Spilt Ink Issue 3 Vol 2 - Pittsburgh Writers Project


Spilt Ink Issue 3 Vol 2 - Pittsburgh Writers Project

© Christopher Rolinson

spilt ink

P P WPittsburgh Writers Project

{issue 3 Volume 2}


n just a

seeks to be a tr

les, links, informati

and more.

table of contents

Welcome pg 1

current events

“Discburgh” pg 2-7

, the Pittsburgh Writers


“the survivor” pg 7-16

“tiefman” pg 16-20

ed for writers by writers a


“sublime static” pg 20-21


“just think” pg 21

“tonight i think of

christmas” pg 22

“in unemployment

utero” pg 23

authors and artists. PW

Q & A

Michael Aubrecht pg 24-27

ivity and bring writers to

Author biographies pg 28-29

port and community.

Please note: PWP cover photograph

by Christopher Rolinson.Internal

photographs/artwork are royalty free

images as PWP subscribes to a stock

photography site. PWP welcomes

photographs and artwork for future


0 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

Spilt Ink

{Don Laird, PWP Editor}

spilt ink

Some time ago, I began writing a short story

about a displaced family living in an abandoned

1950s-style gas station (I know the

purists out there refer to them as service stations)

on a lonely stretch of the old national

highway. At the moment, I recall this idea as

being a brilliant metaphor on consumerism, a

caveat to our pre-911 sensibilities and naiveté,

and a satire brimming with a dash of irony

and peppered with just the right amount of

‘F-You Corporate America!’ nihilism.

Time passed and the seed of this idea (thankfully)

withered in a garden of all too similar essays,

some good, some not so good, that visited

what had already become a passe subject.

For me, the idea had become spilt ink, water

under the bridge, a broken net, a genuine

lost cause. However, my resolve continued

and the stories and ideas kept on coming.

That is the beauty of what we do. Sometimes

you just have to let things go so that

other things can grow. And it is in this spirit

that we present to you our Spring 2009 edition,

Spilt Ink.

The cover photograph for this issue is an

original work by photographer and Point

Park professor of photojournalism Christopher

Rolinson. We are hoping this will begin

a new trend, and everyone will want to see

their artwork grace the cover of the PWP

eZine (hint, hint).

Jon Ebel, a University of Pittsburgh graduate

introduces readers to the sport of Disc

Golf. Discover the appeal of this 30-year-old

sport through a day on green at Schenley

Park in “Discburgh”

Jason Falcione continues his psychological

examination of the human mind in “The

Survivor” Part II.

rough listings on the P

rs will be able to:

rs groups, cla

as par


issue 3 volume 2

Project w

In “Tiefman,” University of Pittsburgh graduate,

Emily Monroe, who recently returned

home to Pittsburgh from teaching in South

America offers an intriguing and suspenseful

account when cultures collide.

s a hub for Pitt

Memoirist and short-fiction writer, Dan Buccigrossi

will have you sailing down memory

lane back to when the soft crackle of a tiny

speaker was the connection to the outside

world in his slice-of-life piece “Sublime Static.”

P seeks to engage loca

Tracy Lee Sarpolis, an English Writing Major

at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg

blurs past and present with “just think” and

“tonight I think of Christmas.”

gether for inspiration,

Christy Gualtieri, whose poetry was featured

in the PWP eZine “A Summer Respite” (Issue

2 Volume 1), taps into the national psyche

during the current economic downturn

with her prose “In Unemployment Utero.”

Pittsburgh native, Michael Aubrecht, who

now lives and writes in Virginia shares his

unique perspective on writing, his motivations

and his influences while offering solid

advice and tips for both novices and professional

writers alike.

WP Web site and blog,

PWP is on Facebook! Show your support for

the Pittsburgh Writers Project by joining us

on Facebook and get breaking news, learn

about our upcoming events or workshops

and post your comments.

meet other writers for pro

sses, or spontaneous writi

And finally, writers from the Pittsburgh area

have shown an interest in writing about

current events, and we couldn’t be more

pleased. If you have an idea for a column,

please submit it to writers@pittsburghwritersproject.org

with a brief description of

the piece. Remember: submissions for the

July 15 eZine “CtrlAltDelete” are being accepted

through July 1. WP


ticipate in the PWP m

cussions. PWP hopes to

r goals and providing



Thank You

contributing Writers

Michael Aubrecht

Dan Buccigrossi

Jon Ebel

Jason Falcione

Christy Gualtieri

Emily Monroe

Tracy Lee Sarpolis

cover Photography

Christopher Rolinson

onal oppor

d con

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 1



Jason sizes up his distance

from the second

hole. He takes his

putter out of his bag

and lines up his shot.


He stares at his target

from fifteen feet

away, disregarding me

and everything else

around him. Gusts of

{© Jon Ebel}

wind beat through

the course, blowing leaves and debris

all over the green as he prepares to

take his shot. He waits for the current

to die down a bit. If he sinks this one,

his game will be two strokes under par.

The gusts become a breeze. He pulls

the putter back to his left shoulder

and whips the disc toward the hole.

KA-CHING! The disc falls into the metal


This is Disc Golf – an international

sport about 30 years old in which both

national and international competitions

are held every year. Scoring a

game of Disc Golf is the same as scoring

regular golf. The fewer the strokes,

or in this case throws, the better. Each

hole has a par, or average number of

strokes, assigned to it depending on its

difficulty or distance from the tee. Disc

Golf courses can be found throughout

the world. Some countries to embrace

the game include Japan, Australia,

Canada and Sweden. Some courses

contain nine holes while others have

eighteen. The holes are not actually

holes, but metal poles a little over five

feet in height with a circular metal basket

about five inches deep wrapping

around the pole, a few inches below

the middle. At the top of the pole is a

metal ring where chains are attached.

The chains hang down toward the cen-

2 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

april 2009

ter of the basket and attach

to another metal

ring around the pole

inside the basket. The

chains are used to catch

the disc so that it can

drop into the basket.

In other words, a player

needs only to aim for

the chains when making

a shot.

A California man named Ed Headrick is

credited for having invented the game

in the mid-seventies as another use for

the modern Frisbee discs he invented.

Disc Golf discs are similar to regular

discs only they are built to withstand

aggressive throws into trees. There are

three basic types of discs: drivers, midrange,

and putters. Each type of disc

is specially designed for its intended

purpose. The drivers tend to weigh less

and have a sharper edge so that they

may cut through the air with ease. The

edges of mid-range discs are slightly

more rounded and are often a few

grams heavier than drivers. The putter

discs have a rounded edge and weigh

the most so that they are sure to “drop”

into the basket. The discs are used as

both the “clubs” and “balls.”

Disc Golfers need something to haul

their discs across the eighteen poles.

Players prefer to use a single padded

strapped bag with multiple compartments

for scorecards and an assortment

of discs. The average bag can

hold 12-15 discs.

Earlier this afternoon, I grabbed my

bag and traveled to Oakland for a

game with my friends. Now I’m running

late. It’s ten minutes after two,

and chances are Jason is waiting for

issue 3 volume 2

me on the ground floor of the student

union so that we can walk to Schenley

Park’s Disc Golf course. I sprint down

the stairwell, push open the door and

find him sitting across from the lockers

reading the Pitt News. He has a pair

of sunglasses resting in his high hair,

which runs down the sides of his face

until meeting the ends of his mouth.

He is wearing a long-sleeved black,

white and red flannel shirt that, by the

look of it, I’m sure he’s had since high

school. He’s wearing khaki carpenter

pants that contrasts with his black Vans


“Why are you wearing those heavy

jeans?” he asks. “You’re gonna get hot.”

“It’s cold out,” I assure him.

Jason and I have played Disc Golf in the

past, but have been recently playing

every Friday afternoon at Schenley’s

18-hole course.

“Is Bob coming?” he asks while folding

his paper and rising from his seat.

“I’m not sure. Let’s wait about ten minutes

and see if he comes.”

Bob, Jason, and I have one man to

thank for introducing us to this alternative

sport we so love: J. Gary Dropcho.

A member of the Professional Disc Golf

Association, Mr. Dropcho is an important

figure to the Pittsburgh Disc Golf


He has been involved in the installation

of all of the courses in the Pittsburgh

area. He has also played courses all

over the globe and participated in dozens

of tournaments.

Dropcho started playing Disc Golf with

his brothers at the age of fourteen.


They would make spontaneous courses

using trees and other objects as “holes”

while using classic large Frisbees.

At Indiana University of Pennsylvania,

he joined the Ultimate Frisbee Team

– a game that combines elements of

football, basketball and, of course, Frisbee

tossing. It was the first time he had

joined an organized Frisbee sport. In

the late seventies, he played in a few

Ultimate tournaments competing with

teams from West Virginia, Pitt, and

Penn State.

It wasn’t until 1978 when Dropcho

played “real” disc golf in Jim Palmeri’s

American Flying Disc Open in Rochester,

New York. He recalled the targets

being a mixture of different catching

devices. Some were ground baskets

made of chicken wire, others were

called Saucer holes (which he described

as “a pole hole with an inverted

plastic cone on top to deflect shots into

a basket below”), and some were poles

with single chains and a basket, as like

the one described earlier.

Jason and I have a good twenty-minute

walk from the Union before we see

the first basket. We cross the Panther

Hollow Bridge, stop at the Schenley

Park Visitor Center for a drink of water,

pass Phipps Conservatory, make a

mad dash across Boulevard of the Allies

and walk halfway across a runners

track until we finally reach the concrete

tee of the first hole. I set my bag down

on the concrete bench next to the tee

and take out my four favorite discs –

one of which is an orange putter with a

jack-o-lantern design. As I stretch and

prepare for my first throw of the game,

something to the left catches my at-

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 3


tention. I look to my left to see a solitary

golfer walking toward us from the

fairway of the second hole.

“Is that Bob?” Jason asks while organizing

his discs. It was. Bob, dressed

in a blue hooded sweatshirt, was half

prepared for the crisp winds that were

blowing across the course. He wears

a blue and gold Panther cap and his

glasses. It’s obvious Bob took the long

way over but still got here five minutes

before we did. It doesn’t matter

though. We are all here and ready to


Although Dropcho did not come near

winning a top place in the tournament

at Rochester, he did make a long shot

– 50 feet he recalls. He remembers

“feeling that rush of exhilaration that

made [him] want to play again.” It was

that first tournament and the International

Friendship Tour the following

year – where he played courses in the

UK, Netherlands, Belgium and France

with nine other players from all over

the country. It was playing in these

tournaments that “really juiced [him]

to play and organize flying disc events.”

And so Disc Golf courses in Pittsburgh

were soon to come.

In 1988, Dropcho helped get city approval

for the first course in Pittsburgh,

the 18-hole course in Schenley Park

designed by Steve Kohman and John

David. He also assisted in the construction

of the course by helping to install

the baskets and tee signs. Ten years

later, Dropcho wrote a $5,500 grant to

the Hunt Foundation which funded the

installation of two sets of concrete tee

pads (a recreational pad for beginners

and a pro pad for avid players).

4 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

spilt ink

In 1994, Dropcho again helped win approval

for a course at Knob Hill Park in

Warrendale. He coordinated the funding

campaign to purchase the materials

for the course, which totaled $8,000. In

1999, he provided technical assistance

for the installation of concrete tee pads,

which makes the ground level for high

performance drives.

In 1996, Dropcho helped Carrick High

School students get approval for a

nine-hole course at Philips Park, across

from the school. He wrote a grant for

initial funding, coached students in the

design of the course and supervised

the installation of the baskets. Dropcho

again provided technical assistance

to Bob’s brother Jim during his Eagle

Scout project in 2001 where concrete

tee pads and signs were installed.

Dropcho, in 1998, assisted in the design

and installation of a 9-hole course in

Monroeville and two years later, jointly

designed another 9-hole course with

his brother Michael in Getty Heights

Park in Indiana, PA. More recently, in

2001, he won approval for an 18-hole

course of “championship caliber” that

will feature two sets of tees and two

sets of basket positions.

I have only been to two courses: Philips

and Schenley. Schenley’s course has a

great view of the Pittsburgh skyline –

especially from the tee of the second

hole. According to the sign on the left,

it is the longest hole on the course at

540 feet. It appears so much longer today.

We all plan to use our long distance

drivers for this hole. Jason and I move

away from the tee so that Bob can get

issue 3 volume 2

a running start.

Bob starts from the

back of the tee, and

dashes sideways

to the front while

bringing the disc

across his chest,

parallel to the

ground and using

his arm like a whip,

snaps the disc, sending it hurtling to

the wide open fairway. It stays stable

for a while and then curves slightly to

the left. It’s not a bad drive for someone

who hasn’t played in six months.

Jason is up. He takes the same running

start as Bob did, but releases the disc

with a grunt. It soars too high, cuts

sharp to the left, and accelerates into

the fairway. Yes, into the fairway. His

disc is stuck in the ground. Will he ever

learn to turn over the disc?

Jason and I joined the Disc Golf club

during our sophomore year at Carrick

High School about five years ago.

One day after school, we walked over

to Phillips Park where a fairly new Disc

Golf course was located. We met a

group of about 10 to 15 other students

huddled near Hole 9, the last hole

of the course. They were all taking

practice shots from various distances

around the hole while we waited for

the coach: Mr. Dropcho.

Dropcho pulled into the nearby parking

lot with an old, gray Volkswagen

hatchback decorated with Disc Golf

bumper stickers and window decals.

As he stepped out of his car, he seemed

pleased to see all the new faces crowding

around the last hole. He unlocked

the trunk of his car prompting everyone


to gather in front. The

trunk was packed with

new discs and a variety

of disc golf accessories

including bags, towels,

T-shirts, hats and even

a instructional video

on Disc Golf.

While we approach

the next hole, I ask Jason if he remembers

this day. “I remember sucking real

bad,” he recalls. The group he played

with helped him navigate the course

and taught him the basic rules of the

game. Although his game was well

over par that day, Jason walked away

from the course with a respect for the

game. He loved the fact that it was a

lifelong sport that anyone could play –

the young and the old, the strong and

the weak. He liked to get outdoors and

have fun with his friends.

On our way to Hole 6, Jason repeats our

scores from the last hole. “Six, five, five,”

he read the scorecard. “It sounds like an

area code… for disaster!” Bob laughs

aloud and I chuckle. Jason’s known for

his corny jokes on the course.

Jason likes to play because it’s something

to do for free. Bob plays for the

thrill of playing a nontraditional sport,

and I like it because it’s something fun

to do outdoors with good friends.

Bob O’ Mara was introduced to disc

golf while in the sixth grade by his oldest

brother, Tom. Tom was introduced

to the game in the same place as Jason

and I – only a few years earlier. Tom

immediately fell in love with the game

and began taking his father and two

younger brothers out to Phillips Park

to play.

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 5


Bob was not the best novice disc golfer

(so he claims). When he played with his

family, he was always last to throw and

would jump up and down in near tears

screaming because the disc would

never go where he wanted it to – always

curving to the left. It took many

games until he figured out how to turn

over the disc – throwing it at an angle

slightly to the right in an attempt to

level it out.

During high school, Bob played in four

tournaments on four different courses.

The tournaments were restricted to

high school students around the Pittsburgh

area. There was usually a $10

entry fee which gave contestants a

new disc of their choice and a chance

for a “trophy disc,” as Bob refers to

them, which was given to the top three

players. First, second, and third place

players received a thin, golden metal

disc (like a CD) about three inches in diameter.

The front of the disc read “Pittsburgh

High School Championships”

and the order of place.

Bob is proud to have three of these trophy

discs – scoring either first or second

in the four tournaments in which

he participated. Bob plays disc golf

because it’s an unfamiliar game, and

he likes unique and different things. He

also likes to play because it is a relaxing

game for him where there isn’t too

much action - unlike the street hockey

he is accustomed to playing.

Towards the end of the game, I end up

making a come back and beating Bob,

who held the advantage by one stroke

during most of the game. Jason ends

up playing his worst game ever with a

score well over par. Bob is in awe that

6 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

april 2009

I caught up to his score during the last

four holes, so I suggest a rematch right

then and there. Jason agrees and after

some convincing, Bob agrees too.

“I don’t think it’s gonna stay light out

like this for the whole game,” Bob says.

Jason and I think he’s right, but we are

going to play as much as we can until

it’s too dark.

Bob has played the Schenley, Phillips,

Monroeville, and Knob Hill courses

while Jason and I have only played at

Schenley and Phillips. Neither of us,

however, has come close to the number

of courses Dropcho has played…

yet. Dropcho has played courses in

20 different states throughout the

United States and several more in Canada,

England, France, Belgium and the


Why does he play so much? He says he

loves the feeling of seeing the disc fly

exactly where he had imagined it going.

A hole in one, or another great shot

such as a long distance putt makes him

want to keep playing. It’s the challenge,

as in any other sport, to do better than

your last game. Self-improvement is

the key to success.

Yet it’s the camaraderie of the other

players that makes him want to practice

and improve. There are still new

shots and techniques to be learned, he

says, and although he’s getting older,

he believes he will be playing the sport

he’s so greatly devoted himself to for a

long time.

During our second round, I have trouble

finding my yellow and red disc that

has yellow with red lettering on the

issue 3 volume 2

ground, which is covered by yellow

and orange leaves on hole 10. It’s getting

too dark. All three of us were scanning

the ground for about five minutes

until Jason finds it in a ditch about a

few feet from the basket.

I grab the disc and take aim. My putt

sails past the basket and rolls down the

hill behind it. Jason and Bob laugh as I

follow it with my eyes, making sure not

to lose it again.

As we prepare to walk back to Oakland,

I wonder if I’ll ever tour the world as a

disc golf tourist like J. Gary Dropcho

– one of the forefathers of Pittsburgh

Disc Golf.

We pack our drivers and putters into

our bags. We plan on playing next

week, regular tee time. WP



The Survivor

- second in a series

{© Jason Falcione}

Eventually I learned about Doug’s drug

habits. He was all about pot and acid.

He told me that he couldn’t kill himself

because that would mean he couldn’t

get high anymore. Next he told me

about the time he got high with a

nurse and they sat in the cafeteria after

hours, and consumed an entire serving

of gelatin. Now that may not sound as

such a big feat, but this serving was intended

for the entire hospital staff.


“Yea dude, an entire three gallon bucket.

She loves gelatin, especially cherry


I couldn’t blame them especially because

I experienced how good the food

actually was. Clean silverware, clean

plates, and as much spaghetti and hot

wings as I could eat. All of course for a

good price: free. It was nearly paradise,

except there were no bleach-white

sand beaches with attractive barely

legal girls running through the tide in

nothing more than napkin and yarn.

Within a day or so I had the pleasure of

meeting the gelatin-hungry nurse. She

was the same nurse who helped me to

my room when I first arrived. Doug and

I snuck into the pantry to smoke some

medicinal pot that he had snuck from

the pharmacy. It was the first time I had

ever tried it and I was really nervous

about getting caught. When nurse

Cheri (I later came to discover that her

name was Cherry and that the hospital

had misspelled her name on the tag)

walked into the pantry to grab a box of

cereal, the three of us knew about the

purple elephant in the room. Pretty

soon after, she was one of the crew and

was hot boxing the pantry with us.

Aside from the pot, we had to keep

ourselves from losing our already lost

minds, so we were given classes to attend

on a daily basis. They had computer

classes, arts and crafts, and even

a library hour. Arts and crafts were my

forte. If one good thing came from my

stay other than free food and board, it

would be my newly acquired love for

art. I first started with simple drawings

but soon I tried painting and stuck

with it.

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 7


My paintings began lining theclassroom

and my bedroom walls. Even at

the age of 25 attending a 3rd grade

level class was fun. It really made time

fly for me, not that I was in any hurry

to leave. Every other day, Dr. Martin

would come in and interview me to

make sure that I was doing alright and

to ask me the occasional question that

parented an answer of a certain letter

count. It would sometimes be as if his

crossword puzzle was more important

than the dissection of my mind. It was

another hurdle that could easily be

stepped over rather than jumped. Why

I accidentally filled myself with pills or

the fear of facing my wife was not an

issue to him. I made myself too comfortable

to leave and decided to stay as

long as possible so I didn’t have to face

my wife.

One morning while Doug and I were

eating breakfast, we had a visitor. We

sat at the table discussing heavy metal

and the world today, when a short and

pudgy character came into the cafeteria.

He wandered aimlessly until finally

reaching the buffet. He filled his tray

with fruit, muffins, and a small pint of

milk before returning to his wandering.

He stopped when he saw the two of us

conversing and slowly approached us

to make his introduction.

“Hey guys, how’s it going? I’m Dustin. I

just came up here from the ward downstairs,”

he said, setting his tray down in

front of him.

“I’m Doug, this is-“

“Downstairs ward?” I asked cutting

off Doug. “Since when are there two

wards? I thought this was the only one.”

Dustin opened up the milk carton and

8 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

spilt ink

pulled out a clear plastic cup from his


“Oh yeah, basement level man, shit’s

tough,” he said while filling his cup

with the creamy white liquid. “It’s cold

as balls down there and they make you

room with someone. I got some guy

who screams every night. It grew unsafe,

so they moved me up here.”

“You will get yours?” Doug asked raising

an eyebrow.

“Yep, that’s the guy,” Dustin took a sip

out of his unique cup.

“Dustin, is that a urine cup?” I asked.

“Yeah, man. I like the way the thread

feels on my lips when I drink from it,”

said Dustin, eating his blueberry muffin.

“Plus urine is pretty sterile, so I can

wash it out with piss. Killing two birds

with one stone, you know.”

“Maybe I’ll have you come to my house

and do my dishes when we get out of

here,” said Doug wincing in sarcasm.

“Dishes, oh no, I hate doing dishes,” answered

Dustin completely serious.

We later learned what Dustin was in

for. Out of the few people I had met,

Dustin was the only one, other than

myself of course, that was placed into

the program because of a relationship

issue. Doug became curious about

Dustin’s subject of interest and cracked

open the shell of a bad nut. No pun intended.

“What was she like? Well….she was

beautiful,” said Dustin. “Her eyes were

like two emeralds set in the center of

issue 3 volume 2

small hard boiled eggs. Her skin was as

pale and cold as the year’s first snowfall.

Her toes were the cutest things ever.

They were like newborn mice sucking

on the nipples of their mother. Each

foot was a mother with five babies attached,

all in line according to size.”

“Cold and pale? What the fuck? Was

she dead or something? Christ, don’t

tell me you’re one of those necro-people!”

Doug shouted, nearly alerting the

entire cafeteria of the subject matter of

our conversation. Some of the others

turned their heads fast enough to tease

one’s mind into thinking they were

going to break the necks attached to

them. A faint snicker confirmed at least

one person in the building not only enjoyed

a nice warm meal, but also nice

cold flesh.

“Shh, man. No, it’s not like that. Don’t

try and give these people a bad impression

of me. She died as we were having

sex. It was a one night stand thing, you

know, those things they always talk

about on those daytime talk shows?”

He whispered in prevention of not

causing an eavesdropper to screech.

“We were having sex and in the middle

of it, her heart stopped. I was in such a

panic that I froze and had no idea what

to do. I figured if I called the cops they

would pin her death on me so I put her

in my freezer. I stuffed her in as best as

I could.”

“Jesus Christ, that’s fucked up. Where’s

Wendy? She would go crazy for a story

like this,” I said.

“It was all fine until one day I was at

work and the power went out and my


freezer defrosted. The floor was covered

in water and soaked through the

floor down into my neighbor’s apartment,”

continued Dustin. “The neighbor

called the landlady and she came

into my apartment to find my little

Popsicle Princess. After I was separated

from her I felt the urge to kill myself.

Not just because of what I had done,

but because of the weird emotional attachment

I had to her in life, and oddly

enough, death.”

“What? Ha, this is amazing. So why the

toe fetish?” I asked looking around the

cafeteria for our little freckled psycho.

“No fetish. It was just one thing that

stuck in my head about her. See, I met

her at a beach earlier that day and her

toes got sun burned from being out in

the sun too long. Not many people remember

to put sun block on their toes,”

Dustin answered looking a bit out of

breath and nervous. Despite the vile

content coming from his mouth, he

made sure that the stuffing of muffins

and urine laced milk into his mouth

was not impeded.

“So, you tried to end yourself because

you loved her?” asked Doug with a curious


“Isn’t it worth dying for something that

you cannot live without?” he replied

while dabbing his lips with a napkin.

Doug and I suddenly became quiet

while the ambience of the cafeteria

chatter and Dustin’s ignorant slurping

of his milk filled the awkward silence.

After breakfast, I headed to my art class

but this time, my mind was all fresh

out of ideas to paint. I sat at the large

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 9


table with an empty white canvas and

a virgin brush, staring into space. I was

peeking around at my neighbors’ paintings

in hopes of pulling an idea out of

thin air. The man to the left of me was

painting a picture of a horse. I should

say “attempting” to paint a picture of

a horse. His picture was horrible; he

even once turned to me asking if horses

had five or six legs. I told him that

five was too high a number for horse

legs. Soon after, I glanced over and saw

three legs on his horse. The woman to

the right of me was painting a picture

of a woman. It was hard to tell whom

the picture was of, but it was apparent

that it was a woman by the large

amount of red paint used around the

lips. The long, flowing, blonde hair was

also a clue. In the center of the long

hair was a face that had a disfigured

appearance. I hoped that it was not a

real person because I would feel pity

for someone with such a face. In reality,

I couldn’t imagine what the face would

look like on a breathing human being. I

closed my eyes and pictured the monstrosity.

It was as if God was molding

her face out of clay and in the middle

of his crafting his phone rang. He left to

answer it, came back, and saw the clay

was half-dry. He tried to mold it more,

but gave up and called it a night.

I thought maybe I could convey some

of my humor into my paintings. I sat

and thought for a moment about everything.

My life, my wife, my stay here

and my unique friends that I had acquired

during the program. It wasn’t

long until something clicked. One of

the ironic things that I had realized

over the four weeks of my stay there,

was that they tried to make every room

in the ward “suicide proof”. Therefore, I

10 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

april 2009

painted pictures of ways to get around

their attempts to make everything

safe. I painted a picture of a man using

a pencil to unlock the window and another

picture of a man hanging himself

with the drawstring of his pajamas. I

painted another picture of a girl growing

her hair out long enough to use it

to hang herself, courtesy of Wendy’s

imagination, of course. It seemed even

my dark humor had its bounds and

limits. I did not see anything wrong

with picking fruit off another’s tree,


Later that day, I met with Cherry in my

room. She was taking me down to finally

have my cast removed. After the

doctor removed my cast, he had me

walk around his office to make sure everything

was working. Within my first

two steps, I felt extreme pain shoot

up my leg. The doctor x-rayed my leg

again and it showed a perfect fusion

of the bone. The doctor explained that

my leg would be in pain for a bit but

it would eventually go away. Cherry

helped me walk up to my room and

thankfully noticed the amount of anguish

I was in. “I know what will make

you feel better. I’m a forty-some year

old mother; I’ve had to deal with the

whole broken bone thing before,” she

said, taking off her white hat. She held

it upside down and dug into it as if

she was to pull a rabbit out. A few moments

of searching and she revealed a

small bag with pills inside.

“Take these. I used to give ‘em to my

son all the time when he was in pain.”

“Funny, you never told me you had a

son before, Cherry,” I said, opening my

hand. She smiled and put the bag into

issue 3 volume 2

my palm.

“I never mention him because I never

see him. He’s 22 now and he’s been

out of my house for about 2 years. I’m

never really excited about explaining

to people about being such a young

mother. It was a mistake, and a mistake

that took me down the wrong path.

The things I had to do for money, just

to put formula in his bottle, still haunt

me to this day.” She took a step closer

to me and embraced me tightly. She

placed her head on my shoulder and

I could feel her tears soaking into my

shirt. I soon returned the favor. I’ve always

had a hard time seeing a woman

upset and when they hug me I just can’t

keep up the act of Mr. Tough Guy anymore.

She became comfortable in my

arms and slowly pushed herself away

to expose her red eyes and running

eye liner that shaped into a lightning

bolt down each cheek. She smiled and

I returned that favor as well before she

leaned in and kissed me passionately.

We kissed for a few seconds before she

noticed something out of place. She

pulled away and noticed the strained

look on my face.

“I’m sorry, I just….I’m sorry, that

should’ve never happened,” she cried.

“Don’t be upset, it wasn’t you.” I quickly

answered. “It was my leg….”

Her eyes tightened with laughter and

she playfully nudged me in the chest

causing me to lose balance and fall on

my back.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Are you

okay?” She ran over to my side.

“Ahh, I’m fallen and I can’t get up!” I re-

plied in jest.


We both started to laugh before we

became intimate again. Unfortunately

for us, we had forgotten to close the

door and another nurse came in. We

panicked and Cherry ran out with her

blouse unbuttoned and her white

coat on the floor next to me. I was as

defenseless as a turtle on its shell and

could not squirm away.

We were caught. And I had done it


Cherry and I were nearly positive that

the nurse did not say a word for no one

knew a damn thing about it. Cherry

said that she knew the nurse and she

would not rat us out. The pills she gave

me reduced the pain greatly and I was

up and walking fine in no time. One of

the side effects of the pills caused me

to do the strangest of acts, mostly in

arts. I was put into solitary for painting

a penis on my neighbor’s picture while

high on the pills. I spent an entire day

in a room all by myself. It was a bad

cocktail to mix. I had my pen, the high,

and the time. Minutes after I was in the

room, I freaked out and started writing

random words on the wall. Eventually,

my words became shorter yet larger in

size and boldness. My wrist ached and

I stepped away from the wall to gaze at

my masterpiece. The most noticeable

words read:

“Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha”

After that incident, I stopped taking

the pills and just dealt with the pain,

though I soon did miss the accompanying

high that came with each dose. After

my spark of trouble, I stirred the pot

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 11


and soon enough the head doctor of

the program sat both Cherry and I in his

office for a meeting. He was very upset

with us and expelled me from the program

and Cherry from her position. My

vacation was finally over and I had to

face my wife. The last day was the hardest

of them all. I had to say good-bye to

the few friends I had made, but most

importantly Doug. He was pretty much

my deranged little brother throughout

the whole ordeal. After I packed

up, I went to say goodbye to Doug,

but Cherry informed me that he was

in solitary confinement again. I was a

little deterred and figured I would just

write him a letter when I got home. On

the way out, Wendy came running up

behind me and jumped onto my back.

“Don’t goooo!!! Please! Are you leaving

because I’m ugly now?” She screeched

in my ear. I kneeled down and let her

demount. I turned around curious as

to what she was talking about. Underneath

her bottom lip was a deep red

half circle. It looked as if she had attempted

to bite her bottom lip off.

“Christ, what happened to your lip


“The doctor said when I get excited I

bite my bottom lip! I didn’t even notice

I was doing it….But I guess one day I

got really excited and just bit down

way too hard! It was awesome though,

because I looked like a cannibal with

all that blood running down my face!

I have pills for my excitement now!”

She said in, of course, pure excitement,

catching herself attempting to bite her

lower lip once again.

“Well…I can see the pills are working.

12 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

spilt ink

I have a mission for you. Think you

can handle it?” I smiled at Cherry and

grabbed my book bag from her hand. I

went through it and pulled out a large

envelope which contained all of my


“When Doug comes out of confinement,

I need you to give this to him. It’s

super duper top secret! So don’t look at

it!” I said, accidentally conveying more

excitement onto her. Doug was always

a fan of dark humor so I figured my

paintings would be an appropriate going

away present.

“You can count on me!”

She took the folder and placed it under

her arm before running down the hall

with her long pigtails following suit

behind her. Cherry helped me carry

my belongings to the front door and

talked with me before my wife arrived

to pick me up. Apparently, the doctors

were right. My wife didn’t even know

I was gone; it was as if I was literally

gone from existence for those weeks.

“So what now?” I asked Cherry.

“I kind of had a safety net all along, so

I’m not really worried,” she replied.

“Safety net huh?”

“Yep. My brother has a bar that for

some odd reason won’t run itself,” she

said with a chuckle.

I soon saw my wife pull up in front,

followed by two courtesy horn blows.

I picked up my things and headed towards

the car. After placing everything

in the back seat, I opened up the pas-

issue 3 volume 2

senger door and before I sat down, I

glanced over at Cherry and noticed her

waving bye to me. I, of course, returned

the favor.

“So how did everything go? Is everything

working the way it should?” My

wife asked. She was under the impression

that I was at the hospital for simple

blood work. She didn’t even realize

I was gone for those weeks. I guess the

doctor’s guarantee held water after all.

“For now, I guess.” I answered keeping

eye contact with Cherry as the car slowly

started to drive off. During the rest of

the ride home, my chauffeur and wife

did not utter another word. It was as if

she knew about my affair, or as it stood

then, affairs. We arrived home and she

helped me bring my things from the car

into the house. After I unpacked and

changed my clothes, we ate the dinner

that she had prepared. We sat on opposite

ends of the table and enjoyed not

only the silence of the quiet house, but

also the silence of each other. The dinner

was about as awkward as a fish that

had ended up in a bowl of clear gelatin,

there forever, so it could watch every

passerby laugh at its mistake all while

watching an adjacent bowl of water

evaporate. I couldn’t take the tension

anymore and finally broke down to tell

her about everything that happened.

After I had explained my first affair, she

went into a teary tirade about how she

knew about everything. I no sooner

had a plate launched full force towards

my face. I was just barely able to dodge

it seconds before it crashed onto the

wall behind me, sending shrapnel of

ceramic and pasta everywhere. My wife

disappeared and packed her things

and even left through the garage door

to avoid further contact with me.


I sat on my couch alone in the dark

and took everything in. I had no one to

blame but myself. After nearly drowning

the room in self pity, I remembered

what had helped me get through all

the hard times in the establishment.

The promising purple pills that Cherry

had given me. I got off the couch and

flipped the light switch on. The room

went from dark to light, almost as

quick as my mood went from sad to

excited. I just knew that my pills could

fix anything. I went through my duffle

bag and found them. I was thinking

of another way to get my head out of

the clouds, and that would be to get

it above the clouds. I had grown affectionate

toward this little miracle

herb and it was a good way for me

to forget about almost all problems.

I went through my contact list in my

cell phone. I called every possible person

I came across to try and obtain the

stuff. Everyone I talked to did not even

question where I had been for the last

handful of weeks, but rather asked why

I wanted to smoke pot. I just told them

I heard it was good for headaches and I

had a migraine I could not get rid of. A

friend joked about the possibility that

it was a brain tumor before eventually

forking over a phone number of a gentleman

in his teens that had the “stuff”.

I downed some pills and headed out to

meet my new friend. I was told to meet

him in a local baseball field. He would

be waiting for me behind the bleachers

near home plate. It felt like high school

all over again. I arrived and waited for

about twenty minutes before seeing a

small kid wearing a baseball outfit on

his bicycle approach me.

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 13


“Are you the one I’m here to see?” he

asked while setting the kick stand on

his bike.

“Uh, no. I think you’re looking for

someone else. I’m here to meet Mike,” I

replied with eyes squinted narrow.

“You got the money?” He took off his

red baseball cap and exposed a tinted

vial with plant matter inside.

“Yea, I guess I do.” I pulled a lone, wrinkled,

twenty dollar bill from my pocket

and gave it to him. In one motion, our

business transaction was over.

“Cool man, thanks. I hate to cut this

meeting short, but my mom’s going to

be here with my gear soon. We got a

game in an hour, so I’ll talk to you later.

You have my number if you need anything


“Number? You never gave it to me,” I


“Yea, I did. It’s inside the vial. Trust

me, I’m a professional,” he grinned. He

looked away and noticed a blue minivan

pulling onto the side of the street

next to the field. Without hesitation, he

got back on his bike and took off towards

the dugout.

When I got home, I popped some more

pills and smoked all of the pot that I

had purchased. It was the highest I

had ever been. As I sat on the couch

alone in the dark, all I remember is my

thoughts going in one direction, that

being a figure-eight. The details from

my past haunted me. My wife, the loss

of my job, my affair, and the establishment.

14 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

april 2009

Closing my eyes did no good to hide

me from the terrible things I had done.

I closed my eyes tighter and tighter

hoping to just suddenly explode and

coat the surrounding walls in flesh and

organ matter. My stomach soon ached

and cried for attention. I stumbled to

my feet off the couch with my hand

rubbing my numb face. It felt like I was

rubbing the face of a corpse. I staggered

and stumbled through the dark until I

reached the kitchen. The cold tiles beneath

me were euphoric and were a

pleasure to graze upon with my bare

feet. I used my extended arm to feel for

a light switch but was too fog-headed

to muster up the concentration to find

it. I cautiously walked through the dark

kitchen until I reached my large, white

and humming place of interest. I felt

the surface of it with my hand before

finding a long and rigid post protruding

from it. I grasped it tightly and

opened a door the size of myself. The

light behind it slowly poured out and

finally filled the entire room minus my

own shadow. I kneeled down in front

of it with tears moistening my cheeks.

Each tear glistened with the blinding

light in front of me. I squinted and

rubbed my eyes until I regained focus.

I could see what I was looking for all

along. Turkey, gravy, ketchup and two

ears of corn. God damn, the munchies

can be such heartache.

The next morning I awoke shirtless

covered in gravy with bits of turkey

and other random food I had found

during my high, all speckled in my hair.

The refrigerator door was still open

with a cold breeze pouring from it. I

sat up and shook my head to find my

bearings before standing up to catch

the time on the wall clock. Before I

issue 3 volume 2

could even focus on it, I heard a loud

knock on my door. I immediately ran to

see who it was. I hesitated to open it.

I could not let my wife see me in that

state and looked in the mirror hanging

next to the door. I tried to tame my rat’s

nest of hair with my hands and even

gave myself a breath test. My breath

carried a stale stench of death and ass,

so I reached to the coffee table underneath

the mirror and grabbed a handful

of dinner mints. I opened the door

to no one. I noticed a green plastic bag

nestled on the top of my stoop, and sat

down. I unwrapped it and noticed the

headline on the front page. It was as if

someone printed it with me in the back

of their minds.

“Mass Suicide In Local Asylum Leaves

Officials Stumped”

“Twelve people committed suicide in the

Brown County regional hospital’s psych

ward. They were all participating in a new

psychiatric evaluation program designed

by Doctor Martin who is a Cornell graduate.

The program, code name “Vacation”,

aimed at assisting suicidal and mentally

unstable patients. The program was run

in a state of the art facility that would

temporarily “remove” patients from normal

day life. The creator of the program

insisted that the mentally ill were in fact

ill, because of their lifestyles and every

day habits. Removing them from their

niche was said to cure their mental ailments.

The investigation is still ongoing

but information the local police released

states that some victims used unsecured

items within the facility. The ward is currently

closed. Among the patients was

Wendy Sykes, 18, who used her own hair

to hang herself….Dustin Retanelle Jr., 20,

jumped from the window of his bedroom

using a pencil to unlock the supposedly


secure window….The lone survivor Doug

Travis, 22, is being held for questioning at

an alternative facility…”

I sagged down to a sitting and opened

my mouth. Each mint dropped and

crashed onto the stairs below me,

leaving a tiny white dust crater. Soon

the dust was washed away with small

drops of rain, the rain of my tears. I

forced myself to read the remainder of

the article and realized that I had unintentionally

exposed the safety flaws

in the establishment in my paintings.

My art, my paintings, were blue prints

to the self destruction that others used.

This was the left hook that completed

the one-two punch. I was a murderer.

I was no better than a murderous

thug who had slaughtered a family for

money. My selfishness resulted in this.

If I had the testicular fortitude to confront

my problems, rather than milk

them, lives would have been saved.

I did not belong there, I was not sick

like the others. I was the only normal

one among them. I never meant to kill

myself: it was what the professionals

would call an “accidental overdose”. I

may have been stupid, but I was normal

until that day: the day I destroyed

the lives of other human beings. I sat

on the stoop and cried, now dropping

the newspaper to the step below me. I

watched as it flailed and kicked its pages

in the wind until its seizure came to

a halt. On the page was something that

glared right into me.

“Cherry’s Bar Now Looking for Upper

Level Tenant.

Cheapest Rent In Town. Guaranteed.

Applicant must be qualified.”

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 15


My train of thought stopped as my

attention was caught by what was in

front of me. Cherry? I thought it was a

sign and ripped the article out of the

paper, leaving the rest of it to the molesting

and twirling wind. I ran inside

and dialed the number.

“Cherry? Is it you?” I said, nearly tearing

up into the phone.

“That voice sounds familiar…Is it you?”

“Cherry …” I giggled into the phone

widening my red bloodshot eyes in astonishment.

“You know damn well who

this is.”

“I can’t believe it. The ad was just printed

a few days ago and look whose eyes

it has caught? You wouldn’t be interested

in my place, would you?”

“Well, how cheap is this rent exactly?”

I asked wiping the tears from my eyes.

This was my chance to start over; I

could not pass it up. It was a gamble

of my sanity, but the reward could be

more than I could ever want.

She answered in a seductive voice that

had never laid its sound onto my ears

before. “Cheap, real cheap.” WP


Part 2 of 3: “The Survivor” concludes

next quarter in the July issue.

16 | Pittsburgh Writers Project



{© Emily Monroe}

spilt ink

Before she emerges a flash of light

on the horizon, he can smell her. The

sweetness of woman soured with

sweat. He sees the curl of her hip, the

weight sewed into her fingertips that

drops her hand to her waist. Her body a

comma separating the sky. Crouched in

darkness, he waits. Masked by knotted

leaves and mud and spiders, the thief

lurks, invisible in the night. Tiefman,

what you messing here for, she says

– they all say. Get out a Guyana. Quit

troubling we. But he slides his thumb

along the cutlass blade; its shiver sends

electricity through his chalk bones.

Mosquitoes perch on the thief’s naked

shoulders, greedy for his blood.

It is only the female mosquitoes that

lust for human blood. He knows this

instinctively, purely for the logical

sense that it makes, not because he

spent more than a handful of years in

school. The thief was married once and

he knew a thing or two about women

even if he couldn’t spell his own name.

Noah. The name of a bearded white

man who directed the animals two by

two. Captain of the ark, survivor of the

great flood. Noah does not swat the

mosquitoes from his skin. He knows

there are worse things in life than the

loss of a little blood.

issue 3 volume 2

Noah squints at the shadow on the

road, a peeled fingernail of white stuck

on the horizon. When he sees bright

skin, his mouth waters. Gold. Everyone

knows Brazilians walk with pockets full

of gold. Noah curls his fingers around

the cutlass, the handle now sweating.

But the sliver of white approaches too

slowly, unsure of the dips in the dirt

road. The figure pauses to dodge puddles,

maneuvering around the bodies

of sleeping cows, kicking rocks from

her path. He cannot see her face in the


* * *

Reeaz strikes the coconut, slicing the

fruit so that water drips free, flooding

from the shell and soaking his fingertips.

Dropping the cutlass into the dirt,

he raises the coconut to his lips and

sucks the juice, catching the teardrops

of moisture that slide down his jaw

with the back of his hand.

“You sharing, man?”

Leon grabs the fruit and drains the

sweet water into his cup of vodka. His

face twisting around the bitterness, he

gulps the drink in one swallow.

“Man, you not tired with drinking yet?”

“It look like I tired with drinking?”

Reeaz laughs, slouching against his

best friend and stretching his legs into

the dirt. The sun already fallen, a skeleton

of sweat stains his clothes from

the afternoon game of cricket that lasted

into dark. Fat with coconut water

and a swallow of vodka, he lays back

in the dirt to consider the sky. Threads


of white sewed across a velvet quilt, a

thousand bits of light that, in darkness,

cannot hide.

“You still with that girl? The white

teacher?” Leon asks. He crunches his

empty cup in his fist, drops it into the


Reeaz met the American teacher three

months ago. He taught math in the

room beside her, ending lessons early

so that he could sneak into the back

of her classroom and watch the sweep

of her arm across the chalkboard, the

sweep of her smile across her face. He

knew his way around the interior of her

house; he could walk from kitchen to

bedroom with his eyes closed. He knew

that her thighs glowed so bright to be

blinding, at least three shades whiter

than her arms. If she was Guyanese, he

would call her his girlfriend. He would

tell Leon that he had someplace else

to be and lie in her arms until dawn.

He would set aside a percentage of

each paycheck and start saving for the

house he would one day build her to

shelter the family they would one day

share. But she was not Guyanese.

“We friends is all.” He grabs the dry coconut

from Leon’s hand and heaves

the machete into the air, shattering the

shell across the dirt.

“Hey man, I got an idea,” Leon says. Already

gravity holds Leon’s eyelids in its

hands, reducing his gaze to half its size.

Reeaz looks up into the growing twist

of his best friend’s smile.

* * *

Noah squints. He sees the white wom-

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 17


an alone on the road, hands pushed

into her pockets, head bowed. Even

from where he squats, crouched in

mud, he can tell she is young, pretty.

Her skin pink from too much sun, her

waist slim from too much walking, her

face catapults Noah into memory.

Suddenly he is a boy again, years before

the possibility of beards and

floods. Pressed between the sweating

shoulders of two other Form 1 boys, his

thighs aflame in the midday heat. He

looks up into a foreign face – a white

face dripping with sweat – towering

above him. The white face is speaking

about verbs or nouns or something, he

is not listening. He is watching the way

those lips – red red against milk skin –

move like wind. He hears his name.

“Noah.” He watches the letters curl

from those red lips but he cannot respond.

She repeats her request, but his

tongue lays – a corpse – in his mouth.

She sighs, wipes the never-ceasing

sweat from her brow. He sucks in his

breath, but no sound emerges.

He sees the frustration pucker the corners

of her lips. She writes a set of loops

and swirls on the board and turns back

to the class. She tells them that there

was a man named Noah, a man who

saved the world. She says that Noah

was so brave that he gathered groups

of animals and people onto an ark and

sailed for one hundred and fifty days.

Noah had to choose the best of the

earth; he left the weak, the corrupt, the

jealous, the timid, behind. She frowns.

After Noah, she says, there is no place

in this world for cowards.

* * *

18 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

“I don’t think this a good idea.”

“Be quiet. Here she come.

april 2009

Leon wraps his fingers around his

friend’s wrist, pulling him into the

shadow of a fallen tree. Leaves consume

any suggestion of their presence

on the side of the road. Reeaz knows

from the pink in his friend’s eyes that

Leon is drunk.

“We not gon’ do she nothing,” Leon

says as they walk towards her house.

“We just gon’ go see she. Maybe one

quick peek in she window.”

Reeaz frowns. “I don’t think that a good

idea. We not want to scare she.”

But this only makes Leon laugh and

punch his friend’s arm. “What you care?

She not you girlfriend, right?”

They are almost to her house when a

knot of trees spits her into the road.

That flash of light that even the night

cannot hide.

Reeaz watches her, the snaking path of

her step, the tiptoe over puddles that

betrays her ignorance. She stumbles

over a stick, but her hand catches her

knee and she steadies herself. The slow

pace of one who does not yet know to


issue 3 volume 2

She does not belong there. She belongs

where the ice and snow can camouflage

her into invisibility. He remembers

the way her body crouched inside

his, disappearing into darkness. His

teeth slid along her jaw, pressing into

her skin. A track of red encircled her

neck the next day, a map left behind

that betrayed every lingering of his

tongue, every pause of his lips. But she

only wrapped her arms tighter around

him, whispering his name into the

darkness. She buried her fingernails inside

his skin as he kissed her, digging as

if she hoped to find something buried

inside. An unnamed treasure, a sparkle

of gold undiscovered.

* * *

It is only the claws of bushes that

shroud Noah from the white woman’s

face. He is synonymous with night in

her awareness, nothing but a possibility

that softens her stomach and quickens

her eyes. She takes her time as she

maneuvers down the dirt road, careful

not to muddy the soles of her feet. She

does not hear the crunching of stone

behind her when the thief crawls from

the brush.

Like the panther, his night brother, he

pounces, knocking her to the ground

with the flat edge of his cutlass that

moves as if it grew from his wrist. She

lays in the dirt, looking suddenly into

the stars. Noah holds his cutlass above

her face, shattering constellations like

glass. He waits for her scream.

The moment stretches its arms between

them. Her eyes wide, she waits

for the blade. His arms raised, he

waits for her scream. He remembers

his teacher’s words – the woman who

spent only six weeks in his school before

returning to England and never

looking back. Noah was the bravest

of all men. He could have left the animals

and the people where they were.

He could have left it all up to fate. He

had to choose. He had to choose right.

His hand shakes, the cutlass suddenly

heavy. He sees her lips begin to quiver,

those lips made from tissue paper. Red

red in a puddle of milk.

* * *


Her body bends, folding into the dirt.

Reeaz jumps to catch her, but Leon

grips his best friend’s wrist. Tomorrow

he will wear a bracelet of red.

“What you think you doing? You crazy?”

“We got to help she. We can’t just leave

she there.”

“You try and get both we killed? What

the matter with you, boy?”

Reeaz wants to shout to her, to tell her

to go home where she belongs. He

wants to kiss her and close his eyes

so that they both disappear into the

night. But Leon holds his wrist into the

dirt, compelling him to stillness.

“Forget she, Reeaz. She not you people.

Leave she be.”

Even caked with mud, she glows. He

watches her flicker, mirrored in the

blade that hovers closer, a single tooth

seeking meat. Leon’s breath warms his

ear, a melody echoed by crickets and

beetles and fireflies. Shoulders pressed

together in the brush, their heartbeats

accelerate into one.

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 19


* * *

The silence swells to bursting, pregnant

between them but he cannot

speak. He knows the words – Give

me you money. Give me you fucking

money. But he is silent. He is suddenly

twelve sitting with perfect posture on

a wooden bench built for two. He can

hear his name repeated in the dark.

Noah. Noah. But his throat is paralyzed.

Cutlass in hand, he runs from the road

and chops his way back into the jungle’s

shelter. The animals surround him,

snake, frog, bat, panther, as he crawls

deeper into wet brush. Two by two,

they follow him into the dark. WP


Sublime Static

{© Dan Buccigrossi}

It was the sound of our youth. It was

the soundtrack of our lives. It wasn’t

pristine music piped into our brains

through the ear buds of an ipod. It

wasn’t overpowered by the exaggerated

basso profundo of a passing sedan.

It wasn’t satellite radio or HD radio and

was far from crystal clear but, oh, the

glorious sounds we heard.

The source of music in the fifties and

sixties obviously wasn’t ipods. It was

transistor radios and they were just

as ubiquitous. They were rectangular

hunks of plastic that fit into the palm

20 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

spilt ink

of your hand...barely. They could slide

into your shirt pocket. Well, okay, stuff

into your shirt pocket. Maybe. If you

were lucky. They weren’t powered by

pill-sized cadmium batteries and microchips.

No. The magic of their science

was transistors, resistors, capacitors

and a chunky 9 volt battery.

There wasn’t much to manipulate on

transistor radios. Until the 1970’s there

was no AM-FM toggle. FM wavelength

hadn’t yet been perfected. There was

no Stereo toggle. Stereo was only for

home sound systems and indicated

state-of-the-art design. There was no

ultra-bass. There was no high end or

low end at all. Just a metallic, nasal

sound reproduction. There were two

knobs, off-on/Volume and tuning

(manual tuning, no preprogrammed

preset). Cranked to the max those babies

could pump out a room-shaking 3

watts of audio!

Just like today’s ipods our transistor

radios went everywhere with us and

could be found just about anywhere -

the back seat of the car; the front porch;

the back porch; under the Christmas

tree; the community swimming pool;

the beach at Erie. There were places

where they were forbidden but where

we still took them nonetheless - Church;

the school bus; the library. They would

nestle next to your ear, barely audible

and defiant.

There were various methods of listening

to a transistor radio. There was the

bulky prototype of the ear-bud that

could be stuffed into one ear canal. (I

once “Frankensteined” two earplugs

together to simulate stereo sound.)

There was the method of holding it

issue 3 volume 2

directly in front of you, staring at the

box and visualizing the performers - an

imaginary MTV.

The best way to listen to a transistor

radio, and the method I utilized and

highly recommend, is right up to your

ear, flesh to plastic, eardrum to 1 1/2

inch speaker.

And sweet Mother of Music, the sounds

that came out of those cheap collections

of knobs and diodes - Motown,

The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas,

Elvis, The Association, Three Dog Night,

The Beach Boys. It was endless hours

of the sweetest music ever recorded. It

wasn’t our parents’. It’s not our kids’. It’s

our sound - sublime static.

I miss those days - Sitting on the front

porch of 106 Homer Place in the middle

of a never-ending summer under

the shade of the massive maple tree.

In one hand was my transistor radio

propped up to my ear. In the other

hand was a sweating glass of my mother’s

home-made iced tea. I listened to

Brian Wilson ruminate about how nice

it would be to have the independence

of adulthood. Yeah, Brian, I nodded my

head in agreement back then. But the

carefree endless summers of our youth

still kindle the fondest memories. WP


just think

{© Tracy Lee Sarpolis}


Think ring

third finger

left hand fucking

on the third date

her date


Forty three-year old legs

coiling into pink

think pink

no Amber

His ex-wife

Her smell lingering in the sheets

my sheets

blow homemade candles

on their son’s birthday cake

Think of her

Her picture of a yellow cat

on the wall her face

in the mirror’s reflection

heirlooms I think

Amber-colored crayon. WP



www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 21



because twenty years ago

wrapped in plastic Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe’s

mom smiling behind her Sony

Michael wrestling dad for a quarter, that’s how he loved him

pinching his sides, bloom-down pink, strawberry

like the gloss on my lips wearing off now,

my leopard slippers tossed beside faded Lucky jeans

my jeans that faded last summer.

I washed them every other day, waiting for holes,

22 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

tonight I think of


{© Tracy Lee Sarpolis}

april 2009

holes that I could wear like Christmas, like the Barbie Dolls did after I removed them from bondage,

and tucked them in bed with my brother’s G.I. Joe’s

before he popped off their heads and rolled them down the stairs, my mother’s stairs,

my father’s stairs, the stairs I climbed to thank God for my teddy bears at night, for Lucky Charms

and cheap sneakers, the smell of sweat stinging my eyelids

that night, the night I popped thirty pills

forcing them down with red Kool-Aid, crimson colored Kool-Aid, like the cut

on my arm, the cut I engraved to remember that Christmas twenty years ago

after I unwrapped my dolls

and made them sleep with strange army men,

green dolls they didn’t know. WP


issue 3 volume 2

In Unemployment Utero

{© Christy Gualtieri}

The sun is out. It went

to work today, but I cannot.

No desk, no rolling chair,

no making coffee there.

But here, we drink it,

my husband and I. We don’t

have kids but if we did,

they wouldn’t drink it. Too young.

I am still too young for this.

Not working is for old people,

folks out on the golf course,

folks sitting in chairs with white tufts of hair

sprouting over their hands that hold

cards during bridge games.

There’s no bridge to the future here,

at least not until I get an interview.

It’s true, how horrible the process is.

I wave a flag of my ability every morning,

send it out slipping between my fingers

like a handkerchief embroidered

with my credentials. It is not enough.

Its lace could never spell out that

I really am a good listener

and I am a hard worker,

it’s just that -

at my last job my boss had big ideas

I was not a part of. That is okay,

isn’t it, because work really is hell

if there are two side by side with one

who always wants to walk the other way.

I stink. I’m afraid to shower

and miss the phone, a voice telling me to come in:

“We’ve seen your records, we look forward

to meeting you.” I should just let them leave

a message, that I’m still a person

here at home, I’m still a person who doesn’t need money

to say I’m all right. But the bills still come,

the loans still need to get paid.

That’s all right. I won’t complain.

We are all connected.

We are wires in a great circle.

And I have not lost my sense of humor:

I still smile when I think of how my morning coffee

looks like office printer ink

when spilled out on the kitchen countertop.




www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 23


Q & A with

Michael Aubrecht

{author, historian}

Q: In a nutshell, please describe your work?

A: My work has actually become so much

more than just writing over the last

few years. This of course is the foundation

for everything I do, but it has

evolved into so many other forms of

media that require my attention. Each

project feeds the other, and so many

doors have been opened for me. I

believe that it is very important for

writers, no matter what their genre, to

take advantage of every opportunity

that comes their way because you

never know where it may lead.

For example, I wrote a book, that

led to a newspaper article about the

book, that led to an invitation for me

to do a speaking engagement at a

university, that led to a hi-profile position

on a museum board, that led to

an appearance on Voice America radio,

that led to yet another book contract.

One of these events would never

have happened without the others.

Living here in historic Fredericksburg

Virginia, there are so many opportunities

for someone with my interests to

become involved and stay busy.

At any given time I can be doing several

of the following: researching material

for new books, writing articles

24 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

spilt ink

for our local newspaper, contributing

features to magazines, speaking

to university and roundtable groups,

doing radio shows, leading personal

tours, promoting our museum foundation,

blogging / maintaining my

website, and occasionally leading

classes and consulting on documentaries.

Frankly, I am to the point now

where I am turning work down because

I simply cannot keep up. I am

however, vigorously exploring fulltime

historian opportunities.

Q: How many words do you usually write

a day?

A: For articles or essays it simply depends

on the deadline so I’ll speak to

the bigger, long-term projects such as

books. As a historian in the non-fiction

genre, I don’t necessarily have a set

amount of words that I shoot for each

day. Some days I spend hours reading

through references, compiling copies,

taking notes and digging though archives

either in person or online. During

this process, I don’t write anything

‘concrete.’ I’m buried in the gathering

stage, acquiring sources, determining

the general outline and assessing

what is available. This can take many

weeks or months and I actually enjoy

this part the best. It’s like being on a

treasure hunt and you have no idea

what you will discover.

This process is made easier living in

the 21st-century. Many sources in our

National Military Park Service’s catalog

have been entered into a searchable

database. Each item has a series

of keyword designators and a short

abstract telling you what the collection

includes. By typing in a keyword,

issue 3 volume 2

such as “churches” it provides a PDF

document with all of the sources on

file featuring that particular word.

This technology enables researchers

to identify multiple volumes that hold

potentially usable reference material

and sources. Each item with the word

“churches” is then listed by vol. number,

section number, page and chapter

number, and a brief description

outlined the major topics. It would

take months to do that traditionally.

When it comes to writing, I can fluctuate

from 3,000 words, all the way

down to 250. I can also go days in

between without writing anything. I

once read that noted historian Shelby

Foote considered penning a few hundred

words a night a success. I guess

that’s why it took him 20 years to complete

his Civil War trilogy! That said he

proved that quality will always trump


Q: How long does it usually take you to

complete one of your books? How

many times to revise it?

A: I would estimate that it has taken me

anywhere from 8 to 16 months per

book. At least 4 months is spent doing

straight research and during this

time I spend approximately 30 hours

per week gathering reference and

photos. Writing the manuscript takes

several months of course, then I always

have that rough draft proofed,

then I edit, get feedback from fellow

historian or experts, revise, re-proof

and re-edit, send updates to the experts

to verify I got it right, then back

to my proofer and off to the publisher.

My publishers, of which I have 4, never

see anything until that entire process

has been completed.


In fact, I am almost ‘OCD-ish’ when it

comes to delivering clean manuscripts

and I have been complimented on

numerous occasions by editors and

production people for turning in extremely

organized copy. This is by no

means a finished piece, but the better

quality I provide the editors, the

smoother the editing process goes. I

also feel that I have earned more control

over my work when they know

what to expect to me. Two of my

publishers have signed me to second

books and they gave me more control

over the follow-ups.

I have refined this process over time,

but it is not without surprises. When

I submitted my first draft for Houses

of the Holy (a book that presents the

histories of Fredericksburg’s landmark

churches during the Civil War) to my

friends at the NPS, they really hit me

hard on a number of issues that they

felt I was too soft on. The manuscript

markup they sent back was a mess

and I had to refocus and rewrite a major

portion of it over a 3 month extension

period. The amount of additional

work was overwhelming at times BUT

the finished product was so much

better than it ever had been if not

for the additional work. Sometimes it

hurts to do good work, but as writers

we can always do better.

After I receive the final proofs, I usually

pre-write a 60-minute lecture on

the book and do promotional materials

to help market the work upon its

release. My publishers have great PR

people, but every bit helps. My background

in media design has aided me

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 25


greatly in that regard. I will also add

that when I am writing a book, that is

usually the only thing that I am writing.

I’ll accept the occasional freelance

article, but for the most part I keep my

main focus on the manuscript.

Q: How many books have you written?

A: To date, I have published four in print,

one online, and I am in the process

of working on 2 more. These include

Historic Churches of Fredericksburg:

Houses of the Holy, The Southern

Cross: A Civil War Devotional, Onward

Christian Soldier: The Spiritual Journey

of Stonewall, Christian Cavalier:

The Spiritual Legacy of Jeb Stuart, and

an eBook titled Luckiest Fans On The

Face Of This Earth: History of the New

York Yankees in the Fall Classic. I also

estimate I have written close to 400

articles and essays.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I am currently in the process of completing

You Stink! Major League Baseball’s

Terrible Teams and Pathetic

Players with co-author/historian Eric

Wittenberg and researching Campfires

at the Crossroads: Confederate

Encampments in Spotsylvania County

as part of The History Press’ American

Chronicles Series.

Q: What piece of advice have you received

over the course of your career

that has had the biggest impact on

your success?

A: One of my editors taught me that research

is only step one. Obtaining reference

is key, but how do you manage

it? Especially when you end up with ev-

26 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

april 2009

erything from old newspaper clippings

and diary pages - to official reports and

meeting minutes? As with most historians,

organization is my top-priority. For

Houses of the Holy, each church had its

own folder with a contents and index.

As I gathered more and more sources,

books, clippings, photos, contacts, and

archived materials, they all went into

the folders.

By the time I was done I had a stack of

folders bursting at the seams with reference.

This kept everything categorized

and organized for me as I wrote

each church’s section separately. It also

helped when it came time to credit

people and I referred to these sources

for the bibliography. What is extra

nice is that I now have an extensive

collection of pre-prepared materials

that I can refer to again and again for

future projects. So through this one

book, I now have sources for a dozen

more projects. I would like to add that

I simultaneously collected the data on

Spotsylvania’s churches and I am already

prepared to draft a companion

volume when the time comes.

I have to add this too… always verify

your sources! Accuracy is essential

in historical writing. The Internet of

course has opened up a whole new

world to writers, but it must be used

with caution. We can now get access

to tons of cyber information, but we

must always keep in mind that the

facts on the Internet are only as good

as the person who posted them.

Therefore I always compare multiple

sources whenever possible. I also tell

my kids that Google is NOT the end

all. It is a great tool, but it does not

provide all of the answers. Over the

issue 3 volume 2

years, I have compiled a large reference

library and book collection that I

refer to again and again.

Q: What’s the one thing you can’t live

without in your writing life?

A: My laptop and digital camera. There are

five computers in my house between

the older kids and our family system,

but my laptop is MINE and off limits

to everyone else. It is my second brain

and contains all of my work. I use a

hard drive back-up frequently. As I live

within a 15-minute drive of four major

battlefields and dozens of museums,

and I frequently travel to tour others, I

typically shoot hundreds of digital photos

that help me to recall the locations

that I write about. Without those tools I

would not do what I do.

Q: In what way (if any) has your writing

life changed in the past five years?

A: It’s certainly been a blessing indeed.

I get to meet all kinds of wonderful

folks who come out to my book signings

and speaking engagements. My

kids think I’m a ‘D-list celebrity’ down

here and I will admit that there is an

ego boost that comes with people

coming to an event to see you. On a

more important level, my writing has

allowed me to proclaim my faith, help

important preservationist causes, donate

books to our troops overseas,

and help our foundation with establishing

a new multi-cultural Civil War

museum here in Fredericksburg. That

is the legacy I hope to leave behind,

not necessarily what I accomplished

in writing, but what writing enabled

me to accomplish.


Q: What book/author most influenced

your life or your career as a writer?

and why?

A: Of course the Bible first and foremost,

but on more relatable level, there are 3

books that are favorites of mine and each

one influenced me in a different way:

The Life and Selected Writings of

Thomas Jefferson: An autobiography

and public and private letters. Jefferson

is my favorite Virginian, perhaps

even my favorite American, and his genius

shines through in this exhaustive

work. This book proves that no one

will ever write a better insight on a brilliant

individual than that individual. So

don’t even try. Find something original

and present it in an original way.

The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943 by

Joseph Goebbels. I read this tremendously

long book in high school and

it scared the hell out of me. That said,

it taught me two things: 1. Evil can be

absolutely brilliant and 2. The written

word can be perverted and manipulated

for all the wrong reasons.

Though this book tells little about the

author’s personal life, it does tell the

story of Germany’s transition from almost

total victory to total defeat.

Christ In The Camp by Rev. J. William

Jones. This book was originally published

in the late 1800’s and details the role that

religion played in the Army of Northern

Virginia during the Civil War. From the establishment

of chaplains in the Confederate

army to the ‘Great Revival,’ Jones’

recollections show how faith can aid us

in times of war. I recently lectured on this

title and was surprised how many issues

it examines are still relevant. P P W

www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 27


Jon Ebel


Jon Ebel graduated from The University

of Pittsburgh in 2005 with a BA in Creative

Nonfiction and a Certificate in Public and

Professional Writing. He was recently

elected Director of Communications by

the Pittsburgh Flying Disc Society. WP


Jason Falcione

{The Survivor}

Jason Falcione was born in 1984 in Dormont,

Pittsburgh. That is where he obtained

the majority of his education. He

is currently managing one of the biggest

Rite Aid pharmacies in the area. He is an

ethical worker and a high performing supervisor.

Jason started writing seriously in October

2007. Previously he had written numerous

blogs that have caught the attention

of a large audience of rigorous internet

users. He is notorious for taking risks with

his writing, and he does not let anyone off

his cynical yet intensely humorous hook.

The genre in which Jason is currently

working is the short story. However, his

short stories are longer than the conventions

accepted in the literary world. This

is due to his passion for the creation of

complicated plots driven by even more

complex and interesting characters who

do not seem to know themselves although

the audience gets to know them

inside and out.

Submitting to PWP expresses Jason’s

support for online publishing. He is hoping

that this will be the stepping stone

for further publications for him and other

young authors who have something to

say about society today. WP


28 | Pittsburgh Writers Project

Emily Monroe

spilt ink


Emily Monroe received a B.A. in fiction

writing from the University of Pittsburgh

in 2007. After living and teaching in South

America for a year, Emily returned to Pittsburgh

to continue her work as a writer. WP


Dan Buccigrossi

{Sublime Static}

Dan Buccigrossi is a graduate of Point

Park College (Yep - it was a college then)

Journalism Department. Dan’s main writing

focus is memoir, slice of life and short

fiction. Some of his pieces can be seen

online at humblevoice.com/Butch_Daniels

and slvrsurfer2.blogspot.com. Dan

hopes to be more active in getting his

work out there. WP


Tracy Lee Sarpolis

{just think & tonight I think of


Tracy Lee Sarpolis is a senior English writing

major at the University of Pittsburgh

Greensburg. I recently published three

poems in Mind Murals entitled “before

God,” “Love Knows It’s Time,” and “Winter

Night Revised.” WP


Christy Gualtieri

{In Unemployment Utero}

Christy Gualtieri lives in the Shadyside

neighborhood of Pittsburgh with her

husband, and has a Master’s Degree in

Literature from Seton Hall

University. Her poetry has been published

in the e-zine The Honeybee and

Seadog, the publication College English

issue 3 volume 2

Notes and the Anthology of New England

Writers 2007, in which one of her poems

was awarded an “Honorable Mention” for

the Robert Penn Warren award. WP


Michael Aubrecht

{Q & A with Michael Aubrecht

- author, historian}

Pittsburgh native and Virginia author

and historian Michael Aubrecht has

dedicated his studies to Civil War history

and the positive role that Christianity

played during the War Between the

States. He is the author of numerous

books on the subject including: Onward

Christian Soldier, Christian Cavalier, The

Southern Cross, and Houses of the Holy.

As a former baseball-writer, Michael authored

over 375 separate studies on the

history of America’s national pastime for

Baseball-Almanac. Today, Michael writes

cover stories for The Fredericksburg Free

Lance-Star newspaper, as well as periodic

features for Civil War Historian magazine.

Michael is a popular speaker, blogger and

radio guest. He is currently in the process

of completing You Stink! Major League

Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic

Players with co-author/historian Eric

Wittenberg and researching Campfires

at the Crossroads: Confederate Encampments

in Spotsylvania County as part of

The History Press’ American Chronicles

Series. Visit Michael’s website at www.

pinstripepress.net and his blog at www.

pinstripepress.net/PPBlog/ P P


Christopher Rolinson

{Cover Photography}

Christopher Rolinson, the idea for “Our State

Parks” was born while I taught Nature Photography

in the spring of 2006 at Point Park


University in Pittsburgh, where I am the Assistant

Professor of Photography and Photojournalism.

While teaching nature photography

that semester, I took the classroom

and my students on location throughout

the western half of the state. To my surprise,

some of the students were unaware of the

existence of many of the wild and scenic

places we visited inside of Pennsylvania.

Their perceptions of the commonwealth did

not include wild and wilderness as a component.

That semester outside and their

newfound appreciation for Pennsylvania

compelled to create a full color photography

book that would promote this beauty

to Pennsylvanians and citizens beyond.

Rather than present Pennsylvania as wilderness

that no longer exists, this book shows –

through photography and experiential text,

the magnificentbeauty and weather that

still abounds in our backyard.

Western Pennsylvania’s immense geographic

size is rich with wild nature, scenery and

space. Between Lake Erie and the Maryland

border, and between central Pennsylvania

to the Ohio/West Virginia borders, there are

several climate zones and landscapes – offering

a wide swath of outdoor activity to

birdwatchers, hikers, kayakers, mountain

bikers, photographers and astronomers

during all four seasons.

The scope of the book is organized by the

state park regions: Pennsylvania’s Great Lakes;

Pittsburgh and Its Countryside; Pennsylvania

Wilds; and The Alleghenies and Her Valleys.

Within these regions, the book features 26

state parks, four state forests, two national

wildlife refuges and one national forest.

“Our State Parks” is not meant to be a guide,

but rather an incubator and motivator.

Above anything else, I hope the images will

inspire readers to become even better stewards

of our wild places by putting on their

shoes and taking a hike or a bike or a boat in

search of beauty within Pennsylvania. WP


www.pittsburghwritersproject.org | 29


PWP is an eZine for writers by writers

that features stories and poetry published

each quarter (January 15, April

15, July 15, October 15).

Works of creative nonfiction, fiction,

poetry, memoirs, reviews, biographies,

essays etc. with a maximum limit of

5,000 words are accepted year round.

All accepted submissions are eligible

for inclusion in PWP’s annual “best of”


Review Period

The review period is used to select the

stories for publication each quarter.

PWP will also post the list of stories/

authors with their respective feature


How to Submit

• Please send an electronic

submission in “plain text” format.

• Please indicate ***words you wish



© April 2009 Pittsburgh Writers Project




Author/Artist name, both real and

as you wish it published.

Author/Artist contact


Author/Artist biography.

Author/Artist authorization to

publish work.

Please include a word count.

Photography and artwork

PWP is now accepting submissions for

photography, graphics and illustrations

for upcoming issues.

Share your writing

achievements, announcements,

readings and workshops or post

tips, techniques and ideas on

writing with PWP.

Submit to:


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