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 Volume #6                    September 1st, 1999                  Issue #3
 Established January, 1994                                http://morpo.com/
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                                             CONTENTS FOR VOLUME 6, ISSUE 3

     Editor's Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  J. D. Rummel
   
     Lessons in Geology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Elisha Porat
   
     On the Beach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Elisha Porat
   
     Blood Brothers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Chris Pusateri
   
     We Met . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Gary Lehmann
   
     Ode to Miriam  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Steve Wiesner
   
     Night Vision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Steve Wiesner
   
     El orchestrating the hats  . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marie Kazalia
   
     The Cup of Just Enough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  JBMulligan
   
     The Funeral Director . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  JBMulligan
   
     Light a Candle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Terry Azamber
   
     About the Authors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Authors
   
     In Their Own Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Authors
  



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 Editor                               +                       Poetry Editor
 Robert Fulkerson              The Morpo Staff         Kris Kalil Fulkerson
 rfulk@morpo.com                      +                     kalil@morpo.com

 Submissions Editor                                          Fiction Editor 
 Amy Krobot                                                     J.D. Rummel 
 amyk@morpo.com                                            rummel@morpo.com 

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 _The Morpo Review_.  Volume 6, Issue 3.  _The Morpo Review_ is published
 electronically on a quarterly basis.  Reproduction of this magazine is
 permitted as long as the magazine is not sold and the entire text of the
 issue remains intact.  Copyright 1999, The Morpo Review.  _The Morpo
 Review_ is published in ASCII and World Wide Web formats.

 All literary and artistic works are Copyright 1999 by their respective
 authors and artists.

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                               Editor's Notes
   
                                J. D. Rummel
                               Fiction Editor
   
                     Saturdaze, or, Working the Dream Forge
   
   "Everybody's working for the weekend" the song says, but let's look at
   it. Obviously Friday night is a good start, but I can't stay up too
   late. I'm outta bed at 5:30 a.m., so by 10:00 Friday night, maybe
   11:00, I am almost the walking dead. Sunday? Well, it's a good day,
   but you spend some part of it getting ready for Monday. No, the real
   heart of the weekend is Saturday. The whole day is yours; you can
   sleep in, and then stay up late knowing that the next day isn't
   Monday.
   
   My earliest Saturday memory involves concern: One Saturday I was
   concerned that I was missing Supercar so I woke my mother. Mom was
   concerned that I woke her at 6:30 in the morning a full four hours
   before Supercar was to air. Here is one of the key differences in the
   use of Saturday: Mom had graduated to the adult use of Saturday as a
   day to sleep in, I had not. One of the less publicized transitional
   stages between childhood and adolescence is the change from wanting to
   rise to watch cartoons in the morning to wanting to stay in bed until
   adults think something is wrong with you.
   
   I don't remember winter Saturdays, although I'm positive I had them. I
   mostly recall sunny, warm Saturdays. After the cartoons (Space Ghost,
   Jonny Quest, Fireball X-L5, Spiderman, Fantastic Four,) it was time to
   get moving. You didn't dare stay in the house on Saturday in 1960's
   Omaha. Back then there was no cable with 57channels and nothing on.
   There were only three stations in town and they were controlled by
   clueless men who believed that Omaha had a vast audience thirsting for
   golf and fishing shows.
   
   Some Saturdays I would call my pal Randy and one of us would walk the
   miles to the other's house. Our play often involved us pretending to
   be comic book super heroes or the "two detectives." The two detectives
   must have had great incomes and lousy travel agents because they were
   always on vacation in some troubled Balkan village. This facilitated
   the supernatural menaces the two detectives most often encountered.
   Our stories were simplified homages to (rip-offs of) the old Universal
   classics, which aired on Dr. San Guinary's Creature Feature (on
   Saturday nights of course). The two detectives always got split up and
   one was "knocked unconscious" so that either Randy or myself could
   play the monster. As detectives, only Mannix got knocked unconscious
   more often than we did. Mannix was a detective drama that aired on
   Saturday night. I would take my Saturday night bath and listen to his
   cases as I sat pruning in the tub. To this day when I hear his theme
   song on Nick-at-Nite I get that Saturday night sensation--I hear
   traffic from the street 30 years ago, and feel the breeze that rustled
   my bedroom blinds.
   
   Saturday nights I would spread my comics out on the bed and make-up
   and act out stories of my own. Because of all the physical contortions
   and histrionic aerobics involved in my writing at that time, my mother
   called it "hippety hop." I do feel that unfortunate term fails to
   capture the glory of that creative period. "Working the Dream Forge"
   seems better to me.
   
   Saturdays often meant walking to the movies. My mother would let me
   take five dollars from her wallet stored in the upper right hand
   drawer of her desk. Five dollars bought a lot more than today, but it
   was a little harder to make the five dollars by working as a
   seamstress as my mother did. The multiplexes had not even a foothold
   in Nebraska then. Movie theatres were single, large screen affairs
   with multiple bills. In south Omaha there was a theatre called, The
   Chief. The Chief was vastly politically incorrect by today's
   standards, with its Indian head marquee and faded canoeing murals
   straight out of Longfellow on the walls. It cost 75 cents to get in to
   see triple and quadruple bills with great movies like Superargo VS The
   Faceless Giants, Goliath and the Dragon, Yog, Monster from Space,
   Blacula, The Lost Continent, and the Incredible Two-Headed Transplant.
   
   The popcorn at The Chief was so covered in "butter" that it was often
   mushy. As a kid I thought that was real value. Mom never used enough
   butter at home. I remember the floors of The Chief. They were filthy,
   covered with a deadly mixture of "butter," spilled soda and Good and
   Plenty's. The sensation and sound of peeling my shoes off that floor
   is with me to this day. After the movies, Randy and I would go down to
   the Sportsmen's store and buy comic books for 12 cents apiece--I think
   it was called the Sportsmen's store because it sold racing forms.
   Certainly there was no athleticism evident. Indeed, a less athletic
   bunch would be hard to envision--everyone at the store was
   white-haired, overweight, smoking and wearing a cap with some
   herbicide or tobacco logo on it.
   
   After buying our comics we would walk up to McDonald's (their slogan
   was "Change for your dollar"), buy burgers and walk to A&W where we
   would sit and eat while we read our comics over frosty mugs of root
   beer. (There was nowhere to sit at McDonalds back then, it was
   strictly a to-go joint) Sometimes Randy would spend the night and we'd
   watch Creature Feature.
   
   My God, Saturdays were LONG. You had forever on a Saturday.
   
   Okay, I do remember a winter Saturday. Some Saturdays Randy and I
   would walk to Frank's house and we would walk downtown over the 16th
   street bridge. In the winter that was a murderous trek, with the north
   wind chewing our noses, toes and fingers. Our goal was to get to the
   bus station and have hot chocolate. Hot chocolate that you can barely
   afford on a cold Saturday is among the best tastes on this earth.
   Savoring each drop because you know you don't have money for more.
   
   On those Saturdays we'd all walk to one of the downtown theatres like
   the Omaha (it survived for years on blaxploitation films), the Astro
   (its Moorish architecture shielded it from the wrecking ball), or the
   Cooper 70 (incredibly high prices for soda and popcorn--it deserved to
   be torn down). At some point we'd end up at the Brandeis department
   store. We'd go to the record department on the fifth floor and
   hang-out in a little room with a pop machine. In there the black light
   would illuminate all the posters of peace signs and long-haired young
   people promoting drugs and free love (if we were lucky we'd see a bare
   breast or two). The big department store was dying as the shopping
   malls began to sprout up pulling all the traffic away from downtown.
   
   On the way back home we'd stop at City News and Book. Randy and I
   would buy our comic books and Frank would get thrown out of the adult
   magazine section. As I'd walk I remember looking forward to getting
   home with my comics and seeing what treats Mom brought back from the
   store. One steamy Nebraska afternoon there was icy cold Welch's grape
   pop when it first appeared. Another time she bought Simba, a Mountain
   Dew-like drink that has long since vanished.
   
   Some days I wish I could go back. Not to live, not to abandon the
   wonderful life I have now. I haven't forgotten getting beat-up, nor
   the agony that was, and is, math, but just to visit, just to taste the
   mushy popcorn again and feel the Saturday night breeze while reading
   comic books and waiting for old monsters on Creature Feature. It would
   be so nice to walk through the Chief once more, to watch the stories
   Randy and I acted out as the two detectives, to walk downtown with
   Frank and go home to see what treats my mom had brought from the
   store. I'd like to see my mom again, to talk to her, or just look at
   her for a few minutes. Old photos are not the same. I wonder what I'd
   learn about her if I got to see her moving and talking with my older,
   smarter, eyes and ears.
   
   Yesterday was Saturday and as they should, things have changed a lot
   in thirty years. Amy and I drove to the multiplex by our apartment and
   watched The Sixth Sense. The popcorn was plain (how I prefer it now)
   and I drove to get some comic books afterward. Five of them cost me
   eighteen dollars. Rather than read them in my bedroom or some
   hamburger joint, I walked over to the grassy area behind our garages
   and I hoisted my creaky 200 pounds up onto the roof. I sat on the
   garage roof reading comics in the shade, feeling the breeze blow
   through my remaining hair, listening to the traffic sounds in my new
   neighborhood. I took great comfort in the knowledge that Amy would
   spend the night and that the next day wasn't Monday.
                                      
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   Lessons in Geology
   by Elisha Porat

   
   "The anomaly of Jerusalem is not simple to perceive,
   at a glance, transparent: Mountain platform and chalkstone, an
   elevated Holy Site."
   He tapped with his stonemason`s hammer,
   chipping crimson flakes off a stone taken from a wall.
   "The Flawless red stone of Jerusalem testifies
   that there in the subterranean depth of the city,
   all is broken burst and smashed.
   Like a gigantic inverted funnel -
   a cistern for Jewish blood pumping,
   draining into it from all worlds."
   I remember his lesson as if it was yesterday:
   the city afloat, the street suddenly swaying,
   the veins of rust and dim and deep beneath me,
   the rustle and seethe of a primeval river.
   
   Translated from the Hebrew by Riva Rubin.

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   On the Beach
   by Elisha Porat

   
   Saturday noon, on the beach,
   the tan grandson burrows into
   a dug-up basin padded with sand.
   I observe him from the height of my age,
   again see my body draw a circle,
   warm and sticky of a boy pissing in the sand.
   Time flows between us, a golden froth,
   and stings my lips with salt.
   From the sunken mold of the sand mask
   the boy that I was comes back to me,
   sprawled, foaming and wallowing, coddled by the sun.
   A passing cloud suddenly darkens the light,
   my face takes on the hardness of graying plaster:
   the short-lived joy, a forgotten image from childhood,
   all is swept back, dripping between the fingers
   in the rhythmic beat of retreating waves.
   
   Translated from the Hebrew by Tsipi Keler.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
    
   Blood Brothers
   by Chris Pusateri
  
 
   I.
   The only store in Camp Wood, Texas sells no vegetables.
   When I asked, the bolo-tied clerk pointed the way
   south to Uvalde. Not surprising that in Texas
   cattle outnumber people three to one
   and guns outnumber cattle
   by the same margin.
   
   II.
   The only time I ever broke a friend's nose
   was while traveling through Albuquerque.
   I eventually settled there and never
   broke another nose. No small wonder
   I have no friends there.
   
   III.
   There are plenty of people in Texas
   who would break your nose. Not that
   Texas is inhospitable. It's just that
   fistfights are a down-home way of saying
   "Welcome to Texas, friend."
   
   IV.
   I lost my first fistfight. I was small for my age
   and nearsighted. My opponent was eighteen
   and still in the eighth grade. At the last minute
   I tried to talk my way out, which is even more futile
   than trying to buy vegetables in Camp Wood.
   
   V.
   There are two lies in the last stanza.
   First, he was only fifteen, and second,
   I didn't lose. Later, we became friends.
   He smoked my cigarettes.
   I dated his sister.
   Nice kid. A Texan, in fact.
   
   VI.
   One day, I'll meet a friend
   whose nose I won't want to break.
   But then, I never owned cattle
   and sold off my guns
   a long time ago.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
 
   We Met
   by Gary Lehmann
   
   
                             We met at a corner
   
                             Too fast to stop,
   
                      We'd never met before or since.
   
                      I was raising my leg in walking
   
                        As she was striding forward
   
                  Our legs engaged until they had to stop,
   
                     In a brief but intimate encounter.
   
                                      
                       I felt the heat of her exhale,
   
                          the brush of her breast
   
                               upon my chest,
   
                            the push of her hip
   
                           upon my innocent hand.
   
                        It was instant, but tender.
   
                           We were all but lovers
   
                            in a passing second.
   
                                      
                    The disengagement was just as quick.
   
                       Her heat lingered on my thigh,
   
                   her breath filled me with sensations.
   
                           The memory of her body
   
                  remained like an impression in hot clay.
   
                                      
              No wonder this is frequently mistaken for love.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
 
   Ode to Miriam
   by Steve Wiesner
   

   Ah, Miriam.
   Your name rolls off
   my tongue
   like a hairball.
   Your eyes are like headlights
   on a sunny day,
   your lips like hedge clippers,
   your voice like marbles
   in a steel pot.
   Why did you leave me?

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
 
   Night Vision
   by Steve Wiesner
  
 
   I have this recurring dream
   where I'm running naked
   along the Ohio River.
   Well, not exactly naked.
   I'm wearing steel-toed boots
   and a biochemical warfare suit
   over a flak jacket,
   but I feel naked.
   And I'm not exactly running,
   but I feel like running.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
 
   El orchestrating the hats --
   by Marie Kazalia
  
 
   All a pretense.
   Money spent on the wedding.
   The reason for the wedding,
   so the older sister could design
   the color scheme.
   The brides and bride maids
   all wear wide-brimmed-hats,
   matching their dresses.
   My mother showed me a picture.
   One attractive shot of the bride
   wearing her hat,
   rather than a veil,
   caught in a broad smile. How unusual.
   My mother scoops up pictures
   like that one,
   to show visitors her beautiful daughters.
   Hoping for a compliment,
   how they take after their mother.
   Older sis in the background
   handling wedding details.
   Hovering white cloud
   refracting sun beams into rainbow colors,
   each beam on a bride's maid
   in the wedding procession.
   So many hats alike.
   Wide brims,
   could not
   get close to each other
   to hug.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
    
   The Cup of Just Enough
   by JBMulligan
  
 
   A lover turns
   into somebody sitting
   at an angle to you
   at the breakfast table,
   the years gathered
   around her waist
   (and yours), as trees
   ring each new year
   of growth. The cup
   of just enough
   is warm in your hand;
   the liquor is tepid.
   Beneath the data
   of news and plans,
   a space of vanished
   whispers remains.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
 
   The Funeral Director
   by JBMulligan
 
  
   It's important to be
   drably and crisply garbed
   and impeccably groomed.
   They expect it
   and it shows respect.
   Before the door is opened
   he drifts in silence from room
   to room, checking the flowers, the chairs,
   the coffins pure, exquisite amber shine.
   Sometimes he pretends that they were friends.
   A scrap of conversation
   floats by like a hint of smoke -
   tennis game or just outside of Rome -
   and he thinks, Ah, yes,
   he always loved that so.
   On the way home, he stops
   for coffee, and absently watches the girl
   as she pours: some rouge, some powder
   for the wisps of hair above her lip.
   She sings a love song softly
   and he smiles and looks away.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
    
   Light a Candle
   by Terry Azamber
   
   
   My mother has a strange relationship with God. She deals with Him like
   a commodities broker, promising certain actions for special favors,
   always fulfilling her part of the bargain. Mom was raised a Catholic,
   but abandoned her religion after her first marriage. She was already
   married to her second husband, my father, when she made her first
   peculiar covenant with the Almighty.
   
   She made her first contract with God several years before I was born,
   when she and Dad toured Mission San Miguel. They had already visited a
   nearby winery, and Mom blames her enthusiastic sampling of Chardonnay
   and Pinot Noir for her impulsive decision when they reached Mission
   San Miguel.
   
   While Dad took pictures of the fountain and prickly pear cactus in
   front of the whitewashed adobe mission, she drifted into the old
   chapel. She wandered down the aisle, past the wooden pews, looking at
   the frescos on the wall, the statues, the eye of God inside a sky blue
   pyramid over the altar. She was seized with a sudden desire to
   negotiate a contract. She knelt down at the altar and clasped her
   hands.
   
   "I'll become Catholic again if You let my book be published," she told
   God. "But I won't stop practicing birth control and I won't stop
   supporting abortion rights. If You accept my terms let me receive
   notice within three months that my book has been accepted for
   publication. If not I'll know that You don't ever want me to be
   Catholic again."
   
   Mom tells this story when anyone in the family asks her how her first
   mystery novel got published. Her novel had been rejected by eight
   publishers before it was finally accepted. She always adds that if she
   hadn't been so drunk, and if she had known God was going to accept her
   offer, she would have tacked on a few more conditions.
   
   Mom blames what happened to me on the fact that she sent her children
   to parochial school. She had only agreed to send us to St. Anthony's
   School because of another deal she made with God. For two years she
   had recited rosaries to the Virgin Mary and said prayers to St. Gerald
   Majella, the patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth, and she still
   hadn't gotten pregnant. She finally knelt down in front of the statue
   of St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes, and
   promised that if he would intercede with God for her, she would have
   her children baptized Catholic and send them to parochial school until
   they were old enough for college.
   
   Ten months later she had my brother Troy, and after a couple of years
   my sister Nicole was born. Mom's doctor told her not to have any more
   children, but when Nicole was almost three Mom had me. She blamed my
   conception on the trip to Napa Valley she and Dad took to celebrate
   their anniversary.
   
   "It was all those wineries we visited," she said. "Something always
   happens to me when I drink too much Chardonnay."
   
   I never guessed that the conversation I had with Father Domino after
   school late in January would have such an effect on my mother. I was
   walking down the hallway at St. Anthony's School after the last bell
   rang when I saw Father Domino coming out of one of the fourth grade
   classrooms. He saw me and put his arm around me.
   
   "Josh, how's your family doing?" he asked.
   
   "Fine," I said, looking up at his round face. He was wearing a plaid
   fleece-lined jacket and I could see his black shirt and white band
   collar in the gap between his lapels.
   
   The people in the parish were fascinated by Father Domino. He was half
   Italian and half Cuban. It was rumored that his father worked for the
   Mafia in Fort Lauderdale and his brother had been arrested for
   possession with intent to sell when the Coast Guard boarded his yacht
   near Elliot Key and found ten kilos of cocaine.
   
   Father Domino seemed to have all the answers to the mysteries of the
   universe when he visited my eighth grade religious class. I noticed
   how people spoke to him in a reverent tone, as if he was special, like
   the pope or a saint. He had been in the parish for a few years,
   replacing Father Hansel.
   
   Father Hansel was only in his early forties, but he would stare off
   into space when he visited our religious education class, even during
   the question and answer period. He walked as if moving one foot in
   front of the other was a tedious task. He always said Mass in a
   monotone and sighed frequently during the Homily which was usually
   about coping with a crumbling world until we finally left it for
   Purgatory and hopefully Heaven. Father Hansel suddenly disappeared,
   and when I asked my religious education teacher where he was she told
   me he had left the priesthood and was living in Eureka.
   
   "I was impressed with the type of questions you were asking me when I
   was in your religious education class last week," Father Domino said.
   "The church can use a mind like yours when you get older. You know
   that we pray every Sunday for young men like yourself to have a
   vocation. Have you ever thought of becoming a priest when you grow
   up?"
   
   "No, not really," I said, staring up at his white collar.
   
   "After I left your class I wondered if your questions meant that God
   had given you a vocation." He gestured toward the huge grey church. "I
   have to go to the church to check on the tracts. Why don't you come
   with me and we'll talk about it?"
   
   I wasn't sure I wanted to be a priest, but his interest in me made me
   feel warm inside. We crossed the parking lot while he talked about how
   nice it was to teach people about the significance of the sacrifice of
   Christ, to see the smiles on the faces of parents when you baptized
   their baby, assuring them that his young soul was saved from Hell.
   
   "One of the nuns at the high school I went to told me that God smiles
   down on a priest's parents and saves them a place in Heaven because
   they've raised a son for Him." Father Domino was silent for a moment.
   "It meant a lot to me to know that I could offer up the Masses I said
   for the souls of my family."
   
   I looked at him and remembered the stories about his father and his
   brother. We walked up the concrete steps and in through the south
   entrance of St. Anthony Church. Father Domino checked that there were
   enough tracts in the foyer before we stepped into the Guadalupe
   Chapel. A mural depicting the vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe was
   above the glass wall sectioning off the small chapel from the rest of
   the church. There must have been a funeral earlier that day because I
   smelled a faint whiff of incense in the air. Father Domino gestured
   toward the marble altar on the dais in the main part of the church,
   visible through the glass. His round face lit up and his voice was
   hushed when he spoke.
   
   "The best part about being a priest is standing up there in front of
   all those people while you say Mass. You feel as if the power of God
   is pouring through you." He stared through the glass at the altar for
   a moment before he turned to me. "Let's light a candle and pray to the
   Blessed Virgin Mary for your vocation."
   
   I followed him down the right aisle to the statue of the Virgin Mary.
   He took a slender stick from the metal container and lit one of the
   large candles in the red glass candle holders. As the wick caught fire
   and glowed white, I felt as if Father Domino had seen something
   special in me that no one had noticed before. The burning candle
   sealed my destiny.
   
   I caught the FAX bus afterwards. As the bus passed the Seven-Eleven
   convenience store, I saw Troy's car in the parking lot. He was leaning
   against the front fender taking money out of
   
   his wallet and handing it to a girl wearing a beige cashmere coat. She
   slipped something into his shirt pocket.
   
   Troy would occasionally sit out by our pool and slowly wave his hands
   in front of his face, talking to himself about the colors of the
   trails he saw coming out of his fingers or the way the house seemed to
   undulate. Sometimes I saw Dad watching him through the patio door. He
   had grown up in a more liberal era, and he tended to view Troy's
   experiments with recreational drugs as a hobby he would eventually
   outgrow. Mom didn't seem to be aware that Troy used drugs.
   
   The bus stopped a couple blocks from our house. I walked down the
   street past the landscaped lawns. We lived in a large English Tudor
   style house set back from the road on the Bluffs. A car was parked in
   our driveway with a San Joaquin Memorial letter jacket on the back
   seat.
   
   Nicole leaned against the front door with her arms around some guy's
   neck. His hands were up under the blouse of her pastel school uniform
   and he was kissing her neck while she made soft moaning sounds. They
   didn't seem to notice that I was there. I always felt strange when I
   saw Nicole with her constantly changing string of boyfriends, as if I
   was seeing oranges growing on the clipped boxwood along the front of
   our house.
   
   I walked around to the back of the house, through the black
   wrought-iron gate, past the swimming pool, and went inside through the
   back door. Mom was in her study jotting down ideas for a new mystery
   novel. She looked up only long enough to tell me that Dad was picking
   up Chinese takeout for supper on his way home from his office.
   
   I never spent much time with Dad. He was a dentist, and he often came
   home late because of a patient that needed cavities filled when she
   was only scheduled to have her teeth cleaned, or a wisdom tooth that
   took longer to remove than he thought it would. I went to my room and
   lay down on my bed. I stared at the ceiling and thought about the look
   on Father Domino's face when he talked about being a priest.
   
   I didn't have a chance to talk to anyone about what Father Domino had
   said to me until my family was gathered around the dining room table
   to eat. Troy scooped fried Chow Mein out of one of the white cartons
   spread along the dark green tablecloth, and Mom was passing the Won
   Ton to Nicole, when I told them about my vocation.
   
   "I'm going to become a priest," I said.
   
   My family stopped filling their plates and stared at me. Mom dropped
   the Won Ton, scattering pale flaky crumbs on the green tablecloth. No
   one spoke. Our dining room was decorated with dark green wallpaper
   with cream fleurs-de-lis on it. Suddenly the wallpaper seemed so dark
   that it swallowed up the cream fleurs-de-lis. I felt as if the walls
   were moving backwards and the room was as huge as a ballroom.
   
   Dad was the only bright spot in the room. He grinned and raised his
   eyebrows when he looked down the table at Mom. Her mouth was twisted
   and she stared hard at me.
   
   "Like Hell," she said. "You'll become a priest over my dead and
   rotting body."
   
   The words came rushing out of me, a tinge of desperation in my voice,
   as if Mom's disapproval might actually have the power to thwart the
   will of God. Mom had proved that she had a lot of clout with the Lord.
   She might pull off another deal, and I would never get to fulfill my
   destiny.
   
   "I talked to Father Domino today. He thinks I may have a vocation,
   that God is calling me to the priesthood. He says that if I become a
   priest my parents will go to Heaven. I can offer Masses so that my
   family's sins will be forgiven and they won't go to Hell."
   
   "That blabbermouth! He told you, didn't he? I thought priests were
   never supposed to talk about anything you said in Confession. From now
   on I'm going to Confession at St. Helen's where no one knows me."
   Nicole wadded up a paper napkin and threw it at me.
   
   "You can't party if you become a priest." Troy's pupils were dilated,
   a sure sign that he had already ingested whatever chemical he had
   purchased in the parking lot of the Seven-Eleven.
   
   I searched my mind and dug up a couple of phrases I'd heard in my
   religious education class. "That's a worldly pleasure. I'm going to
   spend my time in spiritual contemplation."
   
   I was beginning to enjoy myself. My brother and sister obviously
   didn't appreciate the sacrifice I was willing to make for their
   benefit, but that made it even more significant and noble. I felt as
   if I was in one of those paintings in the Vatican, where the sky
   opened up and a choir of blond angels with white wings hovered over me
   singing. I could imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary, wearing her blue and
   white robes, looking down at me and smiling, her hands clasped in
   front of her as she praised me for my unselfish decision.
   
   "I don't need your help to get to Heaven." Mom glared at me and
   crumpled up her paper napkin in her fist. "I didn't spend nineteen
   hours in labor to give birth to a priest, and I don't want to hear any
   more advice from Father Domino. He hands out enough of his opinions on
   Sunday. He should keep his mouth shut the rest of the week."
   
   "He's only thirteen. He won't be running off to the Seminary tomorrow.
   He's got a few years to think about this. Let's not worry about this
   yet," Dad said.
   
   Mom's eyes were huge and glossy, a tinge of fear on her face. When she
   caught me staring at her she glanced away and started picking at the
   chow mein on her plate.
   
   When I examined my family, it was obvious that they desperately needed
   salvation. Although Dad insisted that we go to church every Sunday,
   Nicole was only interested in how many guys she could tempt into
   having unclean thoughts. She sat next to the aisle, flicking back her
   long hair, pretending that it was an accident that her dress kept
   rising up her thighs. Troy slouched down in the wooden pew cleaning
   his fingernails with his pocket knife, mumbling "Lord have mercy,
   Christ have mercy" when it was time for the congregation to respond.
   
   Dad had been raised a Methodist, but he converted to Catholicism when
   Mom was pregnant with Troy. After all these years he still couldn't
   remember the words to the Nicene Creed.
   
   Mom didn't consider attending Mass to be part of her contract with
   God. She was always making up excuses to get out of going to church.
   When she did go, she spent most of the Mass sitting with her arms
   crossed, staring at the stained glass windows. To Mom being Catholic
   meant that she showed up for most of the Holy Days of Obligation and
   gave up something for Lent.
   
   I stayed after school a couple times a week to visit with Father
   Domino. We sat in the rectory drinking cranberry juice while he talked
   about the duties of a priest, counseling couples about to be married,
   giving last rites to people who were dying so they would go to
   Purgatory instead of Hell. I didn't tell him that I thought being a
   priest sounded like a boring job. It made me feel good that he wanted
   to spend time with me. He gave me a book about the saints and I read
   it after my homework was done. I didn't realize that Mom was annoyed
   by this until I overheard her complaining to Dad.
   
   "I don't ever get to see the kids anymore except when they show up for
   dinner. Nicole is always on the phone or off with some guy. I don't
   know where Troy is half the time. Josh spends all his time holed up in
   his room reading religious stuff."
   
   I was surprised that she had even noticed what I was doing. Mom was
   always busy researching and writing her mystery books. Most of the
   time I never saw her until she came out of her study to fix dinner.
   After I heard her talking to Dad, I started leaving my bedroom door
   open. Whenever I heard someone walking down the hall toward my
   bedroom, I would grab my rosary off the night stand, slide off the
   bed, kneel on the floor, and close my eyes while I prayed the Hail
   Mary. Once I stole a glance at the doorway and saw Mom standing there
   with her arms crossed, shaking her head.
   
   During the next couple of weeks Mom spent a lot of time on the phone
   to her agent and her publisher. She was scheduled to go on a book tour
   to promote her recently published mystery novel. Mom was usually
   excited about her book tours. But something was different this time.
   The night before she left, she kept dropping things, a glass dish full
   of creamed corn, silverware, the cordless phone. She seemed to be
   surrounded by a high voltage circuit, tense and temperamental, her
   eyes never resting on anyone's face throughout dinner, her words short
   and clipped.
   
   After dinner she went to her bedroom to pack. I sat on my parents'
   king-size bed watching her. She yanked clothes out of the closet at
   random, hardly glancing at them before she tossed them aside. Dad
   tried to help her decide what to pack. He held up various blouses and
   skirts, but she kept changing her mind. She would reject a garment
   only to pack it a moment later. She stuffed her traveling iron into
   her brown suitcase, not bothering wrapping the cord neatly around the
   iron like she usually did. The cord became tangled in a pile of
   clothes.
   
   Mom reached into the suitcase and flung a dark blue blouse against the
   wall. "Why did they schedule this damned tour now? April is a rotten
   time for it!"
   
   She covered her face with her hands. Her shoulders shook with her sobs
   and she melted down onto her knees to the carpet. Dad moved swiftly
   across the room, gesturing for me to leave. I left the door open as I
   went into the hall. When I looked back, I saw Dad kneel down and wrap
   his arms around her.
   
   "I'm always writing my books or going off on trips. We didn't spend
   enough time with our kids. They've turned out to be people I didn't
   want them to be, and it's our fault." She hid her face against his
   chest and her fingers clutched and crumpled his shirt.
   
   Dad stroked her hair soothingly. "Shush, honey. Our kids are all
   right. They haven't turned out so bad."
   
   "Troy is practically a stranger who doesn't even want to be around us.
   Nicole takes up with any guy who'll look at her. Josh thinks we're
   doomed to burn in Hell. Do you think he thought up this idea of
   becoming a priest just to aggravate me?" Her voice wavered like the
   sound from an old radio with a faulty speaker. Dad's arms tightened
   around her.
   
   "Josh just wants attention," Dad said. "He doesn't even know about the
   problems you had with the church over your first marriage."
   
   Mom brushed the tears from her face with the back of her hand. "I
   never worried that Troy would become a priest. All I ever worried
   about was that he might get some girl pregnant. When I gave him a box
   of condoms he laughed and said, 'Gee Mom, you were ripped off. I
   usually get these for fifty cents less at Rite Aid.'"
   
   She took an early morning flight to Los Angeles the next morning. I
   was still asleep when she left. Dad was the only one to see her leave,
   dropping her off at the airport before he went to his office. As I
   waited at the bus stop for the FAX bus that would take me to school, I
   glanced up at the sky, thinking of Mom nestled in a big silver bird
   heading south, even though I knew her flight would have landed at LAX
   at least an hour ago.
   
   On Sunday, after Mass was over, Dad insisted that we go into the
   Guadalupe Chapel. "I want to light a candle for your mother so her
   tour will go well and she'll come home safe."
   
   Dad always did this when Mom went on a book tour. Troy, Nicole and I
   followed him into the Guadalupe Chapel. Nicole sat in a pew adjusting
   the straps on her black high heel shoes. Troy leaned against the wall
   with his arms crossed while Dad lit one of the candles in the red
   candle holders beside the statue of the Virgin Mary. He took out his
   wallet to pay for the candle, paused and stared at the glowing flame
   for a moment, then lit another large candle before he slipped the
   dollar bills into the collection box.
   
   "Why did you light two candles?" Troy asked.
   
   "Your mother was pretty upset before she left. She's having a rough
   time right now." Dad turned and pulled down the kneeler in the nearest
   pew. "Come on, let's pray for her."
   
   We knelt down beside Dad. I closed my eyes and tried to pray for Mom,
   but I didn't know what to pray for. I kept remembering the things she
   had said the night before she left. I finally said the Our Father, a
   Hail Mary, and a Glory Be, crossed myself and hoped God would know
   what Mom needed.
   
   Mom called us every couple of days and occasionally sent postcards.
   She came home on Tuesday, just a couple weeks before the school year
   ended. By Friday I realized that she was trying to change our family.
   She was waiting for us in the family room when we got home from
   school, a glass of iced tea in her hand. She asked us about our
   friends, what subject we liked best in school, who was our favorite
   rock singer. Nicole and I sat on the edge of the couch answering her
   questions in halting, stilted voices. It was as if we were being
   interviewed by a distant relative who hadn't seen us since we were two
   years old.
   
   On Thursday she bought a Monopoly game and insisted that the entire
   family play it that evening. We sat at the dining room table rolling
   the dice, moving our markers, exchanging paper money. Nicole and I
   argued over who would get the car as a marker. She ended up with the
   shoe and bought every piece of property she could get her hands on.
   Mom got both utilities and all the railroads except for Reading
   Railroad. She landed on the Go To Jail square almost every time she
   went around the board. Troy refused to buy anything but Boardwalk and
   Park Place. He put hotels on both of them and Dad went bankrupt when
   he landed there.
   
   On Saturday Dad and Mom wanted to take us to Wiliker's for lunch, but
   Nicole said she had made plans to meet a friend, so only Troy and I
   went with them. During lunch, while they were splitting a large order
   of onion rings, Dad and Troy decided to spend the afternoon shooting
   pool at Aces 'N Eights Billiards. They took Mom and me home after
   lunch.
   
   We stood on the sidewalk and watched the car disappear around the
   corner for a moment before we wandered up the driveway. The wisteria
   was in bloom, flowing gracefully over the fence, a light breeze
   causing its tentacles to move gently as if it was waving at us. Mom
   touched the delicate purple flowers as if they were old friends that
   she hadn't seen in a long time. She bent down to smell their rich
   sweet perfume.
   
   There must have been something euphoric in the scent because she
   laughed softly and spread her arms out, twirling around like a little
   girl. I watched her dancing on our driveway, her feet moving lightly
   over the concrete. I didn't want anything to spoil this day. I
   couldn't remember the last time that I had been alone with her. She
   stopped and smiled at me.
   
   "Let's go in the backyard. We bought this house because it had such a
   great view of the Bluffs and the river. It feels like it's been
   forever since I've stopped working long enough to look at it."
   
   We walked through the black wrought-iron gate. I heard the soft
   moaning before we saw them. Nicole and a dark-haired guy were entwined
   at the far side of the swimming pool, near the shallow end. The sun
   was glinting off the crystal blue water. Nicole's head was thrown back
   and her mouth was open. Through the wavering water it looked as if the
   guy had a second set of legs growing out of his hips.
   
   Mom stopped and stared at them for a moment. She turned around without
   saying anything. I followed her back through the black wrought-iron
   gate into the front yard. She gazed up at the pale sky and her lips
   moved as if she was praying, but I didn't hear a sound.
   
   I followed her up the sidewalk into the house. She went into the
   family room, opened the liquor cabinet, and poured herself a glass of
   red wine. I stood there watching her, feeling awkward and invisible.
   
   "I don't know what to tell Nicole," she said. "I haven't been sure
   what's wrong or what's right ever since I got divorced from my first
   husband."
   
   Mom had never talked about her first husband. When Nicole was ten, she
   rummaged through a box of odds and ends in the garage and found a
   picture of Mom in a white wedding gown, standing beside a tall man in
   a dark tuxedo. She was showing it to Troy and me when Mom came out
   carrying a load of laundry. Mom put down the laundry basket, took the
   picture, and went back into the house without saying anything. I never
   saw the picture again.
   
   "Why did you get divorced from him?" I asked.
   
   Mom sighed and sipped her wine for a moment before she spoke. "There
   were a lot of reasons. I used to lock myself in the bathroom when we
   were fighting. I'd sit on the edge of the bathtub clutching a towel
   and crying. I could hear him outside the door, rattling the door knob
   and shouting at me. When I left him, my side was covered with purple
   bruises because he had slammed me into a concrete wall."
   
   Her breath was raspy, as if she had just run several miles pursued by
   demons. She gulped down the rest of her wine. I heard a faint sound of
   splashing water coming from outside. Mom didn't seem to notice. She
   stared straight ahead, her face hard and angry.
   
   "I went to a priest for counseling. He told me God had joined us and I
   couldn't ever marry again or I'd be committing adultery and I'd burn
   in Hell. He made me feel as if I was evil and dirty to even want a
   divorce. I walked out of his office and I didn't go back to church
   until after I married your father."
   
   She looked at me and bit her lip, her eyes huge and wet. I could see
   the pain of remembering in her face. She was crystal glass, and now I
   knew of a fragile part of her I would have never guessed existed. I
   felt uncomfortable, as if I had seen her naked. I could hear Father
   Domino's voice in my head when he talked about helping people and I
   wondered what he would have said to her.
   
   "We had to get remarried by a priest before your father could go
   through his Confirmation. I went to talk to Father Hansel about
   getting my first marriage annulled by the Church. His clothes were
   wrinkled and he had his head on his desk when I came into his office.
   He understood why I had gotten divorced, but he said my reasons
   weren't good enough to get an annulment from the Church. He told me
   what to say on the statement." Mom's nose wrinkled with distaste at
   having to lie. "It didn't occur to me until after he left the
   priesthood what it must have cost him to tell people how to circumvent
   the very system he represented."
   
   We gazed at each other for a moment. Mom suddenly came over and sat
   beside me on the couch. She wrapped her arms around me and laid her
   head on my shoulder. I held onto her, smelling the flowery scent of
   wine on her breath, until we heard Nicole open the back door and come
   into the house.
   
   Troy graduated from San Joaquin Memorial that year. After school let
   out, Mom and Dad took us on a trip to Greece. We walked down narrow
   streets past the white cube-shaped houses on Mykonos, saw the
   windmills dotting the green patches of land below the pale purple
   mountains of Crete, and toured the Byzantine ruins of Mistra.
   
   Nicole walked around on the white beaches in brightly colored string
   bikinis, flirting with the local guys who kept asking her to take them
   to America. Troy hung around the piers watching the fishing boats as
   they came in and out of the harbors. While we were touring the
   Acropolis in Athens, he told Mom and Dad he was thinking about joining
   the Navy when we got back home.
   
   They talked him out of it during dinner. Dad promised if Troy would
   spend his first year of college in Fresno he would send him to any
   college he wanted after that. Mom kept drinking ouzo and touching Troy
   lightly on the arm. They seemed desperate to keep their family
   together, to try to fix what was wrong before their children
   disappeared and it was too late. Troy finally agreed to stay if they
   would send him to UC Santa Barbara and buy him a new car.
   
   Late in August, a couple months after we got back from Greece, Nicole
   found out she was pregnant. Mom took her down to the Family Planning
   Clinic and stayed in the waiting room while Nicole had an abortion. A
   few days later she made an appointment for Nicole to see a
   psychologist. Nicole had been going to him for about a month, and I
   had already started high school at San Joaquin Memorial, when he
   suggested to Mom that we should have family counseling. Dad objected
   at first, but then he gave in.
   
   Now we spend every Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. sitting around the
   psychologist's office looking at our hands and trying to say things
   that make us sound like a family. When I look at us sitting in our
   separate corners, I am reminded of being in church. I wonder if this
   is just another form of religion, or if we are trying to decipher the
   mystery of what we are supposed to be.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

                             about the authors
   
   
   ** Terry Azamber ( stardust@attitude.com )
   
   Terry Azamber has recently finished her first novel. Her publishing
   credits include short stories, poetry, and feature articles. She has a
   B.A. in English with an emphasis on fiction writing from California
   State University of Fresno. She lives in Fresno, California with her
   husband and their two sons.
  
 
   ** JBMulligan
   
   JBMulligan is married, has three children and poems and stories in
   dozens of magazines over the last 25 years, including recently Purple,
   Cafe Irreal and Gravity.
  
 
   ** Marie Kazalia ( MAKazalia@aol.com )
   
   Marie Kazalia lives in San Francisco, California, USA. Her poetry and
   fiction have been published widely in the small press and in numerous
   electronic journals.  She has a book of 36 poems--Erratic Sleep In A
   Cold Hotel, to be released September 1999, from Phony Lid
   Publications, PO Box 2153, Rosemead, CA 91770 USA. $5 postpaid, Canada
   & Mexico$6US, overseas$7US)
  
 
   ** Gary Lehmann ( glehmann@roichester.rr.com )
   
   Gary Lehmann teaches writing and literature at the Rochester Institute
   of Technology and fiction writing at Writers and Books. He has been
   the writer in residence at Roberts Wesleyan College and publishes
   regularly in literary journals. This summer he edited a cookbook for a
   local charity, and taught a course on the history of American
   Technology from Ben Franklin to Bill Gates. This fall he will be
   teaching poetry writing to a group of retirees. He is currently
   working on a novel about his grandfather's life in the Sheet Metal
   Union around the turn of this century.

   
   ** Elisha Porat ( porat_el@einhahoresh.org.il ;
                     http://www.flash.net/~unlikely/porat.html )
   
   Elisha Porat, a 1996 winner of Israel's Prime Minister's Prize for
   Literature, has published more than a dozen volumes of fiction and
   poetry in Hebrew since 1973. His works have appeared in translation in
   Israel, the United States, Canada and England.
   
   Mr. Porat was born in 1938 to a pioneer family in Petah Tikva, Israel.
   In the early 1930s his parents were among the founders of Kibbutz Ein
   Hahoresh, where he was raised and still makes his home.
   
   Drafted into the Israeli Army in 1956, he served in a frontline
   reconnaissance unit and fought the Six Day war in 1967, and the Yom
   Kippur War in 1973. As a lifelong member of his kibbutz, he has worked
   as a farmer as well as a writer. He currently performs editorial
   duties for several literary journals.

   
   ** Chris Pusateri ( naanabozho@aol.com )
   
   Educated in Jamaica and the United States, Chris Pusateri earned a
   graduate degree in creative writing from the University of New
   Mexico.
   His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly,
   Blue Mesa Review, Permafrost, and elsewhere. He lives in Albuquerque,
   New Mexico.

   
   ** Steve Wiesner ( wiesnese@email.uc.edu )
   
   Steve Wiesner has a degree in English from St. Cloud State University
   in St. Cloud, Minnesota. That was in 1982. What happened between then
   and now is a mystery, but one suspects chronic inertia. This is his
   first published work on a global scale (having published a few
   poems/short stories in the college literary magazine). He lives in
   Cincinnati.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
 
                             in their own words
   
   
   ** We Met by Gary Lehmann
   
   "We Met is virtually a literal record of what happened when I turned a
   corner on campus and unexpectedly found myself in an intimate embrace
   with a beautiful young lady."
  
 
   ** Light a Candle by Terry Azamber
   
   "The idea of Light a Candle came to me while I was touring Mission San
   Miguel in San Miguel, California. The title is taken from the phrase
   'Light a candle or curse the darkness.'"

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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