The Broken Spoke

Dead of Winter ~ Third Place
Lindsay Vaughan


Winter in Dublin is a grim affair. Not since my childhood have snowflakes fallen so sticky and voluminous as to spread a great white blanket across the ground, birthing snowfamilies and forts overnight. Instead we are treated to months of rain and cold wind, but if I glance out the window at the Dublin Mountains nearby, I can sometimes see fogwrapped white peaks, and the urge to become a mountainman swells within my chest.

At the end of my road is a condemned house, previously converted into the neighbourhood pub and before that nobody knows anymore. Well, nobody except me, but I’m not sure if the stories are true. There were rumors akin to Boo Radley, that a ghostly figure roamed the halls at night and wakened the inhabitants from terrible dreams. This was why it was sold to Mr Kennedy at such a bargain price; apparently the family who lived there were so eager to leave that they practically gave it away.

*

I never knew why the pub was given its name. The Broken Spoke sounded more like a bicycle repair shop than a place for middle-aged men to gather round and hurl abuse at each other over pints of Guinness. My father had been going there every night for ten years before I joined him; I was eighteen and had only a few friends, whose parents disapproved of my company. This puzzled me at first because I was never one to get into much trouble, but I was a quiet kid and folks always seem to be suspicious of the quiet ones.

The Chinese girl arrived on my seventh night. She sat in a dark corner sipping pint after pint, none of which seemed to have any effect on her at all, and glanced at me curiously. Finally she rose and approached my stool; when she was standing at my side, she leant towards my face and stared directly into my eyes. “There’s a tree out back.”

“The old oak?”

“Yes.”

“What about it?”

“It whispers sometimes…”

“It’s a tree.”

“Come and I’ll show you.”

As she took my right hand I relieved my left of its pint, and followed her through various corridors to the back garden. It was small and overgrown; in all the pub’s years of operation a gardener had never been hired, and an ominous oak took up almost the entire space. Its old cracked roots were only partly submerged in earth, so it was a precarious activity to walk anywhere other than the patio nearest the door. Nevertheless, she pulled me along those roots until we were standing at the base of the trunk, beneath a thick canopy of swaying leaves and branches.

“If you wait patiently, eventually you will hear it.” She closed her eyes, pivoting slightly as if she were an antenna trying to tune into the correct station.

Turning my gaze away from her for a moment, I glanced back towards the pub and noticed two men in black suits seated on the patio, watching us attentively. It struck me then that she might be in cahoots with them, hired as a lovely siren to lure young boys into seclusion for the purpose of abduction. Just as I was about to apologize, make up some excuse about work that needed doing, and do a runner back to the Spoke, I heard something that clenched my guts so tightly with nerves that I was unable to move from my spot.

“Do you hear that?” Her eyes were open now, searching mine for validation.

“Yes.”

Relief washed over her face. “Nobody believes me. Listen.”

As ridiculous as it undoubtedly sounds, the noise seemed to be emanating from within the trunk of the tree. I considered the possibility that the tree was hollow and that this was another aspect of some trick she was playing on me, but the voice I was hearing sounded too sincerely desperate to be contrived, although I was unable to understand a word.

“It’s Mandarin,” she said, as if reading my mind. “I showed some other people, but they thought I was doing it, that I have some sort of strange ventriloquist skill.”

“What is the voice saying?”

“It’s a boy. He’s saying ‘They broke my legs; they broke my arms; they broke my neck; they broke me all over.'”

“Oh my God,” was all I could muster to mutter; I felt as though my insides were sliding out of my body, and I wanted to be home, asleep in my bed, away from this girl. I no longer cared whether she was trying to trick me or not.

Suddenly I heard the unmistakeable sound of heavy boots plodding towards me, snapping twigs and stumbling over roots along the way. The two men were approaching, and one glance at the girl’s face told me she was just as surprised as I was. I grabbed her arm and skirted around them towards the back entrance of the pub, but the corridor within was crowded and the more I pushed against the door the more the drunken men inside seemed to push back. There was only one other way out of the garden, and that was over the hedges at the side of the patio. There was a hole at the bottom of a bush just big enough for her to crawl through, but I had to scramble over the top of it like some escaped prisoner. I almost landed on her but she sprinted around the side of the building and I followed, not stopping to glance behind me. When I’d made it safely inside the Broken Spoke again, she was nowhere to be found, and a quick glance out the window showed the two men walking slowly and quietly away down the path. Just before disappearing around the corner one of them turned and made eye contact with me through the glass, with an expression devoid of life or interest.

*

At my present age, and with all of my history spread out before the neighbourhood like so much freshly-washed linen for airing, and with the fate of the Broken Spoke being what it was, my stories are not welcome in the realms of sanity and non-fiction. It is long past the time when vague interest was expressed; when I received a sympathetic smile or nod of the head; when I was actively searching for an answer to this riddle. Nobody but I saw the girl or the black suits that night, and the madness that eventually drove Mr Kennedy to cut down the giant oak and split for the west was in no way related to my own experience. At least, that is what they told me.
pencil

E-mail: lindsaymv[at]gmail.com.

Three Poems

Poetry
Lindsay Vaughan


Trilobyte

Bare blue luminescence in the mornings,
a yellow room with yellow curtains
and no pictures on the walls.
She stands before the mirror

and
unpeels

the husk of twilight, the sticky residue
of dreamstuff—she retains
imprints overnight, becomes the fossil
of the girl she used to be.

Volem tebe, volem tebe,
ti si drvo pod kojim ležim
ti si nebo iznad mene
ti si mesec i zvezde
ti si moje sve

She was a fleshy radiator,
a steam generator—gliding
through the halls like
an unseen ghost,

she
unpeeled

the husk of morning, stayed awake
all night, the rain pounding the
pavement, her feet growing wings
in a wet tennis court.

volem tebe, volem tebe,
ti si drvo pod kojim ležim
ti si nebo iznad mene
ti si mesec i zvezde
ti si moje sve

When did we become
autumn leaves, brown and shriveled,
crunchy underfoot,
sadly nihilistic,

desirous of nothing?

 

Ephemeritis

Alan tells me I’m like an artist
forever on the brink of suicide
and I know he’s right, as I sit here
surrounded by plates and mugs,
grapes still on the vine, an empty
plastic cup and an accidental
cutlery statue.

There is a box of typewriter ribbons to my left,
a copy of Women by Bukowski,
a small bag of beads
and a letter from a friend,
written on neon pink paper—
“I was raped at the age of six.”

The bookshelf is heaving, and so am I;
all this debris of modern life
is drowning me in my own bedroom.
The phone rings and it’s an old woman
speaking Pig Latin; I ignore the doorbell
and the postman shoves a note through
the letterbox— “I left your parcel
in the trashcan”.

I haven’t spoken to my father in two years,
and my mother has been ignoring me
since Christmas.
A three-headed frog was on the news
the other day, and a little girl
stared blankly into the camera—
“We thought it was cool.”

The world turns so very slowly
and here I sit,
like the wick without the wax,
burning for the sake of being burnt.

 

Life With Narcissus

You gave:

a book. a doll. a box full of string
for making jewelry.
I searched behind the pillows.
the curtains. beneath cushions and chairs
until I found them.

You said:

“I know what you’re looking at.”

We gave:

angel food cake. wine.
peanut butter cookies with too much salt.
we threw handfuls of confetti
that landed in your hair and on the doorstep.

We said:

“I’m sorry.”

She gave:

small toys, lined up on the piano
as I played. a flower. a thimble. a green
plastic dinosaur. pictures of places
I’d always wanted to visit.

She said:

“I don’t know where to go anymore.”

We asked for:

a smile. a tear. an evening spent
listening to old music. a moment of
stunning realism during
a conversation at the dinner table.

You gave:

silence. a stoic expression.
tabletops covered in origami cranes.
A mouthful of teeth for gnashing;
images of God from a distance.

 

pencil

Lindsay Vaughan is a 21-year-old Sociology major in Leeds, England. In her spare time she takes care of her cat and two bunnies, procrastinates in her coursework, and writes a paltry amount of poems every year. E-mail: lindsay[at]dreamvirus.com.

Kali Lily

Poetry
Lindsay Vaughan


I dreamt of standing in the centre of a room,
howling women whirling around and through me,
with fourth-dimensional bodies and smiles
that didn’t mean anything.
She pointed to the mirror at the far end of the room—
“They are becoming loud. Something is happening,”
and soon I was dead, and she was nervous,
and you left me there in fear and anger.

People don’t make any sense—we are elusive,
unkind/invisible/deceptive/illusory—
women hide each other in cupboards with knives,
while men wean children on bottles of glue.

We met at the top of the stairs, and walked together
to the ninth floor, where He had us draw pictures
of our fates—and you were in denial,
and we realised the transient nature of everything.

In drunken mania, we danced to raging techno music,
and this nonsensical thought entered my mind:
You are the ninth petal, of the ninth flower
I have plucked.

pencil

“I am a twenty year old American girl, currently living in Leeds, England. I work in a pokey little book store in the city centre, and spend most of my spare time reading, writing and meditating. My husband and I run an online literary publication, called dreamvirus magazine, and my personal website, Dharma Girl, is located here. I can be reached at lindsay[at]dharmagirl.com.”

Eleanor

Poetry
Lindsay Vaughan


Mother and father
joined by the hands of Eleanor—
she buys the diapers
and the car
and the house.
She writes a check for everything.

She keeps stale potato chips
in a glass jar on the kitchen table.
And though she loved us all,
she invented her own truths:

Jennifer is not a lesbian;
Susan is not crazy;
David really loves me;
apologies are not needed.

I had a sister once,
but she was taken away
because the excitement of Eleanor
caused her to vomit all over the front steps.
Her picture was kept in a drawer in the living room—
“She might be in Ohio… or maybe New York.”

They’re both locked in my memories,
of third and fourth and fifth birthday parties,
of candy bracelets and grandpa’s stories,
and shoving my face into a chocolate cake.

Maybe I could have stopped her from falling,
but now I keep her face inside a gold pocket—
a reminder of the many times she nursed me back to health—
a little girl lying in Nana’s sheets,
called to arms soft and translucent.

pencil

“I am a nineteen year old American girl, currently living in Leeds, England. I work in a pokey little book store in the city centre, and spend most of my spare time reading, writing and meditating. My husband and I run an online literary publication, called dreamvirus magazine.” E-mail: lindsay[at]dreamvirus.com.

The Prettier Sister

Poetry
Lindsay Vaughan


I used to enjoy snooping through my mother’s things.
I found a stash of condoms once–
raspberry, vanilla, chocolate flavored,
jumbo-sized and edible.
Another time, notes written to a bartender
on the backs of cardboard coasters
when she and her sister were still friends:
“You know you love me the most”,
“Meet me out back later. –the prettier sister.”
At age fourteen I found a ten-year-old letter from my father:
“I’m sorry about the drinking…
she was just a ploy to make you jealous.”
A skeleton key, a beat up address book,
the only photograph of my grandfather I’ve ever seen–
he looked like Cosmo Kramer.
All the teeth I’d ever lost,
shoved into a brown box
beneath an old pack of playing cards.
My mother never kept a diary,
or else I would have read it
and marvelled at her secrets.
The only things she never told anyone
were the only things that would prove
she loved somebody.

pencil

Lindsay Vaughan was born in Chicago in 1983 and is currently living in Dublin, Ireland. She’ll be returning to Chicago in October of 2002 to attend the College of Dupage, where she is an English major. She and her fiancé are working on bringing out their own e-zine, dreamvirus, by late August. Lindsay is obsessed with mashed potatoes and Charles Bukowski, and may be reached at lindsay[at]dreamvirus.com.