The Oval, 2016
hTe O val, 2 0 1 6
Part of the Creative Writing Commons Recommended Citation Available at: http://scholarworks.umt.edu/oval/vol9/iss1/1 Thi s Full Volume is brought to you for free and open access by ScholarWorks at University of Montana. It has been accepted for inclusion in The O val
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Nicole Musci McKenzie Patterson
Kelaiah Horat Nico Larson Savanna Stewart
Kelaiah Horat, “Danse”
OTHE V A L
The Oval is a literary magazine published annually by the Associated Students
of the University of Montana (ASUM), the Maureen and Mike Mansfield
Library, and the Creative Writing Program of the University of Montana English
Department. Each volume is printed with vegetable ink on recycled paper by
University of Montana Printing & Graphics.
The title font for this volume is set in Trajan Pro 3, the body font in Adobe
The University of Montana Bookstore, Fact & Fiction, Shakespeare & Co., and
The Book Exchange in Missoula, Montana, sell copies of The Oval. The standard
price of each issue is $8.00. Griz Card holders can buy the magazine for $5.00.
The Oval sponsors Prose & Poems, a monthly reading series at the University
of Montana. Each reading is open-mic format and is free for all students and
The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses’ (CLMP) Literary Press and
Magazine Directory and NewPages.com’s Index of Literary Magazines include
The Oval in their listings.
The Oval Magazine
English Department, Liberarl Arts 133
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
Copyright © 2016 The Oval Magazine ISBN 978-0-9909748-3-3 Rights revert to the author upon publication of the printed and electronic editions of the magazine.
Lauren Korn, Editor-in-Chief
Robert Stubblefield, Faculty Advisor
Shannon Janssen and Alicia Bones, Advisors and
Vanessa Mattfeldt, Board Editor
Hanna Ziegler, Board Editor
Stacia Hill, Board Editor
Megan Jessop, Board Editor
Lauren Korn, Board Editor
DESIGN & LAYOUT
Lauren Korn, Board Editor
All published visual art submissions were selected by
The Oval staff as a whole.
The Oval accepts electronic submissions of fiction, non-fiction, drama,
poetry, and visual art in the month of February. Only
previouslyunpublished work by currently-enrolled University of Montana
undergraduates will be considered. Submissions must be in DOC,
DOCX, JPEG, or PDF formats. The genre must be defined in the
submission. Submission guidelines will be listed on the Submittable
For more information, details about Oval-sponsored events, workshops,
readings, and the Honorable Mentions awarded for Volume IX, please
visit our blog at www.umoval.wordpress.com.
You have in your hands, dear reader, a collection of poetry,
prose, and visual art from current undergraduates that is, as I see it, a
gathering of grief—grief expressed by children at the loss of their parents,
and the grief of parents at the loss of their children; grief born from
displacement, societal and familial; grief spurned on and aggravated by
endless Montana winters; and perceived grief, recognized by one stranger
in another. There is hope in the translation of this grief, though—in the
astounding creativity born from the chaotic fracturing of characters, both
fictional and very much alive, in the course of these nearly one hundred
The University of Montana community grieves, too, for one of our
own. We mourn the loss of Eduardo Chirinos, beloved poet and Professor
of Spanish in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and
Literatures. Eduardo was an early contributor to The Oval—two of his
poems, alongside translations by G. J. Racz, were published in the first
volume of this fledgling magazine in 2008, generous contributions to an
idea of growth and literary camaraderie. The Oval thanks Eduardo for his
contributions both to this magazine and to the literary community that
stems from and branches out far beyond Missoula, Montana.
Thanks are due to many for their support and their help in
ensuring the publication of The Oval each spring. Thank you, Sue Samson
and the Mansfield Library; ASUM and its generous senators; Maria
Mangold, Karin Schalm, the Creative Writing Program, and the English
Department; Kevin Head and those that attend the annual Writers’ Fall
Opus; and Ken Price and his staff at UM Printing & Graphics.
Thank you, Shannon Janssen, for your unflappable presence
and technological savvy, and Alicia Bones, for your editorial know-how
and your quiet, sharp wit. Countless thank yous to The Oval’s faculty
advisor, Robert Stubblefield. Your tireless dedication is paramount to this
magazine’s success and to the education of its staff. I know I am not alone
when I say that I am grateful to call you a friend and mentor.
I would also like to thank the contributors and those who
submitted their work for inclusion in this magazine, the undergraduate
writers and artists of the University of Montana. Thank you for laying
your imaginations at our feet. And thank you, dear reader, for reading.
Missoula exists. Not only does it claim a place on the map,
but it is part of an imaginary world.
I Love You, Ben
“X” Marks the Spot
Duchess in Red
Three Parts Rain
Kaylene Big Knife
When the Real Battle Begins
The Stripper at Fred’s Lounge
nest-building by moonlight
Notes About the Visual Art
in Volume IX
“Danse,” by Kelaiah Horat: mixed media—acrylic paint, ink pen, poems,
letters, and pieces of books.
“Respite,” by Kelaiah Horat: ink pen on paper.
“The Traveler: A Self Portrait,” by Kelaiah Horat: acrylic paint on
“Spirit Cooking,” by Nico Larsen: multi-media—an exploration in
Dadaist ideology, witchcraft, anti-logic, and coping mechanisms.
“Portraits,” by Ryan Clouse: color film, 1964 Olympus Pen F.
“Nebula,” by Savannah Stewart: photograph, digital art.
“The Fool,” by Carly Campbell: 4x6" relief block print. It represents “0”or
“The Fool” in the major arcane of tarot cards and is the first of thirteen in
the deck Carly is carving, each a portrait of someone important in her life.
An alternate title for this piece might be, “An Idiot Who Jumps Into the
Abyss in a Frenzy with Her Eyes Closed.” It is a self portrait.
“The Magician,” by Carly Campbell: 4x6" relief block print. It represents
“I” or “The Magician” in the major arcane of tarot cards and is the second
of thirteen in the deck Carly is carving, each a portrait of someone
important in her life. An alternate title for this piece might be, “A Charmer
Dealing His Hand Over an Open Flame.” It is a portrait of the artist’s
Three Parts R ain
Kaylene Big Knife
Thunderbirds bring the rain—mother’s milk—to the people.
Before a storm, horses race about as if to celebrate and welcome the
arrival of rain, thunder and lightning. They dance! Thunderbirds are close
friends of the horses. A Chippewa Cree grandmother told of this. There
was once a white farmer who lived in Rocky Boy. He was very mean to
the Indians. When his horses would have colts, he would take the colts
and decapitate them. Soon, the Thunderbirds brought with them heavy
storms, and the only place hit by the flashflood was the farmer’s land. The
flood took everything from the farmer. It all washed away.
In the summer of 2010, rain fell heavily upon the reservation
lands of Rocky Boy. Flooding swallowed up coulees, roads, and a few
houses. Hills broke apart and slid off into the brush, taking pine trees
with them. The Rocky Boy Health Clinic slid, too, off of its foundation,
rendering it unusable and unsafe. Approximately 280 tribal employees
were placed on leave because of the flooding. About 500 housing units
sustained water damage, and over 200 families were left without drinking
water. At least $32 million was estimated in damage from the flooding.
I drove my grandmother, my mother, and my auntie to Canada
one summer. We were on our way to see our relatives. Earlier in our trip,
and past the Canadian border, we approached a bridge and river. My
auntie said, “There used to be a huge snake in that river.” She held her hand
up in front of her and curved her fingers down in the shape of a claw.
“A Thunderbird came down and picked up the snake and carried it into
the sky.” I studied the meandering river as I drove over the bridge, and I
imagined a great battle between these two spirits. On my right, both
ered high above me. Pinks, purples, and oranges wrapped the clouds as
the sinking sun’s rays pierced the sky from my left. An enormous, maned
bird, with feathers made of the deep purples and blues found in storm
clouds, gripped a thick snake in both talons. The white, glistening snake
curved his head up to look at the Thunderbird. In the rich depths of the
snake’s red eyes, the Thunderbird’s wrath was seen clearly. Ripped apart
and strewn about, the snake became the stars. Some of his scales fell back
to us, and they streaked the galaxy on their way down—rain. •
something in the darkening corners
by the shifting hostel bed
where the restless dump their baggage
speaking through the wrinkles in his hands—
I drove his car for fourteen hours
the pills helped, he only charged me gas
like my company was some sort of payment
mel carries more weight than any hitch I’ve seen
faded four feet of canvas bag—his prosthetic
like a wooden leg for staring, he suggests
Ulysses and you forget everything you should be doing
what do the Druid, Escapee, Yoga-Stripper
and Journaler have in common?
something about Patti Smith and frozen blueberries
but the Londoner showed his stab wounds instead
when I was 26 I spent 9 months along a cardamom river
the weightless washed their hammered bowls and chanted
(the orality of ) what would otherwise be lost.
sometimes I dream the colors of their silks for fear I will forget
realizing on the cold bench of the local park
gathered dirt from walking in wet socks kept broken
glass of the West Street turnpike from piercing soles
the dog walkers miss my comfort
hole in the bathroom ceiling
webs blend to peeling white
strands wave in the ebbs of steam
sniffing dog at the door
“that’s a bit presumptuous”
he said from the owner’s kitchen
his voice echoing off nakedness
and eggshell walls
“where do they keep the fucking espresso cups”
the little birds, demons
in the hole near the bed frame head
“I’ll eat your Satan babies”
he’s a Viking of a morning person
every house on the corner the same
“our house is the blue one on the left,
sorry we won’t be there to greet you”
I Love You, Ben
Jennifer looks around her living room. A metal staircase spirals at
an almost vertical angle, only slightly more homey than simply installing
an escalator. Gray, sparsely padded couches that look almost as
uncomfortable as they feel line two of the walls. In the center of the room sits a
low coffee table, its corners capable of wounding even the most careful of
guests. Minimalist art hangs on the wall, abstract shapes, everything gray
and black with hints of brown.
“God, modern architecture is a downer,” she says to the baby in
her arms, his mouth sucking greedily at her breast. He doesn’t seem to
A book on French history and another on fish-based recipes sit
on the coffee table. Jennifer flips through one of them absentmindedly
while the baby sucks. She puts the book down and rubs the scar on her
left wrist. She considers the fact that neither one of them had ever been
to France. They don’t care much about history, and they don’t cook.
“Fuck!” cries Jennifer as the baby breaks the skin on her left
breast. Pinpricks of blood form above her nipple. She rests her head on
the back of the couch and tells herself that it was an accident, of course it
was an accident. The baby seems startled by the noise, but immediately
When he is done he looks at her contentedly, satisfied. Jennifer
stares back, and waits, as though she will feel some sort of motherly
instinct if only she is patient enough. She stands him up on her lap and
lightly pats his back. As he begins burping, Jennifer closes her eyes and
lets out a labored sigh.
The room is gray and white, cinderblock walls and metal chairs
and tables. Not all that different from Jennifer’s house.
“Do you know who I am?”
This seems like a simple question, but Jennifer knows it’s not. It
asks: do you know how fucked up what you did is? Do you know how
crazy people think you are? Do you know what the consequences are
going to be?
“You’re a psychiatrist,” Jennifer says. “Which I think means
you’re paid to ask me how I feel and why I feel that way. Or are you the
one allowed to give me the drugs that make it so I don’t feel anything?”
The doctor looks down at his notepad, a small smile on his face.
“Did anyone explain why I’m here? Why you’re speaking with
me?” he asks.
“Yes. They said I am being examined. I assume they mean
men“Well, I don’t know if I would phrase it like that. I’d say that I’m
just here to have a conversation with you.”
“Sure. A conversation in a police station,” Jennifer says. The
doctor settles into his seat. Like he knows he’s here for the long haul.
“You’re right. I guess it’s a little more than a conversation. I just
don’t want you to feel like there are any right or wrong answers here.”
This is maybe the stupidest thing Jennifer has ever heard. Of
course there are right and wrong answers.
The doctor smiles again.
“Why don’t we start by talking about the woman on Ryman
Jennifer puts a Nina Simone album on, trying to drown out
her son’s screaming. The few minutes of calm that always come after he
breastfeeds have passed. She bounces him up and down on her waist. She
paces the floor, circling rooms and climbing the stairs, anything to keep
moving. For a moment, Jennifer allows herself to think about what her
day will look like tomorrow. This is a deadly exercise. This is when she is
reminded that tomorrow will look exactly like today. And yesterday. She
and her husband will talk past each other as he gets ready for work, and
as bad as it is when he is home, it will be worse the minute he’s gone.
Then it’ll be just her and the baby. Those are their names in her head: the
husband and the baby.
“This woman was a stranger to you, correct?”
“She wasn’t a stranger. I knew her. I mean, I didn’t know her
An Bóthar Buí
The land is scarred with a painful past and roads that lead to nowhere
and bears the names of souls who place stones on roads that lead to
The yellow meal is not enough to satisfy the hunger. Fingers bleed as they
dig the earth. Like
Sisyphus, they push roads up hills to nowhere.
One by one the stones are stacked high, an altar to a corpse god’s follies.
Driven forward they feed the pyre, the sacrifice, for the road to nowhere.
People bear the scars of those who traveled here before them
and carry the cross over and over again, on roads that lead to nowhere.
This road is the scar upon which we walk. As our hunger grows we
continue on with stumbling feet, and follow roads to nowhere.
Flipsky ’s Serenade
“Mom and Dad? They’re studying back east in Massachusetts.
Boston. Getting their second doctorates, like they need more school.
Yeah, at the University of Harvard. Or MIT.” Mickey runs a hand
through his hair. Clean hair, no dandruff. The words make sense
grammatically—socially, too. He rehearses in the mirror. He stands old and
looks tall. The words must make sense.
The parents who said they would come back had not come
back. Months? Years? Two months and twenty-four days.
When the parents left, the mirror was new—plastic film
covered the glass. Now the film is gone. Finger and lip prints paint the
“Mickey, it’s so nice to see you,” Mrs. Kinder says. She’s a
middle-aged woman who looks like a young middle-aged woman. Dyed hair
does that. So does a prescription for “Wrinkle Free America.” She never
asks after their parents. She schedules Mickey for parent-teacher
Maribel’s kindergarten has blue carpet on the walls and some
on the ceiling. The vacuum doesn’t reach the ceiling. A TV plays loud,
primary-color-loving kids’ shows. They don’t have a TV at home. TVs
eat electricity like hounds. The black-outs come and go as Mickey’s work
schedule changes. It changes often. 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. shrank to 5 to 7.
Boxes of broken crayons and markers with crushed felt litter the floor.
“It’s great to see you too, Mrs. Kinder.” They hug, too long. Her
arms creep low, eyes dewy, and lips plump. Small creases line her tear
Maribel’s kindergarten is close to their apartment complex. A
car gets there in ten minutes. The bus normally takes twenty. Bike is a
different story. Especially the flat-tired, rusty-chained one Mickey rides.
One hour and sixteen minutes. Mrs. Kinder stays late.
“Have you been well?” She hesitates on the “well,” not a word
often used. Her phone dings.
All the other kids are gone, picked up by mothers and fathers
hours earlier. Those families with their 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedules.
Maribel brushes a Barbie’s hair. Criss-cross applesauce. She drools on Barbie
and cuts all of Barbie’s hair without scissors—strand by strand. She does
not notice him.
“Yes,” Mickey says.
No, I feel ill. Like plastic.
Mrs. Kinder grabs his shoulder, sincerely and longingly. A
motherly gesture short of all things motherly.
“Job’s going great. I’ll be making more than you here pretty
soon.” They both laugh. Her teeth are dull and the front two are crooked.
The phone dings again. A flip phone with buttons larger than both of his
thumbs. Cracked, red nail polish cakes her chewed-on nails. The stubs
squeeze his skin.
It’s like you planted a seed. Someone special promised the seed would
sprout vegetables or fruit. They don’t know the specifics. You want to know the
specifics. That want turns into need. The seed becomes your life. That someone
special promises it will sprout in a few days.
“That’s where Maribel gets her humor.” Mrs. Kinder leans in
close to whisper. “She’s quite a class clown, you know.”
So you water it every time it needs water. You buy fluoride-free
water and BPA-free water-spouts. After it sprouts, that someone special told you
it will bloom.
“Uh oh, I’d better talk to her. I was never a class clown,” he says.
She laughs and does not smell nice—sweet cigars mixed with
two-dayold deodorant. Maribel picks through the last of Barbie’s hair. Plastic
blonde strands stick to his sister’s shirt, to her hair.
You didn’t plant the seed that deep or pour the dirt too high. You
can’t see the seed or the sprout. A week trudges by. Nothing happens. You
contemplate touching it, but what if it’s rare and doesn’t grow once touched?
What if it’s the last of its species and you become responsible for an entire
species’ extinction? So you wait. But you know—it will never sprout.
“My goodness, Mickey. You ever thought about becoming a
comedian?” Her hand clasps to Mickey’s. “You know, I’m quite funny. I
can stay late and tutor you if you’d like.” The dinging phone is now the
ringing phone. Mrs. Kinder makes no attempt to take the call.
But it does sprout. And you breathe fast and everything feels like it
will be all right, and you look up the shape of the leaves in your sprout book
but can’t figure out if it is the suicide palm from Madagascar or the Western
Underground Orchid from Australia.
“No, no. I can’t ask you to do that.” He steps back. “And I’m
not that funny. I have to work. Or go to school. Late. Usually late. And
Maribel has quite the bedtime routine.” Maribel looks up. She runs over
to grab his leg and Barbie’s hair falls onto the carpet. She wears a yellow
polka-dot dress with black Mary Janes. A mother would pick out that
outfit. A mother did not pick out that outfit. Maribel barks at his feet.
You never find out. It stays as the center of your world’s excitement,
you walk in the door and look at the plant, water the plant, think about this
miserable mystery. This obsession that you know is ridiculous. But you obsess.
You don’t touch. You wait.
“I hear you’ve been quite a clown, little Maribel.” She whimpers,
lies on the carpet, and pretends to be a mastiff or Border collie. Whatever
her dog of the day is. “I think she’s the real comedian, Mrs. Kinder,” he
whispers, licking his lips and squeezing Maribel’s hand. “Well, it’s time
for us to get our butts home.”
You finally decide to touch it. You find out that it’s not the Western
Underground Orchid because it doesn’t have a millimeter deep crease in the
leaf. It isn’t the suicide palm of Madagascar because it has roots, not bulbs. It’s
not either of the plants it’s supposed to be. And you touch and feel it more and
can’t believe it.
Mrs. Kinder’s phone rings again. She listens and then asks,
“Where are your parents?”
The leaves are plastic. The seed has sprouted plastic. It will never
“Let’s go, Maribel.” Mickey lets go of Mrs. Kinder. She smiles
with chapped teeth and crooked lips. Maribel grabs her backpack.
It felt too ill.
“Oh, this week they’re over in France. They’ve been there for
a few months. Mom always wanted to be a princess.” Mickey’s armpits
sweat. Maribel holds her nose.
The mirror moved to the living room.
Mickey moves a single lamp room to room. The other lightbulbs
are dead. Once the power goes out, they’ll have to get used to candles.
He checks the phonebooks. The local one and the statewide.
Maribel scans the “M”s, he scans the “Y”s. Some motherly and fatherly
figures stand out, but not their mother or father. He calls the electrical
companies. The receptionists know him. Their sentences are short.
“The French give money to people who want to rebuild castles.
It promotes tourism or something. Our folks found a cheap château on
the edge of Porte de Ville. Belonged to Jeanne D’Arc. Marcel Proust
nabbed it a few years later.
“Mom’s convinced they haunt the place. D’Arc in the fireplace
and Proust in their bed,” Mickey says. “We’ll head over in a few months,
once we learn French. Just bought a French/English dictionary.” Only
appliance manuals (stove, fridge, half the pages for the washer—no
dryer) and phone books dot his bookshelf.
“It might take us a few months.”
The mother and father who said they’d be back are not coming
back. Five months and thirteen days.
“Howdy ho, young neighbors!” Mr. Rednik dresses up as Santa
Claus every Christmas for the kids. He does not have kids. “I’m glad you
guys could make it. My wifey makes a mean lasagna—and I don’t just
mean mean-looking!” He slaps his knees, right then left.
The potluck was meant to be outside, but it rained. The people
of the apartment complex decide to crush into the Redniks’ apartment—
number 305. It is a cluttered space. The living room and bathroom smell
like Mrs. Rednik, who smells like bacon grease. Both of their surnames
were Rednik before the marriage. They insist it is coincidence and tell
others they are only related by love.
Mr. Rednik cooks pork chops that he promises are not dry but
are dry. His nose is red and it isn’t from drinking.
“We wouldn’t dream of missing it,” Mickey says, nudging
Maribel in the side.
“We brought chips,” she says. Mickey hands him a wrinkled bag.
“Oh, thank you, dearie.” He pats Maribel’s curls before she runs
and hides behind Mickey’s legs. Mrs. Rednik works for minimum wage
at a Mexican restaurant that charges for chips but never asks if you’d like
chips. They always bring chips. Mr. Rednik talks about wars and boasts
about his heritage (Russian, French, Cherokee, early Japanese), though
he has never done anything notable.
The room is loud. A plastic table holds wholesale trays of dried
cheese and the lasagna, too overcooked around the edges to chew. A man
larger than Mr. Rednik leans against it.
“How have you two been? How are your mom and dad?” he
Not all that great. I feel numb, like I’m burning from the inside.
“Mommy and daddy aren’t here,” Maribel whispers behind
Mickey’s legs. The fat man’s cheeks flush red.
It’s like I fill four pots with water and add some salt because I’m
having a dinner party, a big dinner party with at least twenty people, and I
want the food to cook faster. So I put the four pots on the four burners.
“You two are home alone? Where are they? I thought they’d be
back by now.” Mr. Rednik’s scarlet nose is full of blackheads. “Do you
need something? We can help.”
“Oh, we’ve been great,” Mickey says. “Really great, wonderful
And the salt makes the water boil faster than you expected. You
didn’t want dinner that fast, so you turn the stove off and you join your guests,
give it fifteen minutes or so. You have time.
“They’re—” Maribel starts, no longer a whisper. The fat man
puts more weight against the table with his comfort-fit, elastic waist
jeans. The table creaks.
“Oh, they’re just at the store,” Mickey says. “They got back a few
days ago. Restocking the house and all that. This one,” he pats Maribel’s
head a little too hard, “eats two or more tablefuls a day.” The table leans,
cheese starts to slip.
You check on the pots and the stove is off. You make sure. But the
water is still boiling. Fifteen minutes later. The people in your living room are
now impatient and they start yelling. But you don’t want to put the pasta in
because it might over-cook or boil too hard and spill over the pot. The water
keeps boiling. And they keep yelling.
“Okay, if you say so, Mickey.” He claps. “Go and get yourself
some food. But not two tablefuls, you hear, missy?” Maribel says
The fat man pushes away from the table. The cheese stops
sliding. His shirt has pit stains, back stains, and even chest stains.
I haven’t been great. We haven’t been great.
Maribel shovels some cheese. The dry parts crunch.
The fat man walks out the door.
I’m numb on the outside, and the pots won’t stop boiling.
The power is out. The mailbox is full—angry warnings for this
and that service. An eviction notice stapled to the door. The mirror is
Where were the parents who said they’d be back? Nine months
and forty-six days.
The rug frays, spindles of thread catch in the slivered wood. If
they were here the rug would be sewed, the lights would be on, and the
mirror would not be cracked.
“They’re up in Canada. I think Calgary,” he says. “Yep, that’s
where they are this month. Sounds good. Dad’s helping with some oil
company. The one with the dinosaur. Mom is probably doing the same.
The grocery check-out line is short. They are next, not another
person behind them. Maribel drools at the candy but has never asked for
The cashier smiles. She is the same from last week and the week
before. Their food is the same. Quick sale items: cheese sticks aching to
grow mold, milk that may be sour within the day.
“Hey, Marty.” She is a young woman. She grabs the milk and
cheese. “Hey, Marybeth. Dang, it’s been a week already, huh? You’ve
grown at least a foot.” She said the same last week. A lady with blond hair
joins the line.
“So how have you two been? Beautiful day, yeah?” She gives
Maribel her weekly sticker, a lousily drawn dog next to a lousier drawn cat.
The blonde lady picks at the candy rack.
“Yes, very pretty out.” Mickey puts the groceries in bags.
“Very pretty,” says Maribel.
But I’ve been pretty lousy. We’ve been pretty lousy.
“But we haven’t been doing great,” Mickey says. The cashier
looks up. Her practiced formality slinks away. Her hair looks greasy and
smells like hairspray. The blonde lady in line chooses her candy.
“I feel odd. Kind of like this time my mom and dad bought
Maribel a Barbie. Her first Barbie, actually.” Maribel’s hair is greasy and
does not smell of hairspray. “So they bought her this damned Barbie even
though I told them that she hated Barbies. She screamed and cried, so
what’s a big brother to do? I took the Barbie and fixed it up, made it look
as un-Barbie-like as I could.” Maribel looks at the candy rack. A small,
pudgy older man gets in line.
“Okay, that’ll be $22.07.” The cashier holds out her hand. They
pay in small bills and coins.
“I used to cut Maribel’s hair really nice. Bangs straight across but
a bit shorter than they are now. She loved it. Looked at every mirror she
could catch. She wanted her Barbie’s hair the same way.” The blond lady
taps her foot. “So I cut the Barbie’s hair to look like Maribel’s. And you
should have seen her face. She was so happy. She said she liked Barbies
after that.” Another lady gets in line, a squat redhead with a pack of gum.
“Mark, there are people in line. Let’s talk later.” The cashier
continues to hold out her hand. Mickey sets a few dollars down and pulls a
bag of coins from his pocket.
“But eventually, she gets sick of that haircut. Her hair grows and
the doll’s doesn’t. She cries and cries—your parents leave for the night
because she cries. Why didn’t I tell her Barbie’s hair doesn’t grow back?
You know? It would’ve made so much—”
“Hey, asshole. Save it for another time,” a man four people
behind them yells. There are now six people in line.
“So this little girl hates me. My own sister hates me.”
The lady with the blonde hair mumbles, “Jerk-off.” It’s louder
than a mumble. “And she takes the scissors to the bathroom and locks the
door and cries. And I sit outside the door and beg her to come out, beg
her to at least give me the scissors.”
Mickey dumps the coin bag out. Pennies roll from the counter
to the ground. All pennies.
“And there you have it,” he says. The cashier’s expression does
not change but she picks up the coins—one by one. “Maribel, pick out
“Of course. But be fast. We have quite the line.” The red-headed
woman plays on her phone. The pudgy boy-man flips Mickey off under
his coat while looking at the ground.
“She eventually comes out of the bathroom and says sorry and
sorry and cries and hugs me and almost all her hair is gone and the hair
makes a trail around the house. I sweep it up that night, the lights turn
on and the water’s hot so I make some pasta. But the front door doesn’t
open. The parents never come home and we wonder why. The parents
who said they’d come back never came back,” Mickey says. •
To a Mother After
Karen, I meant to stay in touch,
but life took root. I think of him often.
I even see him sometimes—a glimpse of red hair rounding a corner,
a tall figure on the sidewalk ahead.
I lock eyes on the apparition and bodies filter by,
but when the crowd dissipates
I see brown eyes, not blue.
It’s been over three years since the accident,
but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.
I’m twenty-two now—twenty-three in March.
It’s been six years since I last saw him leaning on my locker,
arms crossed over his red letterman jacket.
That’s the Karston who lives in my mind.
I like to imagine where he’d be now—
like to picture what his life would be like.
I see black slacks and white button down shirts on cedar hangers,
tall pillars, and wide windows set in a grand house.
He saved me the other night in my dreams.
I was walking through a dense crowd of people;
they got taller and taller, towering over me.
Then there he was, big as life, gathering me in freckled arms.
When I looked up it was no longer him,
but I was safe.
I like to think he’s here sometimes
keeping an eye on me now like he did then—
when I’m walking home at night, when I’m alone.
But I always wonder why I don’t feel him, his presence.
After all I’ve seen and all I’ve heard I have to believe he’s with you,
sitting across your desk at Red Fox Real Estate.
Keeping you safe, Shelby
‘94 Ford F-250
blue dawn the entire
drive down the interstate,
truck stereo playing a Hank Williams
tape at three quarters volume
because the truck tires make
so much god damn noise.
brought my own coffee mug,
but all that’s in it is free
coffee from work yesterday.
(i don’t tell my father about
the cold, free coffee, and he
doesn’t ask about what’s in the mug.)
talked his ear off the whole way there
(about some pretty random shit too),
but he smiled and laughed
at all the right parts so i
could tell he was actually
enjoying what i was saying,
even if the stories were half-assed.
that’s how it is if you ever have to
talk like you’re local in small town,
western montana: everything in a story.
story of my cousin.
story of my grandmother.
story about the elk herd.
story about the wolves.
story about the local 6-man football quarterback,
and how he might walk-on for the Griz.
story of the cafe waitress:
And remember that little Chase Reynolds?
used to walk in here all the time and order
a slice of chocolate cream pie with his
brother. I never made him
pay more than a dollar.
drove pretty quick
this morning because
he showed up 5 minutes late
and i was ready to go 5
minutes after that.
forgave each other,
but he would never forgive
himself if he drove anything
pulled off I-90 at
the two-gas-station town
of St. Regis.
he made the same damn joke
about prowling old women
as we passed the Cougar Meadows
he can’t let go of that macho,
crack a crude joke every once
in a while stuff.
symptom of a lifelong Montanan,
cruised fast down the dirt road.
i could tell the speed by the rhythm
of the tires bouncing
over the first cattle guard.
parked the truck.
he already had his boots on
and i didn’t. he was patient
about waiting around.
brushed through a thicket of Douglas Fir
on to a well-established, forking game trail.
i take the left.
phones on at 11.
call at noon.
back at the truck by 3.
we split ways.
i crush fir needles between my fingers
and breathe in.
The Oval would like to acknowledge the winners of this year’s Honorable
Mentions, whose pieces will be uploaded to the blog following the release
of Volume IX. Visit www.umoval.wordpress.com to read more poetry
and prose and to view more visual art from University of Montana
Lark, by Callie Atkinson • Poetry
All For the Love of Rock and Roll, by Jason Bailey • Non-Fiction
When the Sweet Talkin’ Ends, by Sara Bickley • Non-Fiction
Autumn God, by Kaylene Big Knife • Visual Art
Feral, by Claire Compton • Fiction
Bullseye, by Zoe Contreras • Visual Art
Stealing Cletus, by Chance Cooney • Non-Fiction
The Institute, by Anna Costain • Fiction
She Reads Aloud Ode to the Naked Body, by Jeron Jennings • Poetry
Eat with Me, by Elaine Kelly • Poetry
Year’s Supply, by Miriam Krainacker • Fiction
Shaded Man and Working Old Hands,
both by Lucy Larson • Visual Art
Song of Humanity Sings, by Ashley Palmer • Poetry
Waiting for Rene and Warm Winter’s Day,
both by Silas Phillips • Visual Art
sea captain catman and his shitty night vision,
by Samantha Ricci • Poetry
James Akin is majoring in Parks, Tourism, and Recreation
Management and is minoring in English. He has always had an interest
in writing and has pursued his passion by taking multiple writing
workshops at the University of Montana. He grew up in Troy, Montana,
on an old homestead that fueled his interest in nature and sparked his
Kaylene Big Knife is an emerging illustrator and writer from the
Chippewa Cree Tribe located on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation,
Montana. She is a Native American Studies major with a minor in
Studio Art. Her creative interests include: humor, comics, fiction writing,
watercolor, ink pens, collage, and cats, especially cats.
Carly Campbell is a senior getting a degree in History and a minor
in Studio Art. She grew up in the desert around Tucson, Arizona, and
spends her time writing, running, and making art.
Lili Casteel is a junior in the Creative Writing Program at the
University of Montana.
Courtney Cathers is a graduating senior looking for a career in
entertainment management. She is a photography enthusiast who enjoys
producing pictures of mythical, enchanting, and beautiful subjects.
Ryan Clouse is from Helena, Montana. He is a senior studying
History with an emphasis in Italian.
Erin Goudreau is a sophomore in the English department, with a
double-concentration in Literature and Creative Writing. When she isn’t
writing for her classes, reporting for the Montana Kaimin, or singing in
a band, Erin enjoys writing fiction and non-fiction, as well as staying in
bed all day to re-read everything by Junot Diaz.
Ryan Hitchcock is a senior at the University of Montana.
Kelaiah J. Horat is a freshman at the University of Montana,
pursuing an undergraduate degree in Music Performance on the violin
and a minor in French. Kelaiah was born and raised in the Bitterroot
Valley, enjoying the beauty and adventure offered through skiing, hiking,
Amber June is a student of Creative Writing and Psychology, and a
general lover of words, here at the University of Montana. She is also a
mother of three, a thrift-store junkie, a blogger, and a seeker of adventure.
Nico Larsen is currently an art student at the University of
Montana. After attending Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design,
and then completing an internship with artist Lauri Lynxxe Murphy, she
moved from Denver, Colorado, to Missoula to continue pursuing a BFA.
Katie Marshall is originally from Belgrade, Montana, and is
currently a junior studying Fine Art, Nonprofit Administration, and
good intentions. In her free time, she enjoys running outdoors, social
activism, and trying to be a better poet than Spencer Ruchti.
Katie McCluer is a Creative Writing student at the University of
Montana. She was born and raised in California but has been living in
Montana, Washington, and Mexico for the past four years.
Katie Mostad is a junior at the University of Montana, studying
English Literature and Creative Writing and pursuing minors in both
Ecological Restoration and Wildlife Biology. Her passion is writing
nonfiction centered around ecology and the environment.
Colter Murphy is a junior pursuing a degree in Wildlife Biology.
Nicole Musci is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. She is
currently a junior at the University of Montana majoring in Creative
Writing and Anthropology.
Eli Redeker is a junior at the University of Montana. Raised in Eastern
Kansas, Eli now lives in Missoula, Montana. His work has appeared in
The Oval and on Montana Public Radio’s “The Write Question.”
Kaley Schumaker enjoyed an adventurous childhood in a tiny
mountain town beside Rocky Mountain National Park. Searching for
new peaks, interesting people, and quiet expanses, she moved to Montana
in 2009 and later enrolled at the University of Montana to study Creative
Writing and Studio Art.
Shelby Stormer is a senior studying Creative Writing and English
Literature at the University of Montana. She is minoring in Women’s,
Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
Antonio Torres is a junior from Arlee, Montana. About “When
the Real Battle Begins,” his piece in this volume of The Oval, Antonio
writes: “This is my place piece, or at least a piece of my place. My favorite
place. My favorite people.”
Andrew Vigesaa was born and raised in Montana. He currently
studies Creative Writing and spends time with his dog.
McKenzie Watterson is from Billings, but Missoula is the town
that made her fall in love with Montana. At the University of Montana,
she is pursuing a double major in Creative Writing and French. She is
also a proud member of both the University of Montana Advocates and
the Davidson Honors College.
Sandra Williamson is a native of Missoula, Montana. She
attends the University of Montana where she is currently earning a BA in
English and an Irish minor. She is a singer, songwriter, and professional
The featured quote from Eduardo Chirinos is paraphrased from “By Way
of Introduction: A Conversation with Eduardo Chirinos,” in Written in
Missoula: Poems by Eduardo Chirinos. University of Montana Press, 2011.
Endless thanks to our major sponsors:
Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library
Associated Students of the University of Montana
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