I remember playing my own little games on the pile of clothes, and watching the sun and sky dance and play through the giant back window that a 1972 Ford Pinto possesses.

“Pigs!” I think I said.  “No, those are sheep,” Mom might have said.  It didn’t matter.  I remember feeling free and relieved.

Uncle Terry rented a wing of an old plantation in West Virginia called Willow Wall.  I remember it being a huge old scary place, but I always felt safe around Uncle Terry.  He was big and happy, bearded.  I cowered behind his giant calf while he played tennis with a lost bat in a great room.

Mom rented a little house.  We had a black dog named Sooner who ate our shoes.  We had a milk man who always gave me a little carton of chocolate milk.  Once, when I was hiding in mom’s closet I watched them in bed together.  I liked him.

My dad came to visit for my third birthday.  He gave me a guitar.  I remember wishing that he would go away.


I got a new bike for my fourth birthday.  It was red with chrome handlebars and a sparkly banana seat.  Dad set the training wheels flat on the ground at first.  When he raised them up a notch I learned balance.  When he took them off and gave me a shove down the sidewalk I learned freedom.

“Just go around the block.” he said.  “Don’t cross any streets!”  I might have made it around the block a dozen times before I met other kids on bikes.

I was five when I got a watch. “Make sure you come home for dinner,” Mom said, “6 o’ clock!”

A watch on a five year old is as about as useful as a eunuch with a condom.  I was late often.

“You’re late again!” said Dad.  “Don’t you look at your watch?”  “Sorry.” I must have said.  “What were you doing?”  “Just playing.”  Or something like that.

What we were really doing was exploring an old broke-down Victorian a quarter mile away.  I remember crawling through the broken window in the kitchen door.  Too scared to venture upstairs, our crew left the way we came, but a little faster.

Dad held a spindle in his hand at the table.  It was from a staircase I knew.  “Don’t you ever go in that house again.” And I never did.

The next time I was late for dinner he accused me of going back to the house.  He dragged me into the bedroom, pulled my pants off and whipped me with his belt.

That day I swore to myself that when I was big enough, and strong enough, I was going to beat my dad, for me, and my mom.


Walking home from school that day was just like the day before.   I spent the half mile walk daydreaming as eight year olds do,  but when I turned into the gate to the apartment building it was different.


In the yard a neighbor who babysat us looked at me and said, “You need to go upstairs. Your father’s waiting for you.”  I thought this was strange because I always got home before Dad.  I walked up the three flights to our apartment.

Mom’s third suicide attempt was the closest.

This wasn’t watching her being brought down the stairs on a stretcher on her way to get her stomach pumped, or like the time my dad and his “buddies” coaxed her off the roof of the last apartment building we got kicked out of.

I was led through the room full of strangers and family to my dad in a chair.

“Your mom jumped off the porch today, Will. She’s in the hospital.”  My dad said with a big hug.  I stiffened.

That’s all I remember about that day except that my brother was okay after spending hours screaming in his crib.

While mom was “recovering” in hospitals both physical and mental, it was made clear to me what my new responsibilities were.  “Will, when I come home………..”  “These dishes………”  “That laundry……” “Watch your brother so he doesn’t………”  These things I did the best I could because failure to do so was a scary prospect


Sticking his needles in the wall when I found them is what I did at sixteen.

I had a girlfriend who was eighteen.  She drove a light blue Camaro, and it carried me away from the ants in the cereal and the dog shit on the floor. From my dad.  Not so for my brother.  I left him behind.

On a September morning I readied myself for school.  I had my books in my right hand as I stepped past my dad on the living room floor.

As I reached the front door of our second story flat, I hear, “Will, that guitar is mine! That amp is mine!”

Pure rage came out of my mouth. “You can shove that guitar up your ass!”

I slammed the door. With my back to a flight of concrete stairs, I heard the familiar sound.  The stomping that shook the house.

My dad burst through.

I think I punched him in the face before my books hit the landing.  I’m not sure.  But I do know that I just kept hitting him as fast as I could.  Uppercuts when he tried to cover.

Finally my dad raised his head and said, “Look what you’re doing to your father!”

I remember looking into his eyes and seeing blood drip from his mouth.

I picked up my books, walked down the stairs, and went to school.  I spent the first hour picking little blood spots off my forearms and feeling sick.

The walk home was a long one.  My dad met me a block from home with a pat on the back.  “Wow, where’d you learn to fight like that?  I’m not gonna mess with you man! “  He was high.  I went to my room.

Soon after my dad lost custody of us.  My brother, as smart as he is, just stopped going to school.  It’s funny how, back then, anyway, a kid could show up to school with filthy clothes, malnourished and bruised, and nothing would be said.  Rampant truancy though, had to be addressed.


I think I was twenty-one when I got the call from my dad.  “HIV positive,” he said.

I went to visit him a few times.  We went to a coffee house near where he was staying. I remember thinking that he was the best I’d ever known him to be.  Never trusting.

When I heard that he was in the hospital, and getting worse, I made plans to go visit him.

I never did. I guess I just kept putting it off.

My grandmother called one morning and told me that my dad had died.  She gave me all the information about the service, when and where.

I walked to the casket with my brother, confident that I could handle this.

When I saw my dad, my knees buckled and I screamed like an infant who’d been pinched.  Like my soul itself had been shattered.  My brother held me up.

In the car ride to the cemetery, my grandfather said to me, “You gotta be tough, Will! You need to be tough!”

I still play guitar.

Will O. Wall

The Girl with a T-Scar

I could feel the cold vent plate pushed against the tips of my toes, the pressure from my mom pushing on my frontal plate, the dizzy spells that flashed me back and forth between unconsciousness and consciousness and the hectic movements of everyone around me. Life was in slow motion for me. I seemed to sink in every piece of emotional distress that was floating in the air. Dad was spazzing out, Mom was still trying to make clear of what really just happened, and I’m pretty sure my sister was wondering why her older sister’s blood was staining her hands.

Here was daddy’s little girl, lying in his living room floor, pronounced to not make it. We just put carpet in the week before and my red blood seeped into the tan shag as if we were changing the color to maroon ourselves. My mom finally got to sleep for more than four hours today, but of course, I stopped that. She woke up from a nap to find herself compressing an old bath towel against my forehead. My little sister stood by and watched this catastrophe unfold, with no clue that she was the reason I was going to survive. From that moment on, I never looked the same.

“You want to be like Ben Wallace?” kids would snicker at me when I wore my all-white crispy Detroit Pistons jersey with the matching jersey plaited mini skirts and Air Force Ones, low tops of course. They thought it was a joke to have an idol or someone to keep you going through rough times. What they did not understand was a energetic kid like me gets bored sitting in blood transfusions, chemotherapies and IV treatments and the only good thing to watch was the Pistons make their way to the Finals that year against the Spurs. So that’s what I did.  I tried to be like Ben Wallace.

I’m pretty sure it was around noon that day, my mom was sleeping, dad was cutting down pear trees in the back and my little sisters was upstairs playing in her room. I snuck outside to check out that new basketball rim Dr.Passal gave me. We were close; he was my pediatrician since I was a baby. He was also my lifesaver. When I was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, he was the only pediatrician who did any type of research on this case in medical school, so he accepted my file. There was no cure for what I had. If I bleed, I bleed for hours and then wait for a blood transfusion to pump the ounces of blood I lost back into me. If I walked, the bottoms of my feet would be black and blue. He gave me the basketball rim on a basis that I was not to touch it until I was pronounced cured. Which was kind of a teaser, seeing how there was no cure for ITP. So for that reason, my parents did not sand the hoop down. Do you really think I listened to them? My idol is Ben Wallace, and then you hand me a basketball rim and tell me not to touch it? Good joke. I ran out of that house, stood and analyzed what I was going to do. Then, I did it. I grabbed that wagon and I rolled it under the rim. I put my left foot up and the right one followed and I stood on the edge of that wagon. I grabbed that ball and I went for it. A full-out Ben Wallace dunk. But things went wrong, and that ball didn’t sink into the rim. That ball sank into my skull. My 7-year-old sister found me, with every ounce of strength she had, she pulled the rim out of the hole in skill and called for help. Now, I regret it.

See, now I have this scar left in the middle of my forehead. You know, the one I’m sure you would notice immediately upon meeting me. The one those middle school kids teased me about, the one I was insecure about through high school, my mom likes to say, and it stands for “T is for trouble.” As I grow older and notice my face transforming throughout the years, I never got to sit down and examine what happened that day. I never understood why it took me so long to accept that day and live with the scar on my forehead until now.

“I love your scars, they show you have character and that something happened that made you who you are today, no matter how little.” Pretty charming, hey? These were the words of my boyfriend, Justin, within the conversation of meeting each other. These words replay in my head every time I see that scar, I never understood how to pull anything positive out of an ugly facial mark. When I saw that scar, all I remembered was the puffy black eyes, blood gashing through stitches, the hole in the center of my face, the cuts and bruises and the agony of never being able to look the same again. Because of him, I realized that the scar on my forehead doesn’t mean “Trouble” like my mom says. It’s not the leftovers of a successful plastic surgery. It’s the image of someone who overcame something very serious in their life. If it wasn’t for this scar, I couldn’t live to tell you about this. If it wasn’t for this scar, I don’t think kids would have a way to separate me from the other kids. If it wasn’t for this scar, I think my peers would know my name before my past trauma.

So here I am, C’Priana, not the, “small Mexican girl” or the, “the short chick” but the “girl with the T-scar.” and surprisingly for once, I accept that and I am okay with that because that little scar that everyone snickers about has a message and that’s to take everything life hands you and show it off. Wear those scars proudly, model those moles, accept those bushy eyebrows, acknowledge your large forehead and smile with those crooked teeth. Because although you may have an ugly “mark” on your face, you’re beautiful. Way more beautiful than the Mary Kay beauty queen who took four and a half hours to get ready this morning. Strength is beauty. Being strong enough to accept your flaws makes you naturally beautiful so flaunt your stuff sister. And leave the dunking up to Big B.  Trust me on that one.

C’Priana Martinez

Oh Shit, Another Damn Stop Sign

My family and I used to ride snowmobiles every winter when I was young. We would go on snowmobile trips to the U.P. or all day rides around Cadillac or Traverse City. It was a blast. We each had our own sled: a Polaris, two Yamahas, and an Artic Cat.

I was 13 and had just gotten my snowmobile permit. I had to take a two-day course to get it. I was so excited. I was going to be able to drive by myself, no one with me. I would have total control. I would be able to do spin outs, throw snow with the track, and take turns sharp. That same year my mom got a new sled: a 1999 Yamaha Phazer, white with yellow and red lighting strips. It was an awesome sled. None of us were going to be able to ride it. It was hers and she wanted to be the first to put miles on it. But we hadn’t had snow yet that year. We got a lot of rain and ice.

We finally got snow in the middle of December; it was about a week after my birthday. Eight inches of pretty white fluffy powder is the best to ride your sled in. My dad and I were so excited we were going to be able to ride that weekend.

The weekend finally came. The other groups of snowmobilers we ride with wanted to go for a ride. So I begged my mom to let me take her sled out. “Dani, no, the sled is too fast for you, so stop bugging me about it,” she said. But I didn’t stop bugging her. She finally gave in. She said, “You can ride the sled but you have to be careful.” Like all kids my age when parents tell you to be careful, I was thinking Yeah, yeah. Then I said, “I will.” I was so excited I was going to ride the new snowmobile that whatever she said went in one ear and out the other.

My mom went to work that morning, and my dad and I got all geared up: helmets, snow pants, coats, gloves, and scarves. We went out to get the sleds all filled up with gas and the oil checked.

The sleds were finally ready. My dad and I hopped on to go meet the other riders in an open field like we always did. The field was filled with the white fluffy snow. We shot the shit, and the smokers had their smokes like always, and more of my dad’s friends showed up.

When everyone was there, we finally jumped back on our sleds. Our first stop was Boy Scout Bridge, then Taffel Town, Mesick, and Kingsley. It seemed that we stopped at every stop sign so the smokers could have their smoke and shoot the shit some more. We had lunch at the Mesick bar and played music on the juke box. My dad and I shared a one-pound hamburger. Oh boy, was it big.

It was around 4 p.m., and we started to head home, stopping at every stop sign so the smokers could smoke. It was getting late and everything was freezing. We stopped in the field where we had met up earlier in the day to say our goodbyes to everyone. Then my dad and I were on our way home to meet my mom so we could go out for dinner.

We were less than a mile from home when we hit this straight shot. My dad and I opened up the sleds to burn out the carbon, and we started racing. I pulled away from him.

I was winning. I thought I was, at least. I passed my dad. I was thinking, This sled is awesome. It’s fast. I’m going to beat him home. I didn’t see my dad waving at me, trying to get me to slow down. I was so excited that I was ahead of him that I didn’t look back.

Then there it was: another damn stop sign. I did all my hand signals to indicate I was stopping and hit the brakes. “Oh shit, I can’t stop.” I hit ice that was under the snow. I never really panicked; I just braced myself for impact. I flew right past the stop sign and went through a directional sign’s legs.

I must have blacked out because I don’t remember anything after seeing the stop sign. When I finally came to, I was on my knees in front of the sled, my body feeling numb like it wasn’t there.  I started freaking out: My mom is going to kill me. There was no front end to the sled; it was gone. The front end was pushed all the way back to where the tail light was.

It seemed like it was a long time before my dad showed up, but it wasn’t. It was only seconds. He started patting me down because I told him I was numb. He was trying to get feeling back in my body and kept asking me if I was ok. All I could say was, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He said “I know, I know,” and asked me again if anything hurt. I was finally getting feeling back in my body and that’s when it hit me that my wrist was hurting.

My dad put me on his sled holding me and drove us up to the house, which was only a block away. He called his friend Ray to ask for help getting my mom’s sled. Luckily for my dad, my mom wasn’t home yet. My dad and Ray brought the sled home and put it in the garage while I stayed in the house, lying on the couch crying. I had no idea how my mom was going to kill me.

It wasn’t long before my mom got home. My dad had to explain what happened to me and my mom’s sled. I was in the house waiting so I never heard what was said between the two of them. He was probably getting his ass chewed. After my dad was done explaining what happened, my mom came in to see how I was. I said my arm hurt, and she said we’d go to the ER.

At the ER, it ended up being a big night with people coming in for snowmobile accidents. Due to the first fluffy snow of the year, there were two other families for snowmobile accidents ahead of us. The police were busy taking reports because any motor vehicle accident has to be reported to the police. The other two families’ accidents happened in their yard, so it was just private property, and the police couldn’t do anything. My accident happened on a road, and we soon realized that if we told the truth, I wouldn’t be able to get my driver’s license until I was probably eighteen or older. We would also have to pay for the sign. The story we told police was that I was riding with my dad on the back of his sled, we hit a bump, and I slid off and hurt my arm. The cop said okay and wrote the report that way. I believe he had a lot of snowmobile accidents to file that day, so he moved on to the next accident.

I was finally called back for my x-rays. My arm was broken, and I had to wear a cast for six weeks. I got a purple cast. It’s my favorite color.

When we were through at the hospital, we met my sister for dinner. We went to Burger King, and I tried some fries. I felt my face going flush, my stomach queasy, and then I threw up on my tray. It was gross, and right in the middle of the restaurant. People were looking at me, and my sister was embarrassed. We cleaned up and went home. My dad had to take my mom and me to the garage to see the sled. That’s when I saw the skis parallel to the tail light.

My mom’s sled was totaled, and she was pissed. Two years before this, my sister and I were riding my dad’s new sled, and we hit a culvert. We bent the skis straight up and bent the tunnel of the sled. It couldn’t be ridden for about six weeks. My punishment for my mom’s sled was a broken arm, and I couldn’t ride the rest of the year, which was fine with me. I didn’t want to ride anymore.

Danielle Zuzula