Tag Archive: Wallace Prize

  1. A Portrait of the Art Historian as a Young Man

    Leave a Comment

    She was wearing a black dress, he thought. Or at least it looked black; in this dimness (“warehouse lighting,” he called it privately, “ambiance lighting,” “all the better to see it with, my dear lighting”) it was difficult to tell. The dress might be navy or brown or purple. In the depths of the dismal Chicago winter, its shine recalled spring nights, raindrops clinging delicately to a flower. She herself struck him as not so delicate. Before, a man had been talking to her and she’d been laughing, not just with her voice but with her shoulders and back and elbows. Exuberance in a black dress. Also heels: She was very tall in her heels, taller than he was. It was possible that she’d be shorter than him barefoot, but in heels she was certainly taller.

    She was looking at “Soap Bubble Set” with a little crease between her eyes, the same expression that he himself wore when he shaved with his Schick razor in the mornings. He wondered idly what it would be like to take a razor to “Soap Bubble Set”. The piece itself was just some modernist crap made of wood and metal, irritating and dull. He didn’t know why it was hanging in the Art Institute of all places — the Art Institute, where only estimable artwork should live. “Soap Bubble Set”’s one redeeming quality, he would concede, was its title, which reminded him of that Chardin painting, the one with the young man leaning out of a window and blowing bubbles through a straw. Was that its purpose? to leech glory by evoking a real piece of art? He filed these away among the other questions to which he had no answer, like What is that girl’s name? and how tall would she be barefoot?

    California Boy turned back to the painting at hand: “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper. There was something solid and quintessentially American about Hopper’s old-fashioned diner, which he secretly imagined as more of a bar. Examining “Nighthawks,” California Boy was convinced that the entire country could be reduced to Hopper’s precise, drab geometries, to straight lines and right angles and perfect arcs. Even the two guys sitting at the bar counter with their fedoras seemed emblematic of something. But what? mused California Boy. American commerce? American success? maybe American morality? There was only one good way to know for sure, and so California Boy opened the door to the bar, stepped inside and brushed down the sleeves of his charcoal suit.

    The two men must have been executives, because they were dressed carefully and had the long tapering fingers of men that played catch with money. One was sitting with his back to the door and his face in a tumbler of whisky. The second was rolling a cigarette and leaning in to the woman next to him. California Boy cleared his throat and ordered a sidecar from the white-clad bartender, who stooped obsequiously to sweep the ashes that the cigarette man had knocked off the counter. California Boy sat in the corner seat next to the man with the whisky, hoping to be seen. He thought briefly about striking up a conversation about the suits they were both wearing, which were of similar cuts. But California Boy had never been good at speaking to new people. He didn’t even know what to call the other man – perhaps George? Yes, George was fine, and the cigarette fellow was John, and the woman with the fiery hair was Victoria. At least they would be until they introduced themselves.

    Yet in this quiet bar, names felt inconsequential. Silent George could have been Marvin or Peter or Harry and it would not have diminished the confidence of his solitude. And Victoria and John with their gleaming eyes were on the brink of some delicious and anonymous intimacy that California Boy couldn’t fathom.

    Some legerdemain of the bartender had produced a sidecar on the counter. California Boy sniffed at it; his throat prickled. He was reminded of his final days in high school, when he and Danny (or was it David?) and some of the other seniors had gone out on the lake. The event was clothing-optional, name-optional and booze-mandatory, that much he remembered. And then there they all were, making drunken — and in his case, discontented — circles on a large raft under the Michigan sun. When he’d fallen into the water and nearly drowned, Danny-David and the rest had barely noticed.

    Since then, California Boy hadn’t done anything to avoid lakes, or alcohol. It seemed like a pointless exercise to him, though he took care to only ever drink alone, like now. Though of course he wasn’t really alone. Victoria ran her hand along the grain of the counter and dropped her lipstick; John went to retrieve it. George and California Boy tried not to watch. This revue, he realized, was perhaps something to talk about, an instrument to excavate whatever subterranean rapport might exist between himself and George. California Boy almost did bring it up — “Those two are sure being … public, aren’t they, for total strangers?” But the planes of George’s face were too hard, his nose too forbidding. California Boy kept his mouth shut and picked up the salt shaker. He sipped his sidecar and tilted the white column back and forth, keeping time by its whispers until, abruptly, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

    In a remarkable turn of events, it was the “Soap Bubble Set” girl.

    “I couldn’t help but notice,” she said to him, running her fingers along the stem of her champagne flute. California Boy knew remotely that the motion was suggestive. Still, he couldn’t make anything south of his waist understand that, because he was preoccupied by the fact that he had neither heard her order champagne from the bartender, nor come up behind him (though she was wearing heeled shoes), nor enter the bar at all. Then he realized that she hadn’t actually spoken a complete sentence, which meant that she was still talking and he should still be listening.

    “You — you and this painting. What I mean is, how interested you were in this painting, at least until I interrupted you. It was very noticeable — because there’s no one else in here who looks quite so, um, engrossed.”

    California Boy looked around. He thought that they all looked quite engrossed — Victoria and John in each other, George in a stack of papers that he had removed from his leather briefcase, the bartender in his washing up. The salt shaker too: recumbent, dreaming of its hourglass ancestors. There were no paintings around but California Boy didn’t want to mention that right away.

    “Sorry about that, by the way,” she continued. “I didn’t mean to disrupt your introspection by commenting on it, but I guess I did anyway. The irony, while truly unadulterated, probably wasn’t worth my gaffe.”

    “Don’t worry about it,” croaked California Boy, without really knowing what he was telling her not to worry about. He wet his throat with the dregs of the sidecar.

    “It’d be a real shame if you were having deep, important thoughts about this painting, you know, and I barged right in like a bull in a china shop, totally tactless, etc. Is this your favorite one here?”

    “My favorite what?” asked California Boy.

    “Your favorite painting,” said the girl, as though it were obvious. Now she was smirking at him. It was the incontrovertible pattern of his life. When reduced to a skeleton California Boy’s life was made up of smirking women: American emasculation. (He wished sometimes that a woman would chase him, though it ran contrary to everything that he, with his faint provincial heart, thought he liked. But women never chased him or even seemed to want to, and he didn’t have enough dignity to do any chasing of his own.) She would rout him with that smirk. California Boy turned to George beseechingly, but George had his glasses pushed up to the bridge of his nose and would not meet his eyes. California Boy prevaricated.

    “What’s your favorite painting here?” he asked the girl, who had crossed her arms and was now leaning against the counter like the boys from high school who surprised their girlfriends behind locker doors. California Boy thought that the bartender, who was making another sidecar, wouldn’t want women leaning against his counter so cavalierly in their dresses, but the bartender didn’t seem to mind. The girl’s face lit up.

    “I adore the Stuart Davis over there. I can’t really describe why, except to say that it looks like, like jazz music!” she exclaimed.

    Jazz music was, of course, infinitely more exciting than poor California Boy — born Wilson Eagle Sawyer to a Catholic family with a sensible station wagon — could ever hope to be. He imagined himself in New York, wearing a corduroy jacket and Liam’s face to Jazz at Lincoln Center on Thursday evening. (Liam was in theater and was somehow still the boldest, coolest, most virile guy their age that California Boy knew. He was hard to share a room with but often quite easy to hate.) That version of California Boy would have something to say, but this one was out of his element.

    “That’s very interesting. An interesting take. I think it’s— ” California Boy began.

    “Interesting?” she remarked archly, draining her champagne glass. When she looked back at him California Boy saw that one of her earrings had caught in the collar of her dress. (A black dress, he confirmed, although the unforgiving fluorescence washed it out slightly to gray.) He felt buoyed; he could withstand any number of “Interesting?”s if her earring remained ensnared.

    California Boy tried to play it cool. He rolled some of his drink around on his tongue speculatively. Not even 10 years ago he had done the same with Jolly Ranchers on Halloween. He would reach blind into the pillowcase and take two out, unwrap them, place them both in the center of his tongue. Then the guessing began. Watermelon and Cherry? Sour Apple and Cherry? or two Blue Raspberries? He thrived on the diversion, mostly because it made the candy go faster so that his mother wouldn’t catch him, rainbow-tongued and guilty, somewhere in the vicinity of Thanksgiving. But the game also carried an attendant drama: He was training himself to be a chef, perhaps, or a food taster for a king. He’d wanted, in that hackneyed pre-adolescent way, for every mundanity of his life to impute to something larger than himself; he had always confused metaphor and metonymy.

    Meanwhile, the girl had unscrewed her earring back and disengaged the offending hook. She removed the other earring with a flippant “They’re such a pain to wear,” placed them in her bag and drew out a business card. He was stunned that she had one. It had never occurred to him that business cards were a necessity looming on his own horizon.

    “Here you go. I hate introductions, but cards — now cards are so compact,” she said, waving her hand airily. She didn’t give her card to George or John. California Boy wanted to be flattered, and suppressed his suspicions that they both were more handsome and wore better cologne.

    “Lina Menon,” he read. He treaded carefully over the foreign syllables. He guessed that her family was from India, though that wasn’t on the card. What was on the card was the name of her school — LSA at Michigan! — and her major, which was biology.

     

     

    “It’s good to meet you, Lina Menon. I go to Michigan, too,” he said, “only I’m in Chicago for break.” He could hit himself. Of course he was in Chicago for break. She was in Chicago for break too, clearly. What he had meant to say was that he didn’t live in Chicago and was only visiting. (Liam was putting him up, though it seemed foolish to depend upon the hospitality of a guy who was frequently his greatest enemy.) He had also meant to get the word “Saugatuck” in somewhere. Not that he believed for a second that she would know where Saugatuck, Michigan, was, though the population swelled to a whole 3,000 in the summer months.

    “Really? I live here — or at least, I live in Lisle. I’m a biology major. But whoops! that’s on the card.”

    California Boy didn’t mind that it was on the card. He found that he liked hearing it directly from the source and would hear it a second time if only to keep her talking. Her voice was marvelous, a low serene rumble like the echoes of the ocean through a conch shell. (Even the shells he’d collected from the side of the lake as a boy didn’t sing lake stories but longer, older ones. It was a genetic thing, he guessed, a primal instinctive thing, that all shells, whether they know it or not, are seeking out the ocean.) Liam, always debonair, would have said so: “You’ve got such an expressive voice.” But California Boy couldn’t allow himself such a vulnerability. How could he bare his own dreaminess and fancy to a stranger he had only just met in a bar, even in the form of a compliment? Therein lay the difference between California Boy and Liam. Or between California Boy and John, for that matter. John, who was just now whispering something in Victoria’s ear. California Boy shifted to block John’s view of Lina. He felt sure that John was the type of man who always pursued the prettiest woman in the room, and Victoria, with her disdainful eyes and audacious crimson mouth, could not hold a candle to Lina.

    Lina had mentioned her major. Biology, which was left-brained enough to intimidate. And she’d worked it into the conversation herself. California Boy felt a little panicked, because of the incontrovertible pattern. She was drawing him out, when everything he knew about boy-girl interactions (admittedly, rooted in his observations of Liam and the Saugatuck senior class) told him that he should have been drawing her out. He clawed for something to say and decided to identify himself in turn.

    “California Boy,” he said. She took his right hand firmly in her own and shook it. Of course she had a firm handshake.

    “California Boy,” she repeated. It dawned upon him that he could have introduced himself as Wilson. He’d had the opportunity to jettison his ridiculous epithet, and he’d missed it. He was an idiot. Why had he said what he said? and what more did she want from him? and why did he feel sick?

    She looked at him inquisitively, as though she wanted more. To know, perhaps, what did he do? He could not tell her that he did hardly anything, compared to biology.

    “I study art history,” he said. He glanced at George, whose brow was furrowed over a yellowed contract. A finger of whisky still glistened in George’s tumbler; California Boy wondered fleetingly if he could snatch it up for himself. Meanwhile, John and Victoria sat with their hands nearly touching. The world was made up of royalty, he realized, of George and John and Victoria who traded in expensive clothes and exclusive silences, overlooked the canaille they drank with. And the world was busy; there was no more room left for him.

    “Oh!” She giggled. It seemed like nerves. Nerves? “Art history. That sounds difficult. I’m actually pretty terrible at history and at responding critically to art and music and things like that. My viscera just don’t seem to want to do it. Is it really hard, to have to come up with something new and really formal to say about this painting or that sculpture every time?”

    Lina was rubbing at her collarbone with her right thumb. In someone so invincible even the slightest tic was obvious, and California Boy felt suddenly triumphant. Somehow, he had discomfited her! His sense of sexual urgency, shameful and eager, came swinging back like a pendulum over sand, pulled toward the new locus of his hopes and desires that beat in her sternum. He drummed his fingers on the cherry wood of the counter.

    “It’s hard,” he said, with some boldness. “It’s hard, but it’s not as hard as it could be. It’s less memorizing than you’d think. I mean, dates are important, but knowing the theories and the movements and being able to synthesize everything is probably more important.”

    “I’m good at memorizing,” admitted Lina. “That’s why I’m a biology major. It’s all memorization. The hydrolysis of the terminal phosphoanhydridic bond is exergonic and so forth. It sounds pretty ghastly but if you can remember the terms you can do biology. ‘Synthesizing,’ as you say, is for the chemists. Anyhow, what’s the best painting you’ve ever seen?”

    Heartened by this line of questioning, California Boy chose to ignore “the terminal phosphoanhydridic bond.” He thought instead of the Kunsthistoriches museum in Vienna.

    “I like Vermeer. ‘The Geographer,’ ‘Pearl Earring,’ obviously, ‘The Milkmaid.’ ‘The Art of Painting,’” said California Boy.

    “‘The Art of Painting’? I’ve never heard of it. I’ll be the first to say that I’m pretty uncultured when it comes to paintings, especially all that Dutch stuff,” said Lina, with a little sheepish twinkle.

    California Boy felt better.

    “Oh!” she cried. “Wait! Here I was, telling you that the Davis looked like jazz. I’m sorry. Now I’m just embarrassed. It must be really irritating to have people tell you things about art that make no sense at all.”

    California Boy struggled to quiet the humming of his blood and think of something to say to this. He tried: “I don’t listen to much jazz, but if you come back to my apartment we can put some on and find out exactly what you mean.” He tried: “I definitely feel that way reading Jansen’s ‘History of Art’ sometimes.” He tried: “Better you than my rich, white, old, heterosexual, Eurocentric male Renaissance art professor.” He tried: “No one as beautiful as you could ever be irritating.” He tried: “There’s no need to apologize. I don’t know a whole lot about jazz, but even I can tell that your description is really fitting.”

    Nothing was quite what he wanted it to be, and yet she would only wait so long for a response before leaving. California Boy righted the salt shaker and flicked its side to settle the surface of the white. As he racked his brains, the bartender, who was rinsing a martini glass in the sink, flashed him a sympathetic smile.

     

     

    The smile was California Boy’s undoing. He had been getting along so well until now, had been only a few seconds from making his romantic overtures. If only he could exist in a vacuum, where no one (certainly not this pointy-faced bartender, clearly a replacement, still  wearing his busboy cap) would smile at him as he tried to pick up a woman! California Boy felt like a plant whose sun is removed from the sky without any warning: What can it do but wilt?

    “Maybe,” California said, and the overhead lights flickered. For a moment he saw his shadow against the opposite wall, a broken marionette dissolving into the margins of the countertop; he saw her shadow, dancing its mocking beguine; and where he should have seen the impersonal afterimages of the Nighthawks there was nothing at all.

    California Boy needed to be severely inebriated, right now. He ordered another sidecar from the bartender with a glare and remembered that Lina was the first girl with whom he’d had any kind of conversation in the post-bellum era — the post-Sophie era. As he waited for his drink California Boy watched the spring raindrops that winked against the satin of Lina’s dress. They ran one by one into the hollows where the material was crumpling against the barstool, oblivious to his agony. Why had no one noticed Lina? and why hadn’t she hadn’t gone away yet, or taken up with that Casanova John, or George, or even the bartender? and did he have enough cash in his wallet to pay for all the drinks he had ordered?

    Lina opened her mouth. In that instant he recognized why she had stayed. She liked it. Whatever awkwardness had blossomed between them, she liked it. She had the upper hand again and she liked it. California Boy blinked and shook his head. He thought abstractedly that he could hear the snow piling up in the streets.

    “Do you want to —” she began. She hesitated, and he narrowed his eyes at her. (It was the only way he could focus on what was coming next.) “Do you want to get out of here?” she asked him.

    Somewhere in Chicago a church bell was ringing, sending circular bronze vibrations through the night; somewhere a flame had been snuffed out, a lamp turned off. The roads were quieting, soothed to sleep by the falling snow. California Boy took a deep breath, nodded, extracted his wallet from his breast pocket and opened it to count out enough money to cover — but there was no bartender and no bar. There was only the Hopper behind him and the red-white-and-blue Davis on the adjacent wall. The patriotic Davis, thumbing its nose like jazz at the Hopper.

    People slowly trickled out of the Art Institute back to their apartments, and Lina stood on the gallery floor next to him. Sickness burgeoned again in California Boy’s stomach. She would, he decided, be taller than him in flat shoes as well. Not by much, but it was enough.

    He put his wallet back into his suit jacket. Then he took her arm and led her away to find a cab.

     

  2. Purple Flowers

    Leave a Comment

    Ms. Blok wears see-through, cream-colored shirts to school every day. Her bra today is dark purple, clearly a size too small for her, and her fleshy back crumples where it rides up. She tells us something about Day of the Dead and making paper cutouts, but all I can focus on are the slightly darker-than-cream-colored pit stains burgeoning under her arms as she writes on the board. When she stops speaking and hands out scissors and stacks of paper, nobody does anything except chatter. Ms. Blok can’t do anything about the fact that no one is speaking Spanish in our AP Spanish class.

    Ava and I sit at our desk pod, just the two of us. I slowly pick up the scissors and slide my thumb through one of the holes. Ava’s scissors move in and out and around her cardstock. The flurry of swapping paper and grabbing scissors and conversation surrounds us. Out of the corner of my eye I see her eyes flashing quickly to mine and then down. I reach my hand out to pick up my piece of white cardstock, slowly enough to steady my hand.

    “Of course you chose white,” Ava says to me, a little too quickly and a little too loudly. She flicks one of the rejected scraps of paper off of her desk and onto mine with her nails that are marbled with pink, blue, and purple polish. She loves marbling her nails. She spends hours dropping droplets of polish into a cup of water, swirling it around, and then dipping her fingers in one by one. The polish is chipping on her ring finger and thumb, but each nail still looks like its own miniature Van Gogh swirl. They look better than my nails could ever look. She flicks another scrap at me. “Yours is going to look like a paper snowflack,” she says. Ava says things like saLL-mon instead of salmon and tort-iLL-a instead of tortilla and snowflack instead of snowflake. Her paper is red. Her favorite color.

    “Hey.” She nudges me. In her nudge is the hint of a question. I give the tiniest shake of my head before really looking at her for the first time today. She’s wearing The Shirt. She did that on purpose.

     

    The first time I saw Ava was the third day of high school, when she stood in front of me in the lunch line wearing The Shirt. It was patterned with Starry Night by Van Gogh, but the colors were inverted so that, instead of black and deep blue and yellow, they were white and straw yellow and bright blue.

    My brother Mo told me before I started high school that I should speak up more because I tend to be quiet around other people. I told him that my thoughts are so loud I don’t understand how no one else hears them, and that just because people can’t hear them doesn’t mean they aren’t loud. He rolled his eyes and then lunged toward me, tickling me until I whisper-screamed stop so that Mom wouldn’t hear us awake.

    “See,” he said, “I couldn’t hear your thoughts telling me to stop.”

     

    I told Ava I liked The Shirt because I did but also because Mo told me to talk more, and she turned around so fast that her frizzy dark ringlets sort of whacked me in the face. She smiled really wide and launched into the story of how she had been looking for a clothing item, any clothing item, with Starry Night in inverted colors for years because, while she liked the painting as is and all, she didn’t like how realistic Van Gogh’s colors were on a canvas that clearly depicted a modern, post-impressionist view of the night sky. We plopped our sloppy joes onto the gray lunch trays and walked to a table, still mid-conversation. She told me she had eventually gone online and found a DIY site where you could upload images onto a shirt yourself. I told her how I loved the white of the inverted color scheme so much more than the traditional black and how black was such a selfish color because it absorbed the light whereas white was entirely honest. And also how Mo always wore white shirts because he had green eyes, too. She paused.

    “No one has ever complimented my shirt before.” She looked me up and down, eyes lingering a second too long on the turtleneck I wore even though it was early August. She then stuck her left hand straight out. “I’m Ava. What’s your name?”

     

    “So, I was thinking,” her eyes are on me in a way that makes my skin crave sunscreen, “that if you aren’t up for it you shouldn’t come over after school tod—”

    “No, I will.” Ava’s shoulders schlump a little at my tone. I maneuver the scissors the way Mo taught me to when I was little, through and between the paper as I cut a triangular sliver and then arc a half circle around it, wondering how the symmetry will turn out when it unfolds.

    “Day of the Dead paper cutouts,” I say, mostly so her shoulders will perk back up, “and geometry?” She lifts her eyes and lets a hesitant half smile rise on her cheeks, so I can just barely see her teeth that are splayed out in the front.

    “In the book?” she asks.

    “In the book,” I say.

     

    I’ve never understood why subjects in school are delineated. People talk about the sciences versus humanities but in my head every bit of information works together. I asked Mo once why subjects are separated, and he rolled his eyes and told me that was just how it was. I said why and he said because and I didn’t say anything after that.

    We were diagramming plot structure in English one day and I was looking at how the diagram starts level and then increases before decreasing and leveling out again at a point higher than where it began. It looked exactly like the graph of an endothermic reaction in chemistry. Which makes perfect sense because after reading a story people have more potential and more energy at the end.

    Plot structure also made me think of graphs in calculus, because if you took the derivative of the arc of a story it would give you the trajectory at each point, which feels like an important thing to know about a story. And if you integrated the plot diagram you would get the area under its curve. I’m not sure what that means yet, but I think it’s probably important. When I Googled derivative of plot diagram later nothing came up on the internet. Textbooks should have and could have been written about it if people stopped needing to always separate things. I told Ava this and asked her why there weren’t those textbooks. She looked at me and changed the subject. But the next day in English she pulled a mini composition notebook out of her backpack. She shoved it towards me so that I could read the first page, which said:

    1.              plot structure, endothermic, derivative

    and below that the number 2 with blank line after it for us to fill in.

    “We’ll write the textbook,” she said, and slid the notebook back into her bag as our English teacher began talking.

    We hung out at her house and never mine, and I told her it was because my parents worked late and didn’t want me home alone. Some days I told her it was because I had art class at night after school. I don’t even go to an after-school art program. It just sounded like something I would do.

    When I told Ava about Hayden, I told mostly the truth surrounded by a whole lot of lies. I told her he was in my after-school art class. I told her that my art teacher was terribly mean, even though she probably didn’t intend to be, and that she always took out whatever anger she was holding inside herself on me. I told her that Hayden never stood up for me, never said anything to defend me, even though we’re supposed to be really good friends. I started telling her by accident, but once I started it all slid off my tongue too easily to stop.

     

    Ava had a jade plant on her desk at home, and when I first saw it I told her that the scientific name of jade was Crassula ovata, and that Mo and I would spend hours going through a plant book with scientific names, and that his name wasn’t really Mo that was just his plant name that I called him. And that he called me Vi because the scientific name for hazel, the color of my eyes and also my actual name, is Hamamelis virginiana.

    She got really excited and wanted me to give her a plant nickname, but I told her only Mo is allowed to give them. She kept nagging and asking if she could come over and meet him after my parents came home from work and after he came home at night from community college. I kept avoiding answering her but finally said that my mom would be way too tired after work.

    “What about your dad, though?” she asked. I told her I meant to say him too before changing the subject because, even though Ava was Ava, I’d never told her that I’d never met my dad.

     

    Mo finally came over with me to Ava’s house last night instead. When he asked her what her favorite plant was, she told him she liked ferns.

    Onoclea sensibilis,” he said immediately. “That’s the scientific name for a sensitive fern. You could use Clea.” I saw her look him up and down, eyes flicking from his white, short-sleeve shirt to my turtleneck that was yellow today. She’d asked me once why I always wore a turtleneck, even when it was hot, and I had told her I liked the way they felt cozy around my neck. She rolled her eyes and said why don’t you just wear a choker then? I said it’s not the same.

    “What plant is Mo for, again?” she asked my brother.

    “For Marchantia polymorpha,” he told her. “Liverwort. That’s the color green my eyes are. My actual name is Hayden,” he told her. She paused only for a second as she glanced toward me and then back to him.

    “I’m Clea,” she stuck her left hand out and said almost in a whisper, “Nice to meet you. Hayden.”

     

    Ms. Blok always wears her auburn hair in a crooked, wispy bun that whispers hints of how put-together it had been in the morning.

    “Have you ever noticed how her bun is always crooked?” I ask Ava while she cuts her paper. I lay my finished but unopened cutout on my desk. The scraps from her red paper mix with the scraps from my white paper and look like the petals of Dahlia pinnata. Dahlia flowers.

    “I mean, it wouldn’t be that hard to straighten her bun. Or teach her how to do a good bun,” I continue. She doesn’t not look at me, but she doesn’t look at me either. “Maybe we should offer to help her.”

    When Ava reaches out to touch my arm, she accidently brushes back my sleeve just enough to see purple, not unlike the color of Ms. Blok’s bra. I shove the sleeve of my turtleneck quickly down. Her already large eyes widen and lock with mine, and I hear her take a quick intake of air. I pull my arm away, still staring at her. For a second, while her hand lingers like a prompt, I consider telling her the whole truth about everything.

    But she breaks eye contact, lets her hand fall, and reaches across to the white paper cutout sitting unopened on my desk, unfolding it slowly before holding it up to show me.

    My cutout is really very good.

    “It’s a snowflack,” she whispers, and lets it fall, open, onto my desk.

     

  3. Laying Day

    Leave a Comment

    It was Laying Day. Sam shivered in line outside Susan B. Anthony High School and chewed over the rumors: The exacting judges, the rare perfect sheen, the time that guy screamed like a goat. The morning fog hung thick, blurring a neon “WE BUY GOLD” sign in the window of the pawn shop on the corner. Sam stared at a homeless dude sleeping under an awning across the street. What had his egg looked like?

    The doors hadn’t opened yet, but the line of teenagers already snaked along the school’s brick wall, down the block and around the corner. Most sat sleepy-eyed on the gum-speckled sidewalk. Caffeine tightened muscles down there so coffee was a no-go on Laying Day.

    Sam stood. He picked at the mole on his neck, which had sprouted its second hair last month. He was tall for 15, and his sweatshirt hung loose on his lanky frame. “Better tall than bald,” his dad always said. Sam fumbled in his backpack for his copy of “David Copperfield.” Dickens was a key de-stressor.

    The girl in front of Sam in line was whispering into her iPhone. She was wrapped in an orange and black SF GIANTS blanket. “The point is I don’t need — wait. Dad. Didn’t we say talking on the phone was a complete no-go in terms of — OK, you’re stressing me out. Bye.” She pocketed the phone and hit the brick wall with the palm of her hand, face tight as if she’d tasted something sour. Sam laughed.

    “What?” she said, turning around.

    Her canny eyes made Sam squirm. She reminded him of an anteater. “Oh, um — just something in—” He pointed to his book. Shit. His face was a big-time tomato. He looked down and flipped a page.

    “I’m just messing with you,” she said. Her pucker morphed into a smile. “I know I was being—”

    “No no no,” Sam said. “You sound like me with my mom. This morning I was like, ‘Mom, you better not call before I lay, even if the house is literally burning down.’” Why had he done that weird voice? Sam leaned against the wall like super-chill.

    “My dad has no self-control,” the girl said. She stuck out her hand. “I’m Susie.”

    “Sam.” They shook. “Um — so, what school do you go to?” He brushed his hand on his pants to wipe off the sweat from the shake, then covered with a swipe through his hair. His fingers snagged on a knot.

    “Brimton,” Susie said, as Sam struggled to extricate his middle finger from the tangles without flipping Susie the bird. Rats. He’d forgotten to listen to her answer.

    “Yeah, like no one’s heard of it,” Susie said. “It’s in the Richmond, over on Clement. You?”

    “Collegiate,” Sam said. Susie raised her eyebrows.

    “Your parents must be super-rich,” Susie said.

    “Not really? My dad—” Sam realized Susie didn’t care. He picked at his mole. The coarse hairs felt good on his finger.

    “Well,” Susie said, “both our parents paid the big bucks for us to lay in the first place.”

    “Seriously,” Sam said. “Kind of wish they’d asked me first.”

    “Oh,” Susie said. “I feel like not doing it puts you at a huge disadvantage?”

    “Probably,” Sam said. “My dad’s obsessed. He talks about what I’ll tell my grandkids.”

    “I heard more people aren’t doing it this year,” Susie said.

    “Activists,” Sam said. Eyeroll.

    “Hey,” Susie said, “doesn’t Collegiate have a trophy case with the best half-shells in school history?” Sam nodded. “That’s so extra,” Susie said.

    “Yeah.” Perfect symmetry. Flawless color. A single curl that’s really blue. Sam’s left eyelid began to twitch.

    “You’re such a nerd.” Susie grinned. “Collegiate sounds awful.”

    “I’m pretty sure everyone with a half-shell in that trophy case is now, like, a gazillionaire.” The front doors of the high school creaked open and the line started to move. “Whatever,” Sam said.

    “Whatever,” Susie said.

    An hour later, Sam stood at the end of a long hallway lined with lockers, a few yards from the double doors between him and the school’s gym. Out came Susie with a carrier bag. Tears sparkled in her eyes.

    “Shoot,” Sam said. This was not a scenario he’d prepared for, girl-wise. “That bad?” He gave her an awkward hug.

    “Thanks,” she whispered. When she pulled away, she was laughing.

    “Just messing with you! I teared up when I laid. It fucking hurt.”

    “Let’s see it,” Sam said, relieved and newly terrified. He wiped his palms on his jeans again. Susie reached into her carrier bag and pulled out her egg.

    Not bad. Nice sheen, an elegant green swish, though a bit of discoloration in two spots. Texture was great — super-smooth — and the shape was pretty darn uniform.

    “This looks great!” Sam said. He didn’t ask about her scores. “Looks like, in terms of size, it’s going be a chicken?”

    A severe man burst through the double doors, his bushy eyebrows leading the way. He had horn-rimmed glasses and thin lips, and wore all black except for a white collar and a small Easter egg pin on his lapel.

    “Next,” said Father Mark. Darn — Sam had hoped for a stranger. He stepped forward, hoping his childhood pastor wouldn’t recognize him.

    “Sam! Good to see you.” Father Mark patted his shoulder.

    Double darn. Sam hated being patted.

    “Good to see you too, Father.”

    “See the Sharks game last night?” Father Mark was obsessed with ice hockey.

    “Nope.”

    Father Mark chuckled. “Johnny Mitchell was on a roll. Three goals. And Stan Kriniewski? Best goalie on the face of the earth.” He paused for a moment, turned, and plunged through the double doors, brows first.

    “Good luck!” Susie called, as Sam followed.

    The gym smelled vaguely of soy sauce. A mess of piping obscured the high ceiling, and fluorescent light reflected off the polished wood floor. A few banners with school records hung on the walls. Sam’s mom had filed a complaint on account of the gym being unsanitary, what with the sweat and shoe grease. But because of the economy, it was the only space that made sense.

    Half the gym was hidden by a curtain. The judges table sat in front of the curtain, near half court. Father Mark walked over and joined another judge. Sam recognized her as the principal of Collegiate’s rival, Tomlinson. She had pronounced wrinkles on her forehead, sagging round cheeks and white hair, cropped short. She wore a grey pantsuit, her lips caked in bright red lipstick. Sam felt nauseous. She, too, wore an Easter egg pin.

    “I’m Mrs. Mallone,” she said. “What’s your name?”

    “Sam Waldman,” Father Mark said. “He and his parents used to attend St. Cecilia.”

    “Charming,” said Mrs. Mallone.

    “Well, have at it!” said Father Mark, gesturing toward the curtain.

    Sam pulled the curtain aside. It was totally empty in the Laying Area, except for the Cleaner and the Laying Chair, which had been set up right beneath the basketball hoop. It was just like in Prep: an off-white plastic seat with a hole in the middle, footrests on either side, connected to a black tube lined with floppy rubber spikes to prevent crackage. The tube fed into the Cleaner. Sam wiped his cold palms on his sweater and pulled down his jeans and boxers in one fell swoop.

    Jeez, couldn’t they turn up the temperature in here? Sam plopped on the seat. He arched his back, planted his feet on the footrests, and squeezed his muscles down there. Big-time eyelid twitching. Why wasn’t anything happening? He took a deep breath. Then a slippery-scratchy sensation right down there and he could feel it moving. It felt a little good. He wondered when — “FUCK!” he yelled. “Holy shit holy shit holy shit.” Now it was a slippery-scratchy burning. Squeeze. Wiggle toes, arch back, press hands in stomach. Squeeze harder. Sam counted in his head: One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Missis — it was over. Sam had laid his egg.

    The egg wump wumped along the black tube to the Cleaner like a real-big prey being digested by a python. The Cleaner started to vibrate. Sam jumped up and pulled on his boxers, jeans and shoes. He heard his dad saying, A watched pot never boils. Click. A drawer popped out of the Cleaner. There was his egg.

    Holy wow! It was a beautiful pale white, with a sultry swoop of red curling around the middle like a bow and a few choice specks of yellow. Very solid sheen. Texture was a little rough, but shape was flawless. Definitely big enough to be a turkey. He cupped the egg in his hands and ducked under the curtain.

    “Well done, Sam,” said Mrs. Mallone. “Please place your egg on the inspection cushion.” Sam set his egg on the little velvet cushion with gold tassels that sat in the middle of the table. Father Mark and Mrs. Mallone scribbled some efficient notes in their notebooks; Mrs. Mallone rotated the egg as if she were making sure all sides were cooked evenly. They both nodded. Sam stood and watched.

    “OK, I’m ready if you are,” said Father Mark.

    “Sure,” said Mrs. Mallone.

    “So, Sam — job well done, in my book,” said Father Mark. “I’d say 89th percentile on color definition? Very clean edges on the red swoop.”

    “Thank you,” Sam said. He picked at the mole on his neck and smiled. His stomach squirmed. Don’t let your head get too big, he heard his dad saying. You won’t be able to get out the door.

    “I’m OK with that,” said Mrs. Mallone. “And 91st for hue? Those yellow dots are really quite something.”

    “Let’s say 90th,” said Father Mark. “Sheen?”

    “82nd?” said Mrs. Mallone. “And let’s do 71st for texture.”

    “I’m OK with sheen, but let’s bump texture,” said Father Mark. “73rd?”

    “Fine,” said Mrs. Mallone. “Tell me if you disagree, but I’d say 97th for shape.”

    Father Mark thought for a moment, and checked his notes. “How about 98th?”

    Mrs. Mallone smiled at Sam. “Works for me. I think that’s everything. And Sam, dear, it looks size-wise like it’ll probably be a turkey. Will your parents be okay with that?”

    “This is San Francisco,” said Father Mark.

    “Yeah,” said Sam. “My parents are pretty progressive.”

    “Lovely,” said Mrs. Mallone. She pulled out a card and wrote down Sam’s percentiles. “We said 82nd for sheen, right?”

    “That’s right,” said Father Mark. He placed Sam’s egg in a carrier bag. Mrs. Mallone handed the scorecard to Sam. “Thanks very much, Sam,” said Father Mark. “We’re looking forward to seeing your turkey.”

    *

    Crack. Sam sat on his “Matrix” bedspread and watched his egg jiggle ever so slightly back and forth in its incubator. It was a month after Laying Day. A miniature seam appeared in the shell just under the red swoop. Sam had convinced his parents to buy him an IncuDeluxe for this very reason. (IncuDeluxe auto-adjusts its temperature to maximize crackage in the egg, making it easy for the chick to hatch. Now only $99 at Target!)

    “Mom, Dad, it’s happening!” Sam yelled. He heard feet banging on the wooden stairs up to his room. Sam’s parents burst through his door. His dad sat next to him on the bed. His mom hovered nervously in the corner.

    “This is it, son.” Sam’s dad put an arm around him. “I want you to know we’re fine with a turkey.”

    “Oh, Sammie, we’re so proud of you,” Sam’s mom said.

    Crack. The shell fell away and a tiny, fluffy head poked out. The chick’s feathers were damp and bedraggled. Sam opened the incubator and pulled away the rest of the shell.

    “Yep. It’s a turkey,” he said, his stomach tightening.

    “That’s great, Sam,” his dad said, whacking him on the back.

    “Yes, great, Sam,” his mom said. They craned their heads over his shoulder. Sam picked up the chick and held it in the palm of his hand. The knot in his stomach disappeared. The chick’s neck was so fragile, like a fluffy twig. Sam’s mom snapped pictures on her iPhone from every conceivable angle.

    “Let me take a gander,” Sam’s dad said. He took the chick in his hairy hands and it clicked. Sam caught himself imagining the proud day that his chick would cluck.

    “This sucker is going to taste great,” his dad said.

    Right. Sam’s smile evaporated. He stared at the ribbons his mom had pinned up on his bulletin board.

    “We already signed you up for a slot, Sammie,” his mom said brightly, putting a hand on his arm.

    “Trust me,” his dad said, “you’ll be telling your grandkids about this.” His ponytail bobbed up and down as he talked. “I remember the moment I sat around the table with my family and ate my chicken. My dad said, ‘I’ll be darned,’ and that was just about the nicest thing he ever said to me.”

    Later, Sam called Susie. They had stayed in touch since Laying Day, mostly sending shots of their eggs in their incubators with egg-pun captions. Susie’s chicken had hatched a week earlier. She had kept Sam updated on the whole process.

    “Hi, it’s Sam.”

    “Hey.”

    “Yeah. Um — so, big news. My turkey hatched.” Sam tried to sound enthusiastic. Susie had been so pumped about her chicken.

    “Were your parents cool with it and everything?” Susie asked. “You hear those stories where progressive parents actually aren’t so progressive…”

    “Nah, they were fine,” Sam said. “I’m thinking about naming him.”

    “Literally, why?” Susie said. “They specifically say you shouldn’t do that in Prep. Studies show that one in six get attached, you know?”

    “What do you think about Max?” Sam said.

    “Sam.”

    “Why not?” Sam said. “I like Max.”

    “I mean, it’ll probably taste better if it doesn’t have a name,” Susie said.

    “Aren’t you at all sad?” Sam said. He lay back on his bed and stared at the paint bubble on his ceiling.

    “Why would I be?” Susie said. “It’s just a chicken. No different than the grocery store.”

    “Except — you laid it?” Sam said.

    “Are you saying you’re better than a mother hen?” Susie said. They both laughed. “Honestly, I’m excited. I feel like if you eat meat, you should be willing to kill it yourself. And it’s such a cool tradition—”

    “No way,” Sam cut in. “There’s just no way that I’m going to kill Max.”

    *

    Four months later, on a Sunday afternoon in late August, Sam once again stood in line outside Susan B. Anthony High School. He was choking back tears. He had gotten in a huge fight with his parents and they had said they wouldn’t pay for his college if he didn’t go through with it. They had no room in the house for Max, and sometimes, they told Sam, you just have to respect your elders.

    The weather was foggy — not hot enough for short sleeves, but not cold enough for a real jacket. Sam was next. He held Max close to his body and he could feel Max’s heart beating against his stomach.

    A young volunteer emerged and beckoned. He was wearing a neon yellow shirt with a cartoon chicken. Sam recognized him — he was a senior at Collegiate on the football team. He had some serious stubble and big-ish biceps. A lot of the football guys volunteered after church.

    “Hey, Patrick, right?” Sam said. “I’m Sam.”

    “Yeah, I recognize you,” Patrick said. “You’re the one who laid in the top five at Collegiate. Red swoop, right?” Sam nodded. “Killer egg, dude.” His voice sounded like a gurgling drainpipe.

    “Thanks,” Sam said. He forced a smile.

    Sam followed Patrick into the school. They walked for a minute and then Patrick pulled open a classroom door decorated with a big poster of Toni Morrison. “Here’s your station,” he said. A gawky red-haired guy stood inside, wearing a big white smock and yellow rubber gloves. The first thing Sam noticed were the dots of blood speckling the smock, like the guy had just stepped off the set of a horror movie.

    “You’ll work with Danny,” Patrick said to Sam. “Danny’s a senior at Lakemore.” Sam nodded at Danny but said nothing. Patrick disappeared and Danny shut the door.

    He stared at Sam. His eyes were soft blue. “You okay, Sam?” he asked. Sam noticed that he had a speech impediment.

    “Not really,” Sam said. His throat felt prickly.

    “Activists?” Danny pulled off his smock.

    “Nope. I just don’t want to kill Max.”

    “Ah,” Danny said. “Named him. Big mistake.” Sam smiled as tears formed in his eyes. “If you were going to do the whole naming thing you should have named him something dumb, like Gobbler, or gone all Presidential Turkey Pardon and named him Freedom.” Sam laughed. He scanned the room. A plastic sheet covered the gray carpet. A few knives lay on the teacher’s desk. A pot of water bubbled on an electric cooker in the corner. In the center of the room stood a tetherball pole with an upside-down metal cone attached to its side, and beneath the cone sat a white plastic bucket.

    Danny came over and patted Sam on the back. “It’s gonna be okay, dude.”

    “Thanks,” Sam said. He still held Max tightly in his arms.

    “You know, it’s speedy,” Danny said. “And it’s not like he’d live for years anyway.” Sam nodded. “He’d have a miserable life in your room.”

    True. Sam’s room was very cramped. And it was a drag to take Max down to the backyard four or five times a day so he could peck around the grass. What would happen when he started school in a few weeks? Plus, Danny seemed like a good guy. They would never have met were it not for this day.

    “He won’t even know it’s happening,” Danny said.

    Sam gave Max one last squeeze. “Okay.”

    Danny pulled back on his smock. “Alright, the first step is to put him in the cone. I’m sure Max would want you to help.” He handed Sam a white smock and a pair of yellow gloves.

    Sam lifted Max and stuffed him headfirst into the cone so that his head poked out through the small end at the bottom. “Am I doing this right?” he asked.

    “Yeah, perfect,” Danny said. Sam smiled.

    Danny grabbed one of the knives from the table. Sam stared. For a moment, he felt like he was going to puke, right there on his shoes, but he got it together. He remembered what he and his dad had discussed in terms of this day not being easy, but good character-wise.

    Danny grabbed Max’s head with one hand and sliced into his neck. Blood poured into the bucket. It sounded like the rain on Sam’s bedroom window during a storm. Like a mini waterfall. Danny kept his hand around Max’s head. They listened as the waterfall subsided into a plop-plop-plop, and then nothing. Max was still.

    “You did way better than most people, dude,” Danny said. “No one’s vomited yet at my station, but I’ve heard stories from the other guys.” Sam forced a laugh.

    Danny dunked limp-Max in the boiling water in the metal pot. “To loosen the feathers,” Danny explained. He handed Max to Sam, and let Sam dunk the body a few more times. Sam felt like a real man. Now, when he ate meat, he’d know exactly how it was killed.

    Danny grabbed Max’s feet and pulled him out of the water. He dried the body with some paper towel, and threw it on the table. Danny showed Sam how to strip the feathers; how to remove the oil gland and feet; and how to cut open the body to get the entrails. They talked about Sam’s super-dumb English teacher (Mr. Randolph) and about Danny’s college plans (San Francisco State).

    Danny put the butterball in a carrier bag. “Hey, it was great to work with you,” he told Sam. “Seriously, dude. You’re going places.”

    Sam felt springy as he walked out of Susan B. Anthony High School. Sure, it was nice to wake up and hear Max clucking, but think about all the new character points he had just earned. He felt sorry for the kids whose parents wouldn’t let them lay. He couldn’t wait to show the bird to his mom, to cook it with his dad. To provide something, no matter how small, for his family.

     

  4. Announcing the winners of the 2019 Wallace Prize

    Leave a Comment

     

    The Yale Daily News Magazine is thrilled to publish the winners of the 2019 Wallace Prize. The Wallace Prize recognizes previously unpublished fiction and nonfiction by Yale undergraduates. All submissions were judged anonymously by professional writers, who also decided the number of prizes and the places of the winners.
     

    Nonfiction:

    First Place (tie): “34I,” Mariah Kreutter ’20
    First Place (tie): “Mama’s Boy,” Charlie Lee ’20
     
    Honorable Mention: “A Cycle of Secrecy,” Sarah Donilon ’19
    Honorable Mention: “Hinterland Farmer,” Eliza Fawcett ’19
    Honorable Mention: “Roman Heat,” Charlie Lee ’20
     

    Fiction:

    First Place: “Laying Day,” Paul Gross ’20
    Second Place: “Purple Flowers,” Samara Angel ’21
    Third Place: “A Portrait of the Art Historian as a Young Man,” Aparna Nair-Kanneganti ’20
    Fourth Place: “The Season,” Nicole Blackwood ’20
     
    Honorable Mention: “Cane Fire,” Grace Wynter ’20
    Honorable Mention: “The Dollhouse,” Henry Reichard ’19
    Honorable Mention: “The Oak Tree,” Valerie Pavilonis ’22

     

    Thank you to the many students who submitted, the anonymous judges who volunteered their time and expertise and the English Department, which sponsored this issue.

     

  5. Mama’s Boy

    1 Comment

    My mom is a straight-laced and unimpulsive woman. She votes early in every election, makes grocery lists of seasonal health foods three months in advance of family vacations and goes to church every Sunday. I have never seen anyone stick to a workout regimen and diet more strictly than her: I don’t think she’s had sugar since her wedding day. She never, ever curses. This is not for a lack of things to rebel against. A child of the ‘60s, she was born to a conservative, middle-class WASP family, and while other kids were smoking pot and joining the Peace Corps she was practicing the violin and getting a Ph.D. When she was 25 and had been married for two years, her mother forbade her from getting a second ear piercing.

    Perhaps this is why my mom has always wanted me to rebel. “You know, Charlie, if you ever got a girl pregnant and decided to keep the baby, that would be very OK with me,” she told me when I was 13 and blissfully ignorant about the logistics of human reproduction. “I mean, I would raise that child. We’d get to name it, and we’d bring out all your old baby clothes, and the crib is still in the attic and you could go to college while I raised the baby and oh wouldn’t that be fun?!” A teenage pregnancy, in her eyes, was more than just a mistake that she — the cool mom — could take in stride. It was an antidote to a life of good choices and few mistakes.

    When I was 15 she asked me and my friend Ben, somewhat accusingly, why we never took her car for a joyride while she was gone. Ben turned to me with wide eyes after she left. “Dude,” he breathed, “I think your mom wants us to steal her car?” I suspect she was keeping track of the mileage on her Volvo, in the hopes of discovering that we’d taken it without her knowing. At 18, after a back injury left me with chronic pain, she got me a medical marijuana card. “This way if you ever want any pot you can just go and get it legally,” she told me. “Apparently it’s much higher quality, anyways, whatever that means.”

    I’ve always thought that part of why I never actually rebelled is that my mom took all the fun out of it. Where’s the fun in raiding the liquor cabinet if someone’s already left it ajar for you? What kid wants a note from his pediatrician saying he can smoke weed? I never once had to buy condoms as a teenager, because the day after my 16th birthday a box of 64 Trojan “For Her Pleasure” condoms appeared in my sock drawer. Gross, mom.

    This past summer my parents moved for the first time in my life. Figuring they weren’t yet old enough for Florida, they bought a cottage on the coast of Maine, on a tiny peninsula where my dad’s parents used to live. There, my dad could fish, my mom could read and hike and they could finally have some peace and quiet after 30 years in downtown Philadelphia. On their first night in the new house, my 16-year-old sister texted the family group chat: “our parents are officially boring <3.”

    It didn’t take long for my mom to get antsy. She called me and my siblings every day to kill time. “You know what I miss sometimes?” she told me. “Traffic.” She started driving into Portland — “The hippest, youngest city on the Eastern Seaboard,” according to Portland Magazine — to go to yoga classes. She dragged my dad along to tour microbreweries. They went to a warehouse party once. Suddenly my parents were cool, kind of. Looking back, I realize what a life-altering experience this move was for my mom. I know this now because of what happened next.

    One morning in late August, just before I returned to college for my junior year, I came downstairs to find her sitting nervously at the kitchen counter. (I can tell when my mom is sitting nervously, because she’s my mom.)

    “Morning, Char,” she said. “Sleep well?” She rubbed her eyes with her palms for a couple seconds, which she never does.

    “What’s up, Mom?” I asked, pouring coffee.

    “Oh, nothing, nothing, just, you know, lots to do, lots to do…”

    I pushed myself up onto the granite countertop and wiggled my eyebrows at her.

    “Mhm.”

    She pretended to read the newspaper for a few moments. My mother does not pretend to do anything.

    “Hey,” she said, not looking up. “Have you ever thought maybe you would, like, join the CIA or something?”

    I set down my coffee.

    “OK Mom, clearly something is up.”

    “No, no! I guess, I mean, what I’m wondering is—”

    “Out with it, Mom—”

    “Would you want to, like, get a tattoo?”

     

    A man named Steven at Skull and Crossbones Tattoo Parlor in Portland booked us a last-minute appointment for that afternoon. “He sounded very friendly, very … clean cut,” my mom decides as we pull into the parking lot. Steven, we immediately learn, is not clean cut. Every inch of his skin is covered in ink, including the backside of his shaved head, on which he has inscribed FUCK THE ESTABLISHMENT in gothic script. Whoever did the tattoo apparently didn’t realize how long the word “establishment” is when they started, because the word starts in the center of his skull and winds all the way around to his right ear, with the letters getting progressively smaller as they go on. (As he explains the tattoo process to us, I wonder if it was originally supposed to be a shorter word and he changed his mind halfway through: FUCK THE ESTUARIES? FUCK THE ESTATE TAX?) The parlor itself is grimier than I imagined it would be. The patrons look at us like we’ve come to shut the place down. “You guys siblings?” asks Steven, to which my mom turns bright pink and shakes her head.

    Half an hour later, my mom is curled up in the chair, her pant leg rolled up to her knee. Steven bends over her, with a needle that looks like something from Star Wars in hand. “Ready?” he asks my mom. She nods and slides her hand into mine. She is very ready; she’s given birth three times, she explains to Steven, and she’s been practicing Buddhist breathing techniques. “Pain is nothing to me,” she tells us serenely.

     

     

    A minute later I learn otherwise. “Fuck, oh shit shit jiminy FUCKING crickets, oh fucking knobface shitbag that REALLY DOES HURT!” Apparently, these are the words my mom uses when she’s in pain. She won’t believe me after, when she claims to have handled it “like a total trooper” and I tell her she absolutely did not. I took a video of it, though. One day, when she is very old and dignified, I’ll show it to her and ask what a “knobface” is.

    When we get home, we take off our bandages and compare tattoos. Mine is a delicate bundle of flowers (“very feminine, bro” my brother says) and hers is a fern. My whole family decides that hers is undeniably a better tattoo. Even my dad, who has been quietly bemused by the whole escapade, thinks it’s beautiful. My mom beams. “You know, ferns are the oldest, most resilient plants in the world,” she tells us. “You could do anything to them and they’d still find a way to grow. That’s why I got it.”

    “You know I have to get another tattoo now, right mom?”

    My mother and I are sitting in a cafe in New Haven, waiting for her mother — my grandmother — to arrive. She looks surprised.

    “Why?!”

    “Because it’s supposed to be like a crazy thing to do, where you do it without your parents knowing and it’s fun and impulsive and stuff.”

    “But wasn’t ours fun and impulsive and stuff?”

    “I mean, yes, but you’re my mom!”

    My grandmother walks into the cafe. I’ve always found it a little upsetting how much she looks like my mom: short blonde hair, bright green eyes, leathery German skin. I know exactly how my mom will look in 20 years if she starts wearing pearl necklaces and beige turtlenecks.

    We all hug and order coffee. My grandmother has crinkly grandma eyes. She asks me about my summer, and I start filling her in on all my adventures. I feel my mom’s foot pressing on top of mine under the table.

    “What do you think, should we tell her what else we did this summer?” she asks. smiling a huge, nervous, elementary school photo smile. Her face is bright red.

    “What, uh, what else did we do this summer?” I say. I feel very young and guilty. I feel like my best friend and I have just been caught doing something very bad, and we are about to get in big trouble.

    “Oh, come on. Screw it, let’s tell her!” (I am 100% percent sure this is the first time my mother has ever uttered the words “Screw it.”) She’s smiling even bigger now. Too many teeth. She’s positively giddy. My grandmother no longer has her kind grandma eyes; she’s a mother again, her eyes two slits, and we are her naughty children.

    “What did you do, Eliza?” she says quietly.

    Slowly, my mom pulls up the cuff of her jeans to reveal the fern. It runs from her ankle up to her knee, in black ink.

    “Jesus Christ,” my grandmother whispers. “Is that … permanent?”

    My mom nods, her eyes wide.

    “How … how did this happen?” my grandmother manages to say. Unsure of how literally to take this question, I pull up my shirt to reveal my bouquet: lavender, redcurrant, rose.

     

    “Jesus H. Christ!” she cries. She sinks back in her chair and sits in silence, her eyes darting back and forth between my mom and me. “Your father would have been furious, my dear,” she finally says calmly. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go compose myself in the ladies’ room.” She gets up to leave. “This is quite a shock you’ve given me, I’ll have you know.”

    My mom and I remain frozen in silence as she crosses the room. Our eyes meet and we explode in giggles. We pulled it off. The rebellion was successful, the tyrant overthrown.

    “Oh my god, Charlie,” she says, making excited little jazz hands. “I can’t believe we did that! What a fucking rush!”

     

  6. The Season

    Leave a Comment

    The acceptance letter is enclosed in a glossy red folder, the kind that shows sweat marks when you take your thumbs off. There’s a picture on the front, a group of friends cross-legged on a mowed lawn, laughing together. They’re all wearing bright red Hannity Prep sweatshirts, the crests on each crumpled a little where their bodies fold over; one boy rests his head on a girl’s knees, and his hand on his stomach covers the stars that outline the lion. They’re all getting grass stains on the sweatshirts, Maggie can tell. That means they have more in their closets, probably. Probably they wear them every day. Maggie would. Maggie will. Maggie could strip off her collared dress right now, in the third floor bathroom, could throw it out the window or hang it like a flag. She doesn’t. But she could. She almost wants to. She wants to draw the kids on the folder, until the wanting feels like something real.

    There’s a blonde girl in the picture who looks a bit like her, only this girl has dimples, and she looks older than 15, maybe. When the girl smiles it looks like someone punctured her face so she could hold all that happiness without bursting. Maggie learned a new word from “Macbeth” recently: incarnadine. To make something red, to be red, pinkish-red, like skin just before it bleeds, when the heat rushes up. That’s what Hannity’s like. Incarnadine. Always proving it’s more alive than everywhere else.

    But Hannity should stop making their folders so bright; it’s not fair, it makes them harder to hide. It’s a miracle Maggie managed to intercept it at all. Mom insists that they run The Season the same way in the winter that they always do, which means that most of Maggie’s school break is spent trailing a Swiffer across Victorian furniture, moving old photographs around until they look like they’ve been there since the inception of everything. The Season is open year-round, but no one ever stays in December. Maggie can’t remember a single time when they did. Mom still serves breakfast at 8:30 every morning, though, always orange juice and donuts and grapefruit. Enough Vitamin C to numb your mouth and enough sugar to sustain you on the beach, she always says, and it’s a beautiful day, and every day in Foxbury is a beach day, and that stays year-round, she says, that stays. Maggie thinks Maine is like a suction cup in the winter, stealing color; even the ocean looks faint.

    The Season’s slogan is “The B&B Where Time Stands Still.” Mom spends most of her time making it true. Maggie spends most of her time agreeing that it is, even when she’s smuggling bright red folders under chunky brown dresses and trying not to break the quiet, to seem too giddy, too incarnadine.

    ***

    Every Sunday, she and Mom drive around Foxbury in the Chevy, running errands for the week. In the summer, this means going to the laundromat to wash towels, renewing beach passes, checking the post office for magazine subscriptions, refreshing The Season’s brochures. In the off-season, they negotiate winter prices with local merchants, for things like orange juice and donuts and grapefruit. When David — Dad — was around, The Season shut down in the winter, but the three of them would still drive around like this, getting donuts only for themselves, whatever kind they wanted. The women at Willie’s Bakery loved him. He used to hum as he walked in, purposely off-key, some Rolling Stones song Maggie can’t remember the name of. The women at the bakery don’t love Mom, even though she hums the same song and smiles, and even though they know she was once David’s wife, before David left with Annie for Prague. She was once David’s girlfriend, too, before Annie was. Before anyone was.

    Maggie used to wonder why David and Mom ever married at all; he was so loud, and his voice echoed through the whole house. Guests used to tell him they’d woken up because of his singing, but they never minded. He was good at managing the house, because it used to be his family home, generations of Gallaghans living and dying in the same rooms, a trajectory even a toddler could trace. Mom was never good at running The Season, not decorating or cooking or talking to guests, but she loved it more than any of them. She used to say, to anyone who would listen: This place is more David than David is. Maggie doesn’t know what it is now, because it couldn’t have been that, or he wouldn’t have left.

    “How many donuts we need?” Mom asks Maggie now, parking in front of Willie’s.

    “A dozen, maybe? If it’s just us.”

    “You never know,” Mom says, as she’s been saying for three years, ever since David left and The Season became a year-round occupation. “What kind should I get?”

    “I don’t know. You pick.”

    “You always pick.”

    “Whatever you want is fine. Same with the bagels. Whatever you want.”

    After Mom leaves, Maggie turns the car’s heat off and rolls down her window, the way Mom hates, waiting for the wind to make her face tingle until she can’t stand the sting. Her eyes burn from the effort of keeping them open, and she begins to count to see how long she can last before blinking. Ten seconds. Fourteen. She watches kids pass, most of them her classmates from Foxbury High. One particularly large group emerges from the diner across the street, all nearly identical in their black fur jackets. They look nothing like the Hannity picture, their mouths firmly shut, squinting against the wind. But one of them stands differently, more upright maybe. Or maybe it’s just that Maggie could spot Kelly Owen from a mile away, her red hair peeking out from her hood, her nose pink from the cold. Her freckles look like snow that decided it couldn’t sting someone who looked like that, so it just landed instead.

    Maggie doesn’t really know Kelly Owen, because Maggie doesn’t know most Foxbury students, even though she’s always lived here. She tries to be nice — most kids can’t get past the dresses she wears. But one day last month, Maggie and Kelly Owen were in the girl’s bathroom at the same time, Maggie washing her hands, Kelly Owen applying red lipstick, and Kelly Owen said, “Why do you dress like that?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Like that. Like an old lady. Do you want to, or does your Mom dress you?”

    Maggie just stared at her through the dirt-spattered mirror; she was watching the way Kelly’s widow’s peak sat evenly between her eyes, how her lips turned inward the same way, how she never would have thought to draw something like that if she hadn’t seen it herself.

    “I don’t know,” Maggie answered finally, after Kelly lifted her right eyebrow.

    “It’s not a trick question. You don’t know what you want?” she asked, rolling her eyes. Her eyes were green, but not like grass. Maggie couldn’t think of a word for them. She sometimes thought high school was an attempt to pretend you could find the words for anything, because some words were never quite right and in a place like this, surrounded by graffiti on toilet stalls, you weren’t allowed to admit it. It was as though she’d finished a carton of ice cream and discovered it was boiling hot the whole time, sloshing and curling only once it reached her stomach. She didn’t say anything, just watched Kelly purse her lips, thinking of a word that would describe them. When Kelly finally left the bathroom, her eyebrows furrowed, Maggie drew her in her AP U.S. History notebook, on top of her notes about the Treaty of Paris.

     

    Ms. Degarsy, her guidance counselor, called Maggie into her office only a week after. Maggie had thought it would be a meeting about how she shouldn’t draw her classmates during lunch period. She was ready to tell Ms. Degarsy that this was how you made time stand still. She wanted to tell her that she was going to frame Kelly Owen against the bleachers like a Greek statue, the whole school crumbled around her. She sat in the guidance office, fingers stained with ink, wanting Ms. Degarsy to ask what her drawings looked like so badly the wanting didn’t feel like anything, so she couldn’t tell Kelly Owen about it.

    But instead, Ms. Degarsy asked her, “I’ve been talking to your teachers about your performance. Did your mother ever consider transferring you to private school? Somewhere like Exeter, or Hannity?” She passed Maggie a brochure that had been facing away from her on the desk. On the front was a photo of friends, laughing; Maggie realized at a glance that it didn’t fit the rule of thirds. There was something illicit about it. She watched the blonde girl’s dimple, almost horrified, like it was marble that had been smashed in. She wanted to touch it, to see if it would cut. It was a stupid want, but she wanted it.

    “Now, Foxbury is the one who pays me. But this is a place designed for students of your caliber, and I have the utmost confidence you would excel,” said Ms. Degasy. “I don’t think you want to stay in Foxbury forever, do you, Maggie?” said Ms. Degarsy. “You want to grow,” said Ms. Degarsy.

    Maggie thought of Kelly Owen, and how she didn’t know whether she wanted to wear Mom’s old dresses. “Yes,” said Maggie, which wasn’t quite the right response. Maggie looked down at the brochure again. Something about it made her stomach clench slightly, like it used to before she and David would go on a roller coaster at Six Flags, and David would say, Are you ready for it, never specifying what It was. It was the red, maybe. It was the kids, laughing about nothing. There was something alluring about even the way “Hannity” sounded, how the word dipped down in the middle and then found its way back up again. She touched the edge of the blonde girl’s dimple, creasing the paper with her fingernails. She could feel Ms. Degarsy watching her. There was no mention of the drawings.

    Now Maggie has two things she can’t tell Mom about. She wasn’t supposed to be drawing Kelly Owen, because Mom wanted her to paint a mural of The Great Exhibition for Room 301, and Maggie said she’d show her sketches this week. Mom loves The Great Exhibition, because people say it was the beginning of everything, but really it was just before everything began. A moment of absolute stasis. Time didn’t even stand still; time barely existed.

    Mom would never have stopped Maggie from applying to Hannity, Maggie knows, because Mom would never stop her from doing anything, not wearing lipstick or drinking the whiskey in the basement or touching Kelly Owen’s hair — not even that. After all, Mom didn’t stop David from leaving; she didn’t even try. But she might get bad again, if she knew Maggie wanted to leave, bad like that first Christmas without him, screaming at everything. All Maggie will be able to show her is red hair, and a folder, and she won’t have the words for either.

    When Mom returns to the car, she hands the donut box to Maggie carefully, as though there’s something fragile inside.

    “Since you didn’t tell me what kind you wanted, I just got the usual,” Mom says, patting her pockets in search of her keys.

    “Three glazed, three chocolate frosted, three chocolate glazed, three plain,” Maggie recites, a litany. She checks the receipt — no discount. The credit card Mom uses is still under David’s name. It’s only when Maggie’s fingernails dig into the “David” that she realizes her hands are shaking. Mom notices and frowns at the open window.

    “You’re going to get sick, darling,” she says. “Darling” used to be her nickname for David. Before, Maggie was always “honey,” or “peaches.”

    “I won’t get sick.”

    But Mom rolls the window up from her side, and she turns the heat back on full blast. Maggie doesn’t argue, because they’ve been here before. They got the same donuts last week, and only finished half. Maggie watches as the foggy window skates along Kelly Owen’s body, like it’s trying to wake her up.

    ***

    When they get home, Mom ushers Maggie into the dining room, insisting she show her something.

    “I found this footstool the other day, look. For the third floor.” She gestures to a small red-velvet object with gold tassels, embroidered with purple thread. Maggie thinks that it’s ugly, but that’s never the point with Mom. It looks like something out of a movie, the kind Mom used to make her and David watch, some black-and-white romance. And in those movies, you never see the color of anything, you just imagine, and the truth is that a lot of everything probably looked like this, red and purple and ugly. But Mom’s smiling, flushed around her cheeks, her lips parted. She hardly ever looks like that anymore.

    “We don’t need a footstool,” Maggie says, wanting to mar Mom’s smile without knowing why, “we have so many. They all look kind of like that, too.”

    “This can replace one,” Mom says, waving a hand. “Circle of life.”

    Maggie hums the song from The Lion King under her breath, still staring at the footstool. Mom laughs, delighted.

    “You’re just like Davey,” she says. She grabs a Swiffer from where it had been leaning against the mahogany table and begins to scrub at the floor, humming the Rolling Stones song, her mouth settled in a half smile. Maggie remembers the way she looked the Christmas after David left, yelling his own words into the tree, paper ripped, face flushed. Calling Maggie “darling,” saying she looked just like her father, saying she hoped they would both leave, because she knew they wanted to.

    David and Mom made The Season together. They took a crumbling family home and covered it in floral wallpaper. They wrote up a fake history for the brochures, to make the operation of the place seem older than time itself. It was started by Mr. and Mrs. Gallaghan during the American Revolution, the legend went, and served as a respite for war-torn soldiers and their families. It had seen more of history than history had, David would say, and Mom would say, that’s why the plumbing is bad, it’s cantankerous, and Maggie would repeat “cantankerous” under her breath, committing the word to memory. But when David left he didn’t want that history anymore. So the house kept it. They still use the same brochures.

     

    In the summer, there are children pacing between rooms, parents slathering sunscreen onto their backs. Now in the winter, there’s just waiting for David to call, waiting for Mom to lose it like that first Christmas, half hoping she will just so the quiet will end. Maggie remembers the shredded wrapping paper, remembers wondering if Mom will die in this house, not even that day, but someday, or if her screams will cause a burst in the pipes she worries about maintaining. Mom hasn’t screamed since. Maybe she’s afraid that if she does, she’ll never stop.

    “Do you want to visit David and Annie for Christmas this year?” Mom asks now, staring at the Swiffer as she moves it back and forth. She’s asked every year.

    “I don’t want to visit them.”

    “You can, though. You should. I can help you, I can book your flight.”

    “I don’t want to.”

    “You don’t have to be here during the winter. I’d understand. It gets dark here, but what can you do? You should go. I’m not going to go, but you should.”

    They’ve been here before, so Maggie says, “I want to stay here. It’s quiet,” and Mom looks up at her and smiles. That’s all it ever takes to appease her, a simple version of the truth, that Maggie is as afraid of loud noises as she is, that Maggie isn’t David, that Maggie also worries the pipes will burst. Maggie doesn’t say that she wishes they would, so she can stop thinking about it. It’s not quite the truth, not quite right, but it touches it.

    ***

    The third floor is the only part of the house that looks like a house, not The Season. There are boxes strewn everywhere this time of year, filled with old paintings that used to hang on the wall, with Maggie’s school supplies from third grade, with tax forms hidden behind photographs of an old Pennsylvania circus. The toilet doesn’t work, but there are still fresh hand towels in the bathroom. Maggie can never tell the difference between the paintings Mom takes down and their replacements. She hides the Hannity folder behind one of them now, a still life of an apple, a banana and a peach.

    When David left, the third floor became a project, the rooms an open invitation to stay busy. Mom finds footstools and frames old photographs. She asks Maggie to paint murals, and she buys lace bedspreads. A few days after David left, Mom turned his old prom tuxedo into a pillow; Maggie found her in the hall on her knees, hitting the sewing machine to make it go faster. That pillow waits in Room 301, a glaring anachronism.

    Maggie doesn’t know why David left, not the full story, only what he told her when he chose to tell her anything, an easy story about how he and Mom married young, and how they wanted different things. He didn’t mention that he was the only one wanting. Maggie thought, sometimes, that Mom had always expected him to go, and that she’d always been ready to choose the David that lived in the house, the David who was more David than David was.

    “You should go,” Mom once said in the middle of the night, loud enough that Maggie could hear. “This place is what it is! What can you do?”

    “It’s dead,” David said, quieter. Maggie could hear him anyway. “It’s a dead place, Mom and Dad died here, do you want to die here? In Foxbury? What the fuck are we doing, raising her in a haunted house? What kind of childhood is that?”

    “It’s a safe one! You had a safe one here, David. You are this place. This is Mr. and Mrs. Gallaghan, this is— ”

    “You know that’s not true, you know none of that is true. You know that.”

    Maggie was 12. She couldn’t have named what she wanted at the time if Kelly Owen had asked, but it was loud. She has a notebook full of drawings from those months, drawings of Dad packing, neat portraits. It’s stashed somewhere on this floor. Those portraits were time standing still, and they’re so fraudulent they’re almost comical. Maggie doesn’t want to wear these dresses. Maggie doesn’t want to freeze time. Maggie wants to draw Kelly Owen with her mouth open, laughing. Maggie wants to go to Hannity. Maggie wants to hang all the paintings in the house, new and discarded, next to each other, until she finds a difference between them, even though she knows none exists.

    ***

    When Maggie returns downstairs, she finds Mom in the parlor on the old landline phone, surrounded by boxes, punching in numbers. Every few seconds, a beep will sound, and she’ll hang up and redial. When she sees Maggie, she sets the phone down; Maggie can hear you are on hold. Your call is very important to us. Thank you for your patience… play against elevator music, muffled.

    “Do you know,” Mom says, “the amount of extra vegetables I have in the fridge? I always forget to order less this time of year. You should eat them. You should bring a friend here, and you guys can make a salad.” Maggie imagines inviting Kelly Owen to eat salad in the kitchen, with its granite island.

    Now is the time to say: Mom, I’m leaving. Or: Mom, your call is very important to us, you are very important to me and the pipes in this house are going to burst. Or: Mom, I want to wear red lipstick, I want to incarnadine, I didn’t know that’s something I could do. Mom, thank you for your patience, I think we should stop waiting, I think no one is coming to eat the vegetables.

    But before she can say anything, Mom says, “I want to redo the brochures.” She hands Maggie one of them, as though Maggie didn’t grow up hearing about Mr. and Mrs. Gallaghan, and the war, and history before history.

    “What do you mean?”

    “I want a new story. I think the reason we don’t see as many guests here in the winter is that the story doesn’t work anymore. It’s outdated.” She gestures to the boxes. “We can use these pictures.” Maggie opens one of them to find an old family photo album from when she was a baby; the front cover is a picture of Mom, David and some swaddled thing, a tuft of blonde hair covering her eyes. She flips through. Maggie at Disney World. David cooking eggs in the kitchen, before it had granite. David and Mom at their wedding. David and Mom in high school, David in his Foxbury High football uniform, Mom in a long skirt, shying away from the camera, looking frightened.

    “We can’t use these pictures,” Maggie says.

    “The problem,” Mom says, “is that right now, we’re not telling a family story. We’re telling a war story. It should be a story about our family. You’re practically grown-up now — it should be about all of us.”

    “Not this family. This isn’t — we can’t advertise this, because it’s not true.” The words aren’t right. But Mom doesn’t even blink, just nods, as though Maggie is making an argument she’s heard a thousand times before, as though she’s never screamed obscenities into the Christmas tree, as though she’s ever wanted anything that’s real.

    “That doesn’t matter,” she says. “When Davey and I wrote about Mr. and Mrs. Gallaghan it wasn’t true. People know it’s not true. They just like the story.”

    “I think people don’t like the story, because it’s not true. I think we don’t need a story at all. We don’t need to be open in the winter. No one’s coming.”

    “Do you want to leave?” Mom says, as she always does. “You can visit Davey. It gets dark. But it’s good for us, to stay open. There are always people who might stop by.”

    Now is the time to say: I’m leaving, Mom, but not for Prague. Now is the time to say: Mom, you should put on lipstick. Now is the time to say: Hannity’s off-season is the summer, and in the summer, things can grow. She doesn’t say anything. But she wants to. She wants the pipes to burst. She wants to kiss Kelly Owen. She wants to call David “Dad” again, she wants him to come back. It’s stupid, they’re stupid wants, but at least she wants them.

    She runs up to the third floor. She grabs the Hannity folder from behind the painting. She grabs her old notebooks too, the ones with Dad in them, and she takes her new one from where she keeps it in the bathroom. When she returns to the parlor, Mom’s still on the phone.

    Maggie opens the folder, to show the acceptance. She opens the old notebook, to show Dad as he was leaving, a lifelike rendering. She opens the new one, to show Kelly Owen, the sketches growing more and more frantic as she turns the pages. She says nothing, there are no words that are right. She wants Mom to understand anyway. She wants to ruin that tranquil expression that remains fixed on her face, wants her to scream, like she did before. She wants it so badly the wanting feels like it will kill them both. The house is so quiet. Mom says nothing, just looks at Maggie and smiles.

    “Congratulations, darling,” she says. “You should go. I’ll help you book a flight for a tour.” The elevator music keeps playing.

    You are on hold. You are on hold. You are on hold.

    Maggie says: “Can you just hang up, please?”

    Mom says: “Give it a moment.”

    Maggie says: “What are you even calling about?”

    Mom says: “I’m ordering more vegetables.”

    ***

    Maggie begins the mural that night. She starts with a pencil, drawing the outline of the Crystal Palace, the way it looks in her history textbook, all straight lines and easy curves. Once she begins to sketch the windows, she imagines the neatness of the image, how false it’ll be. She grabs the cans of paint under the bed instead and begins to trace a face in red, larger than life, over the roof of the building. At first, she thinks it’s Kelly Owen. By the time she reaches the chin, though, she knows it’s Mom, and she paints her as though she’s screaming, or smiling, face flushed, lips open. She paints her hair blue, dresses her in a long green gown, splatters yellow behind her, a swirl of yellow, then purple, then every color she has, a whole rainbow, and Mom in the middle of it, screaming, smiling, wanting. Then she throws the can of red paint over it all. The can crashes to the floor, paint dripping onto the hardwood. When she turns around, she notices that red has dripped onto the pillow Mom made, small drops on the edge of the tuxedo. Maggie runs her hands over it. Red, everything red, everything real.

    She wants to laugh. So she does. She can feel the house around her, stifling the sound.

     

     

  7. Announcing the 2013 Wallace Prize winners

    Leave a Comment

    Thank you to everyone who submitted to this year’s Wallace Prize in fiction and nonfiction. We are excited to announce the winning pieces, which will be published in the Wallace Prize issue of the Yale Daily News Magazine on April 22.

    NONFICTION

    1st Place:

    “The Lonely Hearts Club” by Sophia Nguyen ’14

    2nd Place:

    “To The North” by Juliana Hanle ’13

    3rd Place:

    “By the Grace of Bailey” by Christopher Peak ’13

    Honorable Mentions:

    “A Tale of Two Trails” by Sarah Maslin ’14

    “Locked Doors” by Andrew Bezek ’13

    “Strapped into Freefall” by Tao Tao Holmes ’14

    FICTION

    1st Place:

    “Where There is Everything” by Zoe Greenberg ’14

    2nd Place:

    “To Each His Own Odyssey” by Serena Candelaria ’14

    Submissions were judged anonymously by a panel of professors, writers and editors unaffiliated with the Yale Daily News.

  8. Announcing the 2013 Wallace Prize

    1 Comment

    The Wallace Prize is the most prestigious independently awarded undergraduate writing prize for fiction and nonfiction at Yale. Winners will receive a substantial cash prize, and winning submissions in each category will be published in the Yale Daily News Magazine.

    Submissions Procedure:
    Applications are available in the foyer of the Yale Daily News building (202 York St.), across the street from Jonathan Edwards College. Forms will also be available in the English Department office. Entrants must submit four copies of each piece to the Wallace Prize box in the foyer of the Yale Daily News building by Thursday, Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. No late entries will be accepted. Please do not put your name anywhere on the submissions except on the cover sheet.

    Judges are professionals drawn from the fields of academia and journalism, and have no connection to the News. The specific division of funds will be distributed to the top winners according to the discretion of the judges.

    The Fine Print:

    • Each submission must be between six and 20 double-spaced pages in length.
    • Each entrant may submit up to three previously unpublished pieces of fiction or nonfiction.
    • By unpublished, we mean that pieces may not have been printed in any campus or professional publication. Winning submissions have been disqualified in past years for failure to comply with this rule.
    • Special to nonfiction: The Magazine reserves the right to revoke the prize from a recipient who has not made reasonable attempts to uphold professional standards of accuracy. After winners have been selected, the Magazine may request to see notes on sources and research for the piece.
    • All undergraduates currently enrolled as full-time students in Yale College are eligible to enter except: 1) Previous winners, 2) Members of the Yale Daily News staff who actively recruited this year’s judges.
    • The Yale Daily News Magazine will print winning pieces as written. All submissions will be considered to be in their final, finished form. The Magazine reserves the right to disqualify pieces with numerous grammatical and spelling errors.
    • All work will be published under the writer’s real name. No awards will be given to writers who wish to publish under pseudonyms.

    The Wallace Prize is awarded annually in memory of Peter J. Wallace ’64, a former member of the Yale Daily News editorial board. It is endowed by the Peter Wallace Memorial Fund and is presented in conjunction with the Yale Daily News Magazine.

    Questions? Email ydnmag@gmail.com