Yet another successful graduate-student reading at Jupiter House. Despite the lack of electronic voice-magnifying machinery (otherwise known as a microphone), our readers expertly delivered stimulating stories and poems that captured the attention of even the non-students in attendance. Check out excerpts below, and stay tuned for details on our next (and final) reading of the semester.
"Hibernation" by Adam Kullberg
“You see what I mean? Just look at this thing,” his father said, kneeling down onto one knee beside it. He stroked the beast’s large, bowling-ball sized head as if the bear was some pet he had picked up the day before. The bear’s paws were as big as the boy’s lower back.
“Where did it come from?” the boy asked.
“Ranger found it a few years back, up near a campground. Biggest one they’ve ever seen around here, I hear.”
The boy leaned down and put a hand into the bear’s mouth, feeling the sharp, gleaming teeth with the ends of his fingertips. They felt warm to the touch. “How did they kill it?” the boy asked.
His father laughed and shook his head. “Kill it? No. This one died of starvation probably, maybe ate something it shouldn’t have. Rangers aren’t allowed to kill anything. Well, unless it’s in self-defense, of course.” He turned to the boy. “But the main rule of being a ranger is you protect the park. You defend it if you have to, you keep it clean, you make sure that no one hurts it. Like it were your child.”
The boy worked his fingers over the bear’s paws, comparing them to his own narrow, short fingers. He had never thought of nature as defenseless before, as something that needed helping. “Is that what you do then?” he asked, “defend it?”
“Of course. With my life, if I have to,” his father said matter-of-factly, “That’s the ranger’s code.”
“Would you ever leave it, though? The park?” the boy asked.
He thought about this for while. “No. I don’t think so.” He said. He leaned down and ran his hand over the fur, and a glazed look, much like bear’s own glossy black stare, came over his face. “It’s your duty to stay.”
"Toadkill" by Karen Kadura
The enemy oozed from the flowerpot and landed with a slick plop, quivering there like Jell-O and still wet from his recent watering. He was a dull, unremarkable grayish-green, and he lay unmoving on the sparse grass, smooth and glistening and immense. He must have been at least the size of both my father's fists together, and overweight besides. Although I knew one wasn't supposed to name anything that one was soon to part with, in that moment I christened him Fatty.
Fatty had a mutinous gleam in the beady little eye that peered out at me from beneath folds of fat, ignoring the dogs as they barked and whined behind the fence. His unwillingness to move struck me as disrespectful, although it may have just been that he lacked the strength in his legs to move his considerable bulk. I wondered how he had even managed to get into the flowerpot in the first place, and as I was thinking this he looked straight at me and blinked, slowly. He was surely mocking me; he had even managed to land with his entire left side facing me--the perfect shot. He seemed lazy, almost uncaring, and his apathy towards the danger he was in angered me. It seemed that he was in control of the situation, and I hated him for that. I raised the gun. "Where should I aim?" I asked Dad.
Poetry by Aubree Blomgren
from "How it Was, and Was Not"
You plus me was hardly larger than you without me, which made it easy for us to share the sleeping bag. / It was musty, / heavy, thick, big enough to hold a lumber jack and his ax. Its fabric was a forest of wild pheasants / in all stages of flight. / Printed to excite and to prepare the young men for sleep, so dreams become a hunt and a hunter / satisfying the instinct / to take home what's shot from the sky. Funny, at first, how we laid as if we'd been shot, and stacked, / in a hunter's bag, / one on top of the other. How I looked from the zipper to the quail, still alive in the quilted sky, / and didn't know / that the boy's sleeping bag tells him what life wants from him.
Our awe-struck audience.