Applications for the 2019-2020 Quarry Editorial Team are now open! We are looking to fill the positions of Art Editor, Web Editor, and Interdisciplinary Editor. You can access the application here, and be sure to check out our website for position descriptions.
Being a part of the Quarry is a wonderful, creative experience, and we encourage anyone with an interest in art and literature to apply!
By Agustin Forero
These last few weeks of the semester are flying by! Make sure to get your copy of the Quarry before you head off on your summer adventures. Ask an editor about how to get a copy, or look out for us tabling sometime in the next few weeks.
Here are the final creative writing award winners, in the categories of poetry and best sentence. Don’t forget, the awards ceremony is taking place tomorrow during community time in RML 525, where you can listen to students read their pieces!
Nets Cast for Catching Smaller Prey
by Kari Peterson
Kari Peterson (Poetry Winner, 2019 English Dept. Contest) is a senior biology major with an environmental studies concentration. She’s from Elk River Minnesota and after graduation she hopes to find a career in science writing to help make scientific literature more accessible to everyone. Besides poetry, some of her interests include writing short stories, designing characters, and practicing digital and traditional art.
by Abby Trutwin
So you sit there with your box of chocolates, thinking back to a time when you still had all the choices.
Abby Trutwin (Best Sentence Winner, 2019 English Dept. Contest) is a college freshman who hails from the small north-central town of Rice, Minnesota. She has yet to declare her major, but still has an entire semester to do so. When she isn't working, doing homework or trying to write, she can be found curled up under her quilt binge-watching Netflix. NCIS and Friends are two of her favorites.
Today we’re sharing the nonfiction winner for the creative writing awards. The winning piece, “Somatosensation,” is by Swannie Willstein.
I constantly have to be held
When my sister was a baby, my parents worried she was autistic because she would fuss when being held. When I was in my infancy, I was given the loving (and important to add only temporary) nickname, “The little bitch” on a family vacation because I would constantly whine every time someone wasn’t holding me.
An epiphany while abroad
There was the moment in the airport in Phnom Penh, traveling alone (no, being alone) for the first time in my life, when I realized I hadn’t hugged anyone in two whole weeks. I knew human contact wouldn’t put all of the anxiety to rest, but it would certainly help.
My brother has a tendency to bite my shoulder. Not in a painful way, he just opens his mouth as big as he can and kind of rests his teeth on me. I think it’s meant to be a term of endearment. At least that’s what I tell myself.
“Let’s touch tongues”
is something my Mom loves to say to my dad to freak my siblings and I out. My parents aren’t very into PDA, but they are very into embarrassing their children.
No, really I’m quite ticklish
So much so, that upon laughing too hard from the excitement once, I vomited all over my friend’s bed.
My siblings and I weren’t particularly violent towards one another, but in high school, while traveling in Ghana my little brother, Ben and I were taught a simple game where two opponents hold their index and middle finger together and tuck the rest of their other fingers down. One opponent then holds those two fingers out and facing up, while the other one slaps them as hard as they can with their two similarly positioned fingers. The two players then alternate hitting the other one as hard as they can. Whichever player surrenders first loses.
After being taught, my brother and I started playing with some Ghanaian kids, and were eventually set to play each other. We started off slowly, but it soon became clear neither of us were going to back down quickly. This game held eighteen years of sibling rivalry in it. A crowd of children started to surround us as the game became more tense. With every hit came a mix of sharp pain and amusement, a grimace mixed with laughter at our sibling’s same stubbornness and refusal to back down. The audience continued to grow, as did the swelling in our fingers. Soon enough kids were begging us to stop, wincing in pain with each turn, but neither one of us was ready to concede to the other, both ready to be the champion. Sadly, our host mom heard the screaming of kids and came outside. She (lovingly) yelled at us to stop and insisted we were both about to lose our fingers.
Although we have both matured since our high school days and are at an age where such childish games are discouraged, every so often my brother or I will walk up to the other, fingers poised in a position of challenge, and continue the game that was never settled. That is, until my mom walks in and yells at us to keep our hands to ourselves.
A conversation over text with my mother, in regards to research for this paper
“How old was I when I was touching myself in the movie theater? Do you remember the movie and if you tried to stop me?”
“It was at home. Probably three. I told you that you should do it in private, that’s why they’re called private parts. Don’t put this in your sketch comedy show.”
“Lol I’m not going to.”
It is I, The Frog Princess
There was a hot streak where every guy I kissed had a weird name:
• Kenneth- I didn’t know he was a prospective student until after the fact. I was only a freshman, but still, the horror, the horror. My sister found out and kindly told my mother. I’m still constantly flamed with, “well we know she’s into younger men” over holiday breaks.
• Norbert- When I woke up the next morning I remember looking in the mirror and noticing something about me looked different. Ah yes, that was it. Half of my upper lip was swollen and purple.
• Bjorn- It’s called luck of the Irish but I decided it was better to make out with a Scandinavian boy on St. Patrick’s day weekend. Two nights of kissing=two years of not making eye contact.
There are high-fives, and fist-bumps, and shoulder bumps, and more
But nothing is more fun than saying “E.T. phone home” and slowly matching one’s index finger to another’s.
What I said to my most recent ex upon our mutual, civil break-up, while we were both in tears
“Just one more hug, I guess”
It wasn’t sexy or appreciated
When the Red Arrow camp counselor I was hooking up with spanked me, but I probably should’ve figured spending time with him was going to be horrible, seeing as how the camp motto is, Don’t wait to be a great man, be a great boy. This roughly translates to, I don’t know what the clitoris is.
My love languages, in order
Words of Affirmation
When I crossed the street to meet John he went in for a hug, and I sheepishly reciprocated; when he went in for the kiss I pulled away, and said I didn’t want that. Not this time, we weren’t together anymore. We sat in a cafe, and he kept initiating little touches. My knee, my lower back, my shoulder. I would push his hands away and then he would grab them to hold onto. It’s not that I didn’t want to kiss him, or hold him, but I knew the second he kissed me I would fold, and that couldn’t happen. I was already lying to my mom--saying I was with a friend-- had already lied to so many people (had lied to myself) throughout the time that was our relationship, giving false answers to why I couldn’t hang out, how I was doing, what was going on. We walked to a high school nearby and stopped on a bench. We talked, and then he tried again. I pulled away, crying, but he gently took my face in his hands and hit his target. I buckled, still crying, and kissed him back.
Sometimes abuse can look like love.
A list of those who have said I give the best hugs
• My Grandma
• A number of my friends
• Some Dogs
• An Uncle of mine
Advice my mother gave to me at a young age which I should have heeded but didn’t fully understand until recently
God made sex feel good otherwise there would be ten people on this earth. When you start kissing someone for the first time, and it feels good, and you want to keep kissing them, know that it’s not just them, it’s your body. These same feelings can also be produced manually or with battery operated mechanisms.
“Does that sound ok?”
Better than sex I think, as the hair stylist offers to give me a scalp massage with lavender aromatherapy.
One more minute
The first time we kissed, I just kept giggling, and you asked me why, and I told you: because I thought you didn’t like me-- because I had tried so many times to make a move, or have a sense, or get a clue, but you never gave one (and my mom and my best friend had both mentioned how obvious it was that we were into each other, and everyone kept asking if we were dating, but it was easier to deny, to push down-- how I felt-- like now, how I miss you, but I digress)--yet, there we were, in that moment; and found ourselves there again and again. You asked me if I was happy. Did you mean with you… or in general? You never specified. Yes… to both.
I think now about our mornings together. I think of how patient you were with my tossing and turning, how you were my blanket and pillow and mattress all-in-one, ever-changing. I laugh about how I insisted you get to be the little spoon, because it just didn’t seem like an opportunity afforded to guys over six feet. I somehow simultaneously stiffen and relax thinking about the panic attack you witnessed, but also think about how you rubbed my back and talked me down. I think about how we’d lay in bed, side by side, tangled together. Refusing to get up. Saying over and over, “One more minute”.
The matter-of-the-fact is, you’re 1,000 miles away. And I know I don’t need you. But still, I wonder what it would look like if we had one more minute.
Every ultimate frisbee practice and game, my team starts off by high-fiving every single teammate. We end by clumping together, sweaty and smelly. “Teams that touch more win more,” we say before finishing off with a cheer. We won nationals last year, so something has to be working.
A conversation over text with my Dad, in regards to me asking for a favor
“Yes, but it will cost u -- 2 hugs” my Dad replies. We both know that I will pay it gladly, in full, with exponential interest.
“You have to let go of my hand”
I tell the four year old I’m teaching how to ski. My heart goes out to her, but I know she can do this by herself. I wouldn’t have taken her here if she wasn’t capable. Yet, knowing how hard it is to take that final leap-- how having a grasp on something, someone, can make you feel grounded, safe-- I give her mitten one final squeeze before pulling away, and let her off on her own.
Swannie Willstein (Nonfiction Winner, 2019 English Dept. Contest) is a Senior English Major from Missoula, Montana. Her list of hobbies includes excessively talking (and writing) about being the Middle Child, eating ice cream, and watching talent show auditions and movie trailers on YouTube. She plays for the St. Olaf Women's Ultimate Frisbee team, Vortex, and is also a member of the sketch comedy ensemble INBLACK. Her Myers Briggs is ESFP, her star sign is Aquarius, and her Enneagram is a seven, if that is anything of importance.
If you couldn't make it to the launch, you missed out on playing This is Big, a new video game by Evan Holmes (with music by Jake Ingalls and inspiration from Emma Reid). But never fear...you can still live out your sword-fighting snail dreams at itch.io!
This week, the English department is hosting its creative writing awards ceremony in conjunction with the Quarry. On Thursday during community time in RML 525, the awards will be presented, pizza will be enjoyed, and students will read their original works!
To lead up to the event, we'll be sharing the winning pieces on the blog throughout the week. Today we’re featuring the winning fiction piece titled “Table for Two” by Melie Ekunno.
Table for Two
Nipples. Gum. Saliva. Tongue. Gasp.
And gasp, Nneoma did. She gasped when the warmth of her baby’s mouth latched onto her exposed nipple, cold from the air-conditioning in her hospital room. She gasped when her baby began to suckle, steadily drawing fluid from her body with the working of its jaw and tongue, the rhythmic bob of the anterior fontanelle; working away at its task like a mechanical suction engine, like a vacuum cleaner, like a leech. She gasped when she looked up and met the doctor’s eyes, seeing the smile on his face and the slight bulge of his trousers which hadn’t been there five minutes before. She almost told him to “look away you toad!” but she caught herself at the last second remembering that all of her self had become tucked away in a shroud of motherhood. She knew that people would laugh if she told them that she had caught the doctor staring at her boobs especially because, the same doctor had been staring down her vagina ten minutes before. Especially because, all that she is now, came down to a picturesque image of motherliness. Nneoma pulled her eyes away from the doctor’s which had a twinkle in it. She closed them, forcing down bile; trying to ignore how her skin crawled with the awareness that knew he had won this round. She fixed her eyes instead on the calendar, the picture of Madonna and child.
That was then. Now, Nneoma no longer gasped. This was the consequence of the numbness that now lived where her imagination used to exist. Better still, this was the consequence of a war that left nothing to the imagination. Presently, the growling of her stomach brought her back from daydreaming which, for Nneoma, meant mentally rationing all the food you have in order to stay alive until the next batch of food sent by the allies miraculously appeared. The problem with that however was, how did one make a schedule for things that didn’t operate according to a schedule such as: aid from the allies, hunger and death by starvation? Nneoma pulled herself up from the settee, it was time to eat. The bread in the fridge had mold, green colonies scattered on each slice from one end to the next. The loaf was twenty days old. She knew this because she had counted the number of slices in each loaf at the store before she bought this one; the others had twenty-four, but this one had twenty-five – five days until she had no more bread. Nneoma sat down to her brunch which consisted of one slice of moldy bread and watered-down Milo (cocoa beverage that she had made with room temperature water). She had unripe mangoes and an orange from the tree outside which she wasn’t sure she was going to eat because she had purged once from having too many, defeating the purpose of eating them to begin. She ate her bread slowly, rubbing her tongue over each mold colony, familiarizing herself with its borders and saluting its chief. She drank her beverage. Done with her meal, Nneoma walked to the door and called her son in from play – if you could call it play – a group of boys pretending to be pregnant because they all had swollen stomachs.
As he made his way towards her, she admired his frame, thankful for the absence of a bulge in his torso. Two months away from his fourth birthday, he was smaller than you would expect a boy of his age to be under normal circumstances but then, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. She held his hands once he reached the door calling him a mini masquerade as she dusted his body of the red earth he had been playing in. Once inside, he walked ahead, past the living room, past the dining area and connecting kitchen, past the toilet and bathroom and all the way to the bedroom. He knew the drill.
“Mummy look,” he said, pointing to the open blinds.
Nneoma sighed, she had forgotten to close them. She smiled at her son and said
“Thank you Obim.” Then she dealt with the offending piece of furniture.
Satisfied, she sat down on the bed and lifting her shirt she said, “Bon appetite,” smiling down into her son’s eyes.
Nipples. Saliva. Tongue. Teeth.
Smack! And smack him she did, across his buttocks. He knew better than to bite the nipple that fed him. If he bit her again, she would end this feeding session. Even then, he did not pause, not even once, his face buried in her bosom as he sucked his life force from her body. She could see the veins in his neck clench and unclench. She could feel emptiness grow in places that once held fluid, milk. And still he sucked on, sitting beside her with his hands by his side clutching the mattress. He never paused, not even when there was so little left that he had to stand and help the milk flow better by working her breasts with his hands as she had taught him to. And while his mouth and hands worked, Nneoma thought, this is the stuff of good mothers.
* * *
As a girl, Nneoma once wondered out loud about her name. She was sitting at the top of a cashew tree and taking out the braids of another girl who sat on a branch below.
“Ihuoma, were you really that beautiful at birth? I thought when babies are born, they barely even have a face not to talk of a beautiful one.” She asked, referring to her friend’s name which meant ‘beautiful face’.
Without giving Ihuoma a chance to reply, she continued, “Take Chiboy for instance,” she said, referring to Ihuoma’s week-old brother, “He looks like a lizard”.
“Don’t call my brother a lizard!” Ihuoma scowled.
“Ihuoma”, Nneoma said with a sigh. “It is so like you to fixate on little things. Who cares whose brother gets called a lizard – even though no one was actually called a lizard? I used a metaphor, M E T A P H O R E,” she spelt out.
She went on to explain what metaphors were in her overtly pedantic manner. More than anything else, she wished in that moment that she was beside her chalkboard and not atop a tree – the presence of a chalk board always made for a more convincing lesson.
“So you see,” she said concluding her explanation, “there was no need for a fuss especially because my questions are for the purpose of science.”
Ihuoma didn’t ask for an explanation for that statement for, in those days, even the adults knew that all Nneoma did was for the sake of science – and who wanted to argue with that?
“Take myself for instance,” Nneoma said, finally able to go on having dealt with the interruption to her satisfaction. “Did I come out of the womb with a spatula and scowl? Did I immediately proceed to scold the nurses for soiling their dresses? Did I sing the doctors a lullaby?” Nneoma went on, listing all the things mothers were known to do; all the things her mother did. Did the doctors yell “it’s a mother!” when they congratulated my anxious father on the birth of his child?” Nneoma continued, referring to the fact that her name meant “good mother”. “Did I do something to make my parents think they had birthed a fully developed baby making machine and not an infant? Nneoma concluded and was rewarded with a burst of laughter from her companion.
“You really shouldn’t be saying things like this,” Ihuoma chided.
“And why is that?” Nneoma asked.
“For one, we’re up in a tree and I could fall to the ground laughing at your dumbness and secondly it’s just a dumb thing to say.”
“Nothing is ever a dumb thing to say if its for the sake of science”, Nneoma concluded with a humph. That was then.
* * *
Now, Nneoma no longer asked questions; questions made a mother look ungraceful. They didn’t help you clean a soiled nappy or silence a hungry child.
The war started before her baby turned one. Just as she had decided that time had come to wean her child. She had planned it all out in her head as she tended to do. She was going to start her son on a diet of millet and guinea corn gruel. They were ideal transitions into solid food because they were highly nutritious, semisolid and smooth and could be fed to a baby using a bottle – none of that chemical-infused baby formula for her precious son. She was going to do this right or else, her name didn’t mean good mother.
Her plans were cut short as the war broke out and the first things that disappeared from market stalls were millet and guinea corn which only grew in the savannah of the north and not in her Biafran forests. Soon enough, other potential baby foods were out of the question. Maize for one became scarce and too expensive to start a child on – what would happen to your child when you couldn’t get anymore? Farmers weren’t cultivating any crops. It had become too dangerous to be out in open field. It made no sense to process any grains into the pudding-like consistency that infants were fed – too much potential food, stuff that had been considered chaff in ordinary time, would be lost in the process. And even if she courageously braved the challenge, ignoring scorn from her fellow hungry country people, and went on to attempt to
process the grain, her efforts would fail because there was no fuel to run the grinding engines. So, Nneoma kept on breastfeeding. Besides, the war was going to be only for a while until normalcy returned was what she thought.
It was dinner time according to her stomach’s churnings which she could no longer ignore. Having spent the entire day recovering from the morning’s breastfeeding session, it was time for Nneoma to soak and travel. Nobody in war time ate garri simply; the rustic cereal took on a life-altering significance.
NNEOMA’S RECIPE FOR WARTIME GARRI.
- Take a fistful of garri from the container you keep under the bed to conceal from potential thieves.
- Pour fistful of garri into a large bowl, preferably with a garri to bowl ratio of 1:5
- Fill up the bowl the rest of the way with water – you want to allow the garri reach its maximum potential of swelling.
- Take a stroll,
travel, leave this place and never return because only death lives here and death here is slow.
- Pray while you walk. Ask God to stretch his mighty hand and work a miracle. Remind him that he is the same God who fed five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fishes. Bargain. Promise to pray more often if the garri swells to half of the bowl and promise to pray without ceasing if the garri swells all the way to the top.
- Return home to your swollen bowl of garri and pour off the excess water. Eat. Rest and let your body thank you for taking another step in aiding your stomach’s protrusion liberation from the rest of your frame.
As it was, Nneoma had taken her stroll and was now standing behind the gate. Better still, behind what used to be the gate before it was blown to bits by enemy bombs. She stood as she watched the children play, her son with them. The boys were still pretending to be pregnant. She watched them hold their extended stomachs and writhe on the earth in throes of pretend labor. One of them just lay there like he was too weak to writhe. They played close to the bunker as the adults had told them to; they didn’t need any adult supervision because they had hunger to dissuade them from mischief and their survival instinct which made for very obedient children. Nneoma walked past them into her house. She sat with her dinner and ate slowly. Once she was done, she went to the door, waited until her son met her eyes, then beckoned. He came, dusting his body as he walked. He was still covered in red earth when he reached her. She held his hand as they walked into the house caressing his knuckles with her thumb as they went. It was time for another feeding session. This time, the other breast would get a turn.
I watched all this happen from a tiny hole in her bedroom wall that she had failed to notice. Just like the many similar holes throughout the house that Nneoma refused to see. They could have been made by bullets, or shards sent flying by a bomb, but I do not care. All I know is that I will remain eternally grateful for the holes it made in Nneoma’s walls. Small enough that I remained undetected but big enough that I saw it all. I had been watching for months even as my son’s stomach extended a little further with Kwashiorkor each day. Today, he lay on the ground while the children played, and he couldn’t even muster enough strength to writhe as the others did. He just lay there on his side, supporting his extended belly with his palm. I only waited this long because I considered myself a pacifist. A non-neighbor-blackmailing pacifist. That was until this morning. My growing consciousness of my son’s impending demise had driven me to scripture, to my Bible. Frantically leafing through its pages to keep my mind from imploding, I
found Hezekiah. I found the famed Jewish king who fought invasion by cutting off the water supply of enemy troops; pushing past the limitations of the technology of his time to innovate engineering miracles that allowed him to harness his most formidable weapon yet, thirst. All along, I had never been a pacifist, Hezekiah taught me, not if my starvation was the greatest weapon in this war.
I grabbed my son off the ground and we walked into Nneoma’s house hand in hand; an allegiance of weaponized bodies. We walked into the bedroom and my son gasped at the sight of his play mate milking his mother. Nneoma looked up and we stared into each other’s eyes in mourning. My eyes dared Nneoma to refuse me, to protest, to fight the violence that was about to be done to her. I said quietly,
“Nne, you will feed my son. You will nourish his weakening body until his stomach like your son’s no longer protrudes. You will provide the sustenance that my body cannot provide. You will feed my five-year-old till he is seven if this war chooses to continue. You will do this so that it would not be know why your son’s stomach remains flat amidst a sea of extended torsos”
I watched as Nneoma, tears running down her face snatched her nipple away from her son’s mouth and beckoned to mine. I led my son to Nneoma’s nipple and helped him suckle, working her breasts with my hands to help the milk flow better. Nneoma stared at the wall. Her son who was getting his first lesson in sharing watched from the doorway with confusion in his eyes. We remained there in silence long after the meal was over, neither of us with the slightest idea that the war would end in a week. No victor, no vanquished the newspaper headline would read.
Melie Ekunno (Fiction Winner, 2019 English Dept. Contest) is a sophomore Chemistry and English double major. She grew up in Abuja, Nigeria - the city where her love for literature began. She credits her full recovery from a lifelong addiction to novels to the impossible schedule she currently maintains at St. Olaf College. On a good day, you may spot her ridiculous Afro-puffs (space buns) from miles away; She maintains that they are a symbol of her commitment to not growing up anytime soon.
THANK YOU to everyone who came out to our launch last night! It was such a wonderful evening full of creativity and positivity and we're so grateful for the creative community at St. Olaf. If you weren't able to make it, you can still pick up a copy of The Quarry in Groot Gallery.
By Kali Breska
By Rebecka Miller
By Jacqueline Dudley
Our launch is TONIGHT!!! Please come out for student art, readings, and music. Today we'll be posting some pieces that are published in this year's magazine as well as in the gallery 😊
The gallery is all set up and ready to go for our launch tomorrow! Complete with a comfy couch and some good student-composed music for you to relax with 😊
By Jessica Mitchell
By Valerie Darger
Will there be a student-made video game at the magazine launch for you to play? Yes, yes there will.
Also, don't forget about the event tonight in Groot Gallery regarding getting your written work published! It starts at 6:30, and is sure to be insightful for anyone looking into a professional writing career.
***UPDATE: Tonight's event has been canceled due to weather and will be rescheduled.
Come to our launch on Friday to see the whole magazine! The copies just came in today, and they look AMAZING 😲
By Bronwynn Woodsworth
By Avery Ellfeldt
By Noah Letscher