Lime Hawk

Lime Hawk is an independent artist collective and literary press based in Redding, Connecticut, producing works that muse on environment, culture, and sustainability. 

Sean Pomposello

Michael Welch
Searching for the Reservoir

Abby sits on a railroad tie, legs splayed out over the pebbly dirt parking lot as the sun winks through the tall pines. The rest of us are thirty feet away, seated around a dead fire pit, not looking at two Snickers wrappers displayed upon a rock. I’ve called Group at the discovery of the illicit candy. Staff holds all money, or should, so the strong suspicion is theft, probably at the fruit stand where we stopped. This is a spur-of-the-moment trip for Eagles Girl’s Cottage, not the usual structured itinerary for a Sunny Days Group Home outing, I’m afraid, but staff felt a day hike would bring some needed relief. Sunny Days is a smallish organization—forty kids, ages twelve to seventeen, spread over four cottages—and privately run, funded purely through grants and donations, which allows us to be a bit more creative in our response to difficulties. This past week nothing terrible happened—no self-mutilation or big fights, no clandestine sex—just a string of tense days that typically precedes a storm.

With me on this trip are Miriam, our cottage psychologist, Jack, a second counselor, lent to us from one of the boys’ cottages for added security, and all ten of our girls. None of us expected to drive three hours just to be stuck in stalemate at the foot of a mountain. Abby, for once, is not my prime suspect. First of all, due to a switch to Mellaril, she recently put on thirty pounds. She woke up this morning guaranteeing she would lose ten by noon; I don’t believe she would have veered for candy quite so quickly. Secondly, whenever Abby is guilty she turns the tables by pitching a fit, and right now she is no more than mildly miffed. I watch as she checks the dew steaming off the van hood and claps her hand off her thigh to send out a message that she is way past ready. When she catches me looking, she juts her jaw toward the trail entrance and mouths, “Heather, let’s go!”

“Abby, can you keep still please?” I tell her, doing my best to appear nonchalant. Should I be too firm we might have another little fire to put out, and once these spats gain momentum they can multiply as maddeningly as computer pop-ups.

“Sure is a bummer when people think they need to steal,” croons Miriam, her voice so exaggeratedly plaintive that a few girls roll their eyes. I grant that as psychologist it’s Miriam’s job to keep all these issues in the realm of our “therapeutic milieu,” but she’s been at Sunny Days forever and is unaware when she lays it on a bit too thick. The girls had a good smile when she showed up to work this morning, graying hair tied into pigtails and hippyish jeans we’ve never seen—a bit too perfectly patched.

I remove my clipboard from my lap, hug my knees, and back up Miriam nonetheless. “We’re staying put till we work this out,” I hear myself say.

From afar but certainly loud enough to be heard, Abby grumbles. “We all know who did it. Least anyone with half a brain. So let’s just yank out their fingernails and get it over with.”

Miriam says, “Thank you, Abby, but we can take care of this.” But then she surprises me. “Would you like to rejoin us?” My only guess is that she wants to use Abby as leverage.

Abby comes over carrying on her hip the inner tube she’s brought for swimming. It’s the cumbersome, misshapen black kind with a valve, so she and Berne, the only two who brought them, had to blow them up earlier with a bike pump. When I told them that the online State Parks map was vague, swimming only a possibility, they dismissed me in their standard, overconfident way.

Miriam waits while Abby takes her sweet time to settle. “So, Abby, what do you think about all this? You sure do look ready to get going.”

Abby glares back. “Woulda been happy to tell you before, you hadn’t left my friendly butt back there in the lot.”

“Talk to your peers,” reminds Miriam.

Abby turns obediently and with a cheesy smile exclaims, “Hi! Let me introduce myself. I’m Miriam’s puppet.” Then, making sure not to look at anyone directly, she says, “C'mon you two, just cop to it. You really think they’re going to turn the bus around after how long we drove? Pul-lease.

The two girls Abby specifically isn’t looking at readjust themselves on their adjacent rocks. To add to the complexity of the situation, these same two were caught stealing on our last outing to Chuck E. Cheese’s, which means, if caught, they will be on double-probation: extra chores and no rec for two weeks.

No one moves. Miriam’s plan to raise the pressure seems to be working. Then Abby’s face suddenly brightens and she lassoes her arm. In preacher-voice she booms, “C’mon and release your sins, ladies! Let’s get on to what we really came for. There’s some re-eal men on this mountain, capital UMMMMM, I can smell ’em!” Everyone cracks up—all leverage gone. Abby grins at her small victory.

Miriam waits for things to calm. She is the picture of persistence, eyeing Bernice now. “Well, Berne, how about you? Don’t you want to get going? Sure looks like it.”

Bernice glowers her agreement but doesn’t manage to find any words. She towers over Abby, but her arms are pulled meekly inside her sizable Chris Brown and Rihanna t-shirt. When she finally speaks, her voice is weak as a wind-up doll’s. “Ye-es.”

Miriam nods. She is about to ask Berne a followup question but, out of nowhere, she is interrupted. “Fine,” blurts one of the suspects. “We did it. Satisfied?”

Relief coats Bernice's face. As if a starter’s gun has fired, the rest of the girls spring to their feet and scramble for make-up packs, purses, and other hike essentials. We are off. All but the two guilty ones, who remain behind with Miriam for sentencing, which for right now will be no more than to stick by staff’s side.

Our procession accordions up the trail, Abby and Berne in the lead, carrying their tubes out front like bass drums. Abby calls to me, optimistically points to a signpost that reads: Reservoir: 1.2. “Yes, Ab,” I say. But we’ll have to see. Through the trees, as far as I can see, the trail is steadily upward. One point two miles may be longer than she presently believes.

Nonetheless, we are full of energy. A sea of brown leaves crunch underfoot while a gentle breeze lifts the tones of giddy conversations. I hear chatting about “waistlines” and “hips,” also something about how “Ramon from Dobbins Boy's Cottage can jam,” which I dearly hope refers to his prowess at basketball.

With determination, I catch up to Abby and Berne but bide my time, keep a few steps back. Beyond our cottage’s aforementioned need for a breather, this trip has a secondary function, at least for Abby and me, which is to finally get some of her good-byes done. Abby is moving on to another placement, and as her Staff Rep—her primary counselor—it’s up to me to ensure she begins to take her upcoming departure more seriously. These “good-byes” are not merely the wavey, “Let’s stay in touch” kind, but a formal part of SD protocol. Kids come and go here—from and to other placements, their homes, juvie—which is just how it is, but bonding with each other and with staff remains the linchpin of our milieu. We want the kids to honor their relationships and not burn bridges. Abby has been putting off her good-byes for two months now, ever since her expulsion paperwork was initiated, and this is a growing problem. On the bus, Miriam came over to me and whispered, “You know, if you’re having trouble getting her to do them, you might ask yourself, ‘What am I unable to let go of?’”

Yes, supposedly we are all in therapy together here at SD. Not that I’ve ever heard anything particularly revealing from Miriam in staff meetings, and not that most counselors take this aspect of our milieu very seriously either. The typical counselor is like Jack, thirties or forties, so in need of a job that they’ll even take an overtaxing, low paying one. The average tenure is two years, at which point true burnout has set in and hopefully something else has come along. Then there are counselors like me—recent college grads, psychology majors, who embrace the job in all its dimensions as a kind of fieldwork for their resumes. Two years applies to us too.

I am at a year and nine months.

There on the bus, I replied to Miriam, “Why? Do you see me as unable to let go of something?”

She backed off, shrugged. “It’s just a question.”

On the trail, I slip in beside Abby. Her Good-Bye chart is weighty in my hand. Nine empty boxes next to nine numbered names. To make matters worse, when I showed her the chart last night she sneered, “Numbers are right. They’re all just types to me now. Defective goods, me included. Look around—cutter, bully, freak, puker, ‘nother puker, pyro. How long will it take you to find another fat schizoid like me? Gee, can you say like four seconds?” There on the spot she began to refer to the girls only by their numbers, a decision I chose to go along with in order to keep it at the playful level and maintain her focus on the task at hand.

“Ok, well you’ll always be my number one,” I told her, lamely.

Right now, as I brush against Abby and flash the chart, I’m hoping she’s forgotten all about the numbering thing. “Now sure would be a perfect time to mosey up and do a Good-Bye,” I say to her, casually as I can. I point to a name. “How about her? You two used to be roomies.”

“Four? No way. And did you just say mosey?

“Don’t be too smart for your own good, Ab. We need to do this.”

“Too smart to ever mosey, that’s for sure.”

“C’mon, this is what you do—put up a front to blow things off. We’ve worked hard to get to this point. You promised. We’ve practiced.”

“There you go with we again.”

I nudge her softly and whisper, “How about Berne? Just pick a nice memory and revisit it. Then tell her you’ll miss her. Done.”

“‘Nice memory?’ You’re kidding, right?”

“Oh, come on. I have photos of you in precious moments with every kid here.”

“Photos, maybe. But you wouldn’t want to see the movie.”

“Please, Ab,” I try again. “Four. Bring up the time you and she did that dance step from High School Musical.”

“Oh shit, now there’s one that needs to be checked off—from memory. News flash: I was only exposing how lame she was.”

“You were?”

Abby just shakes her head in disbelief.

“Just try, dammit.”

She stares at me. “A near-curse from Betty. Impressive.”

Betty. A purposeful conversation killer and low blow if there ever was one. I give up for now and fall back along the trail, slip into memories of when she’d tagged me with the name—my initial day of orientation, a quick twenty-four hours after I’d first come across the Sunny Days job listing in the newspaper. Since it was my inaugural true job, I’d woken up brimming with enthusiasm, determined to impress everyone I came in contact with. But by noon, when I was sent from a sterile office to have lunch at Eagles cottage, my momentum had flagged some. By that point I’d read all the girls’ files and fallen under the belief that they were fragile whirling gyroscopes, ready to careen from their delicate strings at the slightest wrong comment. At the same time I pictured myself being cold-shouldered, left to sit alone and smile uncomfortably at my food.

I couldn’t have been more wrong on either score. No sooner had I knocked on the door than I was rushed by a battalion of gleaming and seemingly healthy girls who called out my name and glommed onto me as if I were a movie star. Within half an hour it was not delicacy or disdain but their enthusiasm that overwhelmed me, and sent me ducking into the kitchen for a moment’s respite.

There, alone, bent over a sink of dirty dishwater and sobbing, was Abby. “You don't know shit about me!” she bemoaned the suds.

I was stuck, too caught-off-guard to announce myself, worried that if I slowly backed out she might hear me, whip around, and think I’d been spying on her.

The longer I waited, the worse it became.

Finally, I opened the door two inches then pushed it loudly shut. The girl spun and glared at me.

“Who the fuck are you? Betty Crocker?”

“Betty Crocker? No. I’m Heather. I'm new.”

“Counselor or kid?"

“What?”

“Are you a coun-sel-or or are-you-a-kid?”

“Why, do I look like a kid?”

“Maybe not. More like boring ex-Prom Queen, uptight as a friggin’ board, now wants to see how the other half lives. Marcelle, the bitch cook, is saying I left these dishes, but I didn’t.”

I stood blankly, absorbed by the girl’s rising beauty, her high cheekbones and clear blue eyes, her dangerous voluptuousness. She raised a plate like she was going to smash it, but then grinned and lowered it. “Okay, fine, Betty. So if you’re staff, don’t just stand there, make use of them keys and get me some sanitizer, pronto!”

“I'll come back and talk to you when you've calmed down,” I managed, recalling at least that one tip from the orientation film.

Voice suddenly calm again, she said, “Betty, if it’s that you don't know what sanitizer is, it’s the stuff you put in the dishwater to kill all our cruddy germs. I need it. You have the ability to get it. All due respect, it’s your job.”

“I told you, my name is Heather. I’m far from a Betty Crocker or a prom queen. And, since I’m still in training, technically nothing is my job yet.”

“Way to use your scepter, Prom Queen. I can see you have a tough time standing up for yourself, just like my mom, but you did it! B-T-W, she left me at a rest stop. Disappeared with a truck driver. Now she’s gone lesbo. F-Y-I, I don't let nobody else call her that. Only I can.”

“Your mom left you at a rest stop?”

“Relax, don’t get all soupy on me, everyone’s got a story. And W-O-A—word of advice—stop looking for so much meaning in everything. We’re just a bunch of lame-ass kids here.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was good advice: don’t get all soupy. Later that afternoon, back at the administration building, I met Miriam, who asked me how things were going. My first few questions were all about Abby.

“Wow,” Miriam said. “She seems to have made quite an impression on you. She has that effect. Affect. Borderline Personality. I’m sure you’ve read about it. Sounds innocuous, like they’re on the cusp of normalcy, doesn’t it? But really, they’re not. Profound—irreversible—ambivalence toward all relationships, their own identity, life itself. Profoundly ambivalent as her parents were about her. Stay nice and even-keeled with her. It’s for the best, hers most of all.”

“It’s just…the way she throws it all out there, so unguardedly, who doesn’t wish they could do that?”

“Try to look past all the words. See the impenetrable core.”

“Is it really true that she was left at a rest stop by her mother?”

Miriam nodded singly. “I-5. Twelve years old. She was found walking around in high heels and a short skirt. The police gave her to child services, who later gave us a call. But it wasn’t her mother who left her behind—it was her dad. He disappeared into thin air, which has allowed her to romanticize him. We located her mother, who actually came to a few family meetings but then got triggered and stormed off. Put it this way—I don’t think she’s interested in custody.”

Stay nice and even keeled with her. But even now, after all this time, as I walk behind her along this dappled path, watching her lug the big inner tube with such conviction, it’s difficult for me not to get caught up in her alluring resiliency: outrage over defeat, denial over hesitation, motion over stasis. On cue, she pumps a fist and shouts, “Let’s go, you broads! We’re headed for the promised land!”

I piece through my fanny-pack to make sure I’ve brought rash creams and midday meds. The trail through the woods has been long and steep, and out ahead it only continues to rise; we have stuck to it with surprising endurance.

I step aside to look back at our divergent line. Our punished ones, Five and Six—if I’m going to stay true to Abby’s numbering system—remain tethered to Jailer Jack. All three show signs of wear. For support, Five has hold of the pull-string of Jack’s hoodie. Jack, meanwhile, looks war-torn with brambles stuck to his pant legs and wide sweat circles beneath his armpits. I hadn't realized how big he is, but in the tunneled woods he seems to loom like a bear. Some of the other girls are dragging along as well. When Three passes me, she asks, “Do we have a plan other than walk, walk, walk?”

“Should we break for snack?” I mouth to Miriam. When she nods, I call out to the others.

Abby marches back with a front of impatience. But I also notice that she’s begun to limp slightly. Berne too. I’m sure they are secretly relieved to have a break.

Jack sits so I can unload his backpack from above. The girls settle in as I parcel out snack baggies and small bottles of water. “Agua!” Abby says. "But I’m looking for something bigger.”

“How much farther is this water, anyway?” Jack asks Abby.

“Dunno. How much, Heather?”

I nod downward through the trees at the faraway, but not too faraway, pale oval of parking lot where our van is parked. “You be the judge. I’d say we’ve come about a half mile, which means…”

“Oh nice,” says Eight, a bully. “No one even knows where we’re going!”

“That’s not what she said, Eight!” corrects Abby. “All she said was we have a little way to go.”

“Well, maybe more than a little,” I say.

In the background, I hear Eight ask Seven, “What did she just call me? Eight what? Does she need to be stomped?”

A sudden parental-type chill comes over me. Typically I plan every outing down to the yard, minute, and cent, but again, this one was so last-minute. In hindsight, I should have stopped the whole inner tube idea from the get-go. “It’s my fault,” I say. “I didn’t know it was going to be all uphill like this. A mile is a long way under these conditions. I did tell you that it wasn’t a sure thing, Ab.”

Abby raises a hand in a profound stop sign, plugging any more excuses. “No-ohh! Nuh-uhhhh! Cause I sure didn’t put my swimsuit on-under and hump this mother eff-ing tube up this mountain like a dog, just for, just for…” Too agitated to continue, she bites a knuckle.

Most of the other girls are clearly titillated, enjoying staff’s ineptness and Abby’s distress. None of them would have gone near water anyway; it would have messed up their makeup. If they put on bikinis at all, it was only for potential display.

I hand Berne her snack baggie and whisper to her, “You told me to remind you: carrots and celery first.”

“Whatever,” she snaps. “At the time I didn’t know we was gonna be doing no marathon!”

I feel the day slipping through our collective fingers, the negative pull like an undertow. It’s then that I see Seven whisper something to Eight and believe I overhear ‘elephant on a pin.’ As they erupt into jerky giggles, I follow their eyes to where Abby has seated herself on a narrow tree stump. I send Seven my sharpest glare, but not before Abby grasps the situation herself.

“No-no. They're capping on me, I can feel it! Give them both penalty time.”

Sweetly, Eight offers, “But Abby, we were only complimenting your, umm, balance.”

“Bullshit!”

“Abby, no cursing,” says Miriam.

“What? Is that really what you see as the issue here?” She digs deep, manages to throttle off some energy, regain control of her voice. “Fine,” she chirps. “All I know is I'm finishing up my sandwich then moving on to find me that Bigfoot. You know what they say about guys with big feet!”

The rest of the girls, draped about in their usual cliques, lapse into subdued stillness. Loose strands of muscle hang from the bones of Three and Nine, our two problem-eaters who sit nibbling the celery sticks meant for Berne. Five and Six—the Snickers Girls—have fallen into blank gazing. I slip into staring myself, taking them all in, their numbers for a moment becoming something sad but endearing, tenderly archetypal, as if our particular problems are not truly ours alone.

I wonder if our hike has reached a natural, if early, conclusion.

“Then don't come! Fuck you too!” Abby shouts suddenly, shattering the calm.

I turn to catch Berne's retort, a cold flick of the wrist. I don’t know what has occurred, neither do Jack or Miriam, but all at once Abby is fully reenergized.

“Fine. None of you all deserve me anyways! Go ahead and stay here on your lazy-ass butts. Die!”

My stomach tightens this time. Something in the sound of Abby’s last word, the calm conviction to it, connotes something very final, a point of no return, the choice, once and for all, to see us as her betrayers. And they didn’t leave me, I left them!

Miriam, however, seems convinced that Abby is merely up to more drama. “Abby, do me a favor and take a time-out,” she says.

The lower part of the stump Abby had been sitting on, and ground around it, is charred from fire. Abby stamps around but is too wound up to notice the soot that puffs up. It quickly covers her red sneakers and socks and clouds up toward her matching red jean skirt. Eight chooses this moment to up the ante. “Let her rant! Good riddance. She’s all but a memory to us anyway.”

All but a memory. Abby pauses, her face holding firm, but then it ruptures. She begins to say something but nothing comes out. She kicks at the dirt and lets out a sort of compacted squeal. I feel for her with all my heart but am caught without words myself.

“Pigpen,” adds Seven.

Only now does Abby notice the soot. She tries to brush it off, but there is carbon on her hands too, and each time she touches herself it leaves a handprint.

Eight says, “Looks like Abby finally met the black guy she’s always wanted!”

Everyone cracks up. Abby looks down and sees the extent of what she’s done to herself. Her cheeks flush and her jaw drops. She shrieks and breaks for the woods.

“Abby’s been groped!” Eight calls out after her.

“That’s enough!” comes a furious shout. It’s Jack. The cascading echo of a sudden male voice brings absolute stillness. It seems to shock even Jack, whose face is wild but quickly straightens out. Finding some restraint, he says, “Maybe you run things differently at Eagles cottage, I don’t know. But I don’t get how you girls can be so cruel to each other when you’re basically all in the same boat.”

More silence. All that can be heard is the crackling sound of Abby’s escape into the woods.

“Wow, Jack,” I hear myself say, hoping to center him and patch together the semblance of a teaching moment. “You really seem to be triggered. What’s up?”

He waves me off and a portion of his rawness returns. “Oh, save it, will you?” He flicks a brow toward Miriam. “You’re getting to sound like her.”

Miriam shakes her head and glowers at him, then looks on as Berne marches off in Abby’s path, mindlessly hugging the inner tube to her chest like a huge pacifier. Jack smiles briefly, affectionately, at the sight. “I’ll go get them,” he says. “Calm myself down.”

When he has disappeared, Miriam gathers herself, smoothes the patches on the thighs of her jeans, says, “Whew, sure is a lot of sudden chaos—and here we are on a hike that was supposed to provide some relief.” She shrugs and raises upward palms. “So what do we do now?”

There’s no response except for the shuffling of feet, a few smirks.

“It’s just her,” says Seven finally, her voice sounding somewhat sincere. “She craps on everything.”

“I was hoping for more of a plan,” Miriam coaxes.

“You’re right,” Eight says. “We need sumpn’ to do. We can’t let her drag us all down.”

Miriam’s palms, still raised, curve outward, suggesting the holding of something. Maybe, in her mind, freedom. “Well, what then?”

From her spot over by a tree, usually reticent Four—Good Girl—timidly raises her hand and waits to be called upon. When Miriam acknowledges her, there are a couple immediate groans. “Well,” she says, “since we’re all sort of tired anyway, we could always go back to that stand we stopped at and pick strawberries—I saw a sign.”

More groans, from pretty much everyone except Miriam and me; but when no one has anything better there is tacit agreement.

“You guys,” clucks Seven at Miriam and me, “always pretending you aren’t getting your way when you really are.”

Very gradually, the girls stir into movement, rounding up their things, but after ten minutes there’s still no sign of Jack or our lost ones. “I’ll go round up our strays,” I say.

I get up and move off through the grass. It isn’t until I’m a good bit away, back to private thoughts, that I register how upset I am. My own question to Jack—Wow, you really seem triggered. What’s up?—bounces back at me, mockingly. All I can come up with for an answer is: it feels like I’ve spent my entire time at Sunny Days just like this, chasing after Abby. Relying on her. But she’s all but gone for me too. I don’t know what I’ll do without her.

As I enter the woods, the leafy ground dances with the crisp shadows of branches, the effect dizzying. The woods is mostly birch trees, slim white trunks that multiply the further I look, like a schoolyard full of hyperactive boys I know are capable of anything, and worse. Abby may be able to process everything on the fly, to flip through the traumas of her past like pages of a magazine, but how is that done? I truly need to know.

In the distance, upon a rise, is a cluster of boulders—the only direction Abby could have disappeared. But first the woods descends and darkens. For a crazy moment I’m poised between two realities, the shadowy woods and the long dark drive that runs from Sunny Days campus down into town. Abby stands alone on the gravel shoulder beneath a streetlight, mascara running her face, wrist extended like an offering. Poised in her other hand is the large shard of glass. Blood oozes from the two long cuts. I know she’s done this before—that if she really wanted to kill herself this wouldn’t be the way to accomplish it and the cuts would be deeper. Still, the sight is too much for me to bear. “Abby. It’s me. We can still return to campus on our own. I can transport you to the hospital myself. They’ll kick you out otherwise.”

Once again there comes the crazed grin, another lengthwise cut. “Oh yeah, right. Then we’ll prance through the posies.”

“Abby—please. We’ll talk. I’ll tell you something I’ve never told anyone.”

But instead, two hours later, after the sirens and the ambulance ride and time in the ER, we are in the temporary-hold unit of Kaiser Psychiatric, Abby in a Haldol-induced daze. Her forearm is wrapped in gauze, her words groggy, dreamy but not.

“I know I don’t say it, Heather, but you’re all that I have. You’re the only one who’s loyal. But you have no idea…”

“No idea about what, Ab?”

“How there’s no place for me. Anywhere. Never can be.”

“Oh, come on. Don’t you remember, just last week, you were calling Berne Auntie, and Ramon from Dobbins Grandpa?”

Her eyes wobble shut, and just before she drifts off, she says, “Yes… so sad, that game. Think about it. Think about it…”

I begin to jog now, upwards through the woods toward the relief of the sunny boulders. The running gives me a needed feeling of buoyancy. On the flatness of the ridge, out of breath, I fall onto a knee.

“Ab-biiieee! Berrrrnnne!”

But my voice deadens against the boulders. I get up, straighten myself out, press back my hair, and move along through the stoney maze.

“Ber-niiiieece! Jaa-ack! Ab-biieee!” Still nothing.

I move past some more huge rocks, until, when I come around one, I am struck by light so bright that I have to squint and shade my eyes. For a long second I can make out nothing. Then, only what appears a big blanket of vibrant blue with a scatter of white dots, what must be sun spots on the inside of my eyelids.

That’s when I see it. The reservoir. The blueness of wide water dotted with sailboats. To my right are steps carved into the hillside that lead down to a horseshoe of beach with towels laid out on it, a lifeguard stand. A group of schoolchildren are just arriving to the sand from a lower trail. Directly below, amongst more rocks, is a partially secluded cove. And then I see them, Jack and Berne and Abby, floating out in the water. Berne is inside her inner tube, bobbing, light as a feather, while Abby and Jack hold onto its rim. They are distracted, beaming back toward the beach at something. Abby’s lips are moving but I can’t make out her words. Whatever she is saying, Jack is so amused by it that he leans his head back, laughing, only to gag on some water and cough. Then Berne spots me, nudges Abby, points.

Without missing a beat, Abby screams, “Hey, Heather, listen to this!” She raises her fingers, counting.

In unison, she and Berne scream, “Fuck it all!”

Then again, “FUCK—IT—ALL!”

I stand there, nod, wave back, a frozen grin on my face. I begin down the stairs to them but stop and lean, again, into the substance of stone.


Michael Welch is a graduate of the Pacific University Writing Program. Recent(ish) publications include decomP, Meat for Tea, Big Bridge, SNReview, Crack the Spine Anthology (2013), and The Mankind Project Reader. Welch grew up in the South Bronx and now lives in Seattle with his wife, Mia; girls, Macy and Cleo; mastiffs, Sophie and Otis; and a barnyard of others, names withheld. He has a new website and blog venue called Voices from the Margin.

One Big Shoe is New York-based playwright and street photographer Sean Pomposello. Specializing in the stolen moment, One Big Shoe’s candid glimpses of the New Yorkers he encounters serve as a character development tool for his dramatic work, which has been recognized by theatres and festivals nationwide. With a background in television and advertising, One Big Shoe brings a love of aesthetics, a keen interest in street stories and the ability to identify and chronicle drama in the everyday.