April 2018



Freezing

By: "Larry" Xieyuan Guo

When I was in the third grade in grammar school back in a small city in China, I suffered from depression. I kept my head in my shoulders, my sight stuck on the ground as if there were gold in it. I walked so fast that no one could catch up with me.
No one wanted to catch up with me as well.
I passed a cent to the beggar every single time I passed by. I had no impressions of him. I thought he always sat there under that regular tree, shook a bowl in his hand, stayed through the winters and summers, saw every cent thrown into his bowl.
This time when I gave the coin to him, he uttered something.
“Thanks,” he said, innocently and carelessly. “Don’t you have any friends with you?”
I shook my head, smiling with embarrassment.
“Sit right here,” he said in a surprisingly young voice.
I used my hand to clean out the dirt beside him. He saw that and laughed at me. “My friend, would you rather want to make your ass dirty, or your hands?”
My face turned red and I sat down quickly. What a word he just said.
“Don’t you want to know how old I am?”
It was such an interesting and direct question that I grew quite confused while I watched him over and over. He had messy hair but it hadn’t turned grey yet, and his black beard seemed to have terrible care. His broken clothes were shaking and telling its story in the winds of spring. He sat there under the tree with sprouting green leaves, seeming not old at all.
I said, “35?”
He said, “24,” and laughed and laughed, quite proud of his little trick.
I went silent for a moment. “Then, why,” I said carefully and seriously, eyes focused on the bowl in his hands, "do you do this... Yeah, this?”
I threw the conversation into an awkward silence. People walked by, talking and laughing, and the cars crossed my sight rapidly like ants busy carrying things. From time to time there would be one of my classmates stopping in front of me and they would look right through me and chuckle. It was quite funny, I think, the picture the two of us made. The beggar and I.
“Time for you to go home,” he said. “And you’re definitely too young to know those things.”
His face was frozen. I stood up quietly and headed for the bus stop and got onto the bus. I watched him sitting there with a blank expression, right hand rubbing the dirty pants, under that light green tree.

I had no idea about the relationship between him and me. I couldn’t tell.
I talked to him from time to time, always started from his greetings, always when I was in low moods.
I put the coin into his hands; he smiled at me slightly.
It happened every single day. However, I never considered him my friend. Of course, I knew him only a little bit, added with the born doubt about beggars. There should be a long way to go as well; of course I wouldn’t be proud just because I had a beggar friend.
It had been 3 months since the special spring day he talked to me for the first time. The leaves on the tree grew much bigger and greener over him.
I passed him a cent. He smiled.
I walked past him, accompanied by the hot summer winds, shot by the spicy sunshine. I hid into the shadow of the bus stop.
The bus came and I got onto it at last, because everyone rushed to get a seat and I didn’t want to be in that mess.
My face turned red when I was trying to grab my coins. My hands moved slowly and I counted the coins I had in the pocket.
I don’t have enough, I found it out.
This was so embarrassing that sweat appeared on my head.
“Looks like you’re feeling hot,” one of my classmates said, and laughter filled the bus. I gave him a careless glimpse, and he gave me one back. The bus driver was watching me as if a policeman was scrutinizing a prisoner’s every single move, the door left opened, his hands tapping the steering wheel. The boys and girls on the bus were watching me with a disgusted expression after finishing laughing because of such a “funny” joke.
The driver finally exploded, pointing to the opened door. “Pay or go! You’re wasting the time for all of us!”
I shrank a little bit. I turned around and when I was about to get off, he came onto the bus, the beggar. He walked quite slowly up onto the stairs, and everyone’s eyes were fixed on him in quiet surprise. He picked two coins from the bowl and gently put them into the container. He turned around, and slowly pulled his legs off the bus.
There was suffocating silence. The only noise was the doors being closed. He, the beggar--or my beggar friend, whatever I could call him--was waving to me with a smile. I lifted my hand and waved in a small radius. He stood right there, under the boiling sunshine. behind him was that purely green and growing tree.

“You know what,” I said, “I don’t know how fast the time flies. I’ve gotta go next month. Going to a middle school in another city.” I swept the dust away from my pants, and continued talking. “I really want to thank you for saving me out of depression to some degree. Sometimes when I felt lonely, I still know you’re here. Really. But, well, I’ll be gone for years, after a few months.”
He said nothing, nodding slightly. He sat there, watching into the void. The brown leaves which fell down from the trees covered his lap. But his hands were frozen and he didn’t clean those leaves from his legs. I, a 6-grader now, looked a little maturer than before. A little.
“Hey, you know what?” he said, imitating how I started the conversation, smiling a little bit. “You asked me why I did this, huh?”
“... Yes?”
“I was an orphan,and through my own efforts and scholarship I got to be an IT student and graduated with a great grade. well at least they told me I was a great student. Of course I was accepted to one of the best companies here. I did an excellent job there, but, you know what?” I saw tears coming out of his eyes focused on the east, the tears reflecting the orange lights from the sun of the late afternoon. His fists hammered his legs, casting the leaves aside. “Just because of my terrible efforts... Others were jealous... Jealousy, others’ jealousy, made me out of work...”
“What happened?”
“I don’t know how to... how to communicate with my co-workers. Everyone hated me; everyone hates me, always. I work so hard that everyone around me feels threatened, and anyone who has a little bit of a relationship with the boss can use a simple trick to kick me out of my position...”
He broke into tears and cried. I didn’t know how to comfort him. My sorrow was just a bunch of combined boring things. He patted my shoulder and said, “Remember, not everything can be earned by efforts. Really, the world is just that unfair.”
I said nothing.
“I can do nothing. I’m an orphan. I don’t really know how to communicate with others. I don’t know what to do, and the world is definitely not as friendly as I think. What can I do? I can only run away from everything. Everything. I’m not afraid to start everything all over again. Dreams never die. Never.” He wiped the tears out of his face, calming himself down. “Come on, which direction you’ve walked toward is not called ‘forward’?”
He stood between me and the sun, his outline traced by darkness. Over his long, long shadow were those falling leaves, falling, falling, falling.
“Just go,” he said without turning his head toward me. “Go home. Your parents should be worrying about you at this time.”
He sighed, and repeated, “Which direction you’ve walked toward is not called ‘forward’?” And he laughed. The laughter was noisy and wild.

In the winter vacation of my 8th grade, which I spent in a middle school in another city, I decided to go back to my hometown and stay for days. One day I went to roam around my hometown. The temperature was swaying just above the freezing point but it didn’t snow. I stood under the tree, the bare tree, the tree with all of the memories of the only beggar friend I had ever had.
No one was there.
A beggar walked towards me with great effort, shaking, his clothes half worn out, a dirty hat, a pair of dusted and broken pants, his beard messy and dirty, the frozen liquid on it shining. It’s him, I thought, but through the thick mist in the winter morning I could only see an unclear outline. With me in sight, he pulled his legs even harder towards me, and an enthusiasm and indifferent smile appeared on his face. He shook his bowl with his wrinkled and withered hands and the coins made annoying noises inside it.
“My brother... you have any...just any change?”
What happened to you, my... my brother?
The world was frozen. Everything stopped moving and only he, the beggar, my once-had-been beggar friend, was bending his body towards me, handing the bowl to me, with that pleasing and disgusting smile on his face. I didn’t know whether only I was his “brother”, or every single person is either his “brother” or “sister." I sighed, held my breath and controlled my heart rate, focusing my gaze into his earnest eyes. I pulled out a coin and tamped it into his bowl, and he bowed and bowed and, and “thanks, thanks, thanks” escaped his mouth. Then he walked away slowly, as if he was injured all over his body, and suddenly walked much faster and ran away from the scene and the sins.
I said nothing. I didn’t know what to say.
I had questions in my throat. Of course I did. I just thought those words were pointless.
Where are your dreams that live forever? Are you going to start all over again, as you said, or be a lifelong beggar? Where is the direction you called “forward”?
“Which direction you’ve walked toward is not called ‘forward’?” I heard someone speaking, voices coming from the sky. I walked away, with my dreams and a dream that had stopped breathing, from that tree standing in the cycle of the seasons and every single second of the memories and everything. When I was trying to flee away I burst into laughter. The laughter was noisy and wild.
He was once a motivation for me. He was once an uncommon reason for me to live in this world. Once.
Well, how funny is it? Brother, how funny is this joke? A beggar friend? A beggar with a dream?
The snow was coming down from the sky. The tears which stayed on my chin froze up.

 

 

Larry is 17-year-old from New Mexico.



Number Thirty

By: Kevin Dunse

The winter light waned quickly, and the full moon began to show its true colors as the freshly fallen snow turned blue in its glare. In near silence, I slipped through the woods with a confident swagger, sliding under logs and through brush with a grace that could be challenged by no other beast. I was a Manitoban gray fox, one of the last of my rare kind. It was the night of the first snow, and from the many years past I knew what this night would bring. They called my kind the sungila, and we were hated fiercely.

I prepared myself for the night of first snow by distancing myself from man. My relationship with man was one of exchange. In my age of many moons, I had begun to rely on man, stealing from him the food on which I lived. For this, man hated me, and on the night of the first snow he would run me to the ends of the earth.

As I crawled through undergrowth that was home to the rabbits I had hunted in my youth, I turned my eyes to the sky. The moon had reached full height, casting its glow across the snowy expanse. I stopped to lick the frozen clumps from between my toes, and then I heard it.

The horn sounded like the bugle of a bull elk. Following it were the bellows of the foxhounds that had tracked me in so many years past. I had traveled a seemingly long distance, but I knew that the well-conditioned foxhounds would be upon me in moments. I began to vary my trail. Moving up and down logs, across creeks, and even up and down trees. I ran until I could run no longer. I moved for many miles, until my elderly body could move no longer. I had free range, as my kind were few and far between, and I had no contenders. I moved until I could no  longer, and I knew it would not be far enough. At this, I coiled into a hollowed log and awaited my fate.

I listened as the hounds bellowed away into the night, defeating every obstacle I had thrown at them. They crossed the creek with a vigor that could only be had in an animal, a true beast. I was not safe, and I knew it. With age had gone my endurance, and with my gluttony I had grown lazy. I was foolish to allow such things to overcome me. I backed deeper into the hollowed log as the hounds moved closer and closer. My breaths grew sharper and the log felt as though it were constricting around me. The hounds drew closer and closer yet, and I knew that my life would be drawing to a close within mere moments. I panicked. I couldn’t sit. I had to run.

I slithered out of the hollowed log and peered across the flat expanse. I heard the bellows of the hounds and within seconds I could see them, ears flopping and noses held tightly to the ground. I spun in the opposite direction and moved up the hill towards the largest oak tree in the land that I had roamed as a young dog. I stopped at the base of the tree and saw that one hound had spotted me and was closing the ground quickly. I looked up the trunk, and pulled the last trick that I had up my sleeve; one that few Manitoban foxhounds had seen in many years.

I reached the first scraggly limb of the oak tree and peered down to the hound that had treed me. I could see its dark brown face staring up at me, split by a strip of white. I feared its endless bellows would shake me out of the tree. I looked the beast in the eyes and knew that this was the face of death. I no longer had the agility to move through the trees and had cornered myself. All that I could do was sit and wait. Wait for the slower hounds. Wait for the man that inevitably followed. Wait for death.

 

I stood leaning on the bed of my truck, smoking the last cigarette that I had in my pack. For the ninth year in a row, I found myself at the old Vandervelden farm. For many years, a fox had tormented the native family’s stock, and for years I had failed to kill the beast. I knew that this year my luck would change. I had always lost the fox in the most strange of ways. He did things that foxes should not be able to do. He was a spirit of the wilderness, a beast that’s cunning was challenged by no other animal I had ever encountered. With that thought, I threw down my cigarette and stomped it into the dirt. I looked up to see that the moon was high in the sky, and I lowered the tailgate of my truck. I unlatched the large dog box contained within the bed and let my trio of American foxhounds jump down onto the frozen ground. Within no time, they had struck a track. I reached into the back seat of my truck and carried on a tradition that my father had taught me when I starting fox hunting many years ago as a child; blowing the horn. I blew a hearty blow and sounded the beginning of the hunt. I then watched the dogs as they ran into the moonlight. Certain of their direction, I crawled back into my truck and started off to get ahead of them.

I knew from my experience with this fox that it always seemed to cross one dug road in the same spot just a few hundred yards over the ridge of a hill. I reached the spot in a timely manner to ensure that the animal wouldn’t get too far ahead of the hounds. I stopped one hundred and fifty yards away from where the fox was sure to cross and exited my truck. I first stopped to listen, and I confirmed that the hounds were headed my way. I then took a moment to remove my gun from the back of the truck. I admired it after getting it into the moon’s glow. It was a bolt action 12-gauge, engraved with The Original Marlin Goose Gun along the barrel. In the bluing near the inscribed lettering were twenty-nine crude tallies. Each mark represented a red fox that had fallen dead to a shot from the unusual weapon. The two round magazine slid into the well smoothly, and I locked a No. 4 buckshot shell into the chamber. I then removed the magazine and placed in a third and final shell before returning the magazine to the gun.

I put the firearm on safe and crept down the road to the spot where the fox crossed every year without fail, a lack of tracks in the fresh snow reassured me that the mysterious animal had not yet crossed the road. I sat down, leaning against a tree nearly perfectly on the path the fox would take. Soon, I thought. For now, it’s a waiting game.

I bursted awake in the snow. The waiting game had taken too long, and I had nodded off to sleep. Large flakes of snow fell silently in the brightening morning sky. I stood and brushed them from myself and my gun. It was then that I first heard the hounds, sounding like ringing bells in the otherwise silent and peaceful night. They didn’t move towards me, staying in the same place. I began to move to look for tracks, but I quickly realized that it would be useless in the fresh snowfall and set off into the wilderness after my dogs.

 

The slower dogs soon caught up, yet there was little that they could do to reach me—and little that I could do to escape them. They attempted to rocket themselves up the tree at me to no avail, sounding their awful howls across the land. I knew man to be a slow and clumsy creature, but he was one who’s firestick could deal great harm to all wild things. The snow began to fall again, soon in larger and larger flakes until the blizzard was nearly obscuring all vision. The violent winds drew cold and blew the flakes sideways, until the forest was hardly visible from my perch high in the tree. In the violent weather, I quickly drew tired of life. My bones ached deeply and I was wrapped in a veil formed by the freezing air as it coiled around me. I finally began to wish for the hunter to come as the hours of night passed into hours of morning.

 

I trudged through the deep snow to find out why the dogs had stopped. I was sure that my opportunity was wasted again, bringing the hunt for this animal into the tenth year. I wanted nothing more than to take this animal's pelt to the taxidermist. I went about 300 yards into the woods before spying my dogs leaping up a tree, sounding into the night.

My initial thought was that they had treed a bobcat. It had happened once before, and it had sprung from the tree as I approached. This beast did not leap. As I approached the base of the tree, it did not take me long to spot a pair of eyes peering back down at me. It stood as I raised my gun, and I saw the canine outline. I placed the bead over the area of the lungs and squeezed the trigger.

 

I laid in my tree as I watched him approach. His long firestick rested in his arms as he walked. He came up just underneath me as I stood in my final act of defiance. I heard a click come from his firestick just moments before it let out a roar and licked flames in my direction. I dropped and held tightly to the branch in my last thoughts of life. I felt the warmth of the blood leaking down my sides as I kicked myself off of the branch subconsciously. The fall felt strange, as I never hit the ground. My last memory was being caught around the throat by the strong grip of the jaws of an american foxhound. The last memory of my kind. The Manitoban gray fox.

 

I rushed over to my hound and pried my prize from his jaws. As I pulled it above their heads, I was incredibly surprised to see a gray fox, not the usual red. It was an animal like I had never seen before, unmatched in beauty. The blood stained his mottled coat and frothed from his mouth. I returned to the truck as the sun began to crest the horizon and returned the dogs to their box. I laid the fox onto the tailgate of the truck and admired it. It was an old dog, with aged cuts and teeth worn to nearly flat. He was covered in a thick layer of fat and crippled. The fact that I had finally killed the Vandervelden fox had settled in. I laid him gently in the bed of the truck and closed the tailgate. Before crawling back into the cab, I took my hunting knife and sliced the thirtieth notch into the bluing of my gun. I put the key into the ignition of the old Ford and it grumbled to life. Putting it into drive, I began to reflect. It would be daylight by the time I hit town, and I was exhausted, but I drove for lack of choice. My hands that had been numbed by snow and wind began to thaw. I decided that my first stop in town would be for food, and then I’d be off to taxidermist. As I pulled off the dirt road towards town, I realized that I had almost forgot to show Old Mr. Vandervelden.

 

 

Kevin is a 15-year-old from Wisconsin.