Writer in Residence · 10/08/2012

Two Writers Respond To A Prompt: Joy and Sherwood

THE ATTRACTION OF BUTTERFLIES

by T. L. Sherwood

I told Marshall there must be a good reason for the fence. He laughed at me and said I’d believe any lie, as long as it made it into print.

“‘Do not enter’ is like them asking, ‘Are you alive or dead?’” He grabbed his gut, pressing it to quell the jiggling flesh. “What do you think is going to happen? It’s a cornfield for God’s sake.”

Looking down at my Cannon, I admitted I didn’t know.

“Aren’t you afraid I’ll get a better picture than you? Win the Smithsonian photo contest again? Beat you to a Pulitzer?” My brother came to photography during his tour of Afghanistan. I’d been studying since high school.

“I don’t care about that.”

“Yeah, Christy, you do.”

“Shut up.”

“Make me!”

“Fuck you.”

“Chicken.” Siblings know exactly which switch will flip an adult into a tween.

“I’m not a chicken.”

“Be here at four a.m. then. We’ll slip under, get some outstanding shots at dawn and be back in the darkroom by nine.”

“What if we get caught?”

“Doing what? Taking pictures of black swallowtail butterflies on one of their migration stops? Come on.”

I aim my lens at the top of the Monster Seed Corporation’s water tower and scan down. Zooming in, I think I see a uniformed man with a gun walking around the fifth band of scaffolding. It’s just the painter with his sprayer, of course. The shade of slate blue the company chose for the water tower had attracted a slew of butterflies. Environmentalists demanded they change the color and the corporation was complying. The rest of their rape of the land would continue while a few butterfly lovers were appeased. It was — literally — the least Monster Seed Corporation could do.

I drove to the spot on the dirt road where we had agreed to meet. It was four fifteen. When I opened my car door, there was a sound — a loud, angry burst. The sun was just starting to light up jet trails on the horizon. Marshall wasn’t in his truck. I called out, but in a hush. I wanted him to respond, sneak up behind me and scare me good for being late, but he didn’t. At five, I left.

A week later his name surfaces in the newspapers. He’s accused of trespassing and bioterrorism. It’s in print, but I can’t believe it’s true. Ironic, but not true.

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T. L. Sherwood lives in western New York. She has stories appearing or forthcoming in Rosebud, Thema, and Vestal Review. Her blog can be found here: http://tlsherwood.wordpress.com.

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DARK HOURS

By Len Joy

For the last six months, Zelda, the high school dropout with two baby boys and the loser boyfriend had called every night right at 2:45 with her request.

“Hey, Conrad.” She was crying. That wasn’t like Zelda. She was a rock. Conrad marveled at her resilience. Her life was totally fucked and yet she always had a joke and a kind word.

“Get any compliments on your moth tat?” he asked. She’d had her neck tattooed last week.

She giggled between sobs. “It’s a black swallowtail butterfly. And it’s beautiful. It’s practically alive.”

“What’s your pleasure tonight, hon?”

“Some Steve Roach? Something from his Landmass album?”

Roach was an ambient composer. His cuts went on forever. The bosses didn’t want him playing anything longer than ten minutes. “How about ‘Monuments of Memory’?” Fuck the bosses.

C-RAD had been out of work for two years, sleeping on a couch in his mom’s Myrtle Beach trailer when his ex-wife’s other ex-husband had offered him the graveyard shift at WCAN in Canajoharie, New York. The format was New Age and C-RAD had always been classic Rock, but he didn’t care. He was just grateful it wasn’t country or Christian.

On the drive up he had played a dozen New Age albums and even read the fine print on the CDs. He needed a new persona. His raspy-voiced, switchblade put-downs weren’t going to work for people who were up in the middle of the night listening to the tinkling sound of a mountain stream. By the time he made it to Canajoharie, he had transformed himself into dulcet-toned Conrad, the sexiest DJ on the Erie Canal.

The music was so soothing he had started a request line just to keep himself awake. Every night he got two or three dozen calls — lonely, lost souls just trying to make it through the night. They all touched Conrad in different ways, but Zelda was the one whose call he waited for.

Usually she’d call back and thank him. They’d talk about their lives and it was good. Gave him hope. She phoned as his shift was ending.

“That was cool, Conrad, thanks.” Her voice was barely a whisper.

“You okay, Zelda?”

“No,” she said. “I’m not going to make it. Thanks for being nice to me.” And then she hung up.

When he called back there was no answer. Not even a dial tone.

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Len Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois. Recent work has appeared in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Johnny America, Specter Magazine, Washington Pastime, Hobart, 3 AM Magazine, Pindeldyboz, and The Daily Palette (Iowa Review). He has recently completed a novel, “American Jukebox,” about a minor league baseball player whose life unravels after he fails to make it to the major leagues. His blog, “Do Not Go Gentle…” chronicles his pursuit of USA Triathlon Age-Group Championships. In June 2012 he completed his first Ironman at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

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posted by Stefanie Freele