, I sat contemplating my future, and when I was done with that I sat.
My friends called in the middle of it, asking me to visit with them at the local forest at five. I told them I was busy, but maybe we could visit tomorrow? They agreed with some hesitance, and then I returned to my sitting.
I realized at that time that I was sitting also facing a corpse, and although that was only marginally more interesting than just sitting, it was definitely more interesting that sitting contemplating my studies, I sat facing the corpse, and then sat contemplating a corpse. It looked at me.
I went to bed and then woke up and returned to my studies and then called with my friends to confirm our visit, and then began preparing for our visit. Our visits were the only thing breaking up those numbing periods of time in between my studies and my thinking about my studies. I avoided the visits frequently because they removed me from the comfort of my living room, but looked forward to them always- back then, I sometimes forgot that life lived on outside without me, and it was nice to be reminded that the door to my living room was operational, if rarely used.
But as I stood in front of the door, contemplating turning the knob, pushing and working the hinges of the door and opening the door, as you do, I considered the corpse behind me that looked just as rotten as it had that previous night. I thought then that perhaps I should do something about it? But that was the last time I thought about it.
(I wonder if I had done it then if I would be here, now, where I am, if what hadn’t happened still wouldn’t have happened, if it would be better or worse or the same as it is now.)
The forest was beautiful in a way that I used to want to grab and hold close to my face and feel against my cheek. But the whole thing felt far away – I could touch the trees and the grass but it wasn’t enough back then. I used to walk and contemplate the forest and how the forest grew, and with my friends would contemplate it together.
I returned home a new person, my experience having refreshed me, until I saw the couch first, and then the corpse, and then the Whole Thing and everything felt very inevitable. I sat down where I had sat every day for countless years, with my studies open about me. For a moment, I sat contemplating my studies and then I returned to my studies.
I vowed never to go outside again, and didn’t go outside for an entire month before my friends forced me out into the world. We went to the forest again and it was only upon my returning that I realized that the corpse was actually, honestly rotting. A thin dusting of flies had gathered in my living room, buzzing around the corpse and planting maggots under its skin. I bent over to check its face, which remained unrecognizable.
I returned to my studies and then sat contemplating my studies and then sat contemplating my future and then sat and then went to bed.
I think it was the following morning while I was eating my breakfast snack and watching the corpse that I became acquainted with the corpse. I watched its empty eye sockets and the flies crawling around inside of it and laying their babies in its gut and I decided I wouldn’t go outside again. I wouldn’t even pick up the phone. The visits had become just another unproductive hobby. I had to grow as a person and once I had developed enough I would be able to go outside and watch the trees grow without feeling guilty for my own lack of progress, and the only way I’d be able to grow was through my studies. At the time I was under the impression that the corpse agreed with me, because the flies had arranged themselves into a smile over its teeth.
We studied the whole year that year. We didn’t even sit contemplating my studies. We just studied and learned and grew and when I saw the corpse in my kitchen looking more rotten than ever I didn’t even give it a second thought. It felt good that year, until summer came and my living room felt dark and hot and wet and the corpse stunk and something was growing in its belly. The maggots bloomed and the air was thick with flies. I resolved to go outside, get some fresh air, and call my friends. For the first time- ever, I think – the corpse bothered me. But I didn’t care enough to remove it, so I kicked it under the couch. I don’t know what I was thinking. I tried for the door but the door wouldn’t open. I started to panic but I just choked on flies and so I stopped panicking. After a bit I returned to the couch and returned to my studies. The corpse rolled back out from under the couch and out of spite I kicked it back under again and then drew up my legs so it couldn’t grab my ankles and pull me under as well.
I didn’t quite give up, though. I called my friends, conspiring with them, but our schedules never coincided. My friends and I planned a visit for two days from then, but they all canceled later. It was going to be at the town park. My friends didn’t go but we went anyways and the world looked so small, then.
The time came when my friends tired of my absence and broke down my door using force. They didn’t call beforehand, as they usually did when they visited, so it was very surprising to me when the door broke at its hinges and fell to the floor before me. The flies of my room poured out of my living room and into the faces of my friends, escaping into the world in a black, buzzing smog.
It was only after they broke down the door that I realized that the corpse smelled terribly and had rotted terribly- by that time, the flesh had been picked off until it was just meaty bits clinging to the bones with flies wriggling beneath the meat, and there was something wild breathing in its chest.
In the past, I had been careful not to tell my friends about the corpse, as I doubted they would understand. Seeing their faces slack and dumb with an odd sort of something like horror, I realized that they really didn’t.
“Is this your corpse?” the authorities asked.
“Yes.” I said.
The authorities were unable to identify the corpse, and no one was missing so there were no data for them to collect to convict me of murder, but they collected data anyway just in case. They gathered my studies into their hands and asked me what I was studying. I didn’t know. They took my couch and my old food and then they gave them all back when they were done, emptying their arms of my things as fast as possible. I think I had hoped they would take them from me forever. But I think my things were too small for them — they looked impossibly big in my house, and when they stood next to me I had to crane my neck to see their faces.
My friends had grown, too.
When they were done, the authorities looked at me knowingly but they didn’t convict me. My friends were relieved I didn’t kill the thing. But I think . . . I think I actually did kill it, although with nothing so clumsy as a knife slid between the ribs or poison in its food.
They buried my corpse in an unmarked grave and it crawled back home to me.
By Erika McLitus
endless looping arguments,
paradoxical logic traps leading to
p a n i c k e d
you don’t know
doesn’t just disappear
even if THAT did.
choose to be optimistic
because you want to be.
don’t smother the hope
that’s fluttering inside,
trying to twist a maybe into a certainty.
by Emily Shifflett
*Inspired by “I Love You This Big” by Scotty McCreery
Who cares if I seem silly?
Who cares how odd I seem?
How can I otherwise show you,
What you mean to me?
One single arm span
Pales in sad compare
To show how much you are
This second standing there
You can roll your eyes at me right now
But listen to my words
No one can comprehend the truth
Even if you think this gesture for the birds
Race me to the sun
And still you’ll never know
You could travel to the very end of time
And the distance still won’t show
This is how I love you
This is for how long
This is for forever
And this is where you belong
by Keeley Ostos
Love is a vengeful thirst awakened.
It is a sickness of the soul.
It stirs a fever and hollows out the frame of being.
It gouges deep into its victims’ bones and breaks the spirit.
It is a monster, a master.
An enslaver of freedom.
It serves no other but itself, and makes fools of those who answer to its siren call.
We despise its chaos.
Yet we revel in it once it claims our souls.
It is a curse to those who do not have it.
And a blessing to those who are infected.
It is a fickle friend.
Yet how would we live without such a disease?