Posted in 2018-2019, Issue 02, Poetry

Empty Carcass

by Hailey Stoner

I never quite understood why people choose to have
open casket funerals. I guess they want
to remember their beloved in the best way.
Even if it means remembering the empty carcass.
Remembering a house no longer inhabited.

Today, I am at my great grandmother’s
funeral. I am standing in the funeral home,
opposite the open casket.
Red and blue lights shine down on her.
An arrangement of pink and purple and white flowers
sits on the bottom half of the casket.

I have to remind myself
to breathe in. Breathe out.

She’s beautiful. Her thin, grey hair is
curled. She’s wearing a blue and purple flowered
dress. A cream shawl lays over her shoulders
and arms, covering her wrinkled skin.

I want to burst into tears.

Again, breathe in.
Breathe out.

We weren’t very close, but I can’t
stand being next to the casket.
She’s hollow. The mortician removed her
furniture, contaminated the house,
sealed the door.  

That isn’t her.
There is no rise and fall
of her chest. No movement
behind her eyelids. She isn’t asleep.
Isn’t warm.
Her heart is not beating.

That isn’t her.
It is only the cold, stiff body,
that everybody wants to remember.

Posted in 2018-2019, Issue 02, Non-Fiction

Around and Around

by Hailey Stoner

The air was sweet. Two robins chased one another from one tree to the next. Sunshine drenched the sky and the tree branches hung low, heavy with thick, green leaves. The tulips in the front flower bed swayed gently with the breeze. The mailman filled the mailboxes on the right side of the road, then moved to the left. I sat in the front window and waited for the mail truck to disappear around the corner. Then, I tore open the garage, hopped on my bike, and rode up and down the street, waiting for the other girls to join me.

Our houses sat in a triangle, my house on one side of the street, Hannah’s and Kassidy’s on the other, separated with an outsider’s home in between theirs. We didn’t see much of the people inside that house, but their lawn was always freshly cut and remained a deep, dark green almost year round. We never knew it was possible for grass to look that perfect. There were ten houses on our road. To the left of the triangle was the twin’s house, and the Hispanic house. To the right of us was the Lorenzen’s, the haunted house that terrified us, the old couple in the yellow house, and the people who always had cars coming to and from their house.

Our garages were always open, exposing all the internal organs for everyone driving by to see. They could see the tall, wooden shelves filled with lawn toys in mine, the couch and table in Hannah’s, and the seven foot tall Santa Claus in Kassidy’s. We would sit at the table and Hannah would teach us how to play blackjack or go fish. We tore down the toys from the shelves in my garage and hosted cornhole tournaments, but we avoided Kassidy’s garage at all cost. The Santa Claus never settled well with us. It felt like his eyes followed us, no matter where we stood.

This road witnessed many scraped knees and elbows. It was the trail that led Kassidy from one house to the next during Girl Scout cookie season. It was a canvas for our sidewalk chalk masterpieces and the road that lead us to school in the mornings. It was where we all met to start our night of trick-or-treating on Halloween. It was where we all met during the summer and ran around on the boiling pavement in our bathing suits before piling into Kassidy’s mom’s minivan to drive us to the pool. It’s where we could do whatever we desired.

Rolling down the hill in my front yard before the bees made their way to the sprouting weeds was the best thing to do. All three of us lined up at the top and layed down in the grass that was soft, yet somehow tough at the same time. Once we were in position, one person counted down. When we heard ‘go,’ we wrapped tight and pushed ourselves as hard as we could down the hill. The entire world spun around, and around, and around. We mercilessly crushed every poor dandelion that happened to be in our path and all the tiny bugs hiding in the tall blades of grass. It was only seconds, but it felt like minutes passed when we finally reached the bottom.

I shot up to make sure everybody knew I was the first to reach the bottom and it was a big mistake. As quickly as I was up on my feet, I was on the ground. The world still spun even though I stopped rolling. But once everything finally went straight, I stood up again to claim my victory.

I basked in the glory. My win made everything seem a little bit brighter. The grass looks greener, the sky bluer, and the birds sounded a little louder. A car drove by and we went silent, waiting for them to pass, making sure they couldn’t steal our secrets. Then, we raced to the top of the hill, ready to do it again.

We thought we’d be able to this everyday, for the rest of our lives. But we didn’t know that you’re not allowed to roll down hills after elementary school. Or jump in the rain puddles. Go on Easter egg hunts. Be excited for Christmas morning after Santa came the night before. I didn’t know that friendships would get complicated. Or the old couple a few houses down would die and the Lorenzen’s would move away. Or that my parents would divorce and we’d all go to different high schools.

I didn’t know my world would always be spinning out of control, even though I haven’t rolled down that hill since fourth grade.

Posted in 2018-2019, Fiction, November 2018

Six Months

By Hailey Stoner

Sarah is driving home after a thirty-six-hour shift at the hospital. She’s exhausted and struggling to stay awake. Her eyes become heavier with every blink. Sarah is only two minutes away from her apartment when her eyes slip shut while she’s at the wheel. She runs a red light and t-bones a minivan with an eight-year-old boy in the back seat. A police officer calls her husband to meet them at the hospital. He finds Sarah sitting on a bed in the emergency room clutching her wrist to her chest. The boy was killed on impact, while Sarah suffers only minor injuries.

It’s been one week since the accident and Sarah is unable to sleep. When she closes her eyes, she sees the dent her car left in the side of the van. She gets up and goes to make a cup of tea in the kitchen. Sarah sips it and turns around to see the boy from the accident standing in front of her. Sarah drops the cup and it shatters. Then he’s gone. “Sarah?” Her husband calls from upstairs. He comes downstairs and into the kitchen. “Sarah? Are you alright?” He walks towards her, avoiding the chunks of glass. “Honey, what’s wrong?” She doesn’t move.

It’s been a month since the accident and Sarah has started seeing a therapist. The therapist asks about the last time she saw the boy. It was yesterday. She was sitting in her husband’s car in the driveway. Her eyes were shut, her hands were on the steering wheel, and she was taking deep breaths. But when she opened them, she saw the boy in the back seat, through the rear view mirror. The funeral was a week ago, and the therapist asks Sarah if she had gone. She did. Her husband drove her. But once they parked and were about to go inside, she burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. The therapist wants Sarah to meet with the boy’s parents, once she’s ready. She thinks it’ll help Sarah forgive herself. But Sarah doesn’t think she’ll ever be ready.

It’s been four months since the accident and Sarah is finally meeting with the boy’s parents. The three of them sit in the living room. They offer her a cup of tea and start chatting. It’s all small talk at first, learning more about one another. Then they begin talking about the accident. About what caused it. How they handled it. Neither party coped very well. But it’s understandable. They talk longer, and the boy’s parents tell Sarah to stop torturing herself. They say they’ve forgiven her. Now it is only a matter of forgiving herself.

It’s been six months since the accident and Sarah is sitting at the boy’s grave. The hallucinations ended shortly after meeting with his parents. She lays a bundle of flowers on his grave. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and stands. Sarah takes a deep breath and the wind begins to blow. She wraps her arms around herself and walks back to the road. She gets into the car.

“Are you okay?” Her husband asks from the driver’s seat.

Sarah says, “No, but I will be.”