THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT
By Robyn Brooks
CAST OF CHARACTERS
JESSE – Female, 30s, Black
ALICE – Female, 40s, Black
(Lights up on an office. A meeting has just ended. Jesse and Alice are the only ones left in the room)
(Standing; gathering her things; watching Alice)
Alice, do you have a few moments?
(Sitting; looking over documents; taking notes in a journal)
I have a few – sit down, Jesse.
(Pulls up a chair)
It felt more like a party.
But – you masterfully corralled everyone
I guess so – So, what’s on your mind, Jesse?
(Notices a photo on the wall)
Is that your graduation photo?
Yes – Yes – so long ago
You still look the same
I – don’t – I don’t think
Thank – you
Some folks just don’t age
Tell that to my gray hairs
Look at your skin – so smooth
I am using a new moisturizer
Good! – So, you wanted to talk to me?
Alice – you know that I’ve been working here for three years
Has it been that long?
Yes – it has
Time – flies by so fast
I have learned so much here – mainly from you
You’re quite an asset, Jesse.
You pick things up quickly
You know – that color in your scarf really brings out your eyes
Thanks – I bought it at – at
Are your eyes Hazel?
My eyes – they – yes – they are
(Nervously fumbles with her scarf)
I bought it at Nordstrom’s Rack – I think
Or was it Macy’s?
I get them confused sometimes
I want to be promoted to Project Leader.
It was Macy’s – Project Leader?
(Taken aback; closes journal)
Well – that’s – certainly – you are
The right woman for the job?
You are a hard worker
I have many skills
And – everyone really likes you
Do you like me, Alice?
You’re one of our best creatives
You didn’t answer my question
Of course I like you, Jesse
I love – I love it here
But – we are on a hiring freeze, right now.
You wouldn’t be hiring me – I’m already hired.
It’s just a bad time
The recession – the economy – the pandemic
Which is why
Every department has to cut back
I really like working with you
I even had to let my assistant go
I could be your personal assistant
My personal – assistant?
Yes. Personal. 24/7
I could learn from you
There’s so much for you to teach me –
I don’t – I don’t think – this is not
I could take care of all your needs.
All of my needs?
All – of – your – needs, Alice
(Nervously drops papers/journal on floor)
(Kneels in front of Alice to pick them up)
Call me Jess
Fade to black.
End of play.
February 2022 Online Exclusive
O’ Apostrophe (After Keats)
by Fiona Blundell
O blissful bird, your enchanted song stings my heart;
A heart swollen not with —
Love, but loss.
Acrobat of the vein-thin reeds, your song soars and eases my sores.
The once verdant lime on the stagnant pond has hushed its tones to a pale eau de nil,
Lying effortless chic on the glistening water, like an elegant cashmere shawl casually thrown over the liquid satin gown of a screen siren
Bring me wine to damp my dry lips,
Cracked and parched, craving relief;
Take me to a landscape of ruby and amber and coral sparklers, clinging to the last hope of warmth before nature breathes her glacial best and ices the landscape and the flesh for the gloomy months of winter.
Let your voice mingle with the breeze that releases those jewels to spin and float freely in the crisp fresh air,
That will fill my aching lungs and rid me of its felted lining.
Sing to me, O sing,
You with the military blazes on your wings;
Releasing the tiny tyrant from his Saint Helenic jail
Death all around,
Despondent doldrums infect the soul;
Fleeting flashes of bluest sky like a veinous opiate that lifts the spirits
Before spitting me back as I feel death around me once more.
Take the gloom,
Sing it away,
Your sweet song is my solace.
O bird of poetic song,
O poet of my soul,
Never stop, never waiver.
I feel you in my leaden heart and allow your sweet notes to course thought my thin veins;
Of flowers, sickening sweet,
Loads my nostrils.
The dark is wrapping me like a shroud of lead.
I need to take my leave;
Sing me Free,
Your song is death to me.
Eternal Morpheus arms;
Your song is my rest,
Little Napoleon bird,
With your scarlet and gold epaulets,
Garish flashes on glistening black plumage.
Take me as him;
Give us flight on your melody from our eternal Saint Helenic dungeons;
Their dank smell permeating like great sods of earth shovelled into our dripping,
Noses twitch and inhale,
You are gone.
Silence surrounds me as I tumble like Jill on the hill;
I sink down and bid you farewell.
Are you here:— were you ever mine?
Fiona Blundell was born in England, she lives in New England but her home is in France. She is a storyteller, a writer, a dreamer. Her dreams always make sense. Sometimes her words do too.
January 2022 Online Exclusive
Trees, by Diane Davis Steiker
December 2021 – From the Journal
Numina: A Prologue
by Amy Landisman
Numina moved through the night air, a shadow weaving up to the edge of the forest. She emerged from the shelter of the pines into the wind, where the granite rock reached out, a jagged edge above the sea. She crossed the rocks, lithe over the fresh snow, her blue robes trailing, whipping in the wind as she approached the Nara Stone. Her hand brushed the edge in reverence as she passed. At the looming cliff she paused, strong against the gusts that caught in her hair, lifting it from her face, leaving an icy mist on her skin. She searched the sea beyond, her hands pale at her side, a smoky gray stone cold against her palm. She raised her face to the sky and began to chant, sah oma yonos kaa, sah oma yonos kaa, haunting the sky with her voice, arms lifted in a plea to the stars.
The sea replied in a burst, crashing into the cliff and submerging the path below. The ancient passage led from the cove across the base of the cliff to the entrance of the cave. Deep within the cave lay a maze of tunnels: to the Sacred City, the Temple, another realm. It was here she entered this life, and here she believed she would exit.
It was not to be.
Her voice rang through the night and the waves crashed higher, harder as the sea rushed through the cave, filled the tunnels deep within the island. Behind her, blue eyes flashed near the trees. A white wolf emerged, and another set of eyes appeared, then another, until five wolves lingered on the rock. They joined in a fierce howl and she was quiet, a statue, arms raised to the sky. The wolves launched themselves toward her at an anxious trot, circled, and settled in a crescent around her, facing the sea. She dropped her arms, considered her guards, and stepped closer to the edge of the cliff.
“The Cave of Illusions has been flooded,” she said, a scream into the night, aware of her failure, her sealed fate. Her wolves stepped closer, sensing her dismay. Without access to the Cave, she can neither leave this realm nor move ahead in time to the next age. Countless incarnations stretched before her, trapped in the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Apparitions of light and form appeared, floating high above, and perhaps she alone saw The Ancient Ones, heard their voices, for the wolves sat alert but silent. A voice came to her on the wind, unified, compassionate, “The end is upon you. The end of the Age of Unity.”
The dark stone rested in her palm, and she held it out to the Ancient Ones. She surrendered it, though with it went her memories, her wisdom from the ages. Shrunken by forgetfulness, she will wander, powerless.
“The stone will return to you when the archer and the vine collide, and balance will be restored.” The Ancient Ones said. “The fog of confusion will envelope you, but we will be with you in every breath, dear one. You will hear us in the darkest hours.” They fell silent, and a message emerged as light in the darkness, loops, angles, swirls across the sky, as the Ancient Ones dissolved in a gust of wind.
We are one.
The words that defined her civilization hung like stars over the sea. Tears froze on her cheeks. She lowered her head and brought her empty hands to rest below the silken sash at her waist. In gratitude, she bowed to the wolves, honoring them for their loyalty, bravery, friendship. The ground shifted beneath her. It lifted and dropped, earth flowing inland like a wave, and she stumbled, unnerved by the shriek of cracking rock, excruciating and louder than the sea itself. Her last refuge, the Temple of the Five, lay in its path.
She pulled a dagger from her robe and stepped to the Nara Stone, a monument of her people, raised a thousand years before as a symbol of unity with the Great Artist. She carved a tiny symbol into the stone, light and shallow beneath the original inscription. It would mark this sacred place, her beloved world, and her true-self. May this remind me in the next age. May it remind me to choose with caution.
The wolves howled and circled her on the trembling earth. They moved aside as she stepped to the cliff’s edge, then turned her back to the sea and faced them, her eyes warm and watery. Her gaze landed long on the white wolf, the blue eyes shining through the night, and her jaw trembled as she spoke. “You are so loved, my friend. We will meet again.”
Numina lifted her arms to the sky once more, and the turbulent sea rose high to meet her, to collect her for its own, and she stepped back in the silence and sank. The white wolf raised a final, anguished howl as the ground rumbled. The pack fled, but she remained beside the Nara Stone. Her blue eyes lingered, set on the rise and fall of the sea until the soft glow of dawn pressed through the darkness.
Amy Landisman is a writer, teacher, and pensive Pisces based in Connecticut on the traditional homeland of the Paugussett. A former journalist and lifestyle columnist, Amy has forsaken nonfiction to conjure written hope from the flora and fauna around her.
NOVEMBER 2021 Online Exclusive
by Maria Elizabeth Burns
Did you know? That
Like the wind through outstretched fingers
The reasons to be are the
Reasons you, we…
I mean to say
The way you laugh sends cherry blossoms
A-shiv-vv-ver like turning pages
Consider the mundane madness
Inherent in breathing.
Consider that all of us are here
To translate the unknown
Into bite-sized pieces.
Consider that when we touch
We are music in motion
Smiling through the moments we shimmer past
we choose what to keep.
Bio of MARIA ELIZABETH BURNS
Maria Elizabeth Burns is an actress and writer currently based in VA. She holds a BA in Theatre from The College of William and Mary and is currently obtaining her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Her work has been both published and performed. Storytelling in all forms is her passion.