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Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz

Act One — Scene 1

(The Present. Allendale, Michigan. GVSU campus. Evening. The sounds of crickets and intermittent, raucous voices are heard over the house speakers through an open window upstage. Lights up on BRENT, a bearded grad student in his mid-twenties with sleepy eyes, considered by his friends “a man of few words,” and TORI, an extroverted first-year undergrad with ADD and a manic sense of social justice — they enter BRENT’s apartment chatting amiably. The room is well lit with a headache-inducing fluorescent glow. In downstage center, a small wooden desk is flanked by two chairs. A neatly made twin bed is pressed against the beige wall; a used copy of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality rests conspicuously on the pillow; a large, glossy photo of Ben Roethlisberger’s head hangs above the bed. …


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Photo by Stephen Leonardi

Orual’s face is grotesque. In C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, beauty is never in the eye of the beholder. The contemporary reader’s desire for equality demands a character who finds Orual beautiful. That character never materializes. Compared to Psyche’s inner and outer beauty, Orual is a “swollen spider” (315). People worship Psyche as a goddess (32); the man Orual loves ceases to think of her as a woman (148). Psyche finds the object of her love (183); Orual’s love consumes everyone she touches (315). The beautiful Psyche is lovable; the ugly Orual is unlovable. It appears to be a binary opposition between beauty and ugliness in relation to love, but Lewis recontextualizes the binary in relation to God. …


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Photo by Efe Kurnaz

In A. J. Ayer’s “Demonstration of the Impossibility of Metaphysics,” he argues that all metaphysical questions and propositions about the nature of reality are in fact pseudo- propositions. By “pseudo-propositions,” Ayer means a sequence of words that assumes the form of a coherent sentence but is actually meaningless.[1] The content of a proposition is considered meaningless when it is neither empirically observable (i.e. perceivable through the five senses) nor a prima facie proposition. In order for a proposition to be prima facie, it must be intuitively self-evident: tautologies, pure definitions, and basic truths of mathematics and logic are some examples.[2] Ayer appeals to a “criterion of significance” that establishes certain conditions which must be fulfilled in order for a proposition to be granted the title of a significant proposition. In Ayer’s view, “significant propositions,” are either analytic (i.e. prima facie) or synthetic (i.e. empirically observable) statements, which in principle are verifiable and meaningful.[3] Unfortunately, Christianity does not meet Ayer’s criterion. If Christians insist that theology does in fact refer to something meaningful, it will be important to show that Ayer’s argument fails to establish the criterion of significance as a viable methodology. In this paper, I will refute A. J. …


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Photo by Glen Noble

In chapter 1 of R. V. Young’s At War With the Word, he contends that the past 30 years of hostile criticism directed at the New Critics has been ideologically motivated (xi). Young calls the attack, a “campaign of disinformation,” which attempts to discredit the New Critics’ methodology in favour of a radical form of literary activism (4). With a disparagement of the New Critics comes a leveling of literary works to the status of ordinary texts (20). Contemporary literary critics reduce literary texts to cultural relics that contain either politically desirable or undesirable material to be fashioned by the interpreter’s will (21). Ideologically motivated readings are considered superior to interpreting works, making value judgments, and allowing the texts to educate us (22). Young argues that a return to the New Critics’ perspective on literature is essential to restoring English to its central place in the humanities (x-xi). …


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If the Book of Job were ever dramatized in its entirety, it would undoubtedly be one of the longest and most tedious productions in theatrical history. This is due in part to the lengthy and highly repetitive speeches that form the majority of Job and convey the book’s primary message: God’s people must live by faith, even when they don’t fully understand God’s will. But Job’s literary form as a closet drama indicates to the reader that Job’s characters may not be the only focal point of discussion. The dramatic crux of the book, namely, Job’s misfortune and ensuing despair, anger, and confusion, is entirely relatable to the average reader who has likely confronted the existential challenges embedded in the problem of evil. The locus of drama, on my view, resides partly with the reader’s empathetic response to Job’s suffering set against God’s mysterious purposes. …


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Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon

Jade Mitchell loves her phone more than me. We sit across from each other in a booth at Kleiman’s café. She texts while I watch. Jade has many “guy friends.” Today, she’s texting Brian because she finds him more interesting. I don’t blame her. I suspect Brian is silly and immature. He’s perfect for her. I’m Jade’s slightly older, foolish boyfriend, who’s holding onto her — for some inexplicable reason. I watch her face light up and flush dark pink as she receives a new message.

I don’t mind quiet moments with Jade. Actually, I prefer them. If it wasn’t for Brian, Jade would blurt out something superficial and jump to wild conclusions. In fact, my generation doesn’t need conversation. We’re much too busy for that. It’s a zoomer thing. Boomers wouldn’t understand. We’ve developed a new way to communicate. Social media allows us to share everything while saying nothing. There’s only one problem. Lately, I’ve noticed what a ghostly world this is when I talk, and no one listens. …


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Wikimedia Commons

goodbye megan

these are my last words to you but it doesnt really matter what i say though i wish things had turned out differently but they didnt turn out differently because youre not aware of anything outside of your blissful life and im not saying your life is always blissful but to me its artificial so im closing the windows and pulling my blinds and its late afternoon and i want to be alone and i dont want to think about you but i want to see you so im holed up in this room thinking about you and i dont want to go anywhere because if we went out to eat somewhere my nose would run uncontrollably and i would turn you off and i dont want to be a turn off but i can barely eat anything outside of meal replacements and you must think i have issues and yes i have issues but you cant handle hearing about issues so youd rather think its a turn off so i just want to stay here and i dont want to go outside and i can barely get out bed because im so tired and you must think i look pale and maybe thats why you dont like me because of the colour of my skin and i feel like i can read your mind because you must think im listening to pinkerton right now but im not listening to pinkerton though im falling for you and i think im doing more than projecting i think i get it i think i know why you dont like me but i cant face the truth so im just lying in bed with this kitchen knife and i cant get these thoughts out of my head and everything gets so bad and everything gets worse than i imagined and youre blissfully…


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Photo by Luther Bottrill

Brett’s lighter flickered in the still darkness of his dorm room. Underneath white sheets I lay beside him, our bodies propped up with pillows stacked against the narrow bed frame. The bong water rolled. Lifting up the bowl, he inhaled quickly, filling his lungs to capacity, and after several seconds, breathed out a long trail of smoke into a large Vornado fan, propped up on the bed, and aimed at the partially opened window nearby. Smoke drifted out into the cool night air. Brett passed his travel-size bong to me.

We had the room to ourselves. Brett’s roommate was out of town for an away game (along with most of the dormitory) in support of our school’s football team, the Northeastern Apaches. …


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Photo by Randy Kinne

Jade Mitchell loves her phone more than she loves me. We sit across from each other inside Kleiman’s café on GRSU’s campus. She texts while I watch her (sexting, yeah). My generation doesn’t need conversation, often self-absorbed, checking our phones when we’re bored, yeah, that’s a given. But it’s a ghostly world when I talk, and no one listens.

“Jade,” I call out from what must be another dimension in her mind.

There’s no reply. She’s lost in her own world happily texting. Yeah, she doesn’t need me. She has plenty of “guy friends.” We have nothing to talk about, and lately, it seems like we never will. She’s texting Brian because she finds him more interesting than me. I don’t blame her. Brian is her silly, immature half-boyfriend about her age. I’m her slightly older, foolish other half. She prefers it this way. I watch her face light up, flushing a dark pink as she receives a new message. She has dirty blonde hair (always worn up in a ponytail), a round pale childish face and little green eyes that dance feverishly across her text messages as she eagerly sends and awaits the next. I thought she was cute when I first met her at Jake’s house party: that was a year ago now — short-shorts showing off her 17-year-old body with the hip sway, low-cut white blouse, pink bra visible with the straps, like a skinny boy up to the chest, nice breasts — she was hitting Jell-O shots, casually grinding against me on the dance floor (by dance floor, I mean a small area between a grimy, beer-stained leather couch and a Samsung 4k TV); four Bud Lights in me, so she’s exciting me like I’m 13 hitting puberty. Jade had to leave early so she could get up for school in the morning, but we exchanged numbers, yeah. And then I was up till 1 am, wide awake, sexually frustrated, realizing I could probably have her if I needed that — and I needed that — so I hit her up the next day. We went to IHOP on 28th St, and I paid for her full stack of buttermilk pancakes, so we both knew this was serious. We made out in my dad’s Honda CRV for a couple minutes, and I was turned on, but she seemed not that into kissing, preferring to recite her weekly drama while I listened — too petty and too cruel to follow, I discovered her heart of darkness like I’m Marlow. Then she had to go home early because her curfew is weirdly at 4 pm in the afternoon; but we kept seeing each other even though Jade didn’t have her license, so of course I drove her around like Lolita, paid for her Domino’s pizza, stopped at the Beltline Bar and bought her a fajita — along with her daily lunches, dinners, and other random, impulsive desires whenever we went to Woodland Mall or Meijer’s, Walgreens, Staples, etc. But as for me, I was in; I had this girl now — but not Ava; no, not Ava who made my heart beat fast, Ava who I dream about pretty consistently, Ava who I knew back at Northern Hills and immediately fell for but who then started dating Conner, yeah that Ava; Ava who last year once met blue eyes with me in the hallway and maybe one other time in the locker bank — so no; Jade is nothing like her, yeah I know; but she’s still real, warm in my arms, soft to my lips: man, she’s here now, and shamefully enough no one else has ever been so close before. But it’s funny, perversely so, how physical appearances lose their power as familiarity and lack of deeper connection reveal the hollow core. Anyways, I cut myself shaving today. I think it was signifying something about how this day would turn out. Blood dripped slowly down my chin. I didn’t use a Band-Aid though. My life is like an open wound. Jade’s too weak to hurt me, but she just nicks me all the time though. Two weeks ago I noticed how my hair’s growing more curly, tangled and knotted, but every time I go to wash it I get more of this flaky crap peeling off my scalp like incredibly gross snowflakes. Knowing Jade, she’d probably tell me to go pop a couple Tylenol because that’s how she fixes all of her trivial little problems. Maybe she could help me if she’d put out every once in a while, but I guess that’s not her style because every time I go to hit that she complains of a headache or some other imaginary, provisional disease which keeps me at bay. But I know what’s wrong with her. Jade’s a senior at Northern Hills, but she’s still a baby. Yeah, I’m in my first year at GRSU, English major. The Fall term started a week ago, and this Sunday afternoon I decided to hit her up, not because I wanted to see her but more due to the heavy weight of moral obligation I feel as her boyfriend to go out with her rather than leave her to go out with other guys and blithely forget about me. I once saw more in Jade: her big smile showing off her silver braces and pink rubber bands, the private-inside-jokey-bantery-type laughter we shared, her overly caffeinated knee-shaking energy, her absurdly naïve optimism that made me smile, once. But I haven’t met anyone at GRSU to replace her, yet. Lately, I’ve been spending more time alone in my cramped prison cell aka dorm room eating cafeteria meals, a loner by definition, yeah, I’m Holden Caulfield. So I guess being with Jade gives me something to do. For example, couples go out to drink coffee and talk about their dull, ordinary lives and laugh at jokes that are painfully insipid and share other boring, insignificant details about their workweek which neither partner wants to hear — phones quickly pulled out during any awkward pause or quiet moment, yeah. And so here we are in this lousy campus café; Jade’s on her phone; we’re drinking burnt, highly acidic coffee, forced to smell the nauseating aromas wafting in from Kleiman’s cafeteria: meat lover’s pizza, French fries, cheeseburgers, sushi rolls, Kung Pow chicken, spicy green curry, cheesy refried black bean melts, smoked turkey from the poor man's Subway knockoff, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, stale from three days ago donuts. And yet, strangely enough, students still come and go through the doors of Kleiman’s cafe. Some are in so-called “study groups” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) pretending to do homework but really just chatting superficially and checking their phones continually; some are flirting with each other uncomfortably and judging by their halting, frequently stalled conversations, poorly; some hoodie wearing loners sit at empty tables, drowning their sorrows in bad coffee and high-fat, high-calorie muffins. The coffee grinder makes a loud buzzing sound; voices are raised shrilly above the noisy machinery to place orders. The AC is humming, so it’s freezing inside. Top 40 blasé pop-of the moment Spotify playlists shuffle slickly produced but unfortunately lifeless popular music incessantly. Kleiman’s café is the perfect place for a casual date if you don’t mind practically shouting at one another from across the table and having your senses assaulted by an ungodly amount of food sensations that shouldn’t be mixed together so thoughtlessly and distastefully buffet style, yeah. So I glower at Jade while she continues to ignore me. I reach for my spongy Styrofoam cup and swing it aggressively up to my mouth, taking a big gulp of the brown liquid (the barista told me it’s coffee, but I’m beginning to think she’s a liar.) It’s far too hot, and I scald my tongue badly. Close to spitting it out all over the table, I persist in swallowing the burning liquid and feel a painful fire travel down the back of my throat. I make a grunting, incoherent sound. …


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Photo by Blake Barlow

— A pale and skinny girl,
Who sits across from me,
She texts her friend without a sound;
I calmly sip my tea.

Her green eyes dance across her phone:
I watch her face turn red.
She texts her friend while I’m alone,
A ghostly world I dread.

Her dirty blonde hair caught my eye
One night at Ryan’s dorm:
So young and naive, foolish, high,
I kissed her; she was warm.

And now I hardly speak to Jade:
“Well, hey, um, Jade,” I say,
“So, how goes school, I mean, twelfth-grade?”
“What?” says Jade. “Go away!”

The coffee grinder roars to life,
And voices rise and fall:
My girlfriend loves to cause me strife;
I want to punch the wall. …

About

Brook Johnson

Creative writer, Essayist.

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