Students Gain Work Experience Through Campus PR Office

Marketing and public relations are two popular fields today for students to study. Many students from within the communication and media studies department are gaining the prior work experience needed for jobs right on campus. The Office of Marketing and Public Relations offers three different positions to students. The first position is the Simpson Web Guild. Students work as a team to create, implement, and manage web projects. Students are also able to work as a digital content developer. This position allows students to gain experience reporting and producing stories, as well as producing video, social media tactics, and digital marketing materials. The final position is a social media specialist. Students gain experience developing and monitoring social media campaigns

Jessalyn Holdcraft, a sophomore from Crete, Nebraska, works a photography intern  She takes pictures at big events occurring on campus and rooms and buildings for the website.

Jessalyn has gained valuable experience through this job opportunity. She has been able to learn to work with others, including new bosses. She has been able to utilize her photography skills and gained the skills necessary for her career following Simpson.

Maddie BoswellMadison Boswell, a junior from Humboldt, Iowa, works as a part of the Simpson Web Guild team. The main project for this team is promoting the current opera, Cinderella. This project involves a website made specifically for opera with pictures and articles. The team plans to use the site to boost traffic for the opera by placing it on the Simpson events calendar. They are also using video teasers and social media to promote Cinderella as well. They hope to get a special feature video out featuring the actors and talking about the behind-the-scene work that goes into producing an opera.

Other aspects of the website that the Web Guild works on is updating the facilities page with photos and specific room photos. They are currently focusing on the Kent Campus Center providing photos with room descriptions.

Through the Simpson Web Guild experience, Maddie has had the opportunity to come up with her own strategies and bounce ideas off of other student members and faculty. It has given her real world experiences through writing for the website and taking photographs for the websites. She is learning the WordPress platform which will assist her as she works with future companies who use this for their websites. The ability to have her photos published has been a great asset to Maddie as she searches for future careers.

The Office of Marketing and Public Relations is a great way for students to gain experience while continuing their studies at Simpson College. They are able to apply concepts learned in course work back into the college itself.

Want to know more? Contact one of our professors.

Communications Department Moves to New Location

New year, new opportunities and new location. The Simpson College Communications and Media Studies Department has moved to 112 E. Detroit Ave.

All faculty and staff have moved their offices over to this building and are open for office hours. Also found at the Gaumer Center will be the KSTM radio station. The radio station is open for operation  this week.

Be sure to stop by and check out the new location of your professors.

Want to know more? Contact one of our faculty members.

Station Manager Office

The new station location has an office for the station manager and other staff to use to prepare for shows.

DJs Hanna Russman and Cait Conner

DJs Hanna Russman and Cait Conner open their first show of the season in the new studio as Beauty and the Blonde.

Shelving Units in the Simp Lab

These shelving units provide great storage space for Simpsonian workers and editors.

Simpsonian Office

This is the new office of the Simpsonian. The large table makes for effective meetings and a great amount of workspace.

Gaumer Center

An Introduction by Liz Glodek

For the March Continuing & Graduate Newsletter – From Liz Glodek

At this time of year, we’re busy with many things. Those who are graduating this spring are focused on finishing their degree requirements while others are just starting out. We may be considering which classes we want to take over the summer and still others are planning that summer vacation! As a campus director and academic advisor, it is an honor to be a part of our students’ academic lives, to help them meet their goals, and work with them to help make the path is a little smoother. But it is really you who brings the drive and motivation that will be instrumental in achieving your goals. It is your persistence that is most meaningful.

Ten years ago, I was in my final semester of graduate school and worried about the black hole after graduation, just as many of you may be now. I had applied to two fellowship programs and been denied, and though I had been offered a teaching position, it required a two hour commute on public transportation, not something I wanted to really consider. In much the same way that you are now, I was in the thick of classes, and work, and my thesis, and volunteering, and job applications, and, and, and. While the details of what shapes each of our stories are different, there is also one defining similarity: adult students have moxie – you take on life’s challenges with “spirit and courage” (freedictionary.com).

A student in my poetry workshop recently reminded me of the powerful voice of Maya Angelou and when thinking about what I wanted to share in this newsletter, I knew I could turn to that voice for inspiration. Dr. Angelou said that courage is “the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

In your academic journey, courage is one of the many tools you have brought with you. No one’s journey is the same. We all have different paths, but one of the things that brings us together is the courage we have to pursue, to persevere, and to succeed.

Student Spotlight – Kelli Jurey-Reetz

I had thought about going back to school off and on for about 10 years.  When I had gone the first time I had gone into accounting.  It was easy and convenient for me.  It has provided me with a good living and opportunities to be close to my children for after school activities.  When the company I work for downsized and I was moved to another department, it gave me the perfect opportunity to apply to Simpson’s graduate program.  I was still unsure and struggled with the idea.  I have always tried to raise my boys with a good heart and a strong backbone.  Telling them to grow up and make a difference.  When discussing the possibility of returning to school with my eldest son he indirectly referenced the proposal of when I was going to make a difference.  That was my pivotal moment.  I realized I hadn’t been taking my own advice.  My son actually had given me the last momentum I needed to apply.

What prompted you to earn your degree?

Change.  Nothing can ever change without those who are passionate enough to make a difference.  Everyone can look at a situation and not like it, complain about it and want to change it.  It takes someone in action to change it.

What is your major and why did you select it?

Master in Business Education w/ Special Education Endorsement – I have a passion to help everyone see the best in themselves and what they can achieve.  I have two younger brothers that are currently receiving special education benefits.  They don’t always get the understanding they deserve and need advocacy for change. (see above question)

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience?  Would you do it again?  Would you recommend it to other EW&G students?

It is difficult to juggle work, family and school.  You have to find what works for you.  What works for me won’t necessarily work for the next person, but you work at your own pace.  What you believe initially and practicality are two different things.  Your pace can change.  You might think you want one schedule and find out when you get started, in reality, something else works better.  Don’t be scared to adjust.  It is very rewarding.  I have found out more about myself than I could have imagined I would.  You are challenged by relating to material on a personal level; to your past, your present, your future, and relating it back to usefulness.

I would definitely do it again.  I will always recommend education to anyone.  If you are thinking about continuing on in your education or trying something new, do it!  Don’t wait as long as I did.

How has your experience at Simpson impacted your life? 

Enjoy the process, not just the final result.  Try to remember to keep yourself open to any experience and change because you have no idea who or what will influence you at any given moment.  You may become your own inspiration.  You may recall something about yourself you have forgotten, or you may actually start to see something in yourself that someone else does.  Enjoy the journey and those in it with you.

What has stood out to you as a fundamental part of your Simpson Experience?

Support.  The support you receive from the teachers, staff and the others students in the cohort is amazing.  Many times you may question yourself and what you have gotten yourself into.  Your fellow students will be the first to tell you that you are not alone.  Each step of the way, someone is directing or helping you.  This was very important for someone who hasn’t been in a school setting in “awhile”.

What do you plan to do once you graduate?

To be honest, I have a number of ideas, but when the opportunity presents itself, I will know what the best “fit” is for me.  I would love to find a position in an alternative school to focus on helping at-risk students reach full potential.

Or

Teach in a smaller school district where I could help at risk students, but also be involved with business curriculum.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Currently, my favorite vacation spot is Florida.  Due to my school schedule, I don’t get to visit my extended family as often as I would like.

Faculty Spotlight – Shea Mears

How long have you been teaching at Simpson and what do you teach?
That is a good question.  You ask a lot of good questions.   I have been teaching at Simpson College for 9 years now I think….we may need to verify that….I’m not good with numbers.

I teach Accounting and Taxation courses.  Specifically I teach Individual Income Tax, Taxation of Business Entities, Advanced Accounting, Intermediate Accounting, Cost Accounting.    I pretty much teach the most exciting topics that you can imagine taking.

Where do you work outside of Simpson?
I teach full-time for Des Moines Area Community College in the Accounting department.   I also do tax consulting for fun.

What makes teaching at Simpson unique?
The atmosphere.  Everyone at Simpson is truly dedicated to making sure that every student who walks through the door is successful.  It is very enjoyable to be a part of a progam that is student centered where everyone is willing to use whatever resources are available to help the students acheive their goals.

What do you enjoy most about working with adult students?
What I enjoy about teaching at Simpson is the quality of the students.   Every student is motivated to either obtain their Accounting degree or earn enough credits to sit for the CPA.  I enjoy the classroom discussions that are created every night due to the fact that the students feel comfortable in the classroom.

Please tell us about your family and how you like to spend your free time.
My wife and I live in Urbandale with our two boys.  My free time this time of year is spent at basketball tournaments, indoor soccer games or prepping for tournament baseball this summer.

I’m hoping in a few weeks the weather will change so that so that more of my free time can be spent on the golf course.  There, I said it.  I’m addicted to golf.   I’ve heard that the first step is just admitting.

What motto do you live by?
That’s deep.   I’m not sure I have a motto (at least one I can put on paper).   If I had one, it would probably be Hakuna Matada.   Or maybe, drive for show, putt for dough.

How do you maintain such a laidback attitude while drinking all that black Starbuck’s?
Ancient family secret…..

Important Upcoming Dates

MAT and T-to-T Information Session, Wednesday, March 6, Indianola Campus

Please join us for an overview of our Masters of Arts in Teaching and Transition-to-Teaching Programs. General information will be provided, along with more detailed answers to any questions you may have. If you would like to read more about the program prior to this event, please visit this link. We hope to see you there!

Term 4 Classes Start, Monday, March 11, Ankeny, Indianola, and West Des Moines Campuses

Monday, March 11 will be the beginning of Term 4 classes throughout Simpson College!

Simpson Leadership Series, Sunnie Richer, Tuesday, March 26th, West Des Moines Campus

The Tuesday, March 26th edition of the Simpson Leadership Series will feature Sunnie Richer, former CEO and current Chair of Doextra Corporation, as our special guest.

Free Transitions Course, April 9th, 16th, and 23rd, Ankeny, Indianola, and West Des Moines Campuses

Transitions is a free course for adults who are considering a return to college. This three-night orientation session will introduce you to adult students, faculty and staff, provide answers to all of your questions about earning a part-time degree, and includes a tour of each campus. A detailed agenda with dates, locations and topics to be covered is available here.

Commencement Ceremony, Saturday, April 27th, Cowles, Indianola Campus

We wish to congratulate all EW&G students who will take part in our Commencement ceremony Saturday, April 27th in Cowles Gymnasium.  Congratulations on your achievements!

MAT and T-to-T Information Session, Wednesday, May 8th, West Des Moines Campus

Please join us for an overview of our Masters of Arts in Teaching and Transition-to-Teaching Programs. General information will be provided, along with more detailed answers to any questions you may have. If you would like to read more about the program prior to this event, please visit this link. We hope to see you there!

MACJ Information Session, Thursday, May 23, West Des Moines Campus

Please join us for an overview of our Masters of Criminal Justice Program. General information will be provided, along with more detailed answers to any questions you may have. If you would like to read more about the program prior to this event, please visit our link to find more information on the program. We hope to see you there!

 

Helpful Tips

Helpful answers to questions such as:
Where can I use my student, photo I.D. to receive student discounts?

Student Discounts

Have you had your photo taken for your student ID?  If not, you just might be missing out on discounts like these:

Burger King 10% off
McDonalds 10% off
Dairy Queen 10% off
Dominos Pizza 10% off
Kroger 5% off at select locations
Papa Johns
Pizza Hut 10-20% off
Qdoba $5 student burrito meals
Subway 10% off
Waffle House 10% off
Ann Taylor LOFT 15% off
Ann Taylor 20% off
Banana Republic 15% off
Charlotte Russe 10% off
Club Monaco 20% off regular priced items
J. Crew 15% off regular priced items
The Limited 15% off
Ralph Lauren Rugby 10% off
Urban Outfitters 10% off select dates
Top Shop: 10% off
General Motors: college discount on Chevy, Buick, and GMC cars
Sam’s Club: Collegiate Annual Membership for $40, as well as $15 gift card
Cell Phone companies
The Academic Superstore
Apple Store
Dell

Please make sure to ask companies in advance about their student discount offerings!

Students Finish Final Video Game Projects

35 students across two sections of CmSc 150 class finished their final video game projects. Most students had never programmed before taking the class, and in only four months learned enough to create their own video games using Python and Pygame.

Check out videos of their games in action. Click the PlayList button to switch between videos.

Something For Nothing by Kimberly Glassman

We see it on Saturday on the road to Rayeville: the wicker love seat, right out there, straddling the center median.

We see it on Saturday on the road to Rayeville: the wicker love seat, right out there, straddling the center median. “Pull over!” Mother’s voice is high-pitched, excited. She is always on the lookout for something for nothing and here is a perfectly good piece of furniture that clearly belongs to no one—hers for the taking.

Daddy sighs and obeys. The car rolls to a stop on the shoulder, fifty yards beyond the gleaming love seat.

“Back up, Tom! We’re too far!”

Daddy regards the Ford logo in the center of the steering wheel for the briefest moment, then carefully moves the gear shift to Reverse, turns, and backs the car until it sits even with the love seat.

Mother is already clambering out of the car when he shifts to Park. The car gives a little jump and she squeaks her alarm. My sister and I look at each other in the back seat. How long will this take? It is stifling hot with no breeze coming in the open windows.

Mother scampers across the two lanes of Route 9; she looks like The Roadrunner with her pale thin legs and khaki Capri pants. Daddy climbs out more slowly, leans against the maroon fender of his lovingly restored 1989 Thunderbird, arms folded across his broad chest, straw fedora pulled low to shield his eyes against the sun. We all watch Mother circle the unlikely median décor. Hands on her hips, she appraises the ornate wicker feet—three on the concrete median, the fourth on the southbound lane—the smooth rounded arms, the red-and-white striped seat cushions perfectly and invitingly in place. Mother will want a good estimate of how much she is saving by getting this for free. Satisfied, she gives the high curved back an affectionate pat and turns her shining face to my father.

“Where would we put it?” he asks, reasonably. He has to repeat the question louder so she can hear him across the road. I know she is reluctant to leave her find, now that it is hers. Reluctant to risk anyone else thinking that perhaps it might be theirs.

“Well, lots of places, Tom! Use your imagination! We could squeeze it into the front room or maybe build a patio out back …”

“I meant, where would we put it to get it home?” he says. “I don’t think it’s gonna fit in the trunk.”

Mother dismisses this with a wave of her hand. “Girls!” she calls. “Come and get these cushions!”

Lacey scrambles out of the back seat and would have raced straight across but Daddy catches her by one sunburned arm. Lacey is only nine: Everything is an adventure to her. I follow as slowly as I can and stand beside Daddy at the edge of the shimmering asphalt. I am fourteen: Everything is a mortification to me.

Mother is fairly hopping at the side of the love seat. “What are you waiting for, Tom?”

“We’re waiting for traffic, Lydia.”

Two, three cars and a tomato-red pickup pass by. I avert my face, although we are thirty miles from home and no one is likely to recognize me. They all slow down—“rubbernecking” as Mother would say—but none of them stop. When Daddy releases her, Lacey streaks across the highway and plops onto the love seat, swinging her feet. “Can I have it in my room?” she asks. Her voice is high-pitched, excited. Like Mother’s.

I walk across with Daddy, my hated garage sale sneakers pinching. Up close, the love seat is amazingly pristine, the wicker intact, the white stripes on the cushions blinding in the late afternoon sun. I see at once that it cannot possibly fit in the car and I wait for Daddy to explain this to Mother so we can get back on the road. It’s still five miles to Rayeville; the ice cream social we’re heading to ends at six o’clock and it’s already after four. We are not members of the church that is holding the social—we aren’t even Methodist— but Mother is particularly fond of free ice cream and has no trouble telling puzzled ministers that we are thinking of joining their church. I usually stay in the car and read, but it’s ninety-two today and I’m thinking I might like some ice cream, too.

Daddy is checking traffic for Lacey to cross back to the car. Her skinny arms clutch a fat striped cushion to her chest; she can barely see over it. He holds the second one out to me. I can’t believe it. “Daddy! There’s no way—” I begin, but he turns away and squats to grip one end of the now empty love seat while Mother hoists the other end with surprising strength for someone so thin. I follow them to the car and shove the cushion into the back seat. Lacey is already seated atop hers, bouncing, trying to bump her head on the ceiling. Her dark hair clings to her dripping face. The car is like a sauna.

In the tangled grass just beyond the gravel shoulder I find a fallen fence post partially shaded by a clump of sumac. Behind the strip of grass and scrub, an Iowa cornfield stretches off to the horizon, tassels nodding gently, leaf blades drooping in the heat. I settle down onto the fence post and pull my knees to my chest, wrapping my arms around my shins. This could take a while. I resign myself to no ice cream.

Daddy has opened the trunk of the car and now sits upon the edge of it, mopping his face and neck with a white handkerchief. He is sixty-two and the heat always gets to him. Daddy is a planner: He always has his hat and a couple of handkerchiefs with him when it’s this hot. He has recently taken early retirement from an insurance company in the city where he helped other people plan their money and their lives. He has done a good job of planning for our family, as well: I know there are college accounts growing for Lacey and me and he’s promised me a car for my sixteenth birthday if I keep my grades up. I want a Mustang.

Mother dances between the open trunk and the love seat now hunkered in the dust. She tips her head this way and that like a bird, looking for a way to cram a big, big object into a small, small space. She is twelve years younger than my father and pretends not to notice the heat, although her faded brown curls are limp and her sleeveless gray blouse—three dollars on clearance at Wal-Mart—has a dark ring under each arm and is stuck to her chest. It is a remarkably good chest on an otherwise bony frame. Mother’s breasts are her finest feature and the only thing I hope to inherit from her. I rest my chin on my knees as she starts pulling everything out of the trunk: a set of jumper cables, an army blanket, a bag of kitty litter from last winter, Lacey’s old roller skates, three bungee cords. Daddy even helps her haul out the spare tire and the jack, although I can see his lips are pressed tightly together.

Thirty minutes later, they have wrestled the love seat into the trunk at an angle; it lies mostly on its back, more than half of it well outside the car. The trunk lid is tied over it with a rope cobbled together out of bungee cords, my favorite leather belt—thirty-seven dollars, purchased with my birthday money—and a couple of tennis shoe laces.

“It’s not gonna stay there,” I tell them from my perch in the grass; I’m pretty sure my dad already knows this.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Mother sighs. “You’re such a negative Nelly.”

Everything they’ve removed from the trunk is piled behind the sumac bush, covered with the army blanket. Mother tells Daddy he can come back for it tomorrow. I want him to protest the sixty-mile round trip for a bag of cat litter and roller skates that don’t fit anyone. I want him to dump the love seat by the side of the road and tell her to get in the car and stop being such a crazy pants. I want him to dump her by the side of the road and drive his daughters off to a life that’s normal.

He does none of these things. He wipes his face again with the grimy handkerchief, settles his hat back on his head. He gazes away to the west for a moment, then turns back and tells me with a look that it’s time to go.

Lacey has fallen asleep in the car. She is slumped across both of the cushions, sweaty and sweet-faced.

“Isn’t she an angel?” Mother says. “Don’t wake her, Lily.”

“Where am I supposed to sit?” I have a very bad feeling about this.

“Well, you know, I’ve been thinking,” says Mother. “It might be a good idea to add a little extra security back there.”

I turn to Daddy, horrified. He hesitates.

“It’s just a few miles to town, baby girl,” he says, not looking at me.

“There’ll be a nice breeze through there,” says Mother, smiling brightly.

“This is probably illegal,” I tell them as I shoehorn myself into the trunk next to the love seat. I brace my feet against the sidewall and push my back against the white wicker. There is no way I will ever allow this thing in my room.

I hear the slam of the car doors and feel the shudder as the engine turns over. Then Daddy is easing the Thunderbird back onto Route 9. The trunk lid bounces ominously. The love seat shifts and I press harder with my feet. There’s a blast from a horn behind us and a car zooms by in the left lane, honking like an angry goose. Daddy is driving well under the speed limit, and I close my eyes and await my fiery and humiliating death. But miraculously no one rams us and it’s only ten minutes until the Thunderbird is turning off the highway at the outskirts of Rayeville.

I see the flashing blue and red lights just before I hear the siren.

Daddy pulls over, the police car right behind. Another car door slams and footsteps crunch on the gravel. I squeeze down as low as I can get and try to be invisible. This is a nightmare.

The Rayeville police officer peers into the trunk, shines his flashlight briefly into my face. He puts a hand on the wicker love seat, gives it an exploratory wiggle. Then he straightens and walks on to where Daddy waits by the open window. I can hear their muffled voices as I ease myself out of the trunk and move to the shadow of a roadside oak tree, taking another shot at disappearing. The policeman is very young and achingly handsome. Of course.

“Problem, Officer?” my dad is saying.

“Well, sir,” says the policeman, looking at Daddy’s driver’s license. “I’d say you’re driving with a load not properly tied down. Looks a might unstable.”

Mother leans across Daddy and beams at the policeman. “It’s our new love seat!” she says. “Isn’t it pretty?”

“Yes, ma’am, but you probably should have had it delivered.”

“You are so right!” Mother exclaims. “But the store wouldn’t deliver it. Can you believe that?”

“Also,” the policeman adds, “it’s illegal to drive with a person in the trunk. Particularly a child.” Unnoticed in my shadowy hideout, I wince. A child.

“It is?” cries Mother, all astonishment. Daddy is gently pushing her back into her seat.

The policeman hesitates. “Well, yes, I’m pretty sure it is,” he says, but he seems less certain.

“I’m very sorry, Officer,” Daddy says. “It was something of an impulse buy. We were unprepared.”

I see Lacey’s head suddenly pop up from her back seat nap. Her pink, freckled arms fly wide in a long wake-up stretch and then she’s bouncing again.

“Are we at the ice cream church? Where’s Lily? Where’s my new bench? Who are you?” as she spots the policeman at her window.

The policeman has his ticket pad out. He smiles at Lacey, but speaks to Daddy. “I’ll give you a warning on the girl in the trunk; looks like no harm done there, but don’t do it again. The furniture hanging out the back I’m gonna have to cite you for. Too dangerous to drive like that, it could fall out and endanger other drivers.”

“It’s a new bench for my room!” Lacey squeals. “We found it in the street!”

His pen pauses above the ticket pad in his hand; the officer looks at my dad inquiringly. This is it, I think. We’re all going to jail because of her.

I can see Mother eagerly leaning forward and Daddy’s right arm holding her back.

“Kids,” says Daddy

The policeman tears off the ticket and hands it to Daddy, who thanks him—thanks him!—and tucks it into his shirt pocket. The policeman helps Daddy unload the love seat from the back of the car and suggests a hardware store in town that rents trailers.

“Best get going, though,” he says. “He closes at six on Saturdays.”

Mother will not, of course, leave her find unattended. Daddy will not leave Mother unattended. Lacey is too young to leave by the side of the road, even in a small rural town where nothing ever happens.

“Lily, you stay and keep your mother company. We’ll be right back.”

“Love to, Daddy,” I say with awful sarcasm.

The Thunderbird pulls away, sending dust swirling in the furnace-hot air. I watch until it turns a corner a half-mile up the road, following the policeman’s directions. When there’s nothing left to watch, I turn back to Mother.

She sits on the love seat, of course. It can’t be very comfortable–the cushions are still in the car–but she wears a look of contentment. She looks up at me and her smile widens. She pats the wicker seat next to her, inviting me to join her.

“I’ll stand,” I say. Mother’s smile fades a little and she looks away from me. I am embarrassed by my petulance, but can’t bring myself to join her right out here where everyone can see us. Right on cue a minivan passes, all heads inside turning to stare at the woman on the love seat. Mother waves. I cringe and retreat to the shadow of the oak tree.

A silence settles upon us. The heat has quieted the birds. The oak leaves hang limp in the thick, still air. It’s early September and some of them are starting to leave green behind, anticipating the cool of autumn. A sigh escapes Mother and she pushes her thin hair back from her face with a hand that trembles a little. I step out into the sunlight.

“Come on, Mother,” I say, trying to keep the exasperation out of my voice and face. “Let’s move this into the shade.”

In the relative cool of the oak tree’s shadow, she resettles herself and looks up at me expectantly. I hesitate, then relent. Who knows how long Daddy might be? Might as well sit.

Mother pats my knee happily and then suddenly points at a tired-looking farmhouse across the road. It sits way back behind an overgrown lawn and has the dispirited air of the abandoned.

“I used to live in a house just like that,” she says. “For a few years. When I was a girl.”

I am startled. Mother has never spoken of her childhood. Of course, I have never asked her about it.

“My grandma and grandpa were farmers?” I ask, curious in spite of my annoyance with her.

“Oh, no,” she replies. “They were gone by then. It was just me and your Uncle Bobby. And the Baxters,” she adds after a moment. “Yes. The Baxters.”

“How old were you?”

“Well, let’s see. Bobby was about your age, so I was … seven. Seven,” she says again.

I wait. She is still smiling, but I can tell she is someplace else.

“So you lived with a farm family when Grandma and Grandpa died?”

She looks up at me, surprised. “They didn’t die,” she says. “Not then, anyway. No, they just wanted to move to California.” She leans forward, looking up the road. “Where is your father?” she says. “All this heat and dust is bad for wicker.”

I am silent. I remember a sunny Saturday two years ago when the temperature had dropped suddenly on a January thaw, glazing the streets with the refrozen snow melt. It had made us forty minutes late retrieving Lacey from a birthday party on the other side of town. The birthday girl’s mother had been easy-going, waving off Daddy’s apologies. Mother had been distraught, scooping Lacey up in her arms like she had just come home from war.

Off to our left the sun is sinking lower in the sky. I check my watch—fifty cents at a church rummage sale—and see that it’s nearly six-thirty already.
Mother is staring up the road towards town, fidgeting in her seat.

“When did they come back for you?” I ask.

She stands, walks a few yards up the way the Thunderbird went.

“I can’t imagine what’s taking him so long,” she says. She looks at me and laughs, but it’s a cracked sound. “They better not have stopped for ice cream without us, right?”

I can’t leave it alone. “When did they come back for you?”

She sits next to me again, gazes off at the farmhouse.

“Well, honey, they didn’t. But to be fair,” she adds quickly, “they never said they would.”

It’s another forty-five minutes and getting close to dark before we hear the familiar thrum of the Thunderbird coming down the street, a trailer with three-foot-high wooden sides clattering along behind it. Daddy makes a U-turn and pulls onto the shoulder just in front of us.

Lacey is leaning out the window in the back seat. “We had a flat tire!” she shrieks happily. I picture the spare tire and jack tucked neatly under an army blanket five miles back. Daddy is barely out of the car when Mother launches herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and tucking her face into the hollow beneath his throat. I can’t hear what she says, but Daddy gives a little laugh and strokes her hair.

“I’ll always come for my girls,” he says matter-of-factly. I stand next to the love seat, watching them, my throat tight. Daddy catches my eye and smiles and seems surprised when I smile back.

We load the love seat into the trailer and secure it with heavy-duty straps. Lacey wants to ride in the trailer with it, but Daddy laughs and tells her he can’t afford another ticket. My eyes ask the question. He leans in close to me with a smile and in a conspiratorial voice says, “Altogether, four hundred and twenty-six dollars. Not counting gas.”

Lacey flings herself into the backseat of the Thunderbird. “This is the best day ever!” she declares.

In a few minutes, she is asleep again, her head against my shoulder, her sticky hand clutching mine. I listen to Mother make happy plans for the love seat, her voice quieter now, more serene, Daddy murmuring his support for each new idea. A three-quarter moon is rising as we swing back onto Route 9, heading south for home.

The Platform by Kandi Erwin

The whistling of the teakettle was deafening. It reminded her of the passenger trains that regularly departed from the Amtrak station in town. Anonymous people lined up along the platform, waving and blowing kisses to obscured faces pressing against the inner panes of glass. She wished the sound would cease, wanted to scream out for someone to turn the damn burner off or open the kettle spout, but this was not her house. She had no right to make demands of a friend so worthy of the designation. Tanya, selfless as ever, had taken her and Jennie in and given them a place to stay. She couldn’t lash out at her for the whistling of a teakettle. Besides, it would take too much effort. She closed her eyes tightly and slid underneath the water, slipping into the silence of the tub and allowing it to subdue her.

She was standing alone amidst the rubble of a collapsed railway station, watching dumbstruck as a black steam engine began slowly rolling away. The only passenger aboard didn’t press his face against the window or glance in her direction. He just sat there in silent reverie, carrying off her hopes and dreams, riding the rails far away from her, from their life together. She couldn’t make out anything beyond the station’s ruined platform, yet the engine was speeding up, as though it knew where it was headed, as though a destination awaited it out there in that dark oblivion. The train accelerated, its rhythmic thud echoing the one in her chest.

Upon surfacing, the consistent thud evolved to a knock. “Em, are you okay? Em? I made you some tea. It’s chamomile.” Emmaline didn’t respond. She merely stared in the direction of Tanya’s voice, the question reverberating in her head. Are you okay? Are you okay? Oh my God! Todd! Are you okay?

The traffic had been at a complete standstill. Red taillights lit up the night, like hundreds of angry eyes glaring at her. Occasionally, her body tensed and her heart froze as the screech of tires on asphalt rent through the night. She had little sympathy for morons who waited until the last second
to brake, who had plenty of warning to slow down and join the endless parade of sleeping engines.

She had spent the time surfing radio channels, cleaning out her glove compartment, and hoping her gas needle wouldn’t dip too much lower before she could get to a station. The traffic idled and crawled, idled and crawled. Her head began to ache from the reflection of the headlights in her side-view mirror. After a while, she called Todd and left him a voice mail asking him to order take-out, preferably Chinese–a lot of Chinese: spring rolls, crab rangoons, deep-frind wontons–all of it!

Forty minutes later, she crested the hill and colors swirled in her vision: red, blue, yellow, white. Emergency vehicles were everywhere. Dozens of turn signals blinked, out of tandem, ahead. She felt a small flash of relief that she was in the correct lane, that she would have a slight edge over others to get home to her family. It had been a selfish thought; one that disappeared quickly as she pulled alongside the accident. She easily recognized what was left of Todd’s car, thanks to the unusual bumper sticker featuring three rubber duckies. It had been a gift from the girls. They had each painted an outfit on one of the ducks: goofy hats, odd outfits, and sparkling jewelry. It was one of a kind. Unmistakable.

In one of those moments when our sense of invincibility surfaces, she had jerked the car off the road, slammed on the brakes and crossed through the turtled traffic. Two emergency crewmen were yelling obscene warnings as she ran toward the wreckage. They swiftly picked her up between them and began carrying her far away from the accident. She kicked violently, screaming and cursing, choking and begging. She had to see her husband. She had to know what was happening. Did she still have a husband? Was he dead? Broken? She could picture him lying on the pavement, twisted and mangled. She needed to see the truth. They had to let her see what was happening. Why weren’t they letting her in?

“Emmaline, please! Can I come in?”

A reflection materialized in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Eyes: dark, puffy, and swollen. Hair: drenched, making it dark and straight, so unlike her usual dirty-blond, curly hair, clinging to milky white skin. Her own reflection, yet it was so unrecognizable. “Oh, um, yeah,” she dried her face with a washcloth. “Yeah, you can come in.”

Tanya came in carrying a wooden tray. “Here, I brought you some tea.” Tanya didn’t immediately release the mug.

“I’ve got it,” and despite her shaky hands, Tanya finally let go.

“How’s the bubble bath? Are you feeling better?”

“Better?” A simple question, but was she? “I don’t know.” But she did know. “No.”

“Oh, Em.” Tanya pulled up a stool and began caressing her hair. “I wish I knew what to say.”

“Everything. Lost.” She took a deep breath, inhaling the calming chamomile aroma before taking a careful sip of the steaming tea. “I just wish I could understand.”

But she didn’t understand. She kept replaying it all in her mind. She had been blatantly honest with him from the beginning, thanks to a lesson she had learned long ago. Shortly after they began dating, she had disclosed some of the more painful parts of her past.

They had been eating lunch in the courtyard of their office building when Todd had invited her and Jennie over for a barbeque. To her, this had meant it was time for disclosure. She didn’t want Jennie getting too attached to Todd until she knew how he felt about her situation. She glanced around the courtyard, ensuring their privacy. Laying down her fork, she said, “Look, Todd. I’ve really enjoyed spending time you, but before we start introducing our families, there is something I need to tell you.”

Feeling the gravity in her voice, he laid down his own fork and wiped his mouth. Then, he interlaced his fingers, propped his elbows on the tabletop, and leaned forward. With a slight nod, he rested his mouth against his hands and waited for her to continue.

“Well, you already know that I raised Jennie on my own because my boyfriend disappeared shortly after she was born. What you don’t know is that his leaving wasn’t about him not wanting to be a father.” She took a deep breath, searched for the words to continue, and glanced around the courtyard, again. “Well, a while back, you told me that, before your wife died, you had been hoping to have more kids. Jennie’s father wanted the same thing. He left because I can’t have any more children. I am ‘damaged goods,’ as he put it.”

Todd’s face looked as though he was wincing, but no sound escaped him. She wasn’t sure if he was wincing because she couldn’t have children or because of the words she had used. Once, she had lived in shame and embarrassment because of her hysterectomy. Now, she had simply grown tired. She was tired of having to dredge up her past, but mostly, she was tired of the way men acted when they found out. It was like she was telling them she was a murderer or something. They looked at her differently, if they looked at her at all. Any flirting immediately ceased and some even outright avoided her. Watching him closely, she continued. “So, anyway, I just thought you should know. And, trust me; I’ll understand if you want to just be friends from now on.” If you can manage just being friends.

But Todd had surprised her. He had said it didn’t matter, that he was happy with his daughters and no longer really wanted to start all over with a new baby. “Plus,” he had added, “if it works out between us, I’ll gain a stepdaughter, too.” He had promised it would be enough for him. So, before he left her alone in the elevator, she accepted his invitation to the barbecue.

That weekend she and Jennie had gone to Todd’s barbecue, where they met Jill and Tammy. Todd had set up three tents in his backyard, but by the end of the night only two of them were needed. The girls, instantly friends, had piled into a single tent. Peeking in at them, Emmaline couldn’t help but smile. She would never forget that first sight of them all curled up together: Jennie, age 6, sleeping contentedly although she was crammed in between her future stepsisters: Tammy, age 8, and Jill, age 7.

Six years later, house full of teenage girls, her worst nightmares had come true for the second time in a matter of months. A simple declaration, really: You’re not enough, I’m leaving you. Six years together and he was leaving. Three months out of the hospital and he was leaving. She had spent every day at that hospital with him, full of tears and prayers. And despite it all, he was leaving. He wanted a son, an heir to his nonexistent throne, the next king of the James’ auto shop legacy and, well, she couldn’t give it to him. It was as simple as that.

“That’s cold, Todd. You know I would give you a son if I could,” she had sobbed as he threw another T-shirt into the suitcase that was lying on the bed. “You don’t think I wanted to have more children? That I wanted to have a hysterectomy at twenty-four.”

“I know that’s not what you wanted, but this really isn’t about you. I need this.” He sighed deeply, allowing his eyes to close while he rubbed his temple. “I can’t talk about this anymore. I’m sorry.” He turned toward the door, which forced him to look in her direction. The lack of emotion on his face shocked her.

“You’re sorry?” she gasped. He deftly stepped past her and began walking down the hallway. She stood rooted in place, confused. “But … but I was honest with you. I told you up front and you told me, no, you promised me, that it didn’t matter.” She finally turned and followed. She stopped in the doorway of the bathroom, hoping to block his retreat. “You said my love and the girls’ love was all you would ever need. I guess it was your promise that didn’t matter.”

“Uh-huh,” he said, absentmindedly. He was digging through the third drawer down. “You know I … will always … love you … in some way. Need … son.” She could tell he had already been through the top two drawers and the medicine cabinet, as they all stood ajar. He was hastily pitching items into a plastic grocery sack: shaving cream, razor, cologne, toothpaste, and toothbrush. “Can we please stop talking about this? I’ve made up my mind.”

As she watched the bag swelling up with his belongings, her throat began to constrict. She struggled to hold back her tears. “Where is this coming
from? Is this about the accident? Look, I know it was a close one, but–”

He spun around, “Damn right it’s about the accident.” As he moved towards her, all thoughts of holding her ground dissipated. She stepped aside demurely and, once again, began trailing him through the house. “I can’t really explain it, but it sort of, well, it sort of woke me up. I realized I had always wanted a son, an heir.”

“An heir?” she shouted at his back. “You have heirs; they just happen to be female. For God’s sake, Todd, Tammy knows more about cars than most of the boys I’ve ever met. And Jill could already run the business, probably better than you. Plus, what about Jennie? After six years you’re going to abandon her just like her birth father did? Don’t the three of them mean anything to you?”

He threw the plastic bag on top of his clothes. “Just stop okay; it’s not like that.”

“It’s exactly like that.”

“No, it’s not,” he said, closing the suitcase. “I still love ALL of my daughters. I just want to have a son, too! Is that so much to ask?”

“Of course not, but why does it have to mean the end of us?” She dared to put her hand upon his shoulder. “Remember all the options we discussed? What about adop … ”

“No.” He shrugged off her touch and began zipping his suitcase. “We’ve been over this. I want it to be MY son. MINE. My DNA.”

“What about … ”

He snatched up the suitcase and spun around. “NOR will I have him made in some damn petri dish or pay some stranger to carry him. I just won’t. It’s not happening.”

“Well, how nice it must be to have options! So many, in fact, that you can exclude all of the options that keep your family together and still get what you want. I will never be able to have another child, but I’ve been willing to stand by you.” She saw his eyes soften as she continued. “I’ve been willing to choose alternative routes to keep you in my life, but you won’t do the same for me.”

Eyes downcast, he gently grabbed her hand. “Look, I really am sorry, Em, but this is just too important. I will always love you, but I need someone
who can give me this.” He dropped her hand. “Look, it’s late. I’ll take the couch. Goodnight, Em.” The resignation in his voice made her realize that following him would be useless.

“Fuck you, Todd,” she whispered to his fading silhouette before sinking onto the bed.

Yet the next day she had prepared to fight for him, again. She followed his figure through the house, pleading with a bobbing mound of hair and broad shoulder blades. She weaved past the hand-crafted china cabinet they had commissioned her brother to make for them and around the refurbished coffee table with the fleur de lis engraving. Every time she tried to reach for him, he was suddenly farther away, as if this despair was inevitable.

“I’ll be gone for a week. Tammy and Jill are with my mother. Just drop the key through the mail slot when you’re done moving out.”

She was blinded for a brief instant as he opened the front door and the sunlight flooded in. The sun is still shining? He walked out the door. She raced toward him. His arm swished behind him and a teal green sea inundated her vision. She halted, sobbing, and rested her head on the door, drowning in its ocean, allowing the last words he had said to her to pull her farther and farther under.

She had still been floundering in that water when Tanya had found her. And though she could now hear Tanya’s voice, reassuring and loving, she was still sinking.

“You haven’t lost everything. You have great daughters, friends, people who will always be there for you. You and Jennie can stay here as long as you need. Please, let our love help diminish your pain. You deserve to be happy. It won’t be easy, but one day I promise you will be happy again. Please believe that, Em. We love you. ”

Love. She had been told once that love always won. Not today, though. Today, love had stowed away on a black steam engine. Today, she had stood on a station platform surrounded by destruction. That destruction’s name? Pain. No, she could not leave this dark place. At least not today.