On this page you will find the Artful Tangents, prose poems and flash fictions composed by our past and present student editors. The students are free to write about whatever intrigues them as long as they use the words ‘artful’ or ‘dodge’, even fleetingly.
We hope you enjoy their works.
Ian Schoultz ’13
Little Boy Kicks Mime in Shin
The mime sits at a table in the park. With the invisible spoon gripped between his thumb and index finger, he stirs the air in his tea cup, clockwise first, then counterclockwise. The crowd of onlookers talk amongst themselves. They agree that this is his best performance. But despite his artful poses, they move on.
The mime stays still for the next ten minutes and a new crowd shows up. More and more children gather at the mime’s feet. They reach out to touch his white robe. One boy, the smallest of the group, stands transfixed by the alabaster face. He squints and tilts his head. Suddenly, he rears back and releases a mighty boot to the mime’s shin.
The boy dodges behind a row of rose bushes. A few claps break the silence, but they soon die away.
Kelsey Hardin ’13
The Red Table
Several months into kindergarten, when my new best friend Elaina (whom I’d bonded with on the first day of school over our shared appreciation for the color red) asked me which boy in our class I liked, the first face that came to mind was Dalton’s. He had a 101 Dalmatians lunchbox, and I liked that. He sat at “the red table” with Elaina and I, choosing it over the other color-coded tables in Ms. Brooks’ classroom. I’d watched him copy the alphabet letters printed on our worksheets, sloppy yet artful. The squiggly lines of his S’s threatened to run together with each new line he started on the page. When I told him that they looked like spaghetti noodles and that I’d eaten spaghetti the night before, he looked up from his work. He brushed his black hair away from his eyes and smiled. One of his front teeth was missing.
From that day on, whenever Dalton would join the boys in their never-ending boys versus girls chase, Elaina would shoot me meaningful looks as we giggled and weaved through the jungle gyms, slides and monkey bars with the other girls, determined to escape from their pursuit.
One day, the girls all walked over to the basketball court to ask the boys to play again, skipping excitedly and already planning our strategy to elude them as we went. Reaching the edge of the court, I’d barely stopped and turned my head to shout for the boys’ attention when I felt the full force of a stray basketball crash right into my face.
I froze, stunned. For a few seconds, I only saw black, and immediately after, my cheeks and nose went numb. The ball bounced back to the asphalt, and then rolled into the lawn. Dalton swam into view. He stood still at the edge of the court. His face was stony. Both of my nostrils were pouring scarlet, and when I touched my face as I looked back at him, it smeared on my hands. As I sniffled, I felt an urgent tug on my arm. Beside me, Elaina whispered that she’d walk me to the school nurse. Tears formed in my eyes and I turned. Blood was running down my chin and staining my shirtfront in wobbly, red streams. Just before we rounded the corner toward the main school building, Dalton called out to my retreating back, voice accusatory and stiff.
“Why didn’t you dodge it, Kelsey?”
Shaina Switzer ’13
A Crack at Love
He reached into his chest and cut the wires. Dabbing with a cloth, he set clamps to stop the oil dripping down his stomach. The Axiom Heart™ he let thunk onto his workshop table was blackened and shriveled. He sighed. He scratched at the skintech above the opening and reached for his phone to call his supplier for a replacement. The fat balding human with grubby fingers was always dodging his calls. Rob kept up with his payment plan, so why couldn’t the only heart supplier in town be as amiable as he, instead of such a monopolizing frustration?
When he was first switched on, Rob had been handed a manual on how to maintain his casing, how to plug in at night to recharge, how to keep his innards dust free with small gusts of compressed air. But who ever really reads the manual?
The only thing that stuck in his circuits was the imperative that being “unplugged was only advisable for sixteen hours.” Any longer and his power source, his heart, could overload, leaving him sluggish and prone to snapping at others. Some of his brethren had let themselves get wound down for so long, they weren’t quite the same after getting a recharge and a complimentary sample of casing wax.
Before he could put his call through the phone rang. Rob recognized the number and scowled. That heartless bitch was the reason his own was in such a state. He had courted her, bought her a dress, danced with her, amid a whirlwind of compliments and overtures. A full day of lavish praise and anything he could do to prove he was capable of love. And all she had given him was a papery peck on the cheek, her retreating lips parted, a perfect “o” that had taunted him for most of their time together.
So now, here he sat, his blackened heart spent in one hand, his other clicking, almost itching, to grab the phone and have it out with her. His chest was still open, wires spilling out like crackling snakes into the cool night air.
Joe Jensen ’11
There was a dirge humming in Frederick’s ears as he assembled the wooden ship through the hole in the bottle. He was sure that the whole thing was on the verge of collapsing as he maneuvered his tweezers artfully around the fore- and main-masts setting the mizzen in its resting place. Loretta came into the room.
“I’m sorry, you know.”
“I know,” he said.
“It’s the medication,” she said.
“I know,” he said.
He began attaching the sail to the final mast, its cloth standing taut and erect as if a breeze had caught it on course for the Indies. This was the final step, he kept telling himself. Gently now. Don’t lose your temper.
“You know, I won’t see him again. I know I’ve said that before, but I swear I mean it.”
“I know,” he said.”
“Please say something else,” she said, her fingers rubbing the corner of her eye.
“There’s nothing else to say.”
“I wish you wouldn’t build one of these fucking ships every time this happened. They just sit there on the mantle. And I have to stare at them. Every day. Little fucking reminders right towards my forehead.”
He tied the sail down with the gentlest touch. He admired his work. It was a beautiful clipper. He put it on the mantle with the rest. Pretty soon he’d have an armada.
Emily Davis ’11
For as long as she could remember, the girl had had the uncanny ability to attract and repel people from her. It wasn’t a physical thing, like a magnet against metal. Instead, her power was rooted in her mind. She could steal any boy she wanted just by thinking about him; make him long for her so much he would curl up on the floor, nearly paralyzed from heartache. She could conjure loyal friends from strangers and even enemies, and if she felt so inclined, she could make her professors trip over themselves in their rush to ask for her opinion during class, ignoring the other students. However, it was not in her nature to be the center of attention, and if there was one thing she was good at, it was hiding — or, rather, making everyone around her think she was hidden. She reveled in her solitude, keeping only her family and very small group of friends aware of her at all times (because, she figured, it would be cruel to them not to, even though she herself would be fine without them), while drawing others to her only when she absolutely needed them. Sometimes, she would go to the mall or the main street of town, or she’d go to the quad at her college as classes changed, and she would stand perfectly still, content, watching strangers dodge her without even knowing what they were dodging.
And then one day, while working on a paper in the library, she willed a classmate over to her table so she could ask him for help — he was the only person in her comparative anthropology class she’d ever seen actually paying attention (not to mention the most annoyingly vocal; he seemed to think every question the professor asked was for him alone). If there was anyone who would have a good grasp of the paper’s topic of the effects of the Code of Hammurabi on Judeo-Christian culture, it would be him. When he was halfway to her table, though, the spell broke and the boy disappeared into the reference section without another glance her way. No one else would come to the girl, either, even when she tried moving her hands and fingers in artful gestures like the witches and wizards she’d read about in her favorite books.
The girl sat, stared at her computer screen, and shivered. An eye for an eye, she thought. Then, before she realized what she was doing, she was walking away from her table, obsessed with finding the boy. She saw him sitting at a table with maps of Mesopotamia and dark blue encyclopedias laid out before him, and before she knew what was happening, she had walked up to the table and asked the boy for help.
He kept reading, though, and did not look up once, even when she screamed her question, even when she shook the boy’s shoulder, even when she slammed his anthropology textbook down on the table. It was a wonder the entire library didn’t come running, but no one even batted an eye.
Grace Hansen ’10
Every move we make is artful, perfectly thought out and yet instinctive. This is after all High Tea, and each motion must be just so, the sandwiches arranged in half-circles on plates that are themselves set up in gently curving rows. Since moving in we’ve done this every day at four, the cups set out at a low table, the matching teapot waiting for the water and the leaves. At exactly half past three, when we get home, Emma puts the water on to boil, and at quarter to she puts it in the pot to steep, the smell calling me from where I mutter over essays and Sarah from our room upstairs, and Kat from out of nowhere. And once we’re seated everything is ceremony, from the way the tea is poured and by whom, to exactly where we sit and how, each of us on a cushion on the floor, backs ramrod-straight, and the conversation is always led by Emma, and the subject always as light and floral as the tea we drink. We are all less than twenty and yet we talk with the dignity that comes with age, with the slightest of snobby accents, setting aside the things that college students are so prone to, the dodgy things we do the other three-and-twenty hours of the day, in favor of the language of the English, and of tea.
Gillian Daniels ’10
The Dodger’s Slant
It is with the greatest unfairness that the world treats him, at least if one considers the world as he does. His world begins and ends with the waistcoats of respectable, fat gentlemen and the respectable, fat purses of respectable, fat gentlewomen, all that is eye level in the thick of the crowded streets. Pushed back and forth between them, he is not tall enough to break through, not by half, but he can dodge, and slip away like air.
No one has ever asked the Dodger what his real name is, not the old man and certainly not the little boy. The boy is not half so wise and clever, and hails from a little country workhouse though he speaks Queen’s English as perfectly as a prince.
The Dodger is careful, the Dodger is artful, and sometimes he wants to take the boy aside and tell him his parents are just as dead, if not more so. The Dodger never does this, not in any of the hundreds and hundreds of worlds into which he has been staged, filmed, or written. He is the Dodger, the shell of a boy who is not tall enough. When his part is done, with no home to go home to, he slips back into the thick of the crowd, eye level with the waistcoats and the purses as he wears his coat and hat, each two sizes too large.
He plucks purses as he goes along and tucks handkerchiefs into his pockets.
Chalkey Horenstein ’10
Two months after the breakup, his face on a photo in the floor of her room still infuriated Wendy. She tore it to pieces, wishing it were simply that easy to forget the man ever existed.
Still, spring was in the air, and that meant one thing: spring cleaning. Determined to move forward, she spent that morning filling a small waste basket by her desk with everything that reminded her of that boy.
Mock trial ribbons. Before the jerk had shown his true ways (or perhaps before he turned into the very thing she hated), he had always encouraged Wendy to pursue this as a hobby; she loved the attention, and she loved the ability to work with words. Knowing just how to interpret someone’s argument, knowing all the right questions to ask and the answers that inherently follow — those were all the artful little tricks that he taught her. Next to the stack of ribbons lay a few that she had earned after their separation.
A copy of Barking at Prozac, the one that he gave her. About a week ago, she heard that she won a writing contest that took place in January, with a story she wrote personifying dogs. She still remembered all of the times she dodged responding to comments like “Where ever did you come up with the idea to give dogs such human characteristics? Politics, haikus, a sense of ‘breedism,’ this is all marvelous! Excellent work!” Nobody else knew about the book; before now, she assumed such a thing was only funny to the two of them.
Suddenly, it became an uphill battle to try and forget three and a half years.
Wendy let out a sigh. At this point, it may be too late to forget this guy ever existed; regardless of how she wanted to see it, her history and development had forever been stamped with his existence. With time, she knew she could eliminate his face from memory, but his silhouette would never go away. As she emptied the trash bin back onto the floor and put everything back, she couldn’t tell whether she loved or hated this guy more than ever. But it was definitely one of the two.
Missie Bender ’09
One by one I sit and spin the big black cage of color. I have no problem touching dirty bingo balls. I am the only one who has called bingo numbers at this nursing home for as long as I can remember, so if they’re dirty, at least I know the dirt came from me.
I have always loved New Year’s Eve. Last year we had a midnight bingo tournament, but not this year. This year I’ll probably go to bed early along with the rest of the people in the nursing home. I won’t get to watch the refulgent ball dazzle down from the sky in New York’s most popular theme park, Times Square.
I wish I could trade balls with those people. Let me watch everyone in front of me swoon as I pull out this giant sparkling sphere. And what would happen in Manhattan if they used bingo balls? The countdown to midnight would begin and after the crowd chanted “one,” then the sky would erupt with color. People would move like Tetris pieces, dodging the blizzard of red and blue and yellow — all the collisions and concussions these balls could cause. It would look like a giant game of bingo and all of Times Square would be inside the cage, trapped with no way to get out unless they are chosen at random.
Jackie Hunter ’08
Don’t Ride the Clutch
Learning to drive a stick is not as easy as it looks. The first time I climbed into the cab of our 1992 Dodge Dakota I figured it was mostly about pushing the gearshift around when things started to rumble. I grew slightly unnerved when I rattled the key in the ignition and the rusty old truck didn’t even make a sound. My father looked at me and waited, and then finally told me to put one foot on the brake and one foot on the clutch and I thought, wow, I wish I knew what a clutch was. But I knew the difference between the brake and the gas, so I figured that third pedal down there was the one I wanted. Before he could tell I didn’t feel like bothering with this shit, I put my right foot on the brake and my left on pedal number three. A twist of the key and a low growl confirmed my suspicions about the location of the fabled clutch.
With the motor idling my father told me to go slowly to the end of the driveway and it was at this point that I realized he must have been delusional about my ability to operate this truck. I pressed my foot on the gas and revved the engine so hard I was sure I would be drag racing down the driveway before I could do a thing about it, but the car didn’t budge. I smiled at him, and he told me to stop messing around and get my foot off the damn clutch if I felt like going anywhere but back inside.
Great. Experience with my perfect older brother had taught my father that most knowledge about the real world was innate in his children. Before he could catch on to my stupidity I removed my foot from the clutch, slammed on the gas pedal again, and sent the truck bucking back and forth and sputtering before hissing into silence.
My father took one look at me and got out of the car, walking to our front door without looking back, and I was strongly reminded of the first time he tried to teach me to play baseball after my brother died. I’d stepped out of the way of his slow pitch before dropping my bat and informing him that none of the other girls on the block had to play sports and I’d rather join them in the ranks of tutus and ballet slippers at Miss Antonia’s than have to run from another stupid baseball. Before then, I’d never known the back of a head could look so disappointed.
DJ Francis ’08
The First Time Billy Killed Himself
He fell out of the apartment today onto the street and paused to look around and get his bearings. It was just a trial run — practice makes perfect. He bought a paper and flung it open, shuffled a cigarette out of the pack and into his mouth, sidling past the crowd the way he had dodged her, castling to save the king, rook be damned. At the greasy spoon he ordered the regular. Before the meal arrived, he recalled a dream in which he had pushed away his wife (he’d never been married) and found she had unknowingly packed his greatest aspect, his beautiful muse, and his intolerable weakness, all gone in a midnight’s rush. His “wife” would not be skinned; he had to hold her, peel her, pluck her until he saw the underside and realized he didn’t know what he wanted. He grew weaker and weaker and just when he had looked everywhere, he found her.
She had always been an artful patron of failure. She stood at the edge of a cliff at the end of the world with his cherry pit held lightly between thumb and forefinger. “It’s your decision,” she replied and then he did what he had to do, the only thing he knew how. He ate his omelet, returned to the apartment, and phoned his mother to ask if he could come to dinner. She asked how he would get there. “The bus,” he said.
Melissa Myers ’02
I was the sandy-haired boy with the homemade overalls. I never wore shoes except when I went on my morning excursions with my mother through the paths that wound through our back yard. Back yard: the open fields of waving grasses and chickens. I grew up on a commune in Nebraska. My parents were dodgers of the system. They planted their own vegetables, taught me and my five brothers how to meditate, how to harvest our own plot of bottomland homegrown (my father had a thing about having your own share of ganga. Who wants to be a mooch?), and most importantly, how to steal. But, it was not “stealing” in the average sense — it was bucking the system. It was okay to “borrow” items such as food, clothing, and shelter from the government, but it was not okay to “borrow” anything from anyone inside the commune. Times were different then. Abbie Hoffman was a prophet, Jethro Tull our choir of angels; Nature the curvaceous, bra-burning, hairy arm-pitted mother of all. We stole that book, knew exactly how Cross Eyed Mary felt, and taught every inch of our land how to flourish and feed us through almost fifteen years. But, by the time I was sixteen everyone with the exception of my younger brother Skye, and my parents, and I had deserted the commune. We moved out of our beautiful hand-built house and into an apartment in Omaha. My father worked at a carbide dye factory and bought a Dodge Aries, my mother sewed for the few people who still relied on seamstresses. She went to the Krogers armed with double coupons and hunting for bargains ever Saturday afternoon. I went to a real high school, cut my hair, made the grade, went on to college. I took my girlfriend to movies, drank beer on the weekends with my fraternity brothers, and scoffed at the neohippies who sat around in the park smoking grass and singing Mississippi Uptown Toodaloo. Been there, done that. I was just five years old when my father rolled me my first joint. But by the time I became “straight edge” my folks were burnt out in every sense of the word, so bad that I was ready to be strapped in my three piece suit. People didn’t remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, there were more riots and gatherings outside of Star Wars ticket offices than in Berkley. With nothing left to fight for, no soldiers to spit on, no singers to follow (because Madonna was a Material Girl and Michael Jackson too Super Bowl) my parents were lost without a cause. They were exhausted from fighting the current of Progress. They dropped out again, went back to Nebraska, and bought a small farm. My father grew some vegetables in his garden and left his Dodge in the front yard to be embraced by the weeds and flowers. But things were not like they used to be. Someone bought my mom a television for her seventieth birthday and suddenly they were both transfixed by the strange worlds they had never known. Their days and nights revolved around American Bandstand, Diff’rent Strokes, and Hee-Haw. The garden shriveled, the house creaked and cracked, my parents became non-psychedelic mushrooms growing from the armchairs they inhabited. They died a week apart, both sprawled slack-jawed in front of the magic snow between the time when the station went of the air and The Star Spangled Banner played.
Katie Rybak ’01
When I was little, I loved the water and when Mama would take us to the beach I would splash right in, planting my butt in the shallows, sifting wet liquid sand through my fingers and tracing underwater ripples with my toes. The minnows would travel in tiny schools around me, though evident only from their flickering shadows, changing direction in unison while I would stalk them, or rather their traces, the cold waters of Lake Michigan trailing down my pudgy legs, taking one step after another like a thoughtful heron. Then, in a flurry of motion, I would run, splashing, dodging right and left, trying to change direction with the little silver streaks and finally jumping, hoping to land on a fish or two. Around my feet the disturbed underwater sand would finally settle and come to rest, a tiny cloud of drifting particles sliding into the crevices of my toes and burying them. The minnows would swim away. I was the giant, they were merely thin silver ribbons streaming through the afternoon light — away from me, always away.
Holly Kyle ’98
Some girls think it’s cool to say they always played with boys when they were little, that somehow stories of how they defected from tea parties and My Little Pony and instead played CHiPs Patrol with the neighbor cul-de-sac boys would dilute the fact they now always think about dieting and the GAP and feel that their hair has to be down and so soft around their shoulders. Those hot, stuffy days meant combat drills and ultimate mountain biking and arguing until the spit came out whether Hulk Hogan could be taken down with a swift kick in the crotch. I knew he couldn’t, but when I said so, Marty just kicked the dodgeball so hard toward my own crotch that it nailed me. At times like this — regardless of gender — you just fall to the asphalt and start to scream.