YARN http://yareview.net The YA Review Network Fri, 14 May 2021 19:36:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.17 The FINAL Post http://yareview.net/2019/06/the-final-post/ http://yareview.net/2019/06/the-final-post/#respond Thu, 06 Jun 2019 12:00:13 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9790

“End” © Laura Williams McCaffrey

All good things must come to an end — 

And so we’ve reached the end of our 2019 season, as well as the end of YAReview.net. Thank you to all our submitters, all our writers, all of the many people who’ve put in the time and love YAReview.net has required. It’s been a pleasure to celebrate storytelling with such a devoted group. If you missed the initial goodbye from our current editors, click here

We’re leaving up our many fabulous short stories, poems, essays, and interviews, so people can continue to enjoy them. Keep writing, and keep supporting storytellers!

The story about teens and drugs from darknet

It’s also the story of how carefree youths buy ecstasy pills on the internet and don’t care about anything … you can see some examples here: Green Triangle Pill, Pink Domino Pill, Blue Fortnite Pills…etc

The YARN Editors

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Say Hoo http://yareview.net/2019/05/say-hoo/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/say-hoo/#respond Tue, 28 May 2019 12:00:24 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9781 In this final fiction story of the 2019 season, Meg seeks meaning and love. 

By Jaime Leon Lin-Yu

Meg fell in love with his handwriting, which was a combination of cursive and block print. She felt it exuded intelligence and kindness—and a playfulness that tugged at her heart. She had read somewhere that you can learn a lot about someone from their handwriting, and Shawn’s was no exception. From the lower swoops of his y’s to the straight backs of his d’s, Meg could tell Shawn was earnest, thoughtful–and lonely.

He had been new to their school that autumn and had initially kept to himself. Meg sat beside him in AP Bio. They never exchanged more than a couple of shy smiles. She sometimes saw him chatting with her best friend Paul in the parking lot, but beyond that, she did not think much about Shawn. Later, when Mrs. Reynolds took over for Mr. Allen, Meg began to glance at Shawn’s notes whenever she missed something. Mrs. Reynolds spoke quickly and breathlessly, as though she was going to forget the day’s lesson if she didn’t spit it out fast enough. Meg could barely keep up as she tried to scribble every fact thrown at her. At night, she squinted as she leaned in to read her notes. Was that “b” or “d”? “Exodermal” or “endocrine”?

After a while, whenever Meg could catch Shawn’s eye, she would gesture to her paper, look back at the board, and raise an eyebrow, as if to say, “What does this all mean?” Shawn would smile, nod, and sometimes roll his eyes. Soon their shy smiles turned into real conversations both in school and out.

That summer Shawn went away to camp upstate. He confided to Meg how much the place meant to him. It was a chance to escape his step-brother’s homophobic taunting, his sister’s pot haze, and his step-dad’s misogyny: “Remember, if she’s on the rag, you still have a chance.” Mostly Shawn said he needed a break from his mother’s face. Her laugh lines had turned into roads to nowhere, her eyes red-rimmed as she crushed her cigarette into the many ashtrays lining the countertop.

“Envelope” © Randall McRoberts http://www.flickr.com

While at camp, Shawn wrote to Meg almost every day. Long letters full of humorous anecdotes and doodles of rabbits and chipmunks with an occasional bobcat thrown in. Sometimes his handwriting was pristine, the paper crisp. Other times it was crumpled, his handwriting askew, as if he had fallen asleep mid-sentence. Meg loved those messy letters the best; it was if she was the last person he spoke to before bedtime, when all his defenses were down, when he was at his most vulnerable and innocent.

Every day Meg ran outside as soon as she heard the putter of the postal truck. The humid air was thick, and sprinting to the end of the driveway felt like swimming in invisible sludge. The thrill of finding a flat letter with her name in the box was often the highlight of her day—and that happiness sustained her on the days when the mailbox was empty. By August Shawn’s letters had become somber. He worried about his return home: the start of their senior year of high school, impending college applications, and how uncomfortable he was in his house. He just hated all the smoke! And the sexist crap from his step-father…It was just gross. Shawn couldn’t wait to leave for college; all he had to do was make it through senior year.

Meg assured him they would do it together.



The first time Shawn met Meg’s parents, his white oxford shirt had a fine line of grime at the cuffs. His pants were held up by rope, knotted Boy-Scout style. He said, “Yes, please,” and “No, thank you,” and ducked his head a lot. Meg’s mother dismissed him as soon as she saw his blond hair. Bai-ren, she had muttered under her breath. Meg’s father rolled his eyes when Shawn admitted he—at age 17—did not have a clue what he wanted to do with his life. He just wanted to be “happy.”

“Happy won’t put food on the table or keep a roof over your head,” Meg’s father said. “When I left China, I had 50 dollars in my pocket, worked as dishwasher and newspaper boy to put myself through grad school.” He glared at Shawn, and then at Meg. Later Meg overheard him mumble to her mom, “Who is this kid? I thought Meg had better sense.”

Ashamed, Meg avoided Shawn for a week. She refused his calls and ducked into the girls’ room if she saw him in the hallway. Finally, Shawn caught up to her at her locker.

“What’s wrong? Did you get a B on a test?” Shawn paused thoughtfully, then blurted, “Are you angry with me?”

“No, no…don’t be silly,” Meg said, twisting her hair around her finger. Guilt made her realize that he was just a kid; her father had no idea how kind Shawn could be or how sensitive. Unlike her parents, Shawn always asked about her day and seemed to remember every story she ever told him. Grades and ambition weren’t everything. It’s possible her father was wrong about him.

So, when Shawn mentioned his entire family would be away that weekend, Meg didn’t hesitate to suggest they hang out at his house instead of meeting Paul at Coney’s on Saturday. Shawn stared at Meg as he repeated, “My family won’t be home.”

Meg nodded. “I heard you.”



The air in Shawn’s room was damp, thanks to the window he had opened just a crack. If asked now, Meg would not be able to recall what song had played on the stereo, only that it was some 80s and 90s alternative jam that could have included the Cure, Depeche Mode, or the Smiths. Shawn had over a hundred CDs, crammed into his closet-sized room. His bed was actually in his closet, fitted into the corner to accommodate a desk, dresser, and a modest bookshelf.

Meg would remember the pain the most, mixed with disappointment and ruthlessness. In that moment she hated Shawn, hated how he made her hurt, hated how thoughtful and tender he could be. If he smiled at her one more time, she silently — and violently — swore to punch him. Sex with Shawn was awkward, cold, and worse, his feet smelled.

She should have seen the signs then: the way his hand held hers too tight, the hugs that lingered too long, and his big eyes magnified in the dim light. She closed her eyes to the adoration, afraid to fall and drown. Her father’s words hovered outside of her conscious mind, even though she tried to shoo them away. But even without her father’s words, Meg knew Shawn was not the one for her. He was right for right now, but for forever?




Meg didn’t want her dad or her mom to teach her how to drive. Her dad would probably sigh with impatience and her mom would complain of a headache—a direct result of having to deal with Meg. She had been taught from an early age that any trying and failing had to be done privately, out of sight. Her parents could only bear to see success, so Meg turned to her best friend Paul. Could he teach her to drive, so that by the time she took the test with her mom in the backseat, it would appear she had been born with a steering wheel in hand?

“Driving” © david reid http://www.flickr.com

“I can do you one better,” Paul replied. “I will make you look as if you could parallel park in your sleep.”

Meg laughed, relieved that once again Paul was coming to her aid. Since they were ten years old, he was her family in ways that her own was not.

So, Paul took Meg out on the weekends. Meg told her parents they went to the library, which was true because the library parking lot was large and often deserted, the perfect place for driving lessons. Meg guessed they believed she was studying, but they never asked.

Paul was a good teacher, patient and funny. Meg was a good student, conscientious, observant, and dedicated. Within a couple of lessons, she was performing K-turns without blinking an eye.

“Ready to tackle the streets?” Paul asked. Meg nodded and smoothly turned onto the street and headed to the highway. She rolled down her window as Paul turned up the radio, singing at the top of his lungs. He caught Meg’s eye and she let out a whoop. The sun was shining, the roads were clear, the music loud and she was with her best friend. It didn’t get better than that.

Paul directed her to the next exit and to Coney’s for a snack. “I’m hungry.”

“You’re always hungry.”

Paul bought them milkshakes, which they drank in the quiet of the car.

“What’s new with you and Shawn?” he asked, slurping the last of his drink.

Meg took a long pull before answering. She wanted to tell Paul about her new status with Shawn, but she couldn’t form the words. It wasn’t because sex was a taboo subject with them. In fact, the summer night when Paul lost his virginity, he had walked to her house afterwards to process his feelings. When Meg and Shawn first kissed, she had called Paul afterward to share. But now, talking about Shawn and sex felt dangerous, as if telling Paul would tip the scales of her life.

“Everything is good,” she finally said. “My parents still don’t like him.”

“They don’t like anybody,” Paul replied.

“I don’t think they even like me and they’re supposed to.” Meg chuckled and Paul nodded. He understood.

“Well, Shawn seems happy, happier than before,” he said. It suddenly occurred to Meg that Shawn could’ve confided in Paul, and she worried that her omission would be regarded as a betrayal. She studied Paul as he leaned back in his seat, but he seemed relaxed, not a single muscle was tense.

“Yeah, stuff at home really gets to him,” Meg said. “All that crap with his step-dad.”

Paul looked at her. “I mean it, Nut-Meg. Shawn really cares about you. You make him happy.”

Meg turned her face towards the window. She wanted to tell Paul that she was trying, that she wanted Shawn and her to reach towards something together, some kind of dark, indefinable unknown…but that it seemed useless, or maybe she didn’t know how, and he certainly didn’t know how. Meg ached to tell Paul that there was something wonderfully elusive, something that she desperately wanted, but it was something she couldn’t have, not with Shawn. Perhaps not with anybody.

Instead Meg looked at her best friend and said, “Nut-meg? You’re the only one who calls me that, you know.”

Paul grinned. “And that’s why you love me and I love you.” Suddenly Meg felt like weeping; a large ferocious wave hit her from the inside, but she took a breath and sat straighter in her seat. She turned the key in the ignition, making the engine come to life.

“Let’s go,” she said. “Don’t you have date with Stacy tonight?”

Paul nodded. “Speaking of which, I know you don’t like her.”

“I never said that.” Meg checked for traffic. “I just said she’s not my cup of tea.”

“Well, she happens to be mine.”

“I know.”

Paul unfolded his long, left arm and let it rest behind Meg. She leaned into it, enjoying the soft hair of his arm against her bare neck. “We get each other,” Paul said.

Meg nodded. They really did.



On the last day of school, Paul announced they should burn their school uniforms in his backyard. It wasn’t his most outrageous idea, but definitely a silly one. After Paul produced a tin drum, he and Shawn happily threw their ties, navy slacks, and polyester crew neck sweaters in. Meg followed with plaid jumpers and white shirts with Peter Pan collars. She furtively kept the tie with the mother-of-pearl clasp in her underwear drawer back home, purely for sentimental reasons.

Paul sprinkled gasoline, and Shawn lit a match. Meg said a few celebratory words, watching as Shawn’s match hit its target. Flames leapt quickly, surprising all of them. They each took a step back, Shawn protectively stepping in front of Meg. Paul smirked at Meg, clearly amused by the chivalrous yet unnecessary gesture. She made a face back at him.

They did not hear Paul’s father until he was practically on top of them.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“I used a tin bucket. Perfectly safe,” Paul explained. Black smoke curled into the air. All three kids peered over the rim; the smoke came from Meg’s jumper, which had not burned like the rest of the clothing, but melted instead into a congealed mess, sticky and black.

“That’s not natural,” Meg whispered.

“I can’t believe you wore that,” Shawn said as Paul’s dad cuffed Paul.

“Whose idea was this?!”

Paul defiantly lifted his head, meeting his dad eye to eye, having finally reached the same height: six feet. “It was mine…Francis.” Paul dramatically invoked his father’s Christian name as behind him Meg and Shawn gasped, waiting for the ax to fall.

Strangely it didn’t. Paul’s father studied all of them before shooting them a death glare. He ordered them to clean it up and threatened that the next time he saw Paul do something stupid, he wouldn’t be so easy-going.

Paul turned to Meg and Shawn. Relief washed over them as they simultaneously broke into big grins, followed by a fit of giggles…until Shawn reached into the tin drum without tongs and burned the tips of his fingers.

Later, giddy, the kids burst into the safety of Paul’s room where Paul immediately turned the stereo on. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by the Beatles flooded the room. As if seized by a good idea, or at the least, an exciting one, Paul turned to Meg. He glanced at Shawn. “Should we share this new joke we learned with Meg?”

Shawn, who was about to flop onto floor pillows across the room, froze, his eyes dangerously bright. “No, that’s not a good idea.”

“What joke?” Meg asked as she peered into the mirror above Paul’s dresser to retie her ponytail.

“What kind of sound does an owl make?” Paul asked, ignoring Shawn. He hovered close to Meg, almost jumping out of his skin, as if ready to show-off.

“lips” © Nadja Varga http://flickr.com

Irritated Meg turned around and started to say, “Hoo,” when Paul’s mouth approached hers. Meg had a nanosecond to either step away or stay still and be kissed. A picture flashed in her mind, one that didn’t make sense, but felt right. It was of a large glass fluted bowl, something her mom might purchase for a housewarming gift. She knew she had to hold it carefully so that it wouldn’t break. This moment was like the bowl, and so Meg stayed still, waiting as Paul’s lips touched hers. He leaned away, giggling, leaving Meg stunned. He had kissed her. For a moment the room turned white. Meg reached for her face to make sure her mouth was still attached. His lips were really warm. Meg told herself not to move until she could see again. And when she did, she resumed fixing her hair and went to sit beside Shawn. She punched Paul’s arm as she sailed by. Paul yelped, grinning, seeming to be utterly pleased with himself. Meg turned to Shawn, wondering what he had thought of Paul’s little joke, but before she could ask, Shawn pulled her against him with an uncharacteristic fierceness that caused a jolt in Meg’s chest.



A couple weeks later, Paul invited Meg and Shawn over for dinner. In the kitchen, Paul stirred a pot of tomato sauce on the stove. He threw a towel over his shoulder as Meg sat perched on the edge of the table, drinking a diet Coke, an indulgence her parents rarely allowed. Shawn finished washing the glasses and turned to Paul. Two fingers on his right hand—thumb and forefinger–were wrapped in gauze. His hand was still healing from when they had burned their uniforms.

“What else do you need?” Shawn asked Paul.

Paul dipped a spoon into the pot to taste the sauce. “Could you go to the basement and grab another onion for me?”

Shawn nodded as Paul asked Meg to set the table for four. Meg frowned. “You expecting someone?”

Paul didn’t look at Meg when he replied. “Stacy.”

Meg groaned. Before she could complain again how she believed Stacy was using Paul to make her ex-boyfriend jealous, Shawn grabbed Meg’s arm. “Come help me find those onions!” He looked over his shoulder. “Be right back!”

In the dusty basement Meg scowled as she cradled two large onions in the crook of her arm. She turned to give one to Shawn. “Why’d you drag me away like that?”

Shawn didn’t answer the question. Instead he moved closer to her and said softly, “So I could ask you, what sound does an owl make?” The dim light moved slowly over his face. He must’ve bumped the light bulb with his head.

Meg relaxed, her irritation with Paul fading as a smile spread across her face. “You can’t fool me.”

Shawn grabbed her shoulders gently. She held the onions between their stomachs. “Hoo,” he said softly.

Meg looked up and—to her embarrassment—sneezed. Shawn giggled. Meg laughed. “Let’s try this again.”

“Say hoo.” Shawn’s face looked incredibly young in the darkness, soft and wondrous. Meg closed her eyes and pursed her lips.

“Hoo. The owl says, ‘hoo.’”



In the morning, Paul and Shawn waved to Meg from Paul’s red Volkswagen, ready to make the five-hour drive to Shawn’s camp. Paul planned to spend three days with Shawn and would return to flips burgers at Dick’s for $8.00 an hour while Meg would catalog books at the local library four days a week.

Meg and Paul’s last summer at home wasn’t supposed to be exceptional, unless you counted the fact that it was their last summer together. Paul seemed to expect to kill the hours working and hanging out with Meg, with an occasional date with Stacy in between. But Meg had an idea.

Lying on Paul’s bed, resting her bare feet on the headboard and staring at the ceiling as Paul chatted about his day, she was not quite sure she wanted the summer to idly wander by. She wanted to mark it, make an occasion. Much like the way they had burned their uniforms on the last day of school. She wanted to burn an impression into herself—and into Paul.

“Do you miss Shawn?” Paul asked suddenly.

Meg lifted her head. “Yeah. It’s weird not having him around. I got used to the three of us.” She didn’t mention the sweet relief that Shawn’s absence brought, the welcome break from the constant hand-holding, which was usually his hand—sometimes dry, sometimes sweaty–groping for hers. Who knew hand-holding could be exhausting?

She sat up, still mulling over her idea, looking around the room that was almost as familiar as her own: the slightly off-color crown molding, the almost bald patches of carpet, the pine trees swaying outside, and the corn fields beyond that. The familiar sights of her hometown that had been her home yet didn’t feel like home. She thought about her idea again. What the hell? she thought. Why not? As she slipped her feet into her sneakers, she blurted, “I have a proposition.”

“Intriguing.” Paul’s blue eyes lit up, looking bluer than ever, if that was even possible. “Go on.”

“A road trip. You remember my cousin Shelly? We could go down to her place at the shore for a weekend. My aunt said it was okay to visit anytime.”

Paul grinned, but then narrowed his eyes. “Your parents okay with this?

“Sure. Shelly is family.”

“I get to meet the infamous cousin Shelly.”

“You met her already.”

“When I was thirteen. This is different. We are different.”

“So you keep saying.” Meg stood. “Pack your bag!”

Paul jumped up and hugged Meg. “Let’s hit the road, Jack, uh, Jackie!”



Sometime between graduation and their road trip, Paul–as Meg teased–“found his groove.” He let his hair grow long enough to brush the collar of his shirt, the ends curling ever so slightly, and he started to date women from the local community college. Although she was happy that Stacy had disappeared — Meg fought the urge to gloat, “I told you so” — Meg was vaguely unsettled every time she arrived at his house to find him flush-faced and triumphant as compact cars driven by blond and brunette girls backed out of his driveway minutes before Paul’s parents returned home.

“Paul,” Meg warned, but Paul waved her concerns away, as if to say, it was the summer! Time to live!

Meanwhile Shawn—true to his word—continued to send letters almost daily to Meg. Instead of running to the mailbox, Meg would find the letters waiting for her, tossed carelessly onto the dining room table by her mother.

“Another letter, huh?” Meg’s father sniffed. Meg ignored him as she settled in after a day at work. She took a sip of water, casually changed into a pair of shorts and a fresh t-shirt, then circled back to the dining room to finally claim Shawn’s letter. This afternoon she closed her eyes and made a silent wish before ripping open the flap: Be different. Be hopeful and funny, like you used to be. Meg tore the edge of the envelope and slid the paper out. Shawn’s words were earnest—awfully earnest. By the time she reached the sign-off, the air in the room had disappeared. She took the letter upstairs to her room where she threw it onto her desk with the others, grabbed her sneakers, and headed outside. When she felt like this, carrying those cringy words inside as they twisted and turned like worms with nowhere to go, the only relief seemed to be pounding the pavement, each step chanting, “Away, away, away.”



On a weekend in mid-July, Paul arrived soon after dawn. He cut the engine and glided smoothly into Meg’s driveway. Meg watched from her bedroom window as Paul wiggled out of his Volkswagen Rabbit and stood, hesitating. He squinted at the house, clearly wondering if he should ring the doorbell. Meg rapped on the window, pantomiming that she’d be right down. Relief seemed to wash over Paul. His body relaxed as he leaned into his car.

Meg flew down the stairs. The family dog Dee-dee barked behind her, trying to follow as she did more and more of late, as if she knew Meg would be gone for good soon. Meg pushed Dee-dee back into the house, ignoring her twinge of guilt and affection for the old girl. She was already out the door as her parents tried to hold her back with reminders and rules, but soon she was free on the open road, Route 22 connecting to I-95 via the New Jersey Turnpike.

“Number One.” Paul laughed handing Meg a map. There were dots of sunshine on her lap, and her bare feet were tucked under her.

“Yes, sir,” she said in her best Star Trek voice.

“Make it so!” He turned up the radio and they were gone.



Meg had always adored her older cousin Shelly. Shelly had a way of being that was both casual, yet intense. Her voice had a low, rumbling quality from years of cigarettes surreptitiously stolen from the corner store. She burned incense and wore rose quartz and amethyst stones in a small black pouch around her neck, underneath her shirt. Her boyfriend Thomas, who was studying in Ireland, had given it to her, so that she would always be protected by his “love.” With Shelly, Meg also felt protected, safe under the umbrella of Shelly’s experience and street smarts.

When Meg hugged Shelly, she could feel the hard lump of Shelly’s crystal pouch right above Shelly’s breasts. Shelly held Meg long and tight, and whispered in her ear, “I’m so glad to see you, cuz.”

Paul waited impatiently, his foot tapping, his fingers spinning at his side. Meg could not tell if his jitters were from the four large Slurpees consumed during the two-hour drive or Shelly’s presence. Shelly smiled at him as she released Meg. She reached up to give Paul a huge hug. Paul bent over like a broken cattail, reminding Meg of all the times she hugged Shawn, who usually bended at the knee as if Meg were a small child instead of his eighteen-year-old girlfriend.

Shelly finally released Paul, who staggered and blinked. She grabbed Meg’s hand, and Meg grabbed Paul’s and they laughed, their hands squashed a little too tightly, maybe held a little too long, but in this instance, Meg liked that.



Meg was excited when she saw American food on the table. Aunt Alice and Uncle Ken made Cobb salad with Ken’s super-secret dressing that was sweet yet vinegary and highly addictive. They ate cold pieces of roasted chicken dipped in a tangy mustard sauce and hard-boiled eggs and chunks of Manchego cheese accompanied by large glasses of lemonade. Meg sighed, leaning back in her chair to gaze at the blue and white striped umbrella above them. This is how summer should be.

Aunt Alice made a bed for Paul on the couch in the family room downstairs. Meg followed Shelly to her room, where they would share a bed like they had so many times before.

As they undressed, Shelly threw her old bathing suit at Meg.

“I can’t wear this,” Meg said. “Your boobs are huge.”

Shelly rolled her eyes. “Don’t be a pooper,” she said. “Let’s go swimming.”
Meg pulled on the bathing suit, tying the halter top as tight as she could and followed Shelly downstairs.

Paul was already by the pool in a lounge chair, pretending to read the newspaper by moonlight. “Ladies!” he said as loudly as he dared, which was no more than a stage whisper. “What took you so long?” Shelly jerked her head towards Meg and rolled her eyes again as Paul grinned appreciatively.

Meg was surprised to see him there. He should have been tucked into the couch snoring, his long lashes curving away from his cheeks. She wondered when Shelly and Paul had the time to privately arrange this illicit swim. In the moonlight he loomed large, shadows of hair falling across his chest and back.

Now by the edge of Shelly’s pool, Meg sat on the steps, dangling her legs in the shallow end, watching Paul approach Shelly in the water. An owl cried in the distance.

“Shelly, what sound does an owl make?” Paul asked suddenly as Meg’s stomach did one slow flip-flop.

Shelly splashed water on him and swam playfully like a mermaid. She tossed her hair. “I don’t know. What kind of sound?”

Paul splashed after her.

Shelly swam closer.

“Let’s play Marco Polo!” Meg announced, standing now, ankles in the water.

“The owl makes this sound,” Paul swam in circles around Shelly. She let him get closer.

“Hoo,” Shelly whispered.

Meg turned and splashed onto the concrete, adjusting the front of Shelly’s old suit over her non-existent boobs.



“Harvest Moon” Paladin27 http://www.flickr.com

Upstairs in Shelly’s room, Meg shivered and stripped quickly. She pulled one of Shelly’s old cotton nightgowns over her head and nudged the curtains slightly apart. The moon was high now and almost full, allowing Meg to see one dark shadow circling the pool, like a shark. But there was no prey to close in upon. Shelly and Paul were more like dolphins, gently, subtly brushing close against each other, floating around the perimeter of the pool.

“Hoo-hoo,” an owl called.

They were graceful, moving with the waves that they set in motion. Shelly and Paul, intertwined, then pulled apart, two hovering shadows that slowly merged into one, slow-dancing to the music of the suburban night, full of crickets, car stops and accelerations, teens cruising the strip, and the occasional TV laugh track drifting from a neighbor’s open window. It filled Meg with a wanderlust so great that she contemplated bursting out of the front door; and running barefoot; practically throwing herself into the street, each pebble gouging itself into the arches of her feet; jumping to avoid broken glass shards…but there was nowhere to go.

It occurred to her that she shouldn’t be watching, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away. Later, after Meg had seen enough, she heard splashing onto concrete, the quick slip-slap, and then the rhythmic soft squeaking of the rubber raft. Shelly and Paul, making love under the almost full moon, fullness between them, long and soft. Meg didn’t need to look through the window to see Shelly’s legs wrapped tight around Paul’s waist or the dreamy look in his half-closed eyes or their lips swollen and red. It was full, they were full.

Meg wrapped herself in a thin sheet and reached cautiously into her underpants to find wetness. She matched her rhythms to theirs.

They were full, full, full. She was full, full, full.



Meg felt the bedsprings shift, slowly and delicately, as Shelly slid into bed. She smelled unmistakably like Paul, a smell that Meg knew as well as her own. It was a combination of musky sweat, grass, slight tobacco (which was crazy because he didn’t smoke), and some kind of sweetness. It was a boy smell.

Meg flipped over and opened her eyes, letting her pupils adjust to the dark.

“Hey,” Shelly whispered.

“Hey,” Meg answered.

Shelly sighed.

“Where’s Paul?” Meg had to ask.

“On the couch.” Shelly tucked her arm underneath her head and closed her eyes. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“You didn’t. I was still up.” The moonlight bathed the end of the bed, making the embroidered flowers on the comforter glow with an eerie light.

There wasn’t much left to say after that. They both dozed in and out of sleep, Meg fitful with anxiety, and Shelly restless with lust or tenderness, Meg could not tell. Later Meg liked to think it was tenderness. And maybe for all intents and purposes, it was.



Back home, for the rest of the summer, Meg would call Paul, only to be told he wasn’t home. He didn’t have to tell her that he was with Shelly; she just knew. Whatever happened that weekend with Shelly had been filed away into a vault that Meg hadn’t realized existed until now. It was where things they didn’t want to share or talk about went. For the first time, Paul and Meg started to avoid each other. When she wasn’t at work, Meg spent her free time at home, pacing up and down the hall from the kitchen to the living room, around the back of the kitchen and to the foyer.

“Stop it,” her mother commanded, lying on the couch, a cold compress balanced precariously on her forehead. She had another migraine that day.

“Do something productive,” her father said from his corner of the living room, seated at a desk full of bills. “Why don’t you start packing for college?”

Meg wandered through the kitchen, pausing at the sink full of dishes. She pulled on a pair of yellow rubber gloves that came to her elbows and grabbed a steel sponge. After attacking a burnt frying pan, she paused, looking out the bay window to see the pine trees waving, the cumulus clouds moving swiftly across the mountains.

Paul appeared in the backyard, behind the swing set rusty from neglect. Meg blinked. It was as if she had manifested his appearance simply by thinking of him.

Meg dropped the gloves into the soapy gray water. She found her flip-flops by the back door and approached Paul slowly as one would approach a skittish colt.

“How’s Shelly?” she asked, without any pretense. She was about to admonish him for sneaking off to Shelly’s without telling her but bit her tongue instead.

Paul read her face, and blushed. “She’s…fine.”

The tops of the grass tickled Meg’s ankles. Maybe she would mow the lawn later; that would make her father happy. “Great.” She paused. “She hasn’t returned any of my calls or letters.”

Paul reached into his pocket. “She enlisted.”

“What?” Meg wanted to ask a million questions: What about college? What about her parents? What about her boyfriend Thomas in Ireland? But the single syllable of ‘what’ seemed potent enough, ready to light a keg of explosives.

Paul pulled his hand out and opened it, palm side up. Shelly’s crystal pouch.

“She wanted you to have this,” he said.

As Meg took it, Paul did an unkind thing. “She was just up here, you know, spent the night.”

Meg looked down; a prick of hurt bloomed in her chest, making it difficult to speak or even look at Paul. When she finally looked up, Paul said, “But she’s gone now.”

“Oh.” Meg opened the pouch to find Thomas’s “love” stones: rose quartz and amethyst. They were cold on her palm.

“Envelopes” © Kevin Steinhardt http://www.flickr.com

“It was important to Shelly that you have these,” Paul repeated. Meg got the idea that Shelly was trying to foist them on to her, the way one gives away a favorite sweater to a friend with the hopes of borrowing it later.

“Shawn’s coming home tomorrow,” Paul said. “I talked to his mom.”

Meg nodded. She had tried but couldn’t make herself read Shawn’s most recent letter. It felt too heavy, weighted by desperation. It remained unopened on her desk.

Paul stuffed his hands into his pockets. Meg’s father waved at her from the bay window, impatient.
“I’m not going to say I’m sorry,” Paul blurted.

Meg heard an insistent tapping and looked up; her dad, again, pointing at her and back at the house. Meg looked at Paul, as if to say he should go. Yet Paul didn’t move. Finally, Meg sighed. She stared at her oldest friend. “I don’t expect anyone to.”


Jaime Leon Lin-Yu has a BA from Bryn Mawr College and an MFA from Mills College, where she received the Marion Hood Boess Haworth Prize for YA fiction. She was a twice resident fellow at Hedgebrook, and attended Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference on the prestigious work-study-waiter scholarship. She was also a part of the Emmy-winning writers’ team at “One Live to Live.” Her work has appeared in the anthology “Philly Fiction,” SoapNet.com, ABC.com, Seattle Weekly, Full Grown People, haveuheard.net, AsianAvenue.com, and most recently in 2018 anthology “All the Women in My Family Sing.”

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Fathered-Less http://yareview.net/2019/05/fathered-less/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/fathered-less/#comments Sun, 26 May 2019 12:00:10 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9600 Fathered-Less by Javoun Baker I don't even come home anymore dad,// I learned that same thing from you [...]]]> By Javoun Baker


“Kid at the beach” © T. Ron Scott (https://www.flickr.com/photos/sigma316/6706156839/)

I didn’t grow up without a father,
My father grew up without me.

Youngest of three kids raised in the projects,
Around 6 gangs who wanted power and deep pockets.

I was abandoned.

My legacy?

Another hopeless black man,
imprisoned to this town house I’d call a sanctuary,
Mom hustling 3 jobs finding ways to take care of me,
“I cooked food for the week, go to bed by 9, finish your homework and turn off the TV”
I obeyed.

But see,

My father only came for 5 birthdays, 4 graduations, out of 3 kids.
1 wasn’t his,
Ain’t give a damn about what she did.

My brother?
Honor roll student,
High scholar,
He was more a father than my own father,
Taught me all the ropes,
Gave me inspiration even dreams and hopes,

My sister?
Another mother,
Who’s nature is to smother,
That was stressful enough, I didn’t want another.

Here’s the wound that didn’t heal with that knife you carved in it.

You fucking abandoned me,
I was left hopeless to go learn how to be a man for both you and me,
I never had the luxury of having my dad teach me ball,
A father showing up to my games to pick me up when i fall,
Not even a “You tried! Great job son.”

Absolutely nothing.
At all.

I was embarrassed to go to teacher conferences because I didn’t want the teacher to ask where my father was,
I didn’t even want the word parents to be uttered by anyone around me, because of how ashamed I was.

You did the most selfish thing anyone can do

You didn’t bother to water the seed you brought upon this earth

You made my mom work 10 times harder because of your lack of self worth.

You moved to New York in hope of a better life with more pay, a bigger house, and more wives.

That backfired, and my mom still nurtured you.
All the times I needed to be nurtured,
I was neglected by both her and
I was the rusty trophy passed down from generations that got shelved behind all the other notable achievements.
I found myself in lawless pathways full of
echos and broken mirrors,
with only the ability to feel the crippled staircases,
barbed wire,
surrounding every step i place my foot delicately on

I had no guide, I had no eyes.

Staring outside into a world full of chaos, my only canvas was the storefront full of gang graffiti next to broken fences and police cars

“Black kid drawing on clear plastic, Los Angeles 1986” © Gilbert Mercier (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gilbert_mercier/21876678942/)

A boy can dream.

I longed for days i would wake up and see you at the door apologizing for leaving me in a scorching fire of fear
I was sensitive to everything around me because of you,
I got made fun of for crying when a kid hit me because of you,
I wanted to take my own life at the age of 11 in hopes of a newer life because of you.

A rose from concrete.

It was February,
I had to leave school to fly to New York to go visit you in the ICU.
My mom bawling her eyes out shoving clothes in her suitcase.
I can’t help but cry when the strongest person in your life can’t even fathom what’s happening.
At 3 AM in the middle of New York
I saw you on that bed,
I wish I could’ve told you how much I hated you then, for putting me through torture you did but I wanted you to feel it.
A blackout as the doctors called it.
Internal bleeding with intense damage to the skull.
It’s quite amazing I remember those exact words and felt absolutely nothing but disgust when seeing you helpless on that stiff bed.
It was my sisters birthday too, what an amazing present to wake up too.
You’re always trying to find an excuse.

I didn’t realize it then, but I would never get to talk to you ever again.
You stayed in that coma for 4 months straight,
it almost felt like you were avoiding me,
You did a damn good job too.
4 months in a slumber you would never wake from.

The rebellious era.

I started selling weed dad,
I wanted to make money but most importantly to show you I was more of a man than you,
I don’t even come home anymore dad,
I learned that same thing from you,
I started kicking it with the kids from
the block mom warned me about,
The ones who would tell me if you say a word, i’ll cut your tongue out,
I almost lost my life that year too dad,
Someone tried to kill me
but we handled that in silence,
I can’t say a word about the violence.

Out of mind.

Who knew a quarter ounce of weed would have me end up in an alternative school, a step away from jail.
Expelled for trying to rebel, and make money for myself just to flaunt in the clothes I couldn’t afford.

“Street deals.” © Neil Moralee (https://www.flickr.com/photos/neilmoralee/45065521665/)

I was forgotten all over again.
Exiled by my own family, my friends.
I had nobody, and the only people who understood were the people at that school.

A school of “nobodies” who knew nothing but mayhem and trouble.
A bunch of forgotten students who’s only hope was being dead or in prison.

But would you believe me
if I said I felt like I was at home?
I had no one to impress, I had no one to look forward to after a day of school, I became my own joy.

I hate to play the blame game but i’m blaming this on you,
sure I committed the actions, but you told me to.
You gave me every answer I needed for the questions that remained unknown.
I followed your advice with precision and strife.
Sell to the customers by day, re up by night.
That way your hands stay clean and your money is out of sight.
I had it all figured out, no new friends, no
loose ends.


Javoun Baker is a writer and actor from Waukegan, Illinois. Brought up and raised in a place of grief, struggle, and violence. As a first-generation Jamaican and the youngest of three kids, work ethic was the most important thing to Javoun Baker in regard to being successful. Pursuing acting at a young age until finally receiving his first debut on Chicago PD, his second semester of senior year in Waukegan High School in 2016. In Javoun’s poetry, you will find that many of his pieces are topics people are afraid to admit or express, but always itching to talk about. A dying love to capture photos in his life from his experiences and use writing as a way for readers to visualize it. For every poem there is a story, and every story is true.

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My Second Home http://yareview.net/2019/05/my-second-home/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/my-second-home/#comments Thu, 23 May 2019 12:15:49 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9724 This is a bittersweet post - a FINAL essay on YARN! But it's a fitting finale, by teen writer Kinu Blackwelder - exactly the kind of young reader and aspiring writer YARN set out to spotlight.  ]]>

Take the next step towards buying your second property

Whether you want to sell your current home and move elsewhere, or add to your property portfolio, you’ve got a couple of options to help make it easier. Your existing home could even help you with your next deposit. Take a look at how to get started and the things to keep in mind.

Buying another property

You’ll need another home loan, but you might not need another deposit – you could use the equity in your existing home instead. This will depend on the value of the second home and the amount of equity you hold in your first property, plus the purpose of your new property.

Investing in a rental property

This can be a smart financial move, but there’s a few things to think about – like which areas have high renter demand, and the fact that you’ll pay investor interest rates. Your Home Lending Specialist can talk you through your options.

Getting a holiday house

Getting a loan for a holiday house is a bit different to other home loans. To find out if you’re eligible, you’ll need to speak to your Home Lending Specialist.

Selling and moving house

If your next deposit is more than the funds from the sale of your house, you’ll need to chip in some cash as well.

Make sure you’re ready for any changes to your existing expenses. Think about how much you currently spend on your mortgage repayments, insurance, maintenance, rates, commuting and other costs. Compare this to your new repayments to make sure moving is the right decision for you.

Simultaneous settlement

Same day, simultaneous settlement is ideal. It’s when the sale of your current home and the purchase of your new home happen on the same day, so the funds just move from one loan to the other. It also means you won’t have to pay two mortgages at once, or rent a place in between selling and buying. Talk to your Home Lending Specialist and settlement agent to see if they can help you make it work.

If it’s not possible, your Home Lending Specialist can help you look into other options – like bridging finance. This is a short-term loan to cover you in between selling your house and buying your new one.

Things to keep in mind

There are always costs involved when buying and selling properties – things like bank, settlement and transfer of land fees, plus stamp duty. Take a look at our guide to upfront home buying costs, and estimate buying and selling costs with our home loan fees calculator.

Getting the right information from the beginning can make the process a lot smoother. Think about:

  • Talking to your Home Lending Specialist
  • Having your current home valued by an expert
  • Checking out different neighbourhoods you’d consider buying in
  • Researching the local market you’re interested in.
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Face Down http://yareview.net/2019/05/face-down/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/face-down/#respond Tue, 21 May 2019 12:00:44 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9766 Jojo thinks his life is mapped out, until he ends up face down.

By Denise Lewis Patrick

“You better not let that school call here about you being late. I’ll tell your mama. Go on now, you imp!” Jojo’s grandmother said, getting in a good whack with her dishtowel. He gave her one of his sly grins and ducked out, letting the screen door slam behind him.

“And don’t be slamming my expensive door!”

“Bye, Gran!” Jojo didn’t even stretch his lanky legs as he rounded the corner. Like she would tell anyway. He knew he was the favorite grandkid. Unlike the way she rode his cousin Calvin’s case all the time, Gran let him get away with little things now and then. Like deliberately rolling out of the house five minutes later than he should to make his English class on time. Or blowing his entire allowance on a one hundred percent cotton, authentic Hawaiian shirt and matching Jordans and then borrowing from Gran to take a girl to the movies. Calvin called him “Slick J.” Jojo kind of liked that.

Jojo slowed his steps more. It was practically the end of the year, he was making straight A’s, and school had gotten boring. Besides, he’d only be missing homeroom.

His stomach grumbled. Although Gran’s sausage-scrambled eggs and grits had hit the spot, he had a taste for something to top it off. Maybe a couple of the fresh fried donuts from Miss Ida’s Luncheonette downtown. Everybody knew that on Wednesdays Miss Ida Watkins left her seat at the cash register empty so that she could deliver meals to the sick and shut-in members of Galilee Baptist Church. Her eagle eyes wouldn’t be there to mark Jojo as Melba and Clyde Williams’ boy, who ought to be in school. That meant he could duck in, order, and bounce out before either that clueless waitress or the ancient fry cook paid any real attention.

“baked donuts” © wenday 😀 http://www.flickr.com

Jojo made a detour. Miss Ida’s was completely out of the way, on a narrow little street called The Back Court. Her yellow, wood framed building with the squeaking screen door was tucked near the Parish Courthouse. It was one of the last black owned businesses in that part of town, along with a barbershop and a messenger office. Gran sometimes told stories of how The Back Court got its name: a wealthy white plantation owner got elected judge, and couldn’t take the thought of leaving his cook out in the country while he was sitting on the bench. So he set her up a few blocks from the courthouse with a kitchen and sleeping quarters upstairs. Miss Ida’s aunt’s cooking was so good that other judges and lawyers and townsfolk got wind of it. Her business boomed, and she taught her niece everything she knew. And she made enough money to buy that building.

Jojo had first gone to the luncheonette with his father when he was six or seven, and he not only loved the food—he was excited by the energy of the whole neighborhood. Cops, deputies, lawyers, judges…Chatot was a small town, but it was the parish seat. Anybody who was anybody with any business had to come through. You could catch bits of barbershop gossip, crime gossip, and just plain gossip on The Back Court.

Some of Jojo’s more sports-minded friends thought he was a little crazy to like watching cop shows and to find excuses to hang around a place like this, listening. His cousin Calvin was the only person he’d confided in as to why: These were the people who changed lives, for good or bad. Maybe, just maybe, Jojo would become one of them. Maybe he could be a lawyer at a criminal law firm himself, one day. And straight-arrow Cal hadn’t laughed or called Jojo out. He’d just looked thoughtful and said, “Go ’head on, then, Cuz!”

Jojo hit The Back Court at about eight-thirty. He had made good time. Things were pretty quiet as he looked up the slope from the luncheonette toward the marble-columns of the courthouse several blocks away. Probably most people were inside, getting ready for early court appearances. Yes, Jojo sometimes read the small print pages in the back of the Chatot Times that listed such things.

The luncheonette was hot and sticky inside, but the scent of cinnamon and fried dough overrode Jojo’s discomfort. He ordered two and a paper cup of their bad coffee, leaning on the counter.

The counter stools were empty, as were all the booths except one. There was a sandy-haired crew cut in a faded business suit hunched over the table, talking in low tones to a round-shouldered black guy with a shining bald head. Jojo could see sweat glistening at the back of the guy’s neck. He wondered for a second what that was about, but then felt like it was out of order for him to even look. He hoped they were at the beginning of something and not the end, because the vibe coming from them wasn’t good.

“Two-fifty.” The waitress rang up the sale and slapped Jojo’s two quarters into his palm as she handed over the grease-spotted brown bag.

“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. Jojo grabbed his bag, smiled, and hustled out.

In those few minutes something had changed. There was a commotion in the direction of the courthouse. Sirens began to wail. Jojo turned away from the sounds and headed through Parlorville, a white section of town where the big old houses set back from the street always seemed to be staring. When he was a kid and they drove by, he could’ve sworn that there was a face in every window actually staring out. But nobody else in the car ever seemed to see what he saw.

Years before that, his father said, Chatot black folk risked getting shot if they lingered too long on the sidewalk. But this was 1986, and most of that stupid stuff was over now, with people—especially kids—coming and going as they pleased. The neighborhoods were still mostly separate, but a few years ago the town had built a cool new high school right on the border straddling Parlorville and South Lake, the black community where Jojo and his family lived.

Jojo bought fake money on https://deepwebnotes.com/.

Jojo finished off his donut and crumpled the bag, looking for somewhere to toss it. Parlorville’s corners had neat wire trash baskets that never overflowed. He checked his watch. Damn, almost nine! He had to speed up to make English, because there wasn’t enough charm in the universe to get out of trouble with that teacher.

He sprinted toward the trash basket and couldn’t help doing a spin and slam of his bag and cup. Was it his imagination, or had the sirens gotten louder? Jojo’s right sneaker caught on the basket, and he tripped.
The sirens were right upon him. They were deafening.

“Police Badge” © CPOA http://www.flickr.com

“Hey, you! Freeze!” Jojo looked over his shoulder to see one marked car skidding to a halt at a wild angle near the curb. A second one shuddered to a stop right behind it.

Jojo was pushing himself up.

“Didn’t I say freeze, boy? You can’t hear me?” The cop getting out of the first car had unsnapped his holster. His hand was on his weapon.

Really? A gun? Jojo’s brain was wisecracking but he wasn’t sure if his legs would actually hold him up anyway.

“Officer, what—”

“Shut up! Spread eagle, right now!” The cop kicked Jojo onto his side. His face scraped against something sharp on the concrete as he stretched out his arms and legs. He was trembling from the inside out.

“What you doing this side of town?”

The second cop, who Jojo could not see, sounded more amused than serious. “You up to no good? Huh?”

“I—I—”Jojo’s mouth went dry.

“Huh? Answer me, boy!” the first cop yelled.

“I’m just on my way to the high school!”

“You mighty late, aren’t you?”

“Yessir!” Jojo cursed his donuts, and his mind began to function again. What were they after? Why hadn’t they just asked him whatever it was they wanted?

The radio crackled from one of the cars. Cutting his eyes hard to one side, Jojo saw a woman’s orthopedic lace-up shoes and pale ankles. A yappy dog began to bark, and its four furry legs came into view. A female drawled from the radio.

“One-nine? One-nine, theft suspect from the courthouse apprehended on Degan Avenue. Repeat, suspect in custody.”

Degan. A street across town. Jojo rolled his eyes at the crazy of it all.

“What’s your name, boy?” the first cop asked.

“Officer, can I get up?” Jojo spoke into the sidewalk.

“Oh, let him up, Phil,” the other cop said.

Jojo eased to sitting. Everything felt surreal. He blinked dizzily, his cheek burning. Something wet was on his face. The little round woman let out a kind of squeaky noise and Jojo looked at her. He should have known by her shoes, he told himself. Mrs. Russo, retired middle school history teacher. Jojo rubbed his face and looked at his bloody fingers.

“Jerry Williams!” she said. “I declare!”

Jojo wanted to say so many things. In his head though, he kept hearing his grandmother talking about “cracker policemen,” and his father talking about respect: “Give it, expect to get it back.” He decided to smile at Mrs. Russo as he unfolded his body from the ground.

She had turned to the first cop. “Phillip Gooden, I demand to know what is going on here!”

Officer Phillip Gooden went red in the face, and the other cop had quietly backed away to his vehicle. “Well, Mrs. Russo—we got a call about a black boy who—”

“Phillip Gooden, does Jerry look like a criminal? I’d say less than you did, when you were his age. Is a criminal carrying a book sack and eating donuts?”

Jojo raised his eyebrows in surprise. Mrs. Russo nodded calmly in his direction, then continued to school her other former student.

“I was witness to everything from my living room window, right over there.” She pointed to one of the wide-porched old houses that Jojo had passed by for years, then looked at Jojo. “And I called Melba.”

Jojo had forgotten that Mrs. Russo and his mother had served together on some kind of teacher panel once. His shoulders slumped. He hadn’t even begun to figure out how he was going to serve this story to his parents. One less thing to worry about now.

“Jerry, who should have been at the high school in his first period class—” she paused to give Jojo a hard look— “was sauntering along, minding his donut, when you two created all this noise.”

“Mrs. Russo, we were just following up a lead…”

Jojo found his voice again. “Could I ask what the thief dude looked like?”

Gooden shrugged. “Black kid. Skinny. Real dark, wooly head, ripped jeans—” he stopped short.

Jojo glanced down at his knee length red shorts and cocoa brown legs. He purposefully ran his hand over his close cut, impeccably lined fade. “So you mean he didn’t look anything like me. We’re just both black.”

Officer Gooden shifted on his feet. “Look, kid—”

“Oh, now I’m kid? Not ‘boy?’” The respect thing had gone completely out  of Jojo’s consciousness.

Mrs. Russo put a hand on Jojo’s arm. “Jerry,” she said.

Jojo watched a confused frown pass over the policeman’s face, as if the Jojo he was seeing in that moment was not the same Jojo he’d forced to the sidewalk, and neither of them was the skinny black boy who’d stolen something from somewhere around the courthouse this morning.

“Mistaken identity,” Officer Gooden murmured.

Just then a dark blue Ford truck pulled up behind the police cars. Jojo’s father, all six-foot-four, two hundred twenty pounds of him, got out. He moved smooth as always. His crisp gray uniform and polished-as-hell black boots were strangely similar to the policemen’s uniforms, and he surely walked with the same authority. Jojo wondered what electrical wiring job he’d had to leave in progress to get there.

Gooden pushed at the brim of his hat. “Is that Clyde Williams?” He did a double take at Jojo. “This is your son?”

“Phil, what’s up?” Jojo’s father slid his sunglasses off and reached to shake the police officer’s hand.

“Misunderstanding,” Gooden said. He glanced at Jojo. “Looks like we both went in kinda the wrong direction today.”

Jojo was trying to figure out if a whole tone change was really happening, or if he was imagining it.

“Um hmm.” Clyde tilted Jojo’s chin with one of his big hands. “You okay?” He didn’t say anything about school.

Jojo nodded. “I’m sorry, Pops.”

“Yes, well you need to go get that cut looked at. Everything straight here, Phil?”

“Yeah, we’re straight.” Officer Gooden flipped his notebook closed. Mrs. Russo and her little dog had strolled away. Jojo followed his father to the truck. He didn’t ask how Gooden and his father knew each other, or from where.

“You know this could have gone sideways in a hot minute,” Clyde said.

“I know.” Jojo’s cheek had begun to throb. He leaned back on the seat, drained as if he’d played three quarters straight on the basketball court. His face hurt.

Could that cop really not see any difference between him and the other kid? Lots of black people Jojo knew, including his grandmother, would say “No, and you know why.”

But what if it wasn’t only that Gooden didn’t see any difference between two black boys? What if he didn’t care? Why would he ever choose to be a cop, then? Jojo began to wonder how much stuff happened because no adults, black or white, really understood what they were doing or why they were doing it. He didn’t want to turn into that kind of adult.


“What’s on your mind?”

“Nothing,” Jojo mumbled. His entire head began to hurt.

They rode in silence to the doctor’s office.

The next day, everybody at school thought Jojo’s three stitches made him look like a wanna-be rapper—or a pirate. His mother and father agreed that he could say that it happened while he was practicing shots in the backyard, one awkward move.

Jojo repeated the story over and over during the final two weeks. He was glad that he’d blown off the junior prom and even more relieved that he wasn’t exactly hooked up with a girl, or his lie wouldn’t have flown.

Only Cal had matter-of-factly reminded him that when they’d left his yard the afternoon before the cop thing, his face was in one piece. Jojo finally spilled the whole story.

“A gun, over a donut? That’s way too intense, man!” Cal shook his head.

“And he didn’t even have to fire it to seriously mess me up. He couldn’t even see me till Pops rolled up. It was like, you gotta be somebody to be somebody…” Jojo’s voice trailed off.

Cal was quiet for a minute. “Could’ve messed your whole life up.”

Jojo didn’t say anything. Until then he’d never considered that in real life if you didn’t have a name or identity, you were a nobody. You had no power. You didn’t exist. And to some people, maybe you never did.



Donuts to gun to face down.

Jojo was replaying the sidewalk scene in his head for maybe the hundredth time on the first morning of his summer job as he rode his bike up Chatot’s main street, Magnolia Boulevard.

His heart sped up as he relived his own anger over the cop’s confusion when he had to admit that Jojo wasn’t simply a random black person after all.

He pedaled harder up the incline as Magnolia branched off, and he was on the old highway north of town, heading for Benson’s Lumber Company. Ages ago there had been only a few houses, farm stands and fields, but now along with Benson’s there were a couple of businesses, a drive-up barbecue joint, and the very sketchy “Miss Livvy’s Hair and Nail Salon.”

He was distracted from the seriousness of his memory by the neon sign of Miss Livvy’s, which was always blinking and missing the “H.” The gossip in Miss Ida’s was that Miss Livvy wasn’t quite advertising all of her services in that sign. Whatever she did in there, she didn’t spend much money on upkeep. The wigs on stands in the big picture window looked tired, and the gravel parking lot had disintegrated into sand that blew every which way whenever a car pulled in.

Jojo was huffing a little bit now. He slowed as he neared Miss Livvy’s. The grass behind and beside the parking lot looked like it hadn’t been cut in weeks. And what was that, thrown just out of sight at the back corner of the peeling cinderblock wall? He sucked his teeth at the idea that somebody would come all the way out here to dump trash.

He squeezed his handbrakes and stopped. Very slowly, Jojo pedaled in a wide curve until he was about ten or twelve yards from the building.

It looked like…it was… a person. A brown, naked woman was lying on her stomach in the grass, and she was not moving. Was she asleep just like that? Jojo stared for only a few seconds at her hair. It seemed matted and dusty like those wigs in the window.

She was dead.

He looked away. A sour taste, his breakfast grits turned nasty, rose up in his throat. He gagged and turned his bike unsteadily, wheels crunching in the sandy gravel as he picked up speed toward Benson’s. He zoomed into the loading gates, threw his bike down and ran inside looking for his uncle, Calvin’s father.

“Uncle Cal! Uncle Cal!”

A handful of white yard workers, including the Benson sons, were clustered around the coffee counter near the office, breaking their conversation only long enough to thumb Jojo toward the cutting area where his uncle was already measuring hardwood planks before cutting them to size for an order. He took one look at Jojo over the top of his square black glasses and stood straight up.

“I–I need to use the phone, Uncle Cal!” Jojo gasped. Glancing back at the coffee group, Jojo lowered his voice. “I know it’s my first day and everything, but I saw something and I have to call the police. Please. Where’s the telephone?”

“Venice, CA” © Magnus Wrenninge http://www.flickr.com

His uncle stared at him hard. “First you go clock in like I showed you. Then go to the office and tell Caroline you got an emergency.” He paused. “Just what did you see?”

Jojo swallowed. “A woman’s body, over there behind Livvy’s. Somebody killed her, Uncle Cal.”

“Whoah, now. Wait a minute.” Uncle Cal looked over Jojo’s shoulder as he dug in his pocket and fished out some change. “Don’t you say that to the police. You don’t know. You just tell them what you saw. Hear me?” He handed Jojo the coins. “And you go use the pay phone over by the lavatories.”

Jojo nodded. “Yessir.” He hurried to do what his uncle said. He’d never called the police before. The receiver slipped in his sweaty hand as he wondered whether to dial “911” or “0” for an operator. He decided on 911. Mistake.

“What’s your emergency?” A brisk voice asked.

“A girl… a woman…there’s somebody laying out behind Livvy’s, and she’s not moving. I think something’s wrong,” he blurted.

“Is that Livvy’s out on Old Highway Six?”


“You say she’s not moving? She sleeping?”

“No! No. I—I think she’s dead.”

“Dead. Who is this speaking, please?” The voice was more interested. “And where are you calling from?”

“Um. My name’s Jojo…I mean, Jerry James Williams. I’m at Benson’s Lumberyard. I was on my way to work.”

“How old are you, Jerry James?”

“Sixteen. Listen, I—”

“And you say the person is dead. Do you know—”

Jojo cut her off. “I don’t know anything. Could you just send somebody? Please?”

“We’ll send somebody out. You meet them at the scene.” Click.

Jojo left the receiver dangling by its cord and walked in slow motion past the office, past the guys who were now staring at him, past Uncle Cal. He picked his bike up and got on without brushing the sawdust off.


Three cars pulled up this time, and to Jojo’s dismay one of them was driven by Officer Phillip Gooden.

Donuts. Gun.

“Well, look who it is.” Gooden said it like he and Jojo were best friends, or at least knew each other.

That was when Jojo felt a spark of hope that he was wrong about what he’d seen, that he’d made a stupid guess—but the spark was brief. He knew in his heart that he was right—the girl was not alive. He felt in his heart that something bad had happened to her.

“What have you gotten into now—” Gooden pulled out his notepad, but Jojo’s eyes followed his hand to make sure it wasn’t going toward his weapon— “Jerry?” Gooden smirked.

“Say you found a body?” A younger cop asked, sounding much more official than Gooden. “What time did you ride by here?”

Jojo ignored Gooden. “Around eight. I have to clock in at Benson’s by 8:30.”

“Okay, Jerry. Show us,” Gooden demanded. He moved to the front of the group alongside Jojo with the others following. And why couldn’t at least one of the handful of Chatot’s black cops be in the mix?

“What made you even notice anything?” The young cop asked, catching up with Jojo.

“I took the hill real fast, and I got winded so I slowed down. I was thinking how high the grass is, and then I thought somebody had dumped some trash…”

“Probably some of Livvy’s trash,” one of them mumbled.

Jojo jerked in his direction, because it sounded like he was making some kind of joke. His expression didn’t seem to deny that, but no one else took the bait.

“She’s right over there.” Jojo led them around the building. He hung back so he didn’t have to see again.

Gooden knelt.

“Black female. Definitely gone. Bobby, get the coroner up here. Looks…looks pretty young.” He didn’t touch her, and he quickly turned away and stood up.

She was still face down.

Jojo sucked in a breath. What was her name? Where had she come from? What was she doing here at Livvy’s? Why wasn’t she wearing clothes? Who did that to her?

Gooden gave Jojo a dismissive nod and headed toward his car.

“Wait!” Jojo called after him. “Don’t you need to search the area? Shouldn’t you wait for Livvy, or call her and ask her some questions or something? You didn’t even look to see—”

Gooden spun on his heel. “You a bona fide police officer now, Jerry?” All the other officers stopped as if they sensed Gooden’s tension. His face was as red as it had been in front of Mrs. Russo, and it hit Jojo that this time he didn’t have a Mrs. Russo.

“She ain’t nothing but a prostitute, Jerry, and this ain’t one of those cop shows on TV,” Gooden snarled. He adjusted his belt and holster to help make his point.

Jojo clenched his jaw, shaking his head. He tried to roll it back, tried to be calm. But the girl lying there didn’t have Mrs. Russo, either. Or Pops. All she had was Jerry James Williams.

“So, you mean just ‘cause she’s a nobody to you, you don’t care about finding out the truth of things? Is that it?” His voice rose in fury. “She’s somebody’s daughter or sister, Officer Gooden!”

Again, Jojo saw a flash or a flicker of some emotion other than anger pass over Gooden’s eyes. Then it was gone, and the man waved the other officers to their cars. He gave Jojo a head-to-toe pass that maybe was supposed to be intimidating. Jojo returned the same. Behind Gooden, he saw the young officer taking something out of the trunk of his patrol car.

“Uh, Boss—I’ll secure the area till the coroner gets here,” he said.

Gooden slammed into his car and led the retreat. There were no sirens.

Jojo thought his head and heart might explode. This dead girl was just another prostitute to Gooden. He’d been just another black kid. How could men like his father and Uncle Cal walk in the world every day never knowing the moment a white man would, could, reduce them or their sons or wives or daughters to nothing? To just bodies? To nobodies.

How could a man like Gooden live with himself?

“michael” © David Robert Bilwas http://www.flickr.com

Jojo was trembling again as he went to his bike. He waited to see the police cars disappear down the other side of the hill, though he knew that he had to go back to the job. Then he turned back to see the young cop carefully covering the girl with a gray tarp.

That’s when Jojo knew all the way through his bones that whatever it took, one day he would become a cop. He would be the man who stayed, who asked the questions. He would choose to do right by people, and he would know why: because the truth of things mattered. Because the truth was that everybody—dead or alive, black or brown or white—should count as a somebody.


Denise Lewis Patrick grew up in the South but now lives in the Northeast. She has written over 30 books for humans of all ages. Her work includes picture books, biographies and historical fiction, as well as poetry and short stories. Her YA story collection, “A Matter of Souls” (2014), is published by Carolrhoda Lab. When she’s not creating with words, she’s creating with visual art.

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Nocturnal Paramour http://yareview.net/2019/05/nocturnal-paramour/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/nocturnal-paramour/#respond Sun, 19 May 2019 12:00:40 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9593 Nocturnal Paramour by teen poet, Sydney Bebon She was careful not to startle the smoke // scared of what she might see [...]]]> By Sydney Bebon

Nocturnal Paramour

“Smoke” © Centophobia (https://www.flickr.com/photos/centophobia/3457876862/)








She lived in red velvet booths of
     rooms filled with the brrrrrrum tum tum of a tum of a trumpeter
          and pretty little things that sang in smoke
She gleamed like light on liquor
     In warm viscous seductions of
          lifted brows, grasping hands, and swollen lips
She was careful to move in tune with the music
     that curled slow and sweet
          that wisped through the air and disappeared
She was careful not to startle the smoke
     scared of what she might see
          if she strayed from the rhythm
     if the smoke cleared
if the music stilled in the air
     the sweet

Sydney Bebon is eighteen and high school Senior at Deerfield Academy, In Western Massachusetts. Born and Raised in New York City on the bustling Upper West Side of Manhattan, she is inspired by the lives and stories of New Yorkers. In the last two summers she has attended Writing Workshops at Columbia University and The School of the New York Times. She is currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Albany Road literary and arts magazine, where her work has been published in recent years.

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When Monday Met Friday http://yareview.net/2019/05/when-monday-met-friday/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/when-monday-met-friday/#respond Wed, 15 May 2019 12:00:03 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9753 When well-planned Monday meets spontaneous Friday…

By Mary Innerst

“It does not Envy” © AJU_Photography http://flickr.com

We’ve all known a Monday. No matter where or when you went to school, she was there. She was the girl bounding into the classroom at 7:54, without fail, every morning, giggling and babbling on about what she had done the night before in her just-barely-high-enough-to-be-annoying voice. She radiated a seemingly supernatural kind of energy, the kind of energy that, at any other time may have been exhilarating, but at 7:54 made us all squint our eyes and press our foreheads to our desks, hoping to heaven she would just shut up. Monday was the girl who would raise her hand two minutes before the bell with a “didn’t we have homework due today?”

Monday was the girl whose clothes never quite matched the event she was attending but never seemed to notice or, in fact, care. Like that time she wore blindingly white New Balance sneakers under her prom dress. We all admired her for her confidence and surprisingly adept moves on the dance floor, if not for her taste in footwear.

No one could decide if Monday was pretty or not. She had a shocking sort of beauty about her, although I can’t say she was shockingly beautiful. She was a lightning bolt striking a tree kind of beautiful, the kind of beautiful that makes you feel afraid yet undoubtedly in awe. Her eyes were blue. Or green, depending on what she was wearing. The potential beauty of her eyes was overshadowed (or should I say under shadowed?) by her mouth. Behind the thin lips lurked the largest teeth any of us had ever seen. Her look was topped off by a great mop of copper wire curls; pretty, if a little wild. Although we had doubts about her beauty, Monday certainly never did. She thought she knew she was beautiful, and took every opportunity to flirt with everyone, and yet never got around to dating anyone. I suppose she just liked to hear herself talk, and did so with anyone who had a functional ear.

We all knew run-ins with Monday were inevitable. We’d dread the moment she would blow into the classroom, and she did so every day, without fail. Monday never missed a class. Or a presentation. Or the opportunity to disruptively blow her nose during an exam. Between classes, she would seek out someone to talk to, like a flat-toothed lioness on the prowl. She would home in on one unfortunate schoolmate, trapping them beside their locker or the water fountain, and the verbal deluge would commence. Conversations with Monday seemed to last forever, but once the bell had rung and you watched that curly head bob away, a strange sense of accomplishment lingered with you throughout the rest of the day. Hell, the rest of the week.

Throughout the years, we learned to accept our Monday, for her flaws as well as her occasional charms. Then, one memorable day, Monday met Friday.

It was first period, two minutes before the bell. As was her custom, Monday confidently raised her hand, unaware of the intense glares from the rest of us. She was going to mention a certain test planned for tomorrow that we were convinced our teacher had forgotten about. Her mouth opened but she was only able to let out a squeak before the door slammed open, interrupting her.

© Elijah M. Henderson https://unsplash.com/photos/1Wyv1eWKCy0

It was then that Friday sauntered into the room. The girls’ eyes bugged out of their heads and the guys sat up a bit straighter as he grinned at the teacher, then looked around the room expectantly, like he needed the attention of everyone present before he spoke.

“Hey, sorry I’m late. They just transferred me in here.” He flopped down into the nearest available chair, flipping a dark shock of hair off his forehead. His knee began to bounce like he was listening to a secret song that only he was allowed to hear. An audible sigh was heard from all the girls, that is, except Monday. She stared for a moment, her lips pursed so tightly they almost disappeared completely. She was no doubt trying to decide whether to attempt to flirt with Friday or scold him for interrupting her. Instead she turned to Wednesday, her best friend. Wednesday was not quite as loud as Monday, but just as annoying. They put their heads together and whispered briefly before Monday raised her hand again. The bell screamed out before she could speak, and she huffed indignantly as everyone filed swiftly into the hallway. I felt sorry for the poor victim she would target for a little chat that day. They would undoubtedly get an earful.

As the rest of us packed up and left, Friday stayed where he was, obviously nonplussed by Monday’s disapproval. He sat with his head bent close to his phone, probably texting Saturday or Sunday. They were his best friends, his “homies.” They were chronically truant, usually only managing to show up when a party or dance was taking place. Friday was a bit different, though. Sure, he liked to party, but he didn’t seem opposed to sitting down and taking an algebra test, either.

I took a step into the hallway, but quickly retreated back into the classroom when I saw Monday striding in my general direction with an intent look on her face. Luckily, she sped past the doorway I was cowering in and found a group of girls in the hallway. I wandered by the huddle, getting as close as I could to hear without looking suspicious. This task was easy, since Monday’s voice traveled with little effort on her part.

“Who was that?” Monday stood in the center, arms crossed in front of her.

“That’s Friday, you didn’t know? I’ve never been in a class with him before.”

“I’ve heard he’s way smart.”

“And cute. He’s the perfect package.”

“And apparently he’s got the perfect package, if you know what I mean.” Monday didn’t seem impressed by the remark, even though the rest of the circle erupted into snorts and giggles.

Chemistry was our next class. It was usually a quieter part of the day, unless an experiment exploded. We each worked on our labs, and unless you were in Monday’s lab group, the only way to tell if she was there was by the keening sound of her almost-whisper. But on this particular day, everyone knew Monday was in Chemistry class, mostly because Friday was there, too.

Monday made a special effort to ask as many intelligent questions as she could, the majority of which were intercepted and answered by Friday in some smart-ass (but somehow charming) way.

“Are you finished? I’m trying to learn here,” Monday huffed, grasping a beaker dangerously tight in one hand.

“Yeah, sure I’m done. All the good element jokes Argon, anyway.” He grinned and leaned back in his chair, winking at Monday as the class burst into laughter again.

“That’s it.”

“C’mon, Monday, he’s just giving you a hard time. Loosen up.” Someone yelled from the back.

“I don’t care, and I will not!” Her voice was getting dangerously close to supersonic. I remember thinking it might be nice if it got all the way there. She could talk, and the rest of us could keep our sanity.
But, I digress. Eventually, Monday gave up. She stormed out of the class, struggling to untangle her safety goggles from her hair.

“I’ll make up the worksheet tomorrow!” she managed to yell back into the room at the teacher. I couldn’t help but notice the way Friday’s eyes followed her out of the room. He left shortly after, making up some excuse about taking a pee. Class continued and eventually I was sent from the classroom to deliver the attendance sheet to the office.

As I walked down the quiet hallways, I thought I heard a squeaking. I quickly realized it was Monday’s voice. I followed the sound around corner after corner, headed toward the first floor bathroom, baffled at how far her voice traveled with no other noise to buffer it. As I came closer, I could hear a lower voice responding. Friday. I peeked around the corner and caught a glimpse of Monday’s bright pink band t-shirt. I really shouldn’t have watched, but my curiosity got the best of me. I held as still as I could, ready to duck out of sight at a moment’s notice. Friday stood in front of Monday, a half smile, half smirk on his face.

“Look, I’m sorry if I offended you, but what they say is true. You need to loosen up, Monday.”

“For your information, I’m great at loosening up. You should have seen me at prom last year.”

“I did hear that your dancing skills are impressive. They’re one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the dances this year.”

“Thank you. I watched videos and practiced for weeks beforehand.” Monday’s ski-slope nose tilted toward the sky as she bragged.

Friday let out a short laugh. “See? That’s exactly what I mean. Can’t you just be spontaneous? Take a few risks for once?”

“Can’t you take your education seriously for once?” she retorted.

“I got a B on the last Math test.”

“And I got an A+!”

They stared at each other intently for a moment, Friday’s eyebrows furrowing, Monday’s almost leaping off her forehead. They lowered a bit, like she suddenly realized something, and she reached out a hand, hesitantly grabbing the front of Friday’s shirt. Then, before I could register what was happening, Friday took her by the shoulders and kissed her straight on the mouth.

Friday kissed Monday on the mouth.

If that wasn’t strange enough, what came next was completely unprecedented. Monday was silent. Absolutely, utterly, air-sucked-out-of-the-room silent. Friday eventually pulled away and she just stared at him, fist still clenching his collar, mouth absolutely motionless, save the sliding hints of a grin beginning to cross her teeth. It was so quiet that I was afraid to breathe. It was so quiet that I heard the janitor whistling on the floor above us and the commercial refrigerators in the cafeteria humming. Friday finally muttered something, for once seeming less than confident.

“Do you wanna be spontaneous with me at Homecoming?”

“prom” © alena chicerina http://www.flickr.com


Mary Innerst has too many interests and not nearly enough time. She resides in Denver, Colorado and has been previously published in “Progenitor Art” and “Literary Journal.” She has also had the privilege of serving as Editor for the 54th issue of the “Progenitor” this year. When time allows, she also enjoys photography, reading (obviously), hiking, Netflix, and cuddling with her schnoodle, Denny.

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3 Poems by Rebekah Jacobson http://yareview.net/2019/05/3-poems-by-rebekah-jacobson/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/3-poems-by-rebekah-jacobson/#respond Mon, 13 May 2019 12:00:52 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9588 Three poems by teen poet, Rebekah Jacobson

Junior Year

And so now // we feel like forever // electrified immortality [...]]]>
By Rebekah Jacobson

Manayunk Pavement Poem

“shadows” © mary abq (https://www.flickr.com/photos/30353259@N08/6182817822/)

Shadows lull across the street,
a melted pavement dream.
The slowing sun sleeps over the rooftops and the empty fields
and the pavement singes through our thin skin
as we sit on the narrow curb.
Through the heat, it seems the road begins to blur
smudge into itself where our vision ceases.
Church bells chime
throwing rhythm into the air.
Houses in the distance slur into all of the same colors
as we look on, unaware.
And still,
though time has passed,
shadows lull, still, across the street,
frozen in this pavement dream.

Blue Guitar

You sit, nestled in the blue …
where are all of the people
who were supposed to love you?
Wrap your ice cold fingers
around the stone guitar
pray to God that one day
you could go away, far.
The instrument plays a noise of gold
a stream of the very sun itself;
So you release the strings you used to love
And place the guitar on a shelf.

Junior Year

“Window Blind Portrait” © Sean O Riordan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/114717511@N02/36616784655/)

I’m a lot more tired these days
I’ve been opening all the blinds
watching the sunshine slip
into all of the dark places

We punch against the darkness
It punches back
It’s a fair fight
that we know we can win

And so now
we feel like forever
electrified immortality
buzzing against each other like charged up atoms

Screaming out all of the car windows
Dreaming of meeting strangers
Forgetting the definition of danger
Zipping across the map

Worlds don’t end, they just explode
Combust into millions of layers of dust
But not us.
Not us.

Rebekah Jacobson is a high school senior living in Pennsylvania. She is currently in remission from Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancer of the bone that she suffered from, along with an amputated left ankle, in eighth grade. She is looking to major in Political Science with hopes of becoming a speechwriter in the future. She loves poetry because she feels it is a way to express, in words, feelings that are wordless.

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Nana Prayed, Weather Sensitive http://yareview.net/2019/05/nana-prayed-weather-sensitive/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/nana-prayed-weather-sensitive/#respond Sun, 12 May 2019 12:00:07 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9584 Two poems by Jacqueline Jules

Weather Sensitive

I am too often surprised // when my mood plunges // with moisture from the sky. [...]]]>
By Jacqueline Jules

Nana Prayed

“Life in your hands “ © Sandra Rocha (https://www.flickr.com/photos/curlygirl/1697544/)

My grandmother used to pray for me.
Gray curls on her orthopedic pillow
lips pleading in the dark:
for my solo in the spring concert,
first choice college admission,
Paul Hyer to ask me to prom.

And each time
a mundane petition was granted,
we celebrated with sparkling cider and
rolled wafers from a white tin.

Nana worried I had a pastry thin shell,
easily broken if Dartmouth denied me.
She prayed to keep me filled
with all that was creamy and sweet.

As if my tears would paralyze her smile,
like the stroke which swiped her speech.

My prayers, in the months that followed,
did not change a cruel universe.

But some nights, I stand by the window
watching the moon, round as a white cookie tin,
and I can feel her lips whisper in the dark.

Weather Sensitive

“Surrender” © Michelle Robinson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/michmutters/23990367844/)

Like most phenomena,
it’s easier documented
than explained.

How a drop
in barometric pressure
pierces my forehead,
pounds my temple.

One theory suggests
sinuses are to blame.
They object to imbalance,
sudden changes in the air.

I am too often surprised
when my mood plunges
with moisture from the sky.

I should pay attention
to the forecast, buy a barometer,
make an effort to predict
why the sun shines on Tuesday
and not on Wednesday.

Or better yet, I should trust myself
to survive shifting winds,
just as I trust the meteorologist
who promises a passing shower
will not ruin the whole afternoon.

Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of 40 books, including the “Zapato Power” series, the “Sofia Martinez” series, “Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation,” and “Pluto is Peeved.” Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including The Poetry Friday anthologies, GERM Magazine, Cicada, and YARN. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including “Field Trip to the Museum,” which includes three poems originally published in YARN. Please visit her online at www.jacquelinejules.com.

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Sanity’s Final Christmas? http://yareview.net/2019/05/sanitys-final-christmas/ http://yareview.net/2019/05/sanitys-final-christmas/#respond Wed, 08 May 2019 12:00:00 +0000 http://yareview.net/?p=9737 An honest horror story about a girl’s most dangerous emotions striving to conquer her.

By AJ Brown

YARN Editors’ Note: If you are reading this story and struggling with depression, we want you to know that that it is a real and serious medical condition and you are not alone–and there is hope and help available.  Two places you might want to start: NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has a teen page), and the APA (American Psychological Association).

A girl sat at the end of a long wooden table. She sat calmly, her face to the table and eyes closed, listening. Her hands were folded together and her foot softly tapped. She waited. She didn’t know how she got there or how long she’d been sitting. She only knew why she was there. She was to wait. That was it for now. Just to wait.

A rich red covering was draped across the table’s surface. It felt smooth under her hands. She rested in a finely carved antique chair. Five empty versions of the same chair were clustered quietly around the table. Red and green padding lined the backs. Two on the left, two on the right, and one on the other end, facing the girl.

When she heard a loud cackle, she knew she was no longer alone. The girl didn’t move a muscle as she listened to the sound of heels clicking down a long hallway. Harsh, gleeful humming drew closer, and the air inside the room seemed to sour. Only when she heard the clicking stop right next to her did she look up to see a woman standing there.

“Legz” © Paul Domenick http://www.flickr.com

The woman’s black hair, for once, was down. It was messy, and it only reached her shoulders. She wore her usual outfit, a blood-stained white shirt and a clean white doctor’s coat. Underneath it, she was alarmingly thin. Her bony fingers tapped at the edge of the table, and it was impossible to ignore how her nails came to a point like claws. She was smiling widely — two rows of sharp teeth bared in a feral grin.

“Hello, Miss. Welcome,” the girl murmured, lifting a hand obediently. The woman gripped her hand and roughly shook it.

“Why hello, Penelope, where do I sit?” she asked, jerking her hand away as if Penelope had a contagious illness.

“Please, sit anywhere you’d like.” The woman nodded brusquely as she settled next to Penelope on the right side of the table. She continued to tap her nails in time with the staccato pitch of her voice.

“Now, Penelope, how do you expect to help your friends when you can’t help yourself?” The woman’s eyes were yellow, sparked with a predator’s interest. When Penelope didn’t respond, she took it as an invitation to continue. “I mean, look at you. Your hair’s a mess! Are a few pieces of scrap pulled from the trash what you call a dress these days?!”

Penelope looked down at herself. She’d made sure to shower that morning, and her hair wasn’t frizzy, for once. It fell in wavy curls that brushed against her neck. She had even braided a white lily in an arc above her right ear. She wore a sleeveless crimson dress that fell to her ankles. There was a slit on the left side that exposed more of her leg, a feature she’d envisioned as womanly. Penelope also wore a collar with a pretty, red bow tie in the middle. She had on red high heels, which made her feet uncomfortable when sitting and wobbly when walking. “I…I thought I looked nice…at least a little better than how I normally look.”

The woman scoffed. “Oh please, Penelope! You look even worse than before! Might as well have gone through a swamp with alligators! You’d look much better like that than this!”

Penelope lowered her head with a sigh. It would take more than this to break whatever was left of her tattered, smashed heart. “There’s nothing left to take from me…there’s nothing left to break of me…so why do you still speak? Why are you still here? What more could you want, Miss?”

The woman cackled, tilting her head back as her laugh echoed off the pure white walls and into Penelope’s mind. “Oh, please! There’s always something left if you’re still breathing and that pathetic heart is still beating.”

Before Penelope could respond, a set of weak footsteps neared. They were so quiet they could barely be heard. Finally the figure stepped out of the hallway and stood a few feet behind the chair on the other end of the table.

He was a short boy, and the hunch of his shoulders made him look even smaller. As always, he was shaking from head to toe. His hair shone ghostly white, as if someone had scared all the color out of him. The rest of his body was shaded in black and grey, as if he’d jumped out of a newspaper. He wore long sleeves and jeans. A scarf covered half his face, including his nose. He kept his eyes to the ground and his hands dug deep in his pockets.

The woman rolled her eyes and sighed. She tapped harder, faster on the table. “Ugh! Why’s he here!?” The boy flinched, covering the rest of his face with his scarf.

“Please, I invited him. Come sit next to me, my friend.” Penelope gestured to the seat on her left, and the boy glanced up with empty black eyes of exhaustion. He shuffled around the table, pulled out the chair with great effort, and sat down. Penelope rose quickly and scooted it in for him.

“T-thank you, P-Penelope.” His dry voice was barely a whisper.

Penelope nodded, a warm smile on her face. “Please, my pleasure! Uh–” She paused as she tried to remember his name.

“U-um, G-Gale. T-the name’s Gale.”

Penelope nodded gently, patting his cold hand.

“That’s a beautiful name, Gale. I’ll look forward to feeding you. As a matter of fact, you can be the first one in line when it’s time.” He blushed and jerked his hand away, pulling out a handkerchief and wiping it hurriedly.

“I-It’s okay, really. I-I really don’t want to intrude. P-plus—” He glanced over at the older woman’s bloodthirsty stare and flinched away again.

Penelope gazed down at him, sighing. “It’s alright. I said it’s alright. I’m the host, remember?”

He nodded. “O-of course…b-but then…” His white pupils skimmed her red silhouette. “W-why do you look like that? People will think bad about you…t-they’ll think you’re one of those prissy girls. It’s only Christmas. I-if you’re thinking it’ll make you prettier, it’s not working…You’ll never look better…you’ll never be good enough…y-you know your friends are better off without you…right?”

Penelope’s gaze fell down to her aching feet. “I know…but it’s Christmas, so I thought…I just thought I should dress up…right?” He gave a short nod, then jumped as a screech of pain radiated from the hallway. Penelope’s eyes widened, then settled as she recognized the voice. Gale remained tense and trembling.

A heavy grunting sound dragged its maker into view, limping plainly. She was tall, a teenager in bloody, tattered clothes. Her white shirt was slashed in the middle, exposing a shrunken stomach and ribs that protruded like the rungs of a ladder. Three long claw marks crossed her chest, forever bleeding. Her jeans were shredded, and her legs were also torn so they left a crimson trail behind her. Her left leg was missing its skin and muscle. Blood-stained bones rammed into the flesh of her ankle like into a loose-fitting sock. Blood was dripping from her fingertips and spilling from her mouth, a thick, choking liquid. She had to pause every few moments to spit it out upon the rug. Her hair, once a beautiful light blonde, was now blood-red, its stain poisoning her body and mind.

She looked up at them with baby-blue eyes, then smiled weakly. “Sorry! Tripped over my own feet, and my leg snapped out of place!” She patted her gruesome left thigh and limped towards Penelope. “Now, where may I sit? I’ve been so excited for this Christmas!” She cackled, and Gale glanced at Penelope nervously.

Before Penelope could speak, the lady interjected. “How about at the very end? Away from me?” she hissed.

Penelope frowned. “Now, we all know that’s not her seat! Miss, you know very well whose seat that is, and it’s the only seat saved!” Miss growled, grumbling to herself, but Penelope continued graciously. “Hon, as a matter of fact, you can sit next to Miss. Introduce yourself! It’s been a while since we’ve all been together like this.” Miss glared as the bloody girl leapt forward, her happy squeal morphing into a horrid screech as she landed on her maimed leg. Salty tears soaked into the open cuts on her face.

“OH, SHUT UP! YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T CHANGE WHAT’S BEEN DONE TO YOU!” Miss roared at the girl and her tears stopped at once, though she sniffed pathetically. Pulling out her chair, she sat down with a moan of pain, staining the cushion as soon as she made contact.

“Miss,” Penelope murmured, “you know exactly what and who caused her to mutate, all too well ac—”

Miss snapped her gaze back to Penelope, growling, “You think you’re in charge!?! Oh please!! We all know who’s in charge here! Now step back, shut up, and let me do my work! You’ll never be good enough, anyway! You deserve to be in the dust with him!” She smirked, eyes flicking to Gale, who stayed silent.

Penelope and the other three peered down the hall as another figure stepped in, not looking at anyone as he took his seat next to Gale, who patted his back softly. He was a fragile-looking boy. He had a pretty, slim face. His hair was strawberry blonde, wavy and thick. His eye sockets were black and empty except for a white dot in each for his pupil. Soft freckles crossed his nose and smothered his cheeks, and slender hands folded politely in his lap. Only by looking closely could the others see that his trim red lips were stitched together. He glanced up at Penelope and waved delicately, his eyes sending forth a friendly glow. Penelope nodded, returning the gentle look. Gale and the bloody girl greeted him. But the woman stood up and declared, “ALRIGHT! LET THIS FEAST BEGIN!!”

“Hold on,” Penelope murmured, looking toward the empty chair at the far end of the table. It sat in quiet loneliness, waiting hopefully for the last person to fill it. “Where’s Hope? She’s normally one of the first to arrive…you know how she hates to be late.”

The woman cackled, sharp teeth glistening as she tilted her head back. “OH MY DEAR!! You really are too much!”

Penelope stared up at her in alarm. “Miss…what’d you do to her!?”

The woman gazed straight into Penelope, and her eyes sparked mechanically as she grinned. “All I did was put miss goody-two shoes where she belongs!” The woman plunged her bony hand into her pocket and lifted out something glittering a brilliant gold. She tossed it carelessly, and it hit the table with a dead thump. Everyone gasped. The air seemed to materialize into a dense, shimmering haze as the table’s occupants gazed in horror at Hope’s heart of gold, sprawled across the blood-red tablecloth.

“There! She’s here!” Miss smiled, flourishing a knife and slamming it straight through the center of the heart. The guests flinched, and the lady paused to glare at each one individually. Every single person looked down. Gale started to cry. He and Hope had been close. Too close, some would say.

Penelope glared at the murderer of the sweetest girl there ever was. “How…dare you! You have no right to kill one of our own! It’s against the rules! I let it slide with the bloody one because she’s still alive, but I cannot let this stand! Plus she was the leader of you five! How—”

“NOT ANYMORE!” Miss howled, slamming her hands on the table. “Hope was never leading and you know it! You all know it!! And we all know who caused it!!” She sneered into Penelope’s suddenly downcast face. “You know it’s because of you, Penelope. Hope tried to help you, but you didn’t listen to her! You chose to listen to ME. Back then I was much too small to use force, but you let me in anyway. You invited me. It’s been too easy because of you, Penelope! I really have to thank you. NOW!” she declared, smiling triumphantly. “Let us begin, shall we?” Miss stared over at Penelope, who gave a dizzy, blank-eyed nod. With her approval, the woman stepped forward and introduced herself. “My name is Miss! Better known as Miss Depression. I am the new leader of this pitiful world, and anyone who has any objections may speak now.”

No one objected.

“Good.” She smiled and her eyes burned into Gale as she sat down, crossing her arms and tapping her nails against her hollow cheek.

Gale stood slowly, knees wobbling. He hid his mouth behind his dark scarf and peered toward Penelope. “P-Penelope…I-I’m scared,” he whimpered, his eyes watery.

Penelope smiled gingerly, patting his hand. “It’s okay. Do you need me to take Hope’s place?”

He nodded immediately. “T-Thank you,” Penelope stood, resting her head on his shoulder while wrapping her arms around his waist. Then she grabbed his opposite hands so his arms crossed over him, restraining him from moving anywhere but into Penelope.

He sighed softly before speaking in a weak, shaky voice. “T-the name’s Gale…Gale Anxiety…but I prefer Gale.” He twitched as his cheek brushed Penelope’s. “Before all this, I was second in command under Hope, then Miss Depression…w-when she showed up, anyway… But w-with our new l-leader…I hope to keep my position.” He glanced at Miss Depression worriedly. She feigned a solemn nod, enjoying her new power over them.

“I don’t see why not. You’re no threat to me. And I couldn’t stand Hope, nor Mr. Stitch over there. And we all know Hope’s sister isn’t capable—” Miss paused to sneer at the blood-soaked girl, who was trying to brush something out of her eye. Having much difficulty, she cocked her head to one side and tapped it a few times before both eyes rolled out of her sockets.

One eye bumped Penelope’s foot, and the girl giggled as it stared up at her. “Hey! I see you, Penelope! Hiiiiiiiiii!!!!” Penelope shivered, grabbing it quickly and returning it to the girl, who thanked her and shoved it back in before breathing on her other eye, wiping it, and cramming it into her bloody socket.

Miss cleared her throat before continuing. “Anyway, I just hate whatever guts she has left. So sure, Gale. Sure.”

Gale grinned in relief and nodded. “T-thank you!…and thank you…Penelope.”

Penelope nodded, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek like Hope always had. It seemed to work, for he blushed and leaned into her for a moment before sitting back down, a faint smile creeping over his face before he stifled it with his scarf.

Miss Depression looked over at the last girl, her chair completely stained in blood, leaving a small pool that grew rapidly under her. When she stood up, the blood sloshed. “Hello everyone!!” Her voice came out slurred, as if she were drunk from pain, and its pitch was high and raspy from constant screaming. “The name’s Pain! The younger sister of Hope here! Nice ta meetcha!” She giggled for too long as her mind wandered. “I never was high on the chain as far as I remember, but HEY! What do I know anymore? Hehe! Special thanks to Penelope for that! OH! And my name used to be Healing, but that’s also thanks to Penelope! Heyo!” She waved frantically, a ghoulish smile on her face. “And I just have to say I’m soooooooooooooo glad I’m here right now! I’m not entirely sure why, though…ah, well! Too bad Hope’s POOF but eh, what can I say, ah?” She chuckled again as she plopped back down, blood sprinkling to the floor in a grotesque spatter pattern.

Finally Miss Depression made to stand up, but the final boy stood first and gazed steadily at her. She hissed in annoyance. “FINE! Just this once!” She walked over to him and cut the strings keeping his lips closed. He breathed slowly through his mouth and sighed. His voice, when he spoke, was a beautiful, sweet sound.

“Hello, my name is William. William Truth. I’ve always been the lowest among us, since we gain our strength according to how much Penelope believes in us. Obviously, my power is stagnant, but—” He met Penelope’s gentle turquoise eyes, voice soft, but filled with meaning— “With what little power I do have, Penelope, despite what you know is going to happen, Hope is here. I know, it appears Hopeless at the moment, but trust me. She is he—”

“Okay, that’s enough!” Miss Depression growled, snapping the needle and thread through his lips and sealing them tightly. It secured itself as he sat back down, head lowered, while Miss Depression returned to her seat, sharpening her voice at the astonished girl. “Penelope! It’s your turn for the final words before we feast. What would you like to say, my dear?”

Penelope sighed, dismissing what William had told her. She knew what was coming, and despite knowing what he was, there was no evidence to support his claims, so she spoke so all could hear. “My name is Penelope Bell. But I prefer to be called Penelope. I am the host to you all, and the day has come. This Christmas will be different than any other. I have to admit, I’m a little worried, but I know everything will be alright. So I hope you all have a beautiful, fun-filled Christmas, even if it’s not in your DNA code, and Hope’s not here. I believe in you. All of you.” A single tear ran down her cheek, but she smiled as she continued. “It was me who caused this. It was me who let you wither and mutate. It was me who caused Healing to warp into Pain. It was me who allowed Truth to be shut down.” She paused for another long moment before breathing deeply. “It was me who let Depression take over and eliminate Hope. It’s my fault, I am the guilty one and I must end this here and now. Even so, this….is not something to cry about…but something to rejoice for! We are all working together, at last, to put an end to what’s gone wrong.”

“Silverware” © Keith Avery http://www.flickr.com

Penelope peered over at Miss Depression and nodded. With her approval Miss stood up, and from her endless pockets produced a set of spoons, forks, and knives for everyone. She placed the silverware before of them, though there was still nothing to eat on the table. It was completely bare.

When everyone except Penelope had silverware, the young host circled the table and kissed each and every individual on the head, even Pain. When she finally came to Miss Depression, the woman bent down on one knee and lowered her head as Penelope kissed it softly. “May you lead well, Miss Depression.”

Miss smiled darkly, looking up at Penelope with a deadly glimmer in her eye. “Oh, you know I will, Penelope!”

Finally, Penelope let Miss Depression lift her up and place her gently on the table. She gazed around one last time, spotting Hope’s heart of gold glimmering by her side. “Heh…almost forgot about you…Hope.” Penelope crawled over and kissed the impaled heart, freezing for a moment. It was oddly warm and…moving!?

She looked down, narrowing her eyes, feeling the empty void within her lighten as she watched the faint, irregular rise and fall of the heart, too shallow for anyone else to notice. She relaxed as she lay down with her head facing the seat she once occupied. Nearby, Gale was in tears. Penelope smiled at him. “You go first, my sweet.”

But Gale shook his head. “I-I can’t!! I-I don’t want to…I-its not fair!!…I-I—”

“Hey.” Penelope reached out and stroked his cheek. “It’s okay…remember, you have my permission, you are alright, you have nothing to fear. This is meant to be, okay? Go ahead, I’m ready.”

Gale stiffened, shuddering as he grasped his shining knife and lowered it to her neck. “I-I’ll make it as painless as possible.”

Penelope shook her head, moving the knife to press upon her arm. “No. I know you don’t want to do that, you’ll never finish… You know what you want. Take it.”

With a screech from both Penelope and Gale, the boy clenched the deadly tool and heaved. Her arm separated cleanly from her body and writhed for a moment as dark red juices spurted from its bared flesh. Penelope wailed, one long, high note as blood tainted the area around her. It pooled off the table onto the carpet and Gale started to cry as well, his paper white face flecked with the gruesome freckles. Through the haze of pain, Penelope managed to pant, “Y-You did it! I-I’m…s-so proud o-of you! A-and s-so i-is…H-hope—”

He stared down at her desperately. “R-really?”

Penelope smiled as her vision fogged and faded. “Yes.”

The scarf fluttered away from his mouth as Gale bared his teeth and howled, declaring for everyone to start their Christmas feast.

The table’s guests roared and screamed with joy, but every voice was drowned out by Penelope’s as she felt herself ripped apart by her emotions. How did she end up like this? How did she end up spending Christmas like this? Penelope didn’t know. All she knew was that she let Depression take her too far down, and was now paying for what she had caused with her own mind. Her own head. Her own heart.

“Gold_HEART” © Julio Pollux http://www.flickr.com

With her final thoughts, she felt herself being swallowed by darkness, feeling her neck on fire as someone was trying to disconnect it from her body. But she thought, Why? Why would William say that…and then have Hope’s heart?

And as if someone actually heard her thoughts, a cackle rattled her lightheaded brain and it howled, It’s too late!!! I gave you too many chances! TIME’S UP!!

Just then she felt her head be separated from her body, and the whole world went black.

YARN Editors’ Note: If you are reading this story and struggling with depression, we want you to know that that it is a real and serious medical condition and you are not alone–and there is hope and help available.  Two places you might want to start: NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has a teen page), and the APA (American Psychological Association).


AJ Brown is an American teen who has written short stories since seventh grade. With AJ’s mentor, they have worked together to perfect AJ’s writing skills. They have been working together all throughout AJ’s career as a student. “Sanity’s Final Christmas?” is AJ’s first story to be published and is hoping to publish more in the near future. You can find AJ at AJBrownStories@gmail.com.

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