In Sophie Monatte’s “Eating Butterflies,” she addresses the age old tale of the small town girl moving to the big city and her struggles with change, particularly changes that happen back home. Isabelle goes to college in Paris, but searches for familiarity on a trip back home. Even though, “Isabelle had discovered that settling for the modesty of routine seems as absurd as rereading the same book. The second time was never as thrilling as the first; it only spoiled the memory of past feelings,” she has trouble accepting the changes that occur.
The last story in the issue, “The Dogs of Babel” by Tom Howard, is the winner of the 2015 Arcadia Short Story Contest. The title alludes to the Tower of Babel and the biblical story that explains the existence of different languages. Just like the builders of Babel are hampered by the differences of communication, the parents in “The Dogs of Babel” are hampered by the differences of communication with their children, differences initiated by the main character Petra’s willingness to let her son go to school wearing nail polish. However, instead of the typical reaction she expects, the act creates a pandemic of eleven-year-old boys attending middle school with “Star-spangled nails, dayglo-green nails, paisley nails, tie-dyed nails, superhero-logo nails, camouflage nails, nails decorated with letters and zodiac symbols and emoticons.” Soon all gender roles among the eleven-year-old students dissolve, throwing the world of the adults into chaos. All except Petra, who tries to bridge the gap by learning her son’s language.
In “The Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon” by Constance Squires, a young newly married couple travel to Puerto Vallarta to visit the set of The Night of the Iguana and practice lines for an upcoming play in which both spouses are to perform the main characters. While the whole story is rife with dark sarcasm and life-changing situations, it is the ambivalence of the ending that I find most intriguing. “He opened his eyes to slits and looked at her. ‘Do you want to finish this?’ ‘I think I’m done.’ She looked out over the steep downhill slope to the beach. Blue waters shimmered through the trees. ‘It’s not really working.’” Due to the wording, there could be multiple possibilities to how things end. First, she could simply no longer want to recite lines for the play due to the atmosphere. Second, she could be referring to their tumultuous marriage, or, lastly, she could possibly be referring to her own alcoholism. The reader, however, has no way of knowing which ending is true.
In poetry, Benjamin Myers explores the transparency of his own mind and body in “Mr. Goodbody”:
understand myself: translucent exoskeletonThis feeling of being transparent carries into his second poem “I am not Prince Hamlet” in the lines “I felt like a screen door, something / anyone could see through, if they / squinted at it.” In this way, the narrator is translucent, but not completely; he is obscured.
revealing everything inside, as exposed
and fully legible as anything
coming to be in the dark.
Perhaps my favorite piece of nonfiction in this issue is “Friendly Fire” by Todd Millick. This short piece tells of a soldier’s experience with a stray yellow lab named Duke, who volunteered his services one day after he wondered unto the military compound. The narrator depicts his relationship with Duke who “remained a lot like Afghanistan—stoic, beautiful, hard to know.” In this piece, the title does a lot of work alluding to the ending, but also does a lot to add to that feeling of betrayal and shock of what happens.
With art by Serigraph and author interviews with Halina Duraj and Benjamin Myers, this issue of Arcadia is sure to keep readers turning until the last page.