Posted in 2017-2018, Non-Fiction

He Planted Roses

By Derek Frazier

Rest In Peace, Robert Frazier Sr.

My grandfather was a great man. He could’ve lit up a room with his laughter and smile. He grew roses, these beautiful scarlet blossoms that ringed the perimeter of his house. He also drank his coffee decaf, and played golf like a professional. Granddad also had a history with heart problems. Nine years ago he had a triple bypass surgery, out of fear that something would happen to him.

I got the text from my father during my Creative Writing class. “Mom and I are at the hospital. Nana took Granddad in an hour ago.”

“Do you want to come up so you can say goodbye?” my mother asked when she called.

An hour later I carpooled with my sisters to Bedford to be with him in his final moments. I held my breath in the elevator to his hospital room. My father told me what happened as we hugged. Granddad had a massive heart attack. He dropped to his bathroom floor and was rushed to the emergency room after my grandmother, Nana, heard him fall and called for paramedics. When we got there my parents and grandmother were already there. Their eyes were bloodshot and their faces were slick with tears. Granddad was wrapped in a blanket, poked in three different places with needles and tubes, and a oxygen mask was strapped to his face.

Each gasp of breath, every shudder of his body, felt like his last.

There were ladybugs in his room. Totally at home, their red carapaces contrasting with the white walls.

“You can talk to him,” my mother said as she pulled me close. “He can hear you.”

I didn’t know what to say. A part of me thought it was silly, he had trouble hearing even with hearing aids. What would you say to a man who came to every birthday party? And sent Christmas cards with checks tucked inside?

What would you say? To a man with milky eyes, and diagnosed by the doctor as brain dead?

“Hey Granddad,” I choked out, “Thank you.” I had to say it several times because I couldn’t hear it over the sound of my own sobs. “I promise,” I said, “I will be a man you’ll be proud of.”

I am a helper, it’s how I was raised. Being told, “There’s nothing you can do except sit and keep him company,” was the hardest thing I’ve ever heard. I held his hand, and I could feel the lead of his bones as his body twitched and spasmed.

And I prayed dozens of prayers that I didn’t remember learning. They spilled from my mouth like pennies.

“Be strong,” I kept telling myself. “Be strong for Nana.”

My father told me once that he was surprised I didn’t want to become a doctor. The reason is because losing people isn’t in my nature.

There’s so much I wish I could have shown my grandfather that now I’ll never get the chance to: my wedding, high school graduation, my first dinosaur discovery, his great granddaughter.

Granddad said he always wanted wanted to donate his body to science. Maybe the Buddhists are right: that matter and life are reborn for new growth or the next life. Even now, planning to tattoo one of his roses on my arm, I keep thinking about all the lives that he will save. It could be anyone; a teenager in Colorado, a transplant patient in New York, a little boy who needs blood. His very cells could cure cancer one day.

So with that thought at least, I am content. And I look forward to seeing him and his beloved roses in his next life.

 

Posted in 2017-2018, Poetry

True or False

By Derek Frazier

After Dean Young

  1.  I have over a dozen love letters that I mean to send to her when she has a bad day.
  2. My father was barely around when I was growing up because of work, so I joke that I was raised by my mother.
  3. I believe in the existence of more than one “deity.”
  4. When drinking water you might actually be drinking a glass of purified dinosaur piss.
  5. A morning shower mixes with tears cried last night by a woman who found out she had been cheated on.
  6. I call random strangers ma’am and sir not because it’s polite but because it’s a habit.
  7. I am a proud Roman Catholic.
  8. My least favorite color is yellow.
  9. I am terrified of the idea of being a father.
  10. Tea is better than coffee.
  11. Everything’s better with closed eyes, i.e. a first kiss, massages.
  12. I have hundreds of scars on my body.
  13. Walmart is the ninth ring of Hell.
  14. One of my favorite words to say is “rendezvous” because of the way you have to purse your lips when saying it aloud.
  15.  The best car ever made is the Mustang Torretto.
  16. Gunpowder is a mixture of charcoal, potassium nitrate, and saltpeter.
  17. I’m scared of the blackness of night.
  18. I am a dog person.
  19. The Romans conquered the Greeks because math was confusing enough before they added the alphabet.
  20. No matter what anyone says, the scariest thing you will ever hear is, “There’s nothing you can do.”
  21. Atheists can neither prove nor deny the existence of an existential being named “Jehovah”.
  22. The most common weapon I am killed with in nightmares is a metal spoon.
  23. In the time it took to read this, a young man finally plucked up the courage to ask a girl on a date.
  24. Slurpees.
  25. Tai Chi is overrated.
  26. No one wants to grow old.
  27. Japanese cheesecakes are surprisingly very easy to make.
  28. Germans are the only people who can make “I love you” sound like a murderous threat.
  29. People who sleep with their bedsheets tucked under their feet are weird.
  30. I am terrified of snakes.
  31. My favorite musical instrument is an electric cello.
  32. Saying something over and over again makes it lose its value.
  33. The one thing I hate about my body is the texture of my elbows.
  34. I despise the word “retarded.”
  35. Given my family’s medical history I most likely will die around the age of eighty from blood or heart problems.
  36. Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
  37. The best advice is told through the ticking of old grandfather clocks.
  38. The best culinary innovation was the grilled cheese.
  39. I grew up thinking that if I was hit by a car I would be flattened into a pizza like a Looney Toons character.

40.You’ve only got a hundred years to live.

  1. I refuse to be buried below ground because my life will have been too eventful to end as worm food.
  2. There is no such thing as being over prepared.
  3. Peanut M&Ms are the closest thing we have to ambrosia.
  4. Thursday is my favorite day of the week.
  5. I write my best work when I have insomnia.
  6. Millions and billions of years from now the sun will explode and wipe everything out in an event bigger than a Kardashian breakup.
  7. Silver is the most beautiful metal.
  8. I have read and agreed to the terms of service.
  9. My favorite girl names are Vivian, Scarlett, and Hope.
  10. The Earth is kept in its place by the world tree Yggdrasil, right?  
  11. The world would look better if everything was in shades of blue.
  12. Sometimes I drape a blanket over my shoulders and pretend I’m a superhero.
  13. I sleep with a knife on my nightstand.
  14. The moon is beautiful.
  15. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
  16. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago.
  17. Perfect is an adjective unattainable by the human race.
  18. 日本語は美しい言語です。
  19. A number has been repeated.
  20. English accents are attractive.
  21. Frank Sinatra is a god.
  22. I’m fascinated by the concept that the air bubbles in a piece of fossilized amber were exhaled by dinosaurs.
  23. Hospitals make me nauseous.
  24. Doctors make me uncomfortable.
  25. Migraines suck.
  26. I hate the fact that I was born too early to explore the world and too late to travel the universe.
  27. Growth is impossible without pain.
  28. When going on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
  29. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and the one.
  30. Jazz will never die.
  31. Lucky Charms are good just because of the marshmallows.
  32. When I die I want every piece of my work that is unpublished to be burned, so no one else steals my ideas.
  33. I wear my heart on my sleeve just because I never can find the time to wash it off.
  34. My sister is a terrible driver.
  35. The exclamation point has been stolen
  36. I refuse to join a fraternity in college because I am tall and blonde and that is cliché enough.
  37. Jenny, I’ve got your number.
  38. Quiet people have the loudest minds.
  39. Life is pointless if you don’t sleep in once and awhile.
  40. Letting someone go is hard because you know their velcro was the only kind that matched yours.
  41. Second-hand cigarette smoke is sweeter than the first puff.  
  42. The best chess piece is the bishop.
  43. Thunderstorms have a dangerous beauty to them.
  44. Ladies first.
  45. We all have monsters inside us.
  46. James Bond is better than Jason Bourne.
  47. Anything that requires a second thought is not worth doing.
  48. With great power comes great responsibility.
  49. “Normal” is just a setting on a washer dryer.
  50. If life can exist on this tiny rock then there is a good chance that it can exist somewhere else.
  51. Cows kill an average of twenty-two Americans a year.
  52. If governments utilized sassy grandmothers we would have fewer wars.
  53. I brood.
  54. I like guns.
  55. But swords are better.
  56. It doesn’t matter how deep a hole you dig yourself, or how many walls you fence around you, your demons will still come running.
  57. One hundred years after I’m dead I want to be more famous than Charles Darwin.
  58. Rattlesnakes are delicious.
  59. When I was in middle school my life’s ambition was to be an international mercenary.
  60. Chivalry isn’t dead.

 

Posted in 2017-2018, Non-Fiction

Reflections V.1

By Derek Frazier 

Growing up and recognizing that my high school experience is over because I am a senior, creates a looking-in-the-mirror kind of mindset in me. It makes me pause, and look back on the wisdom I have developed over the last four years, and what affected me the most. For me, it was learning the difference between a defeat and a failure.

I have a very disciplined work ethic, and that has bled into my personality as I have matured. If I am given a challenge, I will move heaven and Earth to accomplish that goal. I don’t feel satisfied until I have given it my one hundred percent, even if it costs me mealtime or sleep.

As I’ve grown, however, my self-doubt has almost manifested into a voice, one that I associate with Satan himself. When I did something that I knew I could do, such as brave my fear of heights on a zip line, or make a medical decision at work when a little kid is injured, the voice whispers “you can’t do this,” or “why are you even trying?”

I will not say I’m embarrassed that sometimes I gave into the voice, but I am ashamed of the effects. As someone who still strives to work hard, I melted down when I performed a job poorly. My anxieties would go into overdrive, and start to hammer a massive amount of stress into me. I would start to hyperventilate, pace back and forth, and talk faster than I already do. The voice would start to repeat, “failure, failure, failure.”

Even now, my brain is prone to overthinking. So when the voice got louder I started wondering, “What else can’t I do, what else have I failed to do?” When often I hadn’t failed or done anything wrong. Unfortunately, I am still plagued with the symptoms of overthinking, just not to the same degree.

Meditations on who I am as a person helped me quiet that voice, as did yoga and spending time reflecting in nature. There is something very intimate and enlightening about dissecting the things that make you who you are. It’s like standing naked in front of a mirror and recounting the stories of how you got all your scars. I’m not saying go into the park and everything will get sorted out, I’m saying it helps to close your eyes and teach yourself acceptance.

To me, failure isn’t a bad thing anymore, its an opportunity to improve, to accept that you didn’t do it right. It’s not an ugly “F” written in sharpie, it’s the universe’s way of giving you permission to try again. It’s okay to cry and admit that whatever it is you’re facing in life might just be a little too much for you. Just don’t give up on yourself.

That is defeat, that is letting something beat you. The red pill versus the blue. It’s the mental decision to give up and let that voice feed off you.

When I was younger I studied martial arts, and I had a very serious Sensei. He would always tell us that we weren’t trying hard enough when we were putting our everything into the forms and repetition of movement. Looking back, I see the point he was trying to convey about a lack of mental discipline. Karate was more than repeating a kick or a punch, you needed to look past him and prove that you could do it.

But it hurt nonetheless. And after deciding enough was enough, I gave up on karate, convinced that all dojos and martial arts were like that. And now I regret that decision very much. I have trained in other styles of martial arts, and self-defense since, but I regret not proving myself to my Sensei. I wholeheartedly believe that decision is where my voice of self-doubt started. If I had stayed and practiced Karate under a different tutor perhaps things would have been different. That was my first defeat.

I still have anxieties about whether or not I can do something, crippling as they were prior to my self-reflections but not as often as before. I learned to close my eyes, take a breath and clear my mind so I could enjoy a few moments in peace. If I had given into the self-doubting voice. I would never have been a writer. I would never have gained the self assurity that I will become a paleontologist, or dissipated my fears of being a terrible father one day.

This isn’t a statement of triumph, or a claim that I’m better than anyone, this is a reflection on the greatest chapter in the reflection of my life to date, and a hope that it inspires others to do the same.

 

Posted in Fiction

The Woman in the Japanese Hospital Bed

By Derek Frazier

The early morning shift of the Kyoto Takeda Hospital was a slow one, dotted with the occasional life or death cases. The doctors had taken to calling it “The Delivery room.” The hospital lacked the necessary equipment to deliver children, so the name stuck.

Einosuke Hada was the newest member of the Delivery, a bright young man in his late twenties who recently graduated from an American medical school (he had gone on scholarship) and acquired his position. The only sound in the common area was the clop-clop-clopping of his shoes as he paced, papers being signed, and the ringing of the receptionist’s phone.

Einosuke heard the ringing of the ambulance sirens as the vehicle parked. A split second later the doors swung open.  

A group of four emergency medical specialists pulled a gurney with a woman strapped to it down the hall towards an operating room.

“Hada-Sama,” one of the specialist exclaimed, adding the honorific to Einosuke’s last name, “give us a hand!”

The young doctor stepped quickly behind the gurney, the baggy legs of his purple scrubs fluttering as he doubled his pace.

“Status?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the emergency room doors that were growing closer and closer.

“Female in her twenties, she’s stable but her vitals are weak,” The specialist from earlier spoke.  His name tag in his left breast pocket identified him as Harada.

“Cause of injuries?” Einosuke asked, looking down at the woman before him. She wore a ripped raincoat slick with blood. Underneath Einosuke could see a well made black dress, with silver detailing working its way down from her breasts to her stomach like a spiderweb of dew. The left side of the dress had split outwards from the seams, exposing purpled flesh. Blood and scraps of fabric mixed like paint on her pale skin.

Harada’s breath came out in puffs as they rushed along the sanitized halls. Einosuke repeated the question.

“Severe blunt force trauma,” Harada said. “Witness said she threw herself in front of a truck.”

The doors to the emergency room opened with a heavy clunk, as they slammed against the light blue walls. With a grunt, Harada and Einosuke managed to lift the young woman onto the table in the center of the room.

“Left brachial and antebrachial are shattered,” Einosuke muttered to himself, looking at the signs of damage after he gently cut away the undamaged sections of coat and dress. “At least three fractured ribs and possible bruising of her left lung.”

With a sponge he began dabbing away the blood, his stomach clenched at the tender give of flesh and bone.

“Massive bruising and contusions on the left side of her face,” Harada said, pointing before leaving the room.

Einosuke lifted his head from the apron he was tying behind his back to look at an entering nurse.

“Get Doctor Hirano, and bring an oxygen mask immediately!” he exclaimed, “And notify the blood reserve downstairs that we will need a possible transfusion.”

“Of course,” the nurse said before stepping out.

Eventually, the nurse and Doctor Hirano returned. The graying doctor did her best, trying to keep up with the frantic movements of her younger counterpart.

“Her breathing’s shaky,” Einosuke said, a hint of panic seeping into his voice and clawing into his heart. The woman’s already pale skin faded into translucence.

“Let’s get her an MRI,” Doctor Hirano said, wheeling a new gurney over to the table before holding the patient’s ankles. “Slip that mask over her mouth.”

As Einosuke watched the young woman sleep in the MRI under the influence of anesthesia, he felt a lump grow in his throat.

He was just about to pray to the Buddha when Doctor Hirano made a noise in the back of her throat.

“What is it?” He asked.   

 Hirano let her gaze turn to the door of the analyzation chamber.

“She has a tako tsubo,” Hirano said.

Einosuke looked at the monitor in disbelief, blinking his eyes in hopes that he wasn’t seeing the disfigured bell shape of her heart.

However, no matter what, her heart stayed misshapen.

“Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy,” Einosuke said.

With a grumble of frustration, he ran his fingers through his straight black hair. Individuals who suffered from the ailment experienced an overflow of blood into their heart, a result of the interior tendons snapping. They died of a broken heart.

“Is there anything we can do?” He asked. “I’ve never– this isn’t something I– can we do something?”

Hirano shook her head and whispered, “nothing,” before leaving the chamber to return the patient to the emergency room.

In the staff locker room, Einosuke lit an offering of incense for the large metallic statue of the Buddha that took up most of the space in his locker.

“Take her into your arms, Lord,” he begged, tears beginning to flow from his cheeks. “There is nothing I can do…look after her,– in this life and the next.”

If the mighty Buddha accepted the offering or pledge he gave no sign, he simply smiled his bronze grin, staring back at the anguished doctor.

Who said nothing.

Who heard nothing.

 

Posted in 2016-2017, Issue #03, Poetry

Acrostic poem #9

By Derek Frazier

Prophecies and fate aren’t things I believe in.
And yet I have never felt this sure about anything before. It’s
like writing my name, a part of my identity, a way to
express who I am and how I want to leave my stamp
on the world. I have dreamed of this profession for hundreds of
nights, ever since I was four years old. You don’t just choose
to ignore something like that, to turn your shoulder when all
of the signs scream your name like a coliseum’s crowd. I
love this career and, for the life of me, I do not fully understand the rhyme
or reason as to why I crave the words “Doctor of Paleontology” like an alcoholic with
gin. And I doubt I ever will.
I was put on this planet for a reason. I have a whole life ahead of me but the most
single truth I know is that this was what I was built, designed, crafted, engineered
to do.

Posted in 2016-2017, Issue #03, Poetry

Mr. Fatherless

A letter to an unborn orphan whom I will adopt

By Derek Frazier

My son,
I will not be the stereotypical
American father you imagined.

When we play sports, I will
throw baseballs through your
mother’s windows and lose frisbees
in the trees of our front lawn.

On the Fourth of July, I will
be too busy making a bonfire in the grill
to actually cook anything.
And I will spend far too much time baking
and reading to watch football with you.

I do not fish, I do not like smoking,
and I do not enjoy fighting
another person’s battles.

I will, however, be a teacher.
I will show you how to cook,
how to speak other languages
and write worlds into being.
When you fall in love or become frustrated
because of some mercurial romance,
I will be there to explain them as best I can–
and I’m sorry– because with all
my experience, I will fail miserably.

I will teach you how to fight
and stand up for yourself.
To treat others with respect no matter their color or gender.
You will learn to hold the door for someone,
to look both ways before crossing a street.
You will learn to mind your manners,
your “yes ma’am” and “yes sir.”

In the end my child of Africa, China, India,
England, or even Harlem, you will learn
from a father nonetheless.
And I will give you a home.

Posted in 2016-2017, Issue #03, Non-Fiction

Paleontologist

By Derek Frazier

My mother is the reason I want to be a paleontologist. I was raised in a very warm and comforting middle class home. No matter what my sisters and I wanted to do as an occupation we were never told “no.” We were always encouraged to follow our dreams and to focus on what made us happy. My mother has always claimed that paleontology is the only career she sees me doing. “You’re going to go and dig in China,” she told me once jokingly. “You’re going to play in the dirt and I’m never going to see you again.”

Beyond this, my whole life I have been surrounded by the Jurassic world. I grew up watching The Land Before Time, Dinosaur Train, and Walking with Dinosaurs. My favorite book besides The Hobbit was Dinotopia. To this day I have a giant plastic tub of dinosaurs in my basement and stuffed dinosaurs in my closet that I will never give away. I have cookie cutters shaped like a t-rex, stegosaurus, and triceratops for when I’m baking.

I don’t really know why I love paleontology. I just do. For as long as I can remember my childhood dream has been to go to college and study until I graduate with a doctorate degree. It’s all I’ve ever wanted and no one has told me no so my plan is to keep dreaming.

It’s somewhat ironic that my lifelong dream and goal involves heat and math. I’m not a very mathematically inclined individual, personally I believe that the Romans conquered the Greeks as payback for creating algebra. And my ideal temperature is mid sixties with a cool breeze. Yet there I will be six or seven years down the line in a 100 degree desert using calculus to plan an excavation zone to dig up thirty foot long reptiles while still being  paralyzed by my fear of snakes.

Fate has a sense of humor.

Also it’s a little mind boggling. I am a junior in high school, and in a few weeks I will be a senior, and then after that I will graduate and move onto college. I remember sitting in my elementary school classroom thinking “Man, I have to wait eight years for college?” And now, having only one year left to go is truly a surreal realization. I am so close to achieving my dream. It is the greatest tease, to be close enough to start planning colleges and initiating that part of my life, but remaining far enough out of reach that it is still an ambition.

Ambitious is definitely a word I would use to describe myself. I don’t want to be a celebrity I simply want to be recognized for my discoveries and for my assistance in making the Earth’s past all the more clear.

I have never met anyone who has told me that my dream to become a doctor or professor of paleontology is unreachable. I know that it will be challenging and that it will be a long road, but that’s what I signed up for the moment I held my first t-rex toy. I will allow nothing to stand in my way. I will stand among the mighty heroes of my childhood and smile because I was meant to be there.

Je suis prest, I am ready.