In our Apostrophes section, (614) Magazine attempts to highlight some of the incredible literary talent that lives, works, and writes in Columbus. If you are an interested writer, please direct your submissions (1,000 words max for prose, 300 words max for poetry,) along with a brief bio, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Excerpted from Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking
By Scott Navicky
Later that night, over a dinner of soybean and onion casserole, Humboldt asked his father if it was true that he would soon be attending college.
—Yes, his father replied, not lifting his eyes from his plate.
His father’s nonchalance was almost reassuring to Humboldt. And while it was normally not in his nature to ask follow-up questions, Humboldt decided that this development warranted further examination. —When? —Tomorrow.
This answer surprised Humboldt and he decided that another follow-up question was warranted.
—Shouldn’t I finish Junior High School first?
Humboldt’s father shook his head and continued eating.
—Homeschooled, he mumbled.
Humboldt found the news that he had been homeschooled almost as surprising as the news that he was scheduled to start college in less than twenty-four hours. He didn’t remember being homeschooled any more than he remembered applying for college.
—Are you sure I was homeschooled?
Humboldt’s father nodded.
—Everyone’s schooled at home, even this casserole.
Humboldt took a bite of his homeschooled casserole. He chewed thoughtfully and thought chewfully, but he didn’t feel any smarter. Humboldt had never thought about change before. Was this what it tasted like? And what did change look like? Did it stretch and grow like silence and days? Was it small like a soybean or large like a watermelon? And where were its gusty breezes? The air in the dining room was deathly still.
—How did this happen?
—Edna. She’s the guidance counselor at Winesburg High School. She helped me fill out your application. And congratulations, you graduated summa cum laude.
In addition to feeling proud of his unknown academic excellence, Humboldt felt confused. He had never heard his father speak so eloquently, and this eloquence made Humboldt wonder if their casserole really had been homeschooled. Humboldt was also confused about Edna. In addition to free onions and sex, Humboldt never realized that she was also providing his father with guidance. Guidance? Didn’t she have difficulty guiding her bike down the driveway?
—Edna thinks you’ll do fine at college.
What did Edna know about college? College was a foreign country. When people spoke of it, they lowered their voices, as if they were discussing something terrible. From these whispers, Humboldt had learned that when someone went to college, they never came back! Sure, they were sometimes granted parole for a holiday or a month in the summer, but when this parole was over, they were gone. Gone. College disappeared people.
If these were indeed the winds of change and he a ship and college the seacoast, Humboldt was certain that he would run aground! Shipwrecked and stranded, Humboldt foresaw himself alone on that distant shore, unprotected and vulnerable, like a wailing illtempered baby amidst a tempest.
—Why can’t I just stay here? Humboldt asked his father. I don’t want to be a college student; I want to be a farmer.
Humboldt’s father shook his head again.
—Foreclosed. Subprime mortgage. Housing bubble, he said, before adding “Edamame” and shaking his head in dismay.
—But what does any of that mean?
Humboldt’s father shrugged.
—I don’t know. Nobody knows. That’s why you have to go to college. After a couple of weeks, you should be smart enough to know what we have to do to save the farm. Your acceptance packet is near the front door.
Humboldt spent the rest of the meal silently brooding over forprime subclosure bubble houses. His father was silent too. Perhaps he too was moody brooding over futurebubbles. Once he had silently said good-bye to his casserole, Humboldt said good-bye to his father.
As he casually leafed through the stack of papers that had been left for him on the table next to the front door, Humboldt felt a hand tenderly touch his shoulder.
—Son, never forget that the goal of college is to learn how to think like everyone else. Don’t be one of those damn fools who goes to college to learn how to think for yourself.
Humboldt thanked his father for this piece of fatherly advice and promised that he would not try to learn how to think for himself while at college. And then Humboldt was banished from the farm he loved.
Once outside, Humboldt could still see the wobbly line that Edna’s bike tires had carved into the dirtskin of their driveway. Humboldt followed this line towards the main road. At the end of the driveway, Humboldt paused near a soy patch. Bending his knees, Humboldt lowered himself to plant level and took one last look at the sprouting leaves and the tiny packed pods. Off in the distance, through the dense canopy of leaves, Humboldt could still see the illuminated windows of his father’s farmhouse. Without thinking, Humboldt twisted a single soy pod from its stem, staring at it quizzically before putting it into his pocket. He then continued his forward march down the driveway, eventually merging with the aggressive vehicular confusion of the main road.
About the Author
Born in Cambridge, Ohio, Scott Navicky attended Denison University and the University of Auckland, where he was awarded an Honors Master’s Degree in art history with a focus on photography theory. He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.
Huff Post Science News Headline, or When You Wish Something More Had Been Lost
By Paula J. Lambert
The fossilized remains of a primitive Chinese bird, the article said,
show he had feathers on his legs. Long ones. But Huff Post’s headline
had promised more, positing that birds may once have had four wings,
that “extra feathered limbs” might have helped them to fly. To read
these leg-feathers were only a rudder was letdown. I’d hoped to discover
birds had evolved from something more delicate than dinosaurs, that
teeth were not all that had been lost in the process. I wanted to read
birds had descended from seraphim—that angel wings and birds’ wings,
flapping furiously, had fused. I wanted to believe something holy
had wanted a closer look at what God created: trees, berries, beaches,
all things under the sea so hard to discern from so far away. Angels
already know something of wind, but nothing of clenching: the bark
of a sycamore, scales of a fish, an emerald lawn. I wanted to read
the losing of wings was a wanting, and not just a no longer needing.
About the Author
Paula J. Lambert is a new member of the Ohio Arts Council Arts Learning Program and the author of two books of poetry: The Sudden Seduction of Gravity (Full/Crescent Press, 2012) and The Guilt That Gathers (Pudding House, 2009). She is a past recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship and was a resident fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Lambert’s MFA in creative writing is from Bowling Green State University. She is co-host of Peripatetic Poets, a Columbus open mic show which meets on the fourth Sunday of the month at Global Gallery Coffee Shop. She lives in Dublin, Ohio, with her husband Michael Perkins and their family.
The above poem was shortlisted in the 2013 Fermoy (Ireland) International Poetry Competition and was published in an Irish literary magazine called The Blue Max Review, and is published here for the first time in the U.S.
Remembering the Kahiki
By Rikki Santer
We linger at that intersection of Napoleon
and Broad where the fat ass of a Walgreens
sits on the flattened ghost of a blueprint for paradise—
a dining palace where we were eager passengers
for that giant Polynesian war ship landlocked and coy.
Tonight, we drift through a drugstore’s glass doors
but imagine night fire spewing from the heads of two,
20-foot moai. We filter through Muzak and cash register
din to hear the siren gong of the Mystery Girl with her
alchemist’s boat of a drink. We might be flanked by milk
of magnesia and foot creams, but we rise from the foam
of a Pina Passion to hover over the span of an aquarium
wall thick with swimming jewels, then cross
the room to a rainforest with preening parrots
and thunderstorms on a timer. At the Outrigger
Bar, decked in the robes of our birthdays, anniversaries
or lusty prom promises, we suck Pu Pu Platter goo
from our occidental nails. Tiki culture massages us
like a feverish cocktail, cocked and tail wagging,
ample breasts top-loading all things trayed.
Tonight, just off the beltway, a Kahiki factory
frames the same logo for its food line, and here
in Walgreens’ freezer, we find nostalgia
boxed and gagged. General Tso’s Chicken
and EasyCrisp Egg Rolls call out meekly:
It’s [still] Asian Tonight.
About the Author
Rikki Santer is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in various publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Margie, Slab, Alabama Literary Review, Potomac Review, RHINO, Grimm and The Main Street Rag. Two of her published collections have explored place: Front Nine (the Hopewell earthworks of Newark, Ohio) and Kahiki Redux (the late Kahiki Supper Club of Columbus, Ohio). Clothesline Logic, was published by Pudding House as finalist in their national chapbook competition, and her latest book, Fishing for Rabbits, was recently published by Kattywompus Press.