Panic at Twenty-four Frames Per Second

Dead Birds is a documentary about the aboriginal people of New Guinea. Behavior Modification shows early attempts to treat autism. Orange is an erotic film in which a man peels and eats an orange. Slowly.

I worked my way through undergraduate school as a film projectionist, screening movies for the university’s classes. It didn’t pay much, but had other benefits: flexible hours, easy work, interesting subject matter. The only problem was that I was assigned to show the most popular films in the college’s library so many times that after only a few months on the job it became impossible for me to stay awake while they were running. At some point I trained myself to fall asleep during the opening credits of these films and wake up just before the loose end of the trailer began to flap against the projector stand.

Color Chromatography demonstrates—you guessed it—color chromatography. Sirene is a 1968 animated short about the destruction of the natural environment. A Normal Birth shows a normal (human) birth; at least three people would faint during each showing. This is Marshall McLuhan. I assume no explanation is necessary.

Behavioral Studies of Obedience was a favorite of the psychology department: a sixty-minute film summarizing experiments by Dr. Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, in which an actor posing as a doctor was able to persuade some of the study’s subjects to administer what they believed were painful, even lethal electric shocks to another actor in an adjacent room. The telecommunications and film department couldn’t get enough of Why Man Creates, an Oscar-winning twenty-five-minute short by famed film title designer Saul Bass. I must have shown that movie more than 700 times in the four years I worked for audio/visual services, sometimes four times a day. The film professors also ordered older classic feature films for their classes—Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Dark Victory. And two evenings a month the student union would sponsor a more contemporary feature film—Easy Rider, Woodstock, Last Tango in Paris—at one of the campus’s bigger venues: outdoors in the Greek bowl or in a large hall in the student center.

º

I’m telling you all this because it’s important that you believe I know what I’m talking about. Because if you’re a film buff, as I am, what I’m about to reveal will sour your future film-viewing experience as sure as there will always be a dirt-blackened piece of Bazooka imbedded in the carpet under your theatre seat. Yet all you need do to continue enjoying classic films is to read no further. Turn three pages and go on to the next story or essay or poem in whatever journal you’re holding in your nervous fingers. That’s what I’m advising you to do.

Why would I offer you information so disturbing, so disruptive, that it would merit this warning? My reason may be as simple as the fact that misery loves company. Or you may imagine me as Mephistopheles, seducing you, as Faust (whose story has been made into no less than four different movies) was seduced, with an appeal to your obsessive thirst for esoteric knowledge. After all, here you are, still reading after I’ve advised you to stop. What can I do in the face of such determination? How can I deny you what you’re willing to risk so much to discover? But I’m not a monster. I’ve given you an out.

Now your curiosity begins to get the better of you. Your heart quickens; you feel you must read on. A true film buff, you thrill to the obscure and thrive on the arcane. While viewing Ken Russell’s 1969 film Women in Love, only you among your friends noticed that sliced bread was used in a scene that takes place in 1920, eight years before pre-sliced bread was commonly available. In Casablanca, guns switch from one hand to the other or disappear entirely between takes. In Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ hand shifts from his left pocket on one side of a cut to his right on the other faster than you can pop a Junior Mint. These are the kinds of things you search for, and revel in.

But this story has nothing to do with trivia. You can find that stuff on the Internet.

By now you suspect I may be teasing you, that I’m dangling my “secret” in front of you as though it were an unreleased clip from Terry Gilliam’s latest attempt to film Don Quixote. I may as well forge ahead, you think, see what it’s about. Maybe you’re so sound of mind that you needn’t fear what I might say. I could be over-exaggerating (though I assure you I’m not). Wouldn’t it be wiser to be safe, to heed my warning to stop? What secret could possibly be worth the risk of ruining one of life’s great pleasures? Don’t be the Sam Spade of this story; don’t carry things too far. This is your last chance.

 

There are just two things you need to know in order to see a film as a projectionist sees it:

  1. The largest film reel that fits on a 16mm projector (the kind I operated) holds sixty minutes worth of film. 35mm reels hold less—maybe thirty minutes—because the film is twice as heavy. Since full-length feature films are longer than sixty minutes, they’re always on more than one reel, sometimes four or more.
  2. To achieve a smooth, apparently continuous film screening, two projectors are used. The first is for odd-numbered reels, the second for even. The projectionist handles the “switchover” from the active projector to the one loaded with the next reel.

So, how does a projectionist know exactly when to switch?

Before I answer, here’s another question: did you notice anything unusual near the bottom of the first page of this essay? Did anything catch your eye, distracting you for a second or two, perhaps diverting your attention, interrupting the flow of your thoughts? If not, go back and look now. Do you see the black circle near the right margin about three inches from the bottom of the page? What if I told you that from now on, every print book or journal will have a black circle like this one after the final paragraph of every chapter or story to signal that you should go on to the next page? In fact, just to make sure you don’t miss it, there will be a “warning” circle two inches above the final one. How long do you think it would be before your subconscious begins to keep a constant watch for that warning circle? Would it distract you from what you’re reading?

This is the solution film distributors came up with to solve the switchover problem. A small hole is punched in one frame of the film ten seconds before the end of each reel. When that frame passes through the projector at a speed of twenty-four frames-per-second, a small white dot or flash appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen. This GET READY! warning is followed ten seconds later by another flash: SWITCH! And the projectionist flips the switch on the second machine, where the next reel has been cued-up at the first frame.

No doubt you’re thinking, a twenty-fourth of a second? That’s what all this is about? Big deal!

I admire your confidence, but yours is the reaction of someone who has never noticed the dots, or perhaps thought they were just random scratches in the film. All that has changed as of this moment. Now that you know what they are, you’ll always see them. Soon you’ll find yourself obsessed by the watch for dots, your heart drumming in your chest at the “GET READY!” signal, your nerves tightening. It seems too long to be just ten seconds. A panic sets in. Did you miss it? Suddenly, the second flash, SWITCH!, and you relax, you can breathe again, and you return to the film with fitful attention, almost ignoring the plotline, impatient with the dialogue, silently estimating, over and over, the interval until the next reel change. And so you’ll become, like me, an anxious addict, counting the minutes, twitchily waiting for the next visual twang, finding relief, at last, only in a brief flash of light.

º

I’ve dragged you to the brink of the abyss, but the final step you must take yourself. I have one last instruction for you, one I know that, having come this far, you will not be able to resist. The next time you’re watching an old movie, keep an eye on the upper-right-hand corner of the screen starting at the twenty-five minute mark. I’ll bet you’ll see switchover dots. And, having once seen them, will never be able to not see them again.

º

Jim Brega Jim Brega earned his BA from San Diego State University and an MFA from the University of Illinois. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including Lime Hawk, Hippocampus Magazine, Red Savina Review, Plenitude, and r.kv.r.y. He lives near San Diego. You can find more of Jim’s work on his blog: jimbrega.com.

 

 

The Housekeeper’s Daughter

My brain is starting to unravel. It’s gone bad. I can feel everything loosen up, softening, rippling under the inverted moonlight of my eyes. It’s really gone bad.

I’m starting to see the big picture now, and I’m not sure what it isblurred candy shadows, a scorched candlewick, the skin of eggshells, a smile in the dark?

Late at night as Los Angeles purrs in its sleep, I dip my fingers into my decomposing skull. It’s soft and gooey, a non-Newtonian fluid keeping secrets I itch to uncover. I creep and dig, my fingers rummaging through the mess and I’m tired, tired of being me. So tired, exhausted, withered and disgusted with whom I’ve become. I’ve realized I am so predictable. Day to day I spend too much time wishing. Wishing I were different, wishing I had a better life, wishing I were new; an other worldly being to blow away the masses, open mouthed and drooling, wishing I were animal; peligrosa y cruda. I have spent my entire life wishing.

When I was a child, my brother and I used to go to work with our mother. We were the housekeeper’s kids. Come to raid the fridge, devour cable TV, swim in the poolour underwear our swimsuitsand play with the dogs and cats. It was another world to be consumed, set ablaze by our wide eyes, a privilege, a dream.

We were the housekeeper’s kids; I was the housekeeper’s daughter.

Alone, I would nap in king size canopy beds and dream about my future, hoping to one day live in the homes my mother cleaned up along the curves of Benedict Canyon, Mulholland Drive, Los Feliz, Brentwood, Coldwater Canyon, Malibu. Wishing, always wishing.

I’d slide from room to room touching everything, leaving behind my fingerprints, imprinting myself onto glass paperweights, stationary bikes, unused seat cushions, bay windows, paintings I could not understand, white pristine bed sheets, photographs, flowers in the garden, mirrors and most of all the air, the lovely clean air. Imprinting, leaving behind splinters of my soul so I could come to collect when I was older.

Being the housekeeper’s daughter never bothered me. I loved it. My mother was often embarrassed, not wanting me to tell others what she did. It never bothered me, not even when she cleaned the houses of some of my best friends. Today it still doesn’t bother me, but my view of it all has altered.

My mother’s patronas used to be 99.9% perfect; refined creatures of beauty with long slender legs, graceful fingers decorated with golds and silvers, smooth skin, bellies that never growled, and little to no nalgas, which made no difference because they possessed tits that had been well cared for. I wanted it all.

Today, I no longer want what they have. It’s all the same, just different packaging.

Today, I am the housekeeper.

I slide from room to room, a snake licking the unclean air. Whispers breathe onto my scales and I know their secrets. I know when husbands no longer sleep with their wives, I know when one glass of wine has increased to two bottles of whiskey, I know when a pets passing bruises the ceilings and walls, I know when annoyance becomes deep and fractured hostility, I know when disease becomes another family member, I know when redecorating has become compulsive, I know when a child’s broken bones or explosive temper becomes another knot in the dining room table, I know when the longing for a mate dissolves beneath the bed, forever a distant dream.

It’s all the same, just different packaging.

They are my family and I don’t want any of it.

I don’t want their muck.

I don’t want to wash their tear stained pillowcases.

I don’t want to smooth their wrinkles.

I don’t want to be their secret keeper.

I don’t want to mold them new lives.

I don’t want to see them cry.

I don’t want to feel their fear.

I don’t want to smile when they lie to me, to their partners, to their children, to themselves.

I don’t want to help pick up the pieces.

I don’t want to throw out the trash.

I don’t want to scrub away the scum.

I don’t want to dust away the memories.

I don’t want to be their treasurer, retaining their troubles.

It’s all the same, just different packaging.

I want my own life.

I want me.

I want my future.

I want I want I want.

I want eternity to figure out what I want.

But tomorrow I will be their treasurer, their secret keeper.

They are my family; I breathe their air.

I am no longer the housekeeper’s daughter. I am the housekeeper.

Tomorrow I will keep wishing, as I always have, little girl or not.

A.R. CastellanoA Los Angeles native, A. R. Castellanos writes poetry, fiction, and memoir that draw upon her vibrant and tenacious ancestral heritage in Guatemala and California. Her conjured worlds encompass feral spirits, otherworldly legends, and the disconcerting realities of domestic workers in Hollywood celebrity homes. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Chaparral, and Duende, among others. Aside from writing, Castellanos loves watching movies over and over again with her dog Nola, a rare breed of wolf-bear. For more please visit https://arcastellanos.wordpress.com.

Negative Space

First you notice the writing students in front of you slowing down, then pausing, and moving into the street.

Yellow tape is stretched across the sidewalk tied to a tree and a lamppost. You can’t read the black printing.

The now visible police cars and years of TV say crime scene.

The red lights flashing across the street shift your focus.

More yellow tape, an ambulance, several officers, EMTs, and perhaps a witness or plain clothes somebody talking to a police officer.

Behind all of them is a building with balconies. Black rails. Glass. Red brick. You count the stories.

The grass is green and the bushes are in bloom with pink blossoms.

There is a blank space. White. Like whiteout on a picture. Like an unfinished painting. Cleanly erased. Lacking relief. Flat white.

You don’t stop at the yellow tape. The students with you keep moving into the street around the cars and back on the sidewalk.

A woman outside a church says he jumped. Students pass by and you look up at the building.

Are you searching for the balcony? Counting floors again. Imagining.

You turn and walk on and wonder if all these writers and poets and playwrights are constructing narratives.

Are they building plots, forming characters, metaphors?

You turn back. Stop. Walk a few more steps. Stop. Turn back again. Wonder why?

The urge for a cigarette, a drink, your lover’s embrace floods you.

Close your eyes and breathe, fill the space, and shake like a dog just wet from the ocean.

At the lecture hall, stand in line for your decaf Americana. Find someone to sit next to. Ask him if he saw. Ask her what she knows.

Open your notebook. Open your iPad. Check your email. Start writing.

Ted ChilesTed Chiles’ fiction has appeared in several literary journals including Canteen, Wacamma, Smokelong, Quarterly, and riverbabble. Vestal Review nominated his story “A Recursive Love Affair” for a Pushcart Award. Chiles lives in Santa Barbara, California with another writer and two cats. In a former life he taught economics, the most dramatic of the social sciences.

 

 

Some Lines of Feeling 

“Autumnthat season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tendernessthat season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.”

― Jane Austen, Persuasion

 

The oppressive, heavy, humid heat of another climate change Ohio Valley River summer makes way for fall. Makes way for winds that blow away lingering dew drops in the morning grass. Makes way for skies that do not lighten until I’m almost home from working the night shift. This is my favorite time of year, the time of year that makes me stop and think, pause and reflect on change as green leaves turn fiery before drying up and blowing away. As the wind blows goosebumps along the patches of skin left bare between my scarf and cardigan, and as pumpkins and Indian corn overtake berries and peaches at the farmer’s market down the street, I always think of the past—how different things are now, how many people are missing from my life. More than anything, fall makes me think about academia. As wool and double-knit takes the place of summer dresses in my wardrobe, I think about dry leaves crunching underfoot as I make my way along sidewalks between classes. This is my new year, much more than January 1.

And most of all, I think about Ralph.

In my early twenties, after a failed first attempt at college and several years spent aimlessly drifting from job to job, I enrolled at a community college in downtown Louisville. The buildings housing the classrooms where gifted professors rekindled my love for literature and creative writing—and kindled my love for philosophy and social justice—were sandwiched between high rises, fast food joints, and subtly-labeled services for the invisible: homeless shelters, rehab centers, food closets, and soup kitchens. Their clientele stood on the sidewalks between the main campus building and the languages building four blocks away, men and women who had seen better days and who now spent their days asking for spare change. I gave what I could, but didn’t often carry cash.

I spent most of my lunch breaks at the Taco Bell across Broadway from the liberal arts building. Fast, cheap, and convenient, it was the perfect college meal. Taco Bell is where I met Ralph.

Weathered, beaten down, clad in so many layers of ripped and soiled jackets and pants that he could have weighed anywhere from 150 to 450 pounds, Ralph towered over my 5’1 frame. With his dusky skin darkened even more by car exhaust and street soil, he was like any number of the homeless I passed during my school days; except he wasn’t a number, he was Ralph.

I still can’t tell you how we clicked, the homeless Army vet alcoholic and the drifting, artsy-district dwelling, nerdy white girl. Maybe we were both drifting. Maybe we were both seeking what we’d lost—him to napalm and bomb-wired boys blowing themselves apart in Vietnam and protesters spitting in his face when he got back home, me to years under a lover’s controlling fists—but we did. Maybe it was the softness in his gaze under his wind-hardened face. But whatever it was, instead of walking past him with an “I’m sorry, I don’t carry cash” explanation when he asked for “just enough change for a taco, please, ma’am,” I gestured with my head to the door, saying “I have extra on my card. C’mon. I’ll buy you some lunch.”

It was awkward at first. I didn’t know how to eat without a book in front of me, and he hadn’t really eaten anywhere but soup kitchens and church basements in “Oh, ‘bout twenty years,” but we found ourselves in a booth by the window, a tray of tacos between us. He tried to grab a taco and leave, but I asked him to stay. I don’t know what spawned that—I don’t like eating with other people; I never know what to do with my hands if they don’t have a book in them, and can never figure out how many bites it’s polite to take in between words, but it seemed right. Not “right” as in “Oh, the right thing to do” charity line, but right as in “the right thing to do at the moment.”

“Do you go to that college?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Whatya studying?”

“Everything,” I shrugged. “I’m an English major, but I keep taking classes I don’t need. Philosophy and the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, mostly.”

He laughed, bits of lettuce falling in his lap from the taco. “I wanted to go to college. Thought I’d teach math.”

“I’m awful at math!”

“Well, I am now, too.” He pointed to a scar under the tight gray curls along his temple. “Uncle Sam took learning from me. I can’t remember much no more, can’t read no more, either.” He took a bite, chewed, and swallowed. “Do you want to teach? Or write your own books like them you’re carrying in that heavy backpack?” he asked, pointing.

“I want to teach, yes, but more than anything, I want to write. Seeing my name on the spine of a book in the library—that would be heaven.”

He nodded. “You will. And I’ll buy it. You seem like a smart young lady. Stay in school. Don’t be like me. These streets—they’ll kill ya.”

I smiled. “I will.”

He stood up. “Gotta run. Places to go, ya know.” He winked. “Thank ya for lunch. It’s nice to be seen.”

I nodded. “I know.”

He stood up. “Gotta run. Places to go, ya know.” He winked. “Thank ya for lunch. It’s nice to be seen.”

I don’t think either of us expected it to, but that lunch became routine. Once or twice a week—any time I got sick of packing sandwiches from home—I crossed the street to Taco Bell, and, more often than not, he’d be outside. “The manager, he’s a good man,” he told me. “He lets me sit out here, so long as I don’t bother nobody.” Over tacos, we exchanged stories. He told me about growing up in a coal mining town in Eastern Kentucky and going to school in a one-room schoolhouse, and how he “never could read past kid books, but numbers—man oh man, I loved me some numbers. They was the most beautiful thing.” He dropped out, though, because he couldn’t pass English. He told me how a boy who’d never gotten in so much as a fist fight—Mama, she’d’ve kilt me”—could still be drafted to Vietnam, and how that same boy could watch his buddies get blown apart by bombs wired to the local boy who’d visited them every day for weeks. That blast, he told me, “shot something into my skull. I don’t know what, but I ain’t been right since.” After recuperating in a field hospital, he was flown home where he was greeted by protesters spitting in his face and the news that his high school sweetheart had married someone else. I told him about growing up an honor’s student who passed math because my little sister did my homework, and being in love with language and words, and being diagnosed with dyscalculia and A.D.D. in college, and about dropping out to take care of a man who wound up abusing me. There was a lot of head shaking over both stories.

Some weeks, I didn’t make it, especially during exams, but any time I did, Ralph was waiting for me. The last week before winter break, we ordered, same as always—ten soft tacos, four without lettuce for me, and two large sodas—but before I could dig my wallet out of my backpack to pay, he stopped me. “I been saving the change I get,” he said. “For Christmas.” The cashier rolled her eyes at the mound of quarters and dimes he plunked down, but to me the change sparkled like new snow. When I thanked him, he shrugged. “I always wanted a little girl. If I’d’ve had one, she’d be about your age.”

 

Louisville comes alive during Derby. Something about horseracing and bourbon brings in celebrities and inspires local women to dress in outrageous hats and fancy dresses. I’ve never understood the draw—in fact, I spend most Derbies passing out leaflets about the horses who didn’t run fast enough to qualify and wound up glue or dog food—but after meeting Ralph, the horses stopped seeming like the biggest casualty.

Derby brings in celebrities, like I said, and celebrities bring in glitz and glamour. Louisville rolls out the red carpet—trash-lined streets are suddenly swept clean, empty lots are planted with flowers, and artists are commissioned to turn horse statues into works of art. The homeless—of which we have nearly 10,000—are not sparkly, and so shelters are paid extra to put out more beds, and churches line their basements with cots, all to get the homeless out of sight and out of mind. I used to think this was a good thing; regardless of the motivation, any extra beds were a blessing. That is, until I realized that there are some people, like Ralph, who don’t want a borrowed bed.

Before that Derby, Ralph had never told me where or how he lived, just saying “I get by, same as everybody else.” On one of our lunches, Ralph was unusually quiet, mumbling short answers and looking at his lap and not at me.

“Is something wrong?”

“I ain’t got my home,” he responded.

I looked at him, trying to figure out a polite way to say “I know you’re homeless,” when he continued.

“The cops, they didn’t think tent city was the right place for us to sleep. So they took their bowie knives, like the one I used in the army, and sliced up the tents. They said we needed to sleep inside at the shelter for our own health.”

I touched his hand, not knowing what to say.

“So, I’m at a shelter. But it ain’t home.”

I don’t remember what else we talked about that day. I wish I did because it was our last lunch.

 

Who we are comes from what we do in a crisis. Do we remain calm and collected, or do we panic and freak out? Or, shamefully, do we run away and hide? If this is true, I don’t like who I am. Or at least, I don’t like who I was then. The moment I should have stood strong, I backed down and ran the other way.

If this was a movie, some feel-good Lifetime movie of the week, I’d end this telling you about how Ralph grew to like the shelter, got sober, and went back to school. There, he’d have a Good Will Hunting worthy moment where untapped gifts were brought to light, and he’d go on to MIT or Harvard. But this is real life, where happy endings are not guaranteed.

Around the same time tent city was being sliced up, Taco Bell went through a management change. The old manager, who let Ralph sit outside, quit. The new manager, a younger, hipper guy who wanted the restaurant to draw more students, papered the entrance door with event fliers and signs, offered a student discount…and put up a “No Loitering” sign. I don’t think he was malicious; I’m sure he thought he was doing the right thing.

I don’t remember what else we talked about that day. I wish I did because it was our last lunch.

The week before Derby, I was walking across the street to meet Ralph. I only had a week left of classes before I transferred to a four-year university across the river in New Albany, and had a parting gift—a new jacket—in my bag for Ralph. The wind was warm, promising summer, and my feet skipped as I neared the Taco Bell. Just as I was about to wave hello, a cop car pulled in and rolled to a stop next to Ralph. Ralph looked up, expressionless, as two officers exited the cruiser. The younger put his hand on his gun when he realized how tall Ralph was, then pulled out his cuffs. “You have the right to remain silent…”

“What’d I do?” Ralph asked.

“Loitering. You can’t sit here. It ain’t safe.” In my memory, the officer sneered this, but I’m not certain if it’s my own rage darkening the exchange or if he was that callous.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said, hurrying over. “He wasn’t loitering. He was waiting for me.”

“For you?” He looked me up and down, taking in my skirt and sweater, probably wondering why a clean-cut, obviously nerdy college girl was hanging out with a homeless man who smelled of yesterday’s booze and the desperation of the shelter.

“Yes.” I tried to ignore the trembling in my voice. “We eat lunch together every week.”

“Well, the manager, he called, said he’s been out here every day for hours.”

“He sits here all the time.”

The second officer walked over. “Welp, not anymore. See that sign? It says ‘No Loitering,’ so I’m going to need you to step away and let us do our job.”

“I can’t read that, sir,” Ralph said.

“Why? You blind?”

Ralph shook his head, defeated.

“He can’t read. That isn’t a crime,” I said.

“Look,” the first officer said, “you can either walk away or be arrested, too.”

“For what?”

“For being an accessory to a crime.”

“An accessory to loitering?” I asked in disbelief.

I wish I could say I stood my ground, that I was cuffed and put in the back seat behind that metal grille with Ralph, that I’d been with him as he was taken downtown. I wish I’d raised a fuss, called the media. But I didn’t. Ralph shook his head at me and got in the car. I raised a hand in farewell, but I don’t know if he saw me. I hope he did. I wish I didn’t remember how defeated he looked, a big man reduced to a scared little boy.

 

I never saw Ralph again. A soldier haunted by brain damage and the ghosts of alcoholism and long-dead friends, a man who saved his change to buy me lunch for Christmas because he always wanted a little girl, was reduced to a number, another victim of a system that measures success in beds filled and ignores lives lost.

I used to ache every spring at the memory of my friend in the backseat of that cruiser, but I stopped letting myself remember. Now, though, it’s fall, and like every fall, the leaves crisp and change colors, and I remember Ralph. Not the goodbye, but the “hello,” the budding of a new friendship and all the missed chances and opportunities.

“Write a book,” he told me when I told him I wanted to be a writer. “And I’ll buy it, and have someone read it to me.”

It isn’t a book, my friend, but a memory. Wherever you are, I hope you know I remember.

Karyl Anne GearyKaryl Anne Geary is an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College and works on a children’s psychiatric unit. She is the founder of the Rojong Yoin Writing Community in Louisville and is working towards an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Spalding University. Her essays and poetry have been published in Lunch Ticket, Sweet, New Southerner, so to speak, Stonecoast Review, IUSoutheast Review, and Barbaric Yawp. She is currently working on a collection of essays about growing up in Kentucky, and a segmented memoir about healing from personal trauma while simultaneously working with child trauma victims, and blogs at karylannewrites.wordpress.com.

A Map of Jerusalem

For years my face and name were a message I didn’t know I was sending. In kindergarten, our teacher gave my classmate Daniel and me blue and white construction paper to make cards for our family when everyone else got red and green. I knew this was because we were both Jewish, but my mother had to explain that blue and white were the colors of Israel. Growing up in Virginia, Daniel and his family were the only other Jews I knew.

“You have the map of Jerusalem across your face,” my father told me once when I was in high school, which I thought was a nice way to say that I had a big nose, brown eyes, and curly hair. I smiled at his attempt to make me feel better about my awkward looks; after all, I looked just like him.

We were so secular that we had a Christmas tree every year until I turned 18. At the top of the tree was a sun instead of an angel because my father was an astronomer. My father was raised a Jew in Indianapolis. He went to temple, but it met on a Sunday, and he had no inclination to practice Judaism as an adult. My mother was also Jewish, but was raised as a Christian Scientist. If you asked her if she believed in God, she’d tell you she was a member of the Unitarian Church, where she played piano. Even as a kid I knew that wasn’t a real answer.

Like many young bookish Jews, I went through a World War II phase. I read The Diary of Anne Frank, The Summer of my German Soldier, The Upstairs Room, Journey to Topaz, which was about the Japanese internment camps in the United States, and Snow Treasure, where the kids used their sleds to smuggle Norwegian gold to a boat under the nose of the Nazis. These books taught me that I was part of a people who had been killed in Europe thirty-five years before I was born. I thought about whether I could bear being hidden in an attic with my family, or whether I was brave enough to join the resistance. But it was just an intellectual exercise. No one I was closely related to had been killed; my father’s family had been in the United States since the 1880s, and my mother’s family came over from Germany sometime around the Civil War.

At the end of my World War II phase, I discovered Roman Vishniac, who photographed children in the Eastern European shtetls just before the war. One photo captures two boys about my age on their way to yeshiva. Forbidden to cut the “corner of their beards,” their long earlocks curl in the rain the same way my hair does. It was the first time I had felt viscerally that I was a Jew.

*     *     *

In 1990, my parents and I watched the first Gulf War on TV mostly during dinner. I hated the idea of fighting, but I was also fascinated. A war! In my lifetime! The newscasters were excited too. They talked in detail about missiles and missile strikes. Reporters described the new “smart” bombs in breathless detail. My mother’s mouth tightened as the nightly news stopped covering domestic events, or anything but the shiny new war.

My mother said, “When I was a teenager, everyone knew someone, a friend or a brother or father, who had died in World War II.” She went to high school in the late forties. My father turned 18 in 1942 and knew he didn’t want to fight; so he signed up and joined the Signal Corps, where he was a radio repairman. He went back to school on the GI Bill and became an electrical engineer and eventually an astronomer. His stories about the war were mostly about his own ingenuity. He told me about repairing a juke box for officers in the Philippines, and being rewarded by one cold beer, or about sleeping on the floor of a Mitsubishi factory in Japan and rigging up a wire that electrocuted the rats that ran across their bags as they slept. When his ship arrived in San Francisco, he remembered seeing a sign visible only to incoming boats that said, “Welcome home, soldier. Job well done.”

But as he watched the news about the war in Iraq he said, “We had to go to war to stop Hitler, but this one….” He shook his head. “The Arabs and the Jews are brothers.” I gave him a hard time about not including sisters (inclusive language was a long-term recreational argument between my father and me), but his words were aphoristic and I remembered them.

*     *     *

At the end of my World War II phase, I discovered Roman Vishniac, who photographed children in the Eastern European shtetls just before the war. One photo captures two boys about my age on their way to yeshiva. Forbidden to cut the “corner of their beards,” their long earlocks curl in the rain the same way my hair does. It was the first time I had felt viscerally that I was a Jew.

Don’t talk to the Goldsteins about Israel. It was the Western Goldsteins we meant, my father’s brother and his family in California. My oldest cousin Lisa was in rabbinical school, and my aunt and uncle went to synagogue every week. We were the Eastern Goldsteins, living in Virginia. The first time I was ever in a synagogue, I was seventeen years old, and we joined the Western Goldsteins in New York City to see Lisa’s ordination. I watched my uncle and male cousins put on the black yarmulkes offered in baskets at the end of the pew, and I looked around, wondering what it would be like to have been raised in this familiar, foreign faith. My father did not take a yarmulke, and my mother looked politely bored. She had been a church pianist for years, and liked to say that she could give a Unitarian sermon in her sleep. Although she taught me how to recognize Jewish names, she called herself a self-loathing Jew.

“Why?” I finally asked her.

“I just don’t find any connection with other Jews. I wasn’t raised Jewish, I don’t know the same people they do, it just seems judgmental and narrow minded.” I knew she was referring indirectly to my aunt. My mother and aunt had never gotten along.

*     *     *

People often look at my Jewish looks and name, my lack of religious upbringing and assume that my mother wasn’t Jewish. But because my parents were born in the 1920s and 1930s anti-Semitism meant they were not likely to marry outside their religion. For someone my age, I am remarkably racially pure. It’s such a troubling phrase, once used to keep Jews from opportunities, but when someone questions whether I am a Jew, I can’t help but think it.

My parents told me instances of oblique anti-Semitism. My father, a professor at the University of Virginia, once remarked that he would not have been allowed to teach there a hundred years ago. My mother would tell me the story of her cousin Paul, who rushed a fraternity at the University of California. During the swearing in, the men stood in a circle.

“Step out of the circle if you’re Jewish,” they said as part of a list of “unacceptable” traits of future fraternity brothers. Paul, who was not religious, stepped out.

“We don’t mean you, Paul! Come back!” the other students shouted, but he was already putting on his coat to leave.

Both of my parents liked to talk about history. When I learned about Kennedy’s assassination in elementary school, my mother told me people didn’t want to elect Kennedy because he was Catholic.

“Why would they care?” I asked. There were not very many Catholics in my hometown either.

“They worried he’d be ruled by a religious authority outside the United States,” she explained. “They used to say the same thing about the Jews,” she added.

*     *     *

Just after college I went to visit Lisa, who became a Hillel rabbi. She led services on Friday night. We sat in a circle in a room off the student union and the prayers were sung. I was embarrassed to be the rabbi’s cousin, and not know anything about her world of Judaism. And so I relied on my years of playing in orchestra when the prayers started. I mumbled the words and followed along with the tune, sight-reading the prayers. After, Lisa turned to me in surprise and said, “Where did you learn those prayers?” She knew for a fact I didn’t learn them at home.

I became used to sight-reading Judaism, faking my way through the encounters. I understood the cultural cues of being Jewish, but I knew nothing about the religion.

*     *     *

My father and his brother were close, even though they lived on opposite sides of the country. My uncle flew east frequently when my father became sick with terminal brain cancer. My aunt and uncle came together sometime before Passover, and my aunt was not eating anything that the Israelites wouldn’t have had on the exodus out of Egypt.

“Isn’t it rude to have such strict diet requirements in a house where someone is dying?” I asked my mother over the phone. I was 24, and I watched some of my friends give up leavened bread around Passover, or candy for Lent, but this seemed extreme.

“I think so,” my mother said. “Your father and I laughed about it. It was one of the last things we laughed about.” Not long after the visit, my father slipped into a coma.

*     *     *

“Why do they have to argue all the time?” my colleague at the bookstore asked, gesturing to the two older Jewish men standing by the newspaper rack, arguing about Israel. I smiled and said nothing. After my father died, I went to grad school, and got a job at the Brookline Booksmith, in a very Jewish suburb of Boston. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by Jews and I was just beginning to pick out aspects of my family that seemed to me to be Jewish. And Goldsteins, East and West, sure loved to argue. My dad and I used to argue all the time. Usually they weren’t fights, just heated discussions about all sorts of things such as whether we’d go back to horses when we ran out of oil, or the ethics of the atomic bomb, or the best topping on a hot dog. I was outspoken in my family, especially with my father, but quieter in public. I hated to argue when I didn’t know the facts, and I couldn’t always articulate what I was trying to say. I lost some confidence without my father’s keen appreciative eye. My favorite opponent, gone.

*     *     *

My father’s cousin Dave sent me a chain email that talked about how the Jews had contributed incredible learning and culture to Spain, but were expelled in 1492. The email suggested that Muslims contributed poverty and violence to European culture and should be expelled. I was tempted not to answer. I didn’t talk to Dave often, and I wasn’t sure how to talk to a man sixty years older than me about how short-sighted and racist I found his email. Then I remembered my father’s words.

I wrote back that I was glad to hear from him. I told him that my father had always said that the Jews and Arabs were brothers. (I knew that statement had the purity of coming from a dead man everyone loved.) I asked him to stop forwarding me emails of this kind, but that I would love to get letters from him. I told him a few things about my job and that I was moving in with Mike, the man I would eventually marry. I never heard from Dave again.

Don’t talk to the Goldsteins about Israel. I now realize that does not mean, “don’t start an argument.” My family loved a good argument. Instead it meant, “Don’t nudge the sleeping dragon of racism.” We don’t want to know. Because if we knew we would have to act, or at least speak up. And then we would have to deal with what followed.

*     *     *

At a neighbor’s Hanukah party (my second Hanukah party ever at age 39), I sit next to a woman in her sixties. “I don’t have a mezuzah,” she said. “I don’t tell people I’m Jewish.” She lives in a smallish town in New Hampshire.

“Why?” I ask.

“I’m afraid of prejudice,” she said. Our conversation moved on to other things. Twenty minutes later, I heard her tell someone else, “I would never get on a plane with an Arab.” It was thirteen years after September 11.

“Oh, come on,” the other person said. “Not all Arabs are terrorists.”

“You never know,” she said. Her face hardened. “I wouldn’t feel safe with any of those people. Would you?”

I wasn’t silent out of respect. I was silent out of fear, not fear for my safety, but fear of what people would have thought of me. And even more so, I was afraid of being embarrassed, of being looked down on, of being wrong, of having my cover blown.

To my shame, I did not respond to my neighbor’s friend. I was angry, but did not engage. Instead Mike spoke up about the many Muslim students he had taught over the years, and others joined him in the conversation. I had gotten used to talking to my non-Jewish liberal friends about how I found Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians hypocritical to say the least. But when there were Jews around, I was silent around the subject. What could I tell her that would make her understand? I thought to myself. I can blame the fact that my parents taught me to be polite. I can blame that I was the youngest nonfamily guest and I didn’t want to offend the hosts. I can blame that on the old Eastern/Western Goldstein silence. But they’re just excuses.

I wasn’t silent out of respect. I was silent out of fear, not fear for my safety, but fear of what people would have thought of me. And even more so, I was afraid of being embarrassed, of being looked down on, of being wrong, of having my cover blown. Everyone would know I wasn’t a real Jew.

*     *     *

A month later terrorists blew up the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The prime minister of France lamented that this violence might cause Jews to flee France, and how that would be a loss to the Republic. He discounted far-right anti-Semitism of white supremacists, and instead talked about “this new anti-Semitism comes from the difficult neighborhoods, from immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who have turned anger about Gaza into something very dangerous. Israel and Palestine are just a pretext. There is something far more profound taking place now.”

In the early twentieth century, many Americans talked about the new, dangerous immigrants with close ties to foreign radicalism. A banker on the Board of Overseers at Harvard wrote to Harvard’s president, “there is acknowledgment of interests of political control beyond, and in the minds of these people, superior to the Government of this country—the Jew is always a Jew first and an American second…” During World War II, a Gallup poll revealed that Americans saw Jews as the group with the greatest menace to American security, over Germans and Japanese.

*     *     *

When I was a teenager, I made my own peace with Israel by vowing that I would never go there. I figured I didn’t really know enough to be able to engage either side, so I held myself above the whole situation. This was something I learned as an Eastern Goldstein. My mother protected herself by proclaiming to be a self-loathing Jew. My father offered platitudes. But platitudes sound different coming from a man who was in World War II.

My father and I are (were) profoundly naïve, ignoring a wide range of politics that we never really understood, to say that the Arabs and Jews are brothers (and sisters). And I have been silenced by politeness, by ignorance, by the desire to get along. But I am a writer, and my silence will certainly not protect me. My voice is not political except with my face and my name, and I have a new message I would like to figure out how to send.

 

In 1951, Hannah Arendt wrote that Jews were the canary in the coal mine for Europe. A rise in anti-Semitism indicated a rise in totalitarianism. The world has changed since 1951, and I think Islamophobia is a new indicator of the danger of far-right nationalism. Islamophobia is the new anti-Semitism. And it is an anti-Semitism that Jews perpetrate.

After the bombing of a Danish synagogue, a month after the Hebdo massacre, local Muslims gathered to form a human ring around a synagogue in Oslo. Jews should be forming rings around mosques and Islamic centers. To be a Jew should be to protect other people’s precariousness as well. For if not us, who?

Ellen Goldstein was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work has appeared in journals such Ellen Goldstein asPost Road, Solstice, The Common, Measure,andCarbon Culture Review; as well as in the anthologiesNot Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs, Letters to the World, Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry,andQueer South,which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. She lives in Eastern Massachusetts.

The Persistence of Wolves

I

Stillness in the mountains, in the way the mist clings, eternal, like suspended cobwebs on the prickly pine needles and limbs of green guavas, in the way the mountains curve like the rolling hips of the women hiking red dirt clearings far away. They’re balancing bread in baskets atop their tightly turbaned hair. Time, here, is crystallized against the mountains around my friends’ house. The stillness is abruptly broken, first by their adhan, a call and response weaving a song, their song a prayer, their prayer a call to persist, persistence to desire a right to live, to exist in the flesh among the fertile minarets of Haiti.

From the balcony, we watch this world stretch wide like a vintage post card of the days before we were broken by putsches and pillage, before we learned to turn our rage inward.

Stillness, first broken by song, now splinters like desiccated bamboo. The crack is irreversible. The clouds huddle overhead as frightened ewes in the approaching storm, but it does not rain. It’s just the sky bracing itself to cry over Port-au-Prince, as bullets crack the afternoon down its middle.

II

I hide behind the pillars of my father’s legs and plug my ears with my fingers. I’m thankful and aware, perhaps for the first time, for his height, finding reassurance in his stillness. He is unmoved and unimpressed. He is a mountain, too, arms folded on his chest. Next to him, his friend adjusts the butt of a rifle against his daughter’s shoulder and teaches her to aim, to seek out the peak of pines through the rear and front sights, to target the imaginary enemy who isn’t yet at their door. It’s only a matter of time, he says, showing her how to wrap that finger around the trigger, and pull.

“This is a necessity,” he says to my father. Foolish is the man who cannot provide safety for daughters and mothers in a country where men have morphed into wild dogs. They rape and hate and teach submissiveness, he says. They force the husband to watch as they take his wife, and force the father to rape his daughter and force the mother to watch, and the violence is now a flash flood rushing through our veins. Blood, blood in our eyes and blood in our mouths and blood on our hands, ready, aim, shoot, and try again.

The girl pulls the trigger. She is my age, and she wears a dress hemmed above the knee, and I can see her brown legs tensing with each blow of the gun, like chords on a violin before they snap. It’s only a matter of time before they come for you, or me, her father says. My father is still a mountain, unimpressed, deciphering for himself the silence of mountains around us.

I imagine what blood tastes like in the mouth when a bullet hits the flesh. I think it tastes like a shrapnel explosion would, like cold iron or peppered gunpowder. The clouds close in, thick layers of cotton dripping a milky, misty film over peaks, swallowing the songs of women.

III

He has four daughters in these mountains, and my father has just one in the plains.

We meet here on occasional Sundays to measure and compare the effectiveness of fathers.

Other families have both parents to shield them in the midnight hour when the werewolves come bursting through doors to feed. Violence now becomes a need, and we are teaching each other self-defense by arming babies.

It used to be that what we feared bumped in the shadows: hairy tarantulas, vicious centipedes, or the blind collision of bats in the night hunting for fruit, tossing almonds and custard apples against our windows. It used to be that we turned our clothes inside out or smoked our pipes upside down to ward off evil spirits, night walkers, zobop and chanpwèl and loup-garou roaming the dark, reaping innocent souls. We used to fear the unknown, the impenetrable mystery carried through the Middle Passage, woven in the cavernous hold of the Negrier ships, hauled through the oceans from coastal beaches of Benin, or the Congo.

Fear, for a while, was killing mothers by licking a table knife, or pointing to an owl at night, or letting a black butterfly flutter close. Fear was dying of a coup de poudre and living death to be zombified.

Haitians now fear two things in this world, they say: rain drops, and bullets. When they feel or hear both, they disperse and disappear, ducking for shelter.

Now, fear inhabits us during the day and at the onset of night. Now, each man, and woman, and child, learns to survive the edge of machetes and the fatal blow of machine guns, which seem to abound more than magic. Now, fear is sending a child to school with nothing for food but a rock of salt under the tongue for sustenance, or a glass of sugared water for breakfast. Fear is a rubber necklace that begins to melt into the skin when a tire holds a man’s arms in place and he is set on fire. Fear is the silence on the radio after the voice of the journalist has been silenced with bullets. Fear is the knocking on the metal gate. Fear is a man in uniform entering the house, asking to use the telephone. Fear is the men in khaki driving past homes, eyes hidden behind dark glasses.

I devise to hide under the bed, as if bullets cannot pierce my mattress. I devise to crawl inside the armoire, as if men with machetes cannot smash through mahogany and reap the limbs they came for. Violence is already in my house, in the way fear possesses my father at the thought of the task to raise children alone. There is no sleep tonight, or tomorrow, or any other night, for a long, long time, a never-ending time, for as long as those wolves persist in the dark.

IV

On the way home, driving from the mountains, my father clutches the wheel and veers left, then right, to avoid the ghosts roaming the road. They walk through dusk as zombies do, fighting the density of the city, blending in with the darkness, barely grazing each other, arms wrapped around buckets of glorious gladiolas and sunflowers, around strings of leather masks and clusters of feathered hens and cocks. They pack the remnants of their day as the clouds descend lower onto the needling domes of cathedrals and fences, their midst opening a wide mouth to swallow them whole.

Night falls on Port-au-Prince at its own pace, yielding them with time for the final offerings of oranges and avocados, the fear of the dark already twining in their eyes. We’re all afraid of the same monsters, I think. But I wonder if we—my father and I—aren’t more susceptible, behind our oak doors, beneath our blanketed beds, inside our acacia armoires, than they are within the four walls of their slum villages, and somehow I manage to resent the world for that cold critter crawling up my esophagus as we arrive home and lock our gates.

There will be no sleep tonight, nor tomorrow, nor any other night, as long as fathers teach daughters to shoot, as long as my father teaches me to feel safe and still as he, in the dark, unpacks his own secret weapons and slips a pistol under his pillow.

Fabienne Sylvia Josaphat is a native of Haiti living in Miami. She graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her work has been featured in Fourth Genre, Grist Journal, Damselfly, and Off the Coast Journal.

Dispatch from Liberty Ave.  

Pittsburgh, PA—

It’s another day: not a sale, not a bite, not a solid, single look-e-loo. So I stand alone at the window and watch the old men walk in a stiff and stony parade up and down the avenue past my post at the East End Book Exchange. I count the ways to be an old man: to rein trembling fingers in coat pockets, to search for solid ground with each forthcoming step, to let cigarettes hang from thin lips, to pretend to wait for buses, to steal the company of strangers, to zombie into traffic, to crink over and collect butts of cigarettes, and to scrounge enough grit to roll your own.

The sun descends behind the tenement brick across the street, obscuring its rays from our window plants. The languid philodendra, the once-proud succulents, lush months before, droop in the shadows, when, finally, a silhouette at the door appears. A wrinkled woman, at once elegant and gritty, snubs out a cigarette behind the doorframe and enters the store in a long fur coat.

“You seen an old man named Lee in here?” she asks. A second-hand tick echoes. “You know…Lee?…The old man who smokes cigarettes?”

I shrug.

She says, “You know—Lee? I think he comes by the bookstore.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “A lot of old men come by.”

She steps outside, lights a cigarette and begins to yell: “Lee!…Lee!…Lee!…Lee!…Lee!”

For five minutes she yells.

I step out and join her. Light a cigarette, too. She says the missing man is brother to her aunt who’s married to her mother’s brother—who are all dead. The whole family, she says, is just about dead. We both look up and eye the windows of the apartments above the bookstore. She says she hasn’t heard from Lee since the day he helped her haul garbage to the curb a fortnight ago.

“I’m breaking in,” she says, “Can’t wait.”

She ascends the stairs, lights another. In the bookstore, through the floorboards, I hear a tromping, a slamming, and more tromping before the woman reappears, an unlit cigarette gripped in her fingers.

“Lee is dead,” she says. She is stoic. Her eyes are stones. “Lee is dead,” she says again. She is solid, sturdy, immovable. She moves nearer to me. Her lower lip trembles ever so slight. A teeny, tiny dab of water wells in the corner of one eye. I light her up and we step outside. We stand. We smoke… We watch. For a long time we say nothing. Then she says, “Lee is dead. Lee is dead,” she says. “Lee is dead.” We watch a crooked old man on the other side of the street take one long, slow, eternal step forward.

Timothy MaddocksTimothy Maddocks lives in Pittsburgh and writes essays, stories, and reportage. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh, where this piece first took shape. He is currently at work on a book about kindnesses gone awry.

 

 

 

 

Classy

I’m particular about my gym wear. To illustrate, my socks must be white or a shade approximating my skin tone. I call the shade “nude.” Crayola misguidedly called it “flesh.”

After a torturous day’s work, I reached the Y desperately in need of a stress-defusing workout. Too bad I’d forgotten to bring allowably-colored socks. I hadn’t time to run home to fetch them. I also knew, if I showed up at home, I’d be held captive there. I checked the car trunk and backseat. No socks. I contemplated dumpster-diving into the pool deck’s lost and found bin, teeming with abandoned bathing suits, towels, plastic dinosaurs, socks from one-footed people, and what have you. Faced with the prospect of diving into that gloppy, ammonia-stinking, intertwisted morass, I decided I’d sooner stand in rush-hour traffic in an ice storm holding a sign like the homeless people carry, but mine would say, “Need socks.” I bit the bullet and wore the only socks I had: dark blue.

The locker room deposited me into a room crammed with seasoned weight machines decorated by red pleather upholstery. I hoped nobody would observe my sock irregularity. Before I started working out, a 17-year-old girl engaged in reverse lumbar curls made it patently obvious she was looking over her left shoulder at my dark blue socks. She seemed to laugh and then flashed a smile. I figured she laughed because I looked like a nerd.  Wearing dark blue socks to the Y is as nerdy as slipping those old plastic ink stain protectors on a shirt pocket. It didn’t matter she was only 17. That’s plenty old enough to make me feel mortified.

I exited the weight room and walked fast to the far end of the Y. I didn’t talk with or even look at anyone to avoid attracting undue attention. I finally reached safety. On the balcony overlooking the indoor pool, I’d be alone in the embrace of hothouse humidity punctuated by muffled, indecipherable pool yells. In peace, I could ride a recumbent bike there, eyes shut, with nobody to observe my dark blue socks.

A few shameless minutes into my bike ride, the same 17-year-old showed up, prostrated herself on the mat in front of my bike, and began a stretching routine: hamstrings, calves, quads, hip flexors. It looked like she was planning to stretch everything. I wasn’t staring. She’d planted herself directly in my line of sight. It was only then I noticed she was wearing dark blue socks just like mine.

“I thought you were laughing at my blue socks, but you’re wearing them too!” I said.

Mid hurdler’s stretch, she looked up, opened her brown eyes wide, smiled knowingly, and confidently pronounced, “They’re classy.”

She resumed stretching. When done, with legs crossed, she took a few slow, deep, yogic breaths. She then stood, gave me the familiar smile of an old friend, and opened the balcony’s exit door.

I kept on riding in my classy dark blue socks.

James RossA newly-retired health researcher, Jim Ross has published poems, photos and stories recently in Lunch Ticket, Friends JournalPif Magazine, and many other journals. Forthcoming includes Apeiron Review, Cactus Heart, and two photo essays. He and his wife split time between MD and WV and look forward to becoming grandparents of twins this summer.