Peaches & Mangoes

By: Dorrit Corwin

Marlborough School, CA, USA


Where Charlie Stevens came from, it was always fall or summer. In autumn, he would rake leaves from the rigid Southern roots of the oak out front. In summer, he would watch them wallow in heavy wind until dusk swept them out of sight. Sometimes he’d walk the dog or ride his bike into town, the music of foreign places and better times filling a void they entered the small holes in the sides of his ovular skull and replaced the church bells that he could never hear.

He never quite belonged there, but it never occurred to him to leave. He’d marry a Southern Belle who might be his high school sweetheart or Homecoming Queen— some bullshit of the sort that was written on cheap picture frames and scrawled across Hallmark cards. They’d have three children, though he didn’t like to plan— two boys, who would learn chivalry and sports from Charlie, and one girl, who would learn cooking and courtship from Cassie. They’d all be named with matching initials so the monogrammed bath towels could never be out of place (like he always was), and they’d walk to the same bus stop that Charlie walked to with his same vacant stare and his same piercing blue eyes that told you there was much more to his story than he wanted to share.

        This wasn’t what he wanted, but it would have to do. His paintbrush was his ammunition to shoot his canvas full of fluid. They’d vacation by the seaside that would portray the same palette as his paint, and his Eckelburg irises of aquamarine would get swept up in sea glass and leave with the riptide. His mundane Daisy, eyes green with envy, would crave his papers of the same stain. He’d take his dad’s old job accounting, and his watercolor passion would fade out of sight like the waning summer sun.

        One day he met a stranger unfamiliar with the smoothly paved roads that always looked and smelled of tangerines. Her comfort food was sushi. Instead of Dalmatians, she praised donkeys. She wore everything on her sleeve and had never dressed in Sunday best, never driven through fields of green where state lines bled into places where the people didn’t know who they were any more than he or she did.

        He wasn’t quite sure who he was, though he did put on a compelling show of who he was not. He was blind to his imperfections, and when his classmates asked what was in his ears, he’d say a podcast from his pastor about painting pillars, burning bridges, and coloring inside of the lines.

        He never cared for the pillars of his house. They were too white, too rigid, too expected, and not reliable enough to support the weight of the sorrows contained inside of their brick walls. Cobblestones were far too bumpy for his troubled, broken soul, so he’d take the rural path to school before anyone woke. He’d sit down by the banks of the swampy river thinking about that strange girl he met one day at the corner store.  

        She wasn’t quiet and was hardly polite, unlike his other suitors. When he eyed her by the produce, she was picking up peaches by the dozen and clutching Bertha Mason’s twisted fate to her mountainous chest. She was much more like Jane in terms of intuition and beliefs, but certainly not as plain or proper. Charlie stared as though she was an alien, his jaw agape. She wasn’t beautiful— or at least not according to the standards etched into his frontal lobe. Her eyes looked like the smell of the paved roads that led to nowhere, except that her tangerines were speckled with tints of brown and green. She brushed his cheek gingerly to close his mouth in fear that flies would swarm inside and infest his already rotting heart.

        He never saw her again. But that didn’t stop him from pondering alternate realities in which he cooked her dinner and she held doors open for the children whom he never wanted. They would share politically charged badinage over dinner and wine, and never agree but never hold grudges. He would get the hell out of the maze of flags, where stars formed crosses instead of spangled rectangles, and go to Paris or Los Angeles or even Zanzibar. There would be nothing he wouldn’t do for a girl he’d never met, and he’d wander all over as long as no one knew his name.

        None of it made sense, but not much did those days— like the saying “respect your elders.” His dad was gone with a flask in a flash of lightning when he was five and figuring out how to grow up. His mom’s new companion brought home big bucks but kept Charlie up at night with his mother’s whimpers shed the coming dawn into his morning cup of tea. And his mother just stood there, not saying a word because, where he came from, tongues stayed tied; it was “better that way.”

        Conflict is to be avoided. No boy is to be raised without a father. Always hold the door. Always wear a collar. Etcetera, exhaustion, exhaling deeply, Charlie had broken each and every promise, and each and every rule–or so he thought. It was all his fault, he thought. He’d never be satisfactory to anyone broken enough to heal his open wounds, like the girl from the corner store.

        He knew exactly where it rested and began tightening his tie, and as its chilled and wicked barrel breathed softly down his neck, he began thinking of other barrels. Of peaches and mangoes and leaves caked in dust, tangerine highways and roads radiating rust. So he picked up his paintbrush and reached for the green like the oak in summertime where the blue jays found light. Green fields, once indigo, turned congested and alive into a cityscape skyline peppered with posters of eyes.  

Love in the Hearth

By: Izzi Kessner

Marlborough School, Los Angeles, California


Food and fire and warmth and dance

The way we act is not by chance

The smell of it all takes you back

To Sunday traditions, happy and packed

Stuff ourselves with wood from the fireplace

Make the shot, the family ace

The big skirts, the masked dancing

When you were young, you bet you were prancing

Vibrant songs and sunny tunes

Grandmother taught you to sew a loom

And the oldest traditions seem the farthest

From useful, but trust, they give the heartest

We love and care for our family

We live in peace and with amity

Cake: 1971

 By: Clementine Woladarsky

Marlborough School, Los Angeles, California


She brandishes the knife like a weapon. To me it is a weapon, particularly useful for stabbing people in stories, but she does no such thing. Instead she falls upon a variety of vegetables with a zealousness I never associate with cooking. She is frustrated because only last week she taught me to properly chop an onion, and I am still doing it wrong. It was hopeless, I said, to teach me how to prepare a tomato sauce.

“What man will marry a woman who can’t even cook a meal?”

She asks me this while we are waiting for her long-term boyfriend to come down for a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and freshly ground coffee. All she ever seems to be doing is waiting, especially for her boyfriend to ask her to marry him.

She repeats the question. I tell her that I’ll never have to cook as long as I have her around. She has abandoned all her feminist values for the right to make a proper dinner every night and fold the linen napkins she embroiders.

“What if you were to starve to death?” That makes me laugh, which annoys her greatly. “It could happen.”

“I’d go out to eat.”

“You’re hopeless,” she says, though not without affection.

Her boyfriend comes downstairs fifteen minutes late.

“The food’s getting cold.” She pouts attractively, causing him to kiss her head.

“I was getting ready, Lovie.” It’s a term our grandmother used, and I am repulsed. He hands her something in silvery blue paper. “Go ahead.”

The paper reveals a box, which reveals a ring, which makes her scream. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

I respond in the affirmative, and she throws me a dark look. “It was a stupid question,” I remind her.

“Well, will you?” The boyfriend is hovering over his plates of eggs and bacon.

“Of course!” She throws her arms around him, and they dance around the kitchen table. I resolve to quietly drink my coffee quietly out of a blue and white striped mug.

He pats my head and says that he is really late now and has to go. They embrace again.

When the door closes she stares pointedly at me.

“I’m engaged and you’re not.”

“I am fully aware of that.” I start on the eggs, which are quite cold but still good.

“I can cook, and you can’t. Oh please be smarter about this and let me help you. I can’t have my older sister die alone because she never learned how to cook a proper breakfast.”

I inform her that my boyfriend cooks for me. “It’s marvelously new-age,” I gush. “He brings me soup in bed.”

“A boyfriend?” She eyes me suspiciously. “How long?”

“A year on Tuesday.”

“I can’t believe I knew nothing of this.” She meditates on the news for a while. “Is he that boy Ian?” I nod. “He’s your boyfriend? I could’ve sworn he was gay!”

“He’s not gay,” I say defensively. “We’re going out.” I am more annoyed than I care to admit. She idly stirs her coffee.

“I should get new china.” She picks up a plate. “This is no kitchenware for a married woman.”

I have been using the same tin plates for years, but I don’t bother saying so.

“Honestly, when are you going to pick up a frying pan?”

“Never, if I can help it.”

“You will never be a good wife. He’ll divorce you in no time and take up with a man, most likely.” This makes her laugh until she looks at me. “Sorry, sorry. I don’t mean that. Here, we’ll have a lesson in the kitchen right now.” She busies herself pulling eggs and flour and butter out of garishly blue cupboards. She wants to teach me to bake a cake. “Like this, and like this.” She pours the stuff into a bowl and mixes. When I try the flour goes everywhere, the bulk of it on my forehead.

The cake doesn’t rise because I mixed up sugar and salt. It’s dry with a runny inside.

“It’s a terrible cake.” She sits down and begins to cry.

I trivially think her tears concern only me.

“I’ll buy you a cake.” With my money that I made not being a housewife.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” she says through her tears, a clear indication I should go. I take the cake and it creates a slight problem on the metro so I toss it, tin foil and all, into the nearest bin.

My sister got married several months later and asked me to “handle the cake.” In all her whirlwind planning she seemed to forget that I was still unbearably wretched at all things culinary. I ordered the cake from a bakery and asked for untidy frosting to make it seem realistic. What a joke! She married easily and prettily and became the sort of housewife she wanted to be. Coffee in the morning, dinner at seven thirty, a kiss on the cheek. She said she loved the pots and pans as I love pens and paper. My sister would throw her life into a Sunday roast.

It was around this point in time that Ian left me. For a guy, I should add. He asked me to bake him a wedding cake. I sent him a bakery cake without bothering to take it out of the box.

My sister called me in a panic after he left.

“What are you going to eat?” She screeched.

I told her about the deli across the street, then hung up.

I remained happily well-fed for many years without ever lifting a frying pan. No coffee or Sunday roasts for me. The best I ever did was buy a tablecloth, a gesture my husband pronounced “utterly charming.”