Junk Drawer 

Caleb Hipple 

We sit around my lack of medication 

and a bonfire begging to be pissed 

out. Can’t even prop my feet, my decision— 

the desire for warmth somehow a discussion. 

I ignore how my parents dismiss


change, unless it’s in a foot. 

The fabric sky pinholes over 

as I leave, long enough to visit 

their kitchen to investigate 

where the wine corkscrew is, CBD tinctures,


pill cups, the ongoing KidsPeace bills— 

my younger self earned us a diagnosis: depression 

in a psych ward, and the anxiety is general. 

Back then, my parents fed me steak with a pill 

and the two frothed like nuclear fission 

from me to the toilet. What’s a choice 

without options, sour as vomit? 

I’ll flush my mind and eyes and voice, 

and clarity ever-fleeting will be my sole vice, 

I’ll live kneeling and submit


to a decade defined 

by adverse head and stomach motions. 

Drawer closed, back outside, I recline 

to watch them watch the outline 

of my foot grazing the fire of undoctored revelation. 

I Always Loved The Black Cat 

Liz Shaffer 

I tip-toed up the wide staircase to my bedroom across from Aunt Freddie’s, the dark wood creaking under my calloused feet. Aunt Freddie and I had sleepovers every week. We would start with a game of pirates or fairies outside, eat dinner, have a nice bubble bath, and end with a story before bed. The narrow hallway led to another banister curving down the secret spiral staircase. Victorian sconces lit the hallway, crystal beading falling from the light. The hallway felt interminable, and each gap in the floorboards left room for spirits to pass through. I would dangle my feet through the spindles of the staircase, teasing death.   

It had been a month since I was last at Aunt Freddie’s. Her house carried something dark, and in my last attempt to spend the night, something woke me near midnight and my mom picked me up. I loved Freddie and her home, and tonight I was going to stay the night. The whole way through.  

A large, stained-glass window in the front of the house stood tall, looking over the expansive field surrounding the home. The glass depicted a gray tree with hues of blue surrounding the dark clouds and hiding the yellow sun. Perched atop the branches sat an unkindness of ravens. When I reached the end of the hall, above the stairs, I caressed the uneven window. The cool touch sent a shudder down my spine. I stepped into my room.   

The bay window across from the bed and the bookcase behind were my favorite features of the room.  A great chandelier hovered over the center of the room.  My bubble bath was “absolutely splendid” as Freddie would say in her self-taught British accent. I sat down at the vanity and brushed my hair with the heavy boar bristle brush. A pewter handle. I think. I felt like I lived in the era of the home, or at the very least, belonged there. Freddie knocked on the door, and I set the brush down to skip into my bed. I was committing to the night as I tucked my toes under the three sets of sheets. Freddie pushed the door open and crouched to my level.  

“You ready for a story?”  

I squealed, “Yes!”  

She grabbed a classic: A Complete Collection of Works by Edgar Allan Poe. I pulled close to Freddie who sat atop the sheets at my head. She smelled of rosehip and lavender, and though her hands were rough, she turned the pages as if holding an ancient text. The chandelier above flickered as she exhaled into the first words of my favorite story, “The Black Cat.”   

I sat up to hear Freddie’s version of the tale. She read with a soft confidence as if she were spilling a secret. She spoke gently until the narrator described gouging out his cat’s eye. There, she sped up and spoke of the narrator’s “damnable atrocity.”   

After crescendoing to a peak, Freddie lowered her voice to talk about the almost identical cat the narrator met and how he hated it. His wife, however, loved the cat. I laid my head on the down pillow, closed my eyes, and listened while Freddie rubbed my head. As her fingers relieved each pressure point on my scalp, she continued. Freddie carefully approached the part where the narrator goes to kill the cat and misses.  

“I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan…”  

Her scalp massage had put me to sleep.  

I woke up to a meow coming from the hall. The hair on my arms rose as I noticed the window adjacent to the bed, cracked open. The moon shone behind the clouds, and a damp, heavy breeze crept through. The clock read 3:00. My feet grazed the floorboards, and I took light, lengthy strides to the window, watching for anything lurking on the ground waiting for a chance at my ankles, and slammed it shut.   

Before I made it into the safety of the bed, I heard a smack and jumped. Another meow, sounding more like a cat in heat, traveled to my room. Contrary to what the horror movies have taught me to do, I remained in my bed. I wrapped the sheets and pulled the down comforter close to my face, careful to close any and all entrances to the outside air. I wedged my head between the mattress and pillow and waited. After minutes of silence, I took in a full breath, exhaling slowly. Mom would probably get mad if I called her at this hour. I wondered if Freddie heard anything. Very slowly, I lowered the comforter to my nose, then my neck, and finally, below my feet. I donned my slippers and opened the old door. The creak of the door broke the silence. Peering beyond the doorframe, I witnessed the dim glow of the moon, casting shadows of ravens onto the floor. The light glittered off the beads mirroring the dew setting outside. I peered down the hall.   

Something glittered on the distant floor. A bead perhaps. Then it moved; I crawled towards the glass. I couldn’t make out the small figure, but I slid towards Freddie’s room to hide behind the rocking chair placed outside her door. My perch overlooked the staircase below and the hallway in front. The glint soon appeared to be two glints, the second dimmer than the first. Scratching screamed into my ears as claws shredded the hardwood floors. Then a thud, thud. There was a second noise.  

I pulled the knit blanket hanging off the back of the chair and wrapped it over my head and around my knees. The woven cotton scratched my arms and legs. Feeling the fringe hit my toes, I recoiled, as I had to be fully covered. Absolutely unseen. I pulled the fringe under my feet.  

A whisper from the opposing banister called out, “Here, kitty kitty.”   

I’d read about intruders, murderers like Lizzie Borden, and the unsolved Villisca Axe murders. Maybe you accidentally ate something. You were playing outside, and you didn’t wash your hands before dinner… What plant could cause this?  

“Psst. Psst. I know you’re here.”  

The thumping diminished to the creaking of floorboards and the settling of the old home. The voice rasped and struggled to exit his phlegmy throat. His. The voice of a man. I peered beyond the cotton fringe and saw a dim glow, different from that of the sconces ornamenting the walls. A man, stringy and pale, sneaked behind a one-eyed cat. The story was familiar. I pulled the blanket around my shoulders, removing the tight grip from my face. I then wiggled from behind the chair and felt the wicker cling to me. The chair lifted and the three-inch crash to the floor sounded like three feet. Thud. I sat there, a staircase away from the apparition, and eyes wide, I didn’t dare move. I thought as a deer does. If you don’t move, it can’t see you!   

With the pits of olives for eyes, an axe in hand, he stared back into my eyes. I surveyed my surroundings quickly, spotting the iron fireplace set consisting of a poker, a broom, and a small ash shovel. It sat in the opposite corner behind him. I moved towards him. Inching.   

I shuffled as he lifted the axe to an active, ready stance. The lights buzzed, gradually getting warmer and brighter. The incandescent lightbulbs heated my bones, and my heart picked up pace. I continued to shuffle, my socks sliding on the wood. Until they stuck. The loop of my knit sock got caught on a nail that sat just above the floor. He took a step forward, axe in hand. I ripped the sock from the nail’s grip and fell. From the ground, I looked up to an underlit man: his face ghastly and his teeth yellow. I was just feet from the iron poker. He growled and his lips raised, nose scrunched, and eyebrows furled. He raised the axe above his head.   

He turned. An equally raspy but more gentle voice spoke from the staircase  

“Poe. Poe. You’re here.”  

A woman’s voice. A third glow scaled the staircase below me. His wife, I thought. But as the blush fabric skimmed over the final step, he spoke.   

“Mildred! My Milly!”   

I scrambled across the floor, my arms reaching and clawing, as my legs pushed my body forward. My hand gripped the cold iron poker, and the air left my lungs. Blood skidded from the nail to the corner opposite my perch, and I could feel the itching pain radiating up my foot. He stepped on my foot. I was trapped. Like a mouse caught in a trap, I waited for my death.   

Accepting my fate, I longed for my mother’s hug, but Mildred reached him. She set her ghastly fingers around the base of his forearm, and his face turned to meet her gaze. My fate was not set. My eyelids clenched hard, and I launched forward, poker in hand.   

I unclenched one eye then the next to see a green, luminescent fluid coming from the body of the man, Poe. His hands held the post as he looked into my eyes. He grinned, the green fluid slowly falling down his chin. I crab-walked back to the wall as he fell. His body made no sound hitting the ground; only the clang of the poker and hit of the axe made noise.   

Mildred let out a silent scream. Her eyes went wide, and her jaw unhinged, yet no sound escaped. She next to Poe, and while her hands caressed his fading face, she wept. She wept tears of green that faded with Poe’s entire body. I could see the light leaving him, the supernatural life going with it. As his body dissipated, the lights on the wall reverted to their yellow haze. The black cat walked back down the hallway, tail raised, and disappeared as he pranced down the spiral staircase.  

  Mildred laid her head on the floor where Poe once laid in silence. The sun turned the black sky to a blue. The blue light shone through the ravens in the glass. I hadn’t moved in minutes, and lacking adrenaline, my arms finally gave under the pressure of holding my torso up. With the bump of my head, Milly turned to me. She pulled her middle upright and silently placed her knees under her meek body. Her blush dress kissed the floor as she grabbed the banister for stability and rose. Each step she took, I heard her labored breath and faltering step. She made her way down the staircase silently.  

I walked towards my room, amazed the noise hadn’t woken Freddie. I entered the doorway and looked to the right. The window was still closed. Good. I tiptoed back into bed and pulled my white sheets far above my face. I laid there till I heard Freddie descend the stairs.  


I sat at the kitchen table while Freddie cooked up pancakes and bacon. I smelled the sweet batter on the griddle while I watched our favorite TV show, Charmed. The willow outside the kitchen window swayed in the July breeze. Freddie brought my breakfast to me on heavy pottery dishes. The weight reminded me of the iron poker, but it must’ve been a dream.   

“Who lived here before?” I asked.   

“A woman. She was single and beautiful to the standards of her time.” My curiosity needed more.  

“Aunt Freddie, what time did she live here?”   

“Sometime in the mid-1800s. Her name was Mildred, but most folks called her ‘Milly.’ She died with no children, and”—she got close to my face and whispered—“now, I don’t know this for fact, but most people around here said she had a lover.” She wagged her finger at me. “No, not the legal, accepted kind. The kind that could get you in a whole lot of trouble if someone found out. Before anyone had the chance to reveal her lover, she died. Fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Absolutely haunting.”  

My chest tightened, and my fork fell to the floor.  

“Oh honey, just blow it off, my floors aren’t that dirty. And listen, I heard her lover was Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. Wild story, but it’s fun to believe.”  

My dream was something of a dream within a dream. My foot ached, and I looked down to see the bottom of my cotton sock was ripped. Beneath the hole, my foot beat hot and red. As I set my foot down, my gaze drifted toward the window. Outside, a black cat sat. Not meowing or pawing at the door, just sitting. One eye stared while the socket of the other glistened in the morning light. It caught my eye, just to walk away moments after seeing me. His tail stood tall as his hind end bounced back and forth.   

“Why haven’t you touched your pancakes, Izzy?” asked Freddie.   

“I think I ate too much at dinner or ate something funny yesterday.”   

She nodded and wrapped my plate to eat later. Instead of heading to my room, I walked to the living room between the kitchen and the grand staircase. I ran my fingers against the grain of the velvet couch and sat. At the sound of a record playing, I lifted my head to see Milly. The record player hummed the final verse of “Ave Maria.” She stood at the wall, waving goodbye. Her head turned away from me, and she walked through the wall to the outside. I raced to the window to see, but she was already gone, a part of the wind.  

Freddie approached the room. “I didn’t know you liked this song.”  

I shrugged and laid down on the couch as the old upholstery tickled the space behind my ear. I made it all night. I stared at the stained glass from the comfort of the chair to see the unkindness of ravens now shone on the entryway, somehow kinder than before.

Top Dead Center 

Abigail Mooneyhan 

The Kit-Cat clock’s tail swung back and forth on the paisley print wall. Its classic smile, painted in thick, black paint, had chipped edges. Alyssa Jean gave the old relic a new home in her upscale Pittsburgh apartment; she managed to snag it when they cleaned out her dad’s house when he passed two years prior. The quiet hum of the city reverberated against the tightly closed windows of the fourth-floor loft. Softly trickling rain raced on the windowpanes.   

The silence is nice, Alyssa Jean thought. She let herself sink into the plush couch and kicked her feet up onto the coffee table. She pressed her fingertips to her temples and slowly moved them in circular motions, careful not to push too hard. Long days in the office proved to be taxing, just like she anticipated. She pulled her hair up above the back of the couch and let it rest, and the salon perm no longer weighed her down.   

Her peaceful silence came to an end as the telephone shrilled in the air. Groaning, she forced her tired body off the couch and trekked over to the hanging touch-tone phone beside the Kit-Cat. The clock read a little past nine.   

“Hello?” she asked, holding the cold plastic in her hand.  

“Hey, Alyssa Jean. It’s Buck.”  

“Oh, shit. How you been?” she asked. She hadn’t heard from her brother in nearly two years. They hadn’t acknowledged one another’s existence since their dad passed, not since they went through the old house.   

“Just fine…uh, look. I’ve got some bad news. Aunt Barb passed away,” Buck said.  

“Jesus Christ,” she said with a sigh, “what happened?”  

“She was sick for a while. They told me it was painless,” he said. His voice, cold and stoic, lacked agency. The only indication of life came from soft movements on the other line from his dog, the pitter-patter of her nails on the hardwood he worked so hard to install. The corners of her lips tugged upward a little. Thank God he’s not completely alone back home.  

“That’s good, I guess,” Alyssa Jean said, twirling the telephone cord with her fingertips. Aunt Barb died of the same cancer her dad did. Unlike her dad, Aunt Barb caught hers in stage two with enough time to seek treatment and fight it off for ten years. A twisting, knotting feeling churned in her stomach, and sweat sprang onto her palms. She wanted Buck to tell her he’d meet her at the diner and then head to their childhood home just to see how much it had aged. She wanted him to tell her he’d pick her up from the airport with her favorite soda in the passenger’s seat.   

“The funeral is this Sunday at two p.m. where Dad had his service,” Buck said with a pause. “She wanted to be buried with her brother.”   

Buried with her brother. The detail to start their own existential crises. As if their dad had divinely intervened from Heaven saying, “If you two assholes don’t figure it out yourselves, I’ll figure it out for you and take Barb while I’m at it. I’m bored up here.” She could envision the exact look her dad would give her—pursed lips with a cigarette hanging out of the corner, wise old eyes zeroed in on her, and a slow, judgmental blink to bring it home. Her dad would always holler at them when they’d bicker. He’d be beside himself if he could see the state of their relationship. She wondered if Buck could still picture their dad like she could.  

“Well, I’ll be home the morning of,” she said. “Are you going to be there?”  

“Yes.” All she could hear were the dog’s nails clicking on the hardwood floor.   

“All right.”  

“Look, don’t fly out. There’s heavy snow storms out this way. It’ll probably get delayed till past the weekend. Just drive.”  

Click. Not even a “goodbye.” Just the hollow, plastic click of a phone nine hundred miles away. She shut her eyes and pressed the phone back up to its holder on the wall. Here we go, again.   

The drive consisted of winding roads and desolate highways surrounded by nothing but cornfields, snow, and cows. Images of her Aunt Barb laughing and smiling filled her head as if she were sitting next to her, taking a drag from her cigarette, and pointing at the calves. She could hear the way her aunt’s laugh hopped up an octave when she thought something was really funny. “Quit driving too fast, AJ! You’ll miss out on the scenery.” Aunt Barb’s voice, clear as day, stuck in Alyssa Jean’s mind.  

Her dad always had something kind to say about Aunt Barb. “Barb’s a woman of strength. That’s the kind of woman you want to be, ’Lyssa Jean,” he’d say with a boozy grin. Alyssa Jean loved her aunt, of course, but she rarely spent time with her. When she did, Aunt Barb would give her a big squeeze and slip a twenty-dollar bill in her jeans pocket. As a generous woman, she took care of her family, especially her brother. When Alyssa Jean’s dad’s battle with alcoholism reared its ugly head in her middle school years, her aunt sent checks to the house for groceries and bills. When her dad went through the mail and received a check from his sister, he’d slam it onto the dining room table and shout, “Another round on Barb!” Buck would sneak downstairs after their dad passed out for the night and cash the checks for grocery money. Alyssa Jean always told herself she’d pay her aunt back for all those years of financial support. It was too late now.  

The rosary beads hanging from her rearview mirror swayed back and forth, letting her know she’d made it to the turbulent roads of home. She slowed her car to a stop at the stoplight, pausing to check her curly hair in the rearview, and adjusted the mirror. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a speeding truck just a few thousand feet behind her. The truck had a rusty hood and faded red paint chipping off every inch of the metal heap. Thick, gray smoke billowed from the back of the rusty parts.  

Whoever makes that much noise while driving is a douchebag, she thought. Curious to know the identity of the driver, wondering if it were some kid she went to high school with, she lifted her foot from the brake. Slowly inching forward, she peered at the driver. A tall, brown-haired man with the same nose as her father sat perched in the driver’s seat with a cigarette hanging from his lip. Buck.   

She whipped her head back to the road and placed both of her hands on the steering wheel, pretending she hadn’t seen her own brother. “Fuck,” she said, gripping the wheel. The blood ran cold in her head and a pounding sensation made its way to her temples.   

As soon as the light turned green, she slammed her foot on the gas and sped off down the road. Maybe he wouldn’t recognize her car, maybe he didn’t see her. She felt like he somehow heard her comment and that he would start a fight right off the bat, her chances of fixing things blown to smithereens. Despite her resentment, she loved her brother and wanted him back in her life. Her life wasn’t the same without a chipper phone call at six a.m., her favorite snacks stocked up in his apartment, and a father-figure who knew her better than anyone else.  

Whipping into the driveway, she slammed the car door shut and ran up the stairs of their old childhood home. She huffed as she leaned up against the vintage siding to appear nonchalant should Buck arrive. An old Victorian home with a gabled Mansard roof, a cream-colored wraparound porch, and a battered tire swing that hung from a weathered apple tree stood tall behind her. She spent nearly eighteen years of her life in that house, and never once had she been so anxious to see her own older brother.   

The pickup truck pulled into the gravel driveway. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared out onto the lawn, observing the dead grass bustling in the Midwest wind. She couldn’t bear to look him in the eye or see how skinny he’d gotten, or if he was wearing one of their dad’s old suit jackets.  

“Hey, ’Lyssa Jean,” Buck said. He shut the truck door and broke ground onto the gravel with his work boots.   

She swallowed her pride and studied his stature—skinnier than two years ago, somehow still managing to fill out one of their dad’s old coats, a pair of dirty Sears work boots that somehow matched his funeral attire. Maybe just Buck could pull it off. She still worried about his weight; he always struggled to fill out his clothes ever since grade school. She took a deep breath and shoved her clammy hands into her Limited wool coat pockets.   

“Hi,” she said. Her voice, meeker than she anticipated, made her cringe.  

“How was the drive out?” he asked.   

“Just fine. What’s with the truck?”  

Buck chuckled. He looked out at the road as the bright white sky of clouds reflected off his freckle-covered face. They could both feel it in their bones—impending snow. She could remember all those times when their dad was too sick or drunk to watch them outside in the piling snowstorms. Buck would kick up the biggest snow-hill he could muster at just nine years old, lift little Alyssa Jean onto the top with a bright orange sled, and push her down into the endless sea of white. A tiny smile crept onto her face at the memory. Those were the days she’d rush inside to hug her brother for warmth, taking in the smell of his wooly sweater knitted by Aunt Barb. She missed it.  

“It was actually Dad’s. Aunt Barb’s been living here, and when I went to see her, I’d work on the truck a little bit. It was buried in the garage under all that shit,” Buck said, motioning over to the garage just a few hundred feet from the porch. “I’ve spent days working on that engine. I finally found the top dead center and got the piston working again.”    

“Hm. I don’t remember Dad having a truck,” Alyssa Jean said, crossing her arms over her chest. She could only remember their dad’s old Lincoln Continental she reversed into the garage door in ’81.  

“Well, there’s a lot of things you weren’t here for. The truck was one of ’em. He got it after you left.”  

She rolled her eyes at his dig. Buck’s favorite guilt trip: she went to college and left him back home to take care of their dad. Her dad played a big part in her decision to leave. She grew tired of his excuses, shitty parenting, and lack of remorse for any of the things he’d done to them both growing up. She didn’t want to find herself downing Long Island iced teas in the pub down the street every night like him.  

“It’s a truck,” she said. “It’s not like I missed his funeral.” She looked over at him, noticed the shift of his jaw, and knew she’d pissed him off.  

“Didn’t see him in the hospital, though.” His eyes flickered over to her.  

“I couldn’t make it back in time, Buck.”  

“That wouldn’t have been a problem if you hadn’t left—”  

“Buck, I’m not gonna fight with you,” she said, laughing in disbelief. She rubbed her temples with her cold fingertips and shut her eyes.   

“The funeral is in an hour. We need to leave now so we can be there early enough to see everyone.”  

He took off down the wooden steps and made a beeline for the truck. Before she could even say a word, he yanked open the passenger’s side door and stared her down.   

The truck rattled down the cracked pavement road on the way to church. Alyssa Jean held onto the grab handle above the window for dear life and tried to drown out Buck’s rock radio station he cranked to full volume. She sighed as she looked out her window at the passing dead shrubbery.   

“Can you turn it down a little?” she asked, trying to make herself heard over the music.  

Buck ignored her. His tired, brown eyes remained on the road. The same brown eyes her dad had. She found herself resenting every feature of his that resembled their dad.   

“Hey!” she said.  

Finally, his eyes snapped over to her. He turned down the radio to complete silence.   

“What is your problem?” she asked. The truck sputtered.  

“My problem? You wanna know what my problem is?” he asked in disbelief. He reached around in the center console furiously, looking for a cigarette. She ignored him and stared out her window. She could hear him open the small, crumpled box and pull out a Marlboro.  

“I’d love to know what your problem is. Because your attitude is unbearable,” she said, folding her left leg over the other and leaning away from him.   

Buck struggled to light the cigarette and lifted his knees to manage the steering wheel. She immediately reached out to hold onto the wheel and glared as he finally managed to get a light. All that for a cigarette.  

With a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth, he scoffed. “Y’know what, ’Lyssa Jean? My problem is that you think you’re too good for where you came from.”  

“Oh my god, Buck. I went to college and moved out, so what?”  

His grip on the wheel tightened as the truck jerked. “You left when Dad was sick—”  

“Dad had been sick forever. He was an alcoholic with cancer. He got sick all the time.”  

“That doesn’t mean you leave anyway.”  

She finally looked over at him. “What was I supposed to do? Wait around until he died? I came home. I came home for the funeral and mourned like everyone else. Just because you stayed around and took care of him doesn’t mean I was any less of his daughter. You knew how I felt about Dad and everything he’d done. It was never your place to judge me for that.”  

“How do you think that made me feel? I raised you, Alyssa Jean. Maybe you didn’t love Dad’s choices, but I was there for you your entire childhood.”  

The truck lurched forward as the hood rattled and made a deep, guttural sound. Panic spread across both of their faces as thick, billowing smoke erupted from the hood. Buck swerved the truck off the road and into the emergency lane and shut off the engine. Without a word, he got out of the truck and slammed the door behind him.   

Alyssa Jean groaned and threw her head back on the headrest. This stupid-ass truck. They were parked only a few hundred feet from the exit for the church. Nothing but snow-covered fields and scraggly trees surrounded them. Small snowflakes began to fall onto the windshield and spread into tiny pools of water that slid down the glass.  

Minutes passed, for what seemed like an hour, until Buck finally lifted the hood. “Can you give me a hand?” Buck’s voice sounded muffled from the outside of the truck. She got out of the truck and slammed the door as she walked over to him. He hunched over the inside of the truck with his hand holding the hood up. His face flushed red; the pain of the cold was enough to rush blood to his cheeks. He motioned her over, and she placed her hands on the open hood and held it up.  

“What’s wrong with it?” she asked.   

“It’s the engine. It overheated. It’s fine.”  

“Christ. This truck is a piece of shit.”  

Buck remained silent as he unscrewed the cap of the coolant tank. He paused for a moment before he spun around to face her. His eyes were wildly searching her face as he slowly shook his head.  

“Do you know what Dad said when he was in the hospital right before he died?” he asked. “He asked where his ‘little girl’ was. He didn’t want to go without seeing you. It was the only thing he talked about. I told him you’d be there in just a minute…but you got there too late.”  

Alyssa Jean’s head snapped over to her brother.  


“I never told you because I knew it would hurt you. But I think you deserve to know.”  

Her eyes filled with cold tears as she took in the words. She could picture her dad with breathing tubes and a tired, sunken expression saying those words to her exhausted brother’s face. He must have felt so shitty having taken care of him for so long for Dad to ask for me.   

“Is this why you wouldn’t talk to me?” she asked.  

“I think a part of me resented you for doing what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t leave Dad by himself. I felt too guilty. But you were able to push through it and go pursue what you wanted,” he said. “At that moment when he laid there dying, he asked for you, not me. I was angry that you had what I wanted. It was stupid and selfish, and I’m sorry.”  

Buck reached up and grabbed the hood from her. She let her eyes shut, the corners of her mouth turned down, and cried. As much as she felt angry that he kept those details, she knew why he felt so angry and disregarded.   

“I wish you had told me sooner.”  

He let the hood down and locked it. He finally turned around to face her with small smudges of black all over his hands and a pained face. “I do too. I knew how you felt about Dad. You had every right to feel that way,” he said.  

“I should have thought of you more, though. It wasn’t just Dad I left.”  

“I know. But it wasn’t fair for me to judge you for going to college and being smart. I’m so proud of you, ’Lyssa Jean.”   

Back in the truck, Buck turned the key in the ignition and held his breath, praying it would start without a hitch. As the engine roared with life, the chain from the key swung back and forth. The snow began to lay a little heavier and the flakes froze to the glass. Alyssa Jean watched the fields begin to rush by as the truck made its way back onto the highway.  

Coming Spring 2022

Welcome to The Tributary, the student-run literary journal from Lycoming College.

We appreciate diverse forms and styles and are always willing to embrace any unique type of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, artwork, photography, and everything in between. Our goal in producing editions as an undergraduate literary journal is to allow a space in which new artists may explore freely the different forms of their medium, as well as the overall priority for fresh, engaging perspectives and talents. In short, we seek artists who are willing to transcend the bounds of mundane in order to pursue excellence; by doing so, a platform is extended so that other voices may be heard beyond the sea of repetition, the nay-sayers, and coattail-riders, the ones who consider art solely as a means to an end but not the end itself.