Liv O'Clair 2015

Story:      "One Day in the Life of Matthew Gray" 

Poem:      "Rainwater Whisper"

Poem:     "Hard to Say"

Poem:      "Johny's Sketches in Math Class" 

Poem:     "The Wasteland"

Twitter Pieces

After "Diving into the Wreck"

One Day in the Life of Matthew Gray



     Looking in through the window, Matt saw that about 20 of the 35 people were already seated in the calculus classroom. Ducking through the door, he quickly walked to his seat. Once he got settled, Matthew peered through his black hair to see the instructor, Mr. Spring, glaring at him. Matt rolled his green eyes and settled his bag, turning away from his least favorite high school teacher.


     When Mr. Spring finally started the lecture on trigonometric functions, Matthew snapped to attention. Taking notes constantly, he avoided the interrogative eyes of his instructor. Mr. Spring was always watching Matt in case he had another “interrupting” migraine. As he wrote the numbers on his page, Matt dreamt about the Count Chocula he had to skip this morning. His thoughts moved to how awesome it would be if he could just get some more sleep. He closed his eyes for a minute, picturing the amazing nap he would take later.


    “Mr. Gray, do you know the answer?”


    “The square root of 42, sir.” Matt answered without missing a beat.


    “Well, just keep your eyes on the board,” Mr. Spring scoffed.


    As the class is let out an hour and a half later, Matthew shoveled his books and extensive notes into his backpack. He hurried out the door, trying not to mow through the much slower kids.


    After stopping by his dorm to grab English assignments, Matthew rushed to the campus’ central library. He checked in his old books: encyclopedias, classics, and an atlas. He hurried to the table he shares with the undergrads he tutors. After the incident on the first day of classes, Matthew needs to work hard to get on Mr. Spring’s nice side. He is going to try to avoid all stress possible so he doesn’t have another one of his migraines in class. He took out the calculus assignment and painstakingly checks every answer he comes up with twice. He pushed the book aside as he finished, relief showing on his pale face. While pulling out the English assignment sheet from his bag on the floor, a girl comes up behind him and dropped a note next to his elbow. She snuck silently away, looking over her shoulder to gauge his reaction. She couldn’t walk in a straight line, her legs were shaking so badly.


    Matthew never noticed. As he straightened his flannel shirt, he scooted the paper off the edge of the polished pine table.  She clenched her jaw and walked behind a massive bookshelf. Matt set up his papers and book, then studied the choices for an essay. Finally, he put his pencil to his page, making a bulleted lists of ideas for the reason behind patriotism. When Matthew had written a page and a half, he pulled out his laptop. He typed furiously, occasionally checking the clock to see how long he had until his one o’clock session. When he had finished his rough draft, he hurriedly stuffed his things into his bag and threw the library books back onto the shelf.


    When he finally returned, a small girl was sitting at the table. It’s his one o’clock session, the girl that left the note. He paused by a bookcase and raised an eyebrow as his lips curled up at the corner. “Sam, you come any earlier and we’ll end up starting at 12:30 everyday.” Continuing on his way to their table, he stopped short when he saw her single book. “Only one subject today? What’s up?”

Sam tossed her white blond hair, “Well, I was bored and ended up doing my math last night.” She would only meet his eyes through the corner of her own. She seemed to be very careful to keep her left cheek turned away.


    “Were you bored or avoiding your dad?” Matthew asked, the smile was gone now and he crossed his arms over his chest. He watched her until she finally opened her mouth, only to cut her off. “I told you to call me when something like this happens. Why didn’t you?”


    “Come on, Matt. You know that isn’t fair.”


    “Isn’t it? Really, Sam, you know you deserve more than a deadbeat dad.”


    “He isn’t a deadbeat dad!” her voice rose to normal levels.


    “Shh, I know you don’t agree. But-”


    Sam cut him off, “Can we just work now? Please?”


    Matthew paused and sighed. “Sure we can.”


    “Thanks,” Sam said in a rush.


    “So what are we working on today?” Matthew asked as his took his seat.


    “English, Mrs. Harper really loaded it on us today.” Sam replied with a sigh.


    “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think she likes the new classes very much.” Matthew laughed.


    “Ugh. That is so true, though!” Sam sighed. “Here’s what we’ve gotta do.”


    They worked through her English assignment until, finally, Matthew thought it was as close to perfect as it could be. “Now we need to go to your house and get that math paper so I can check over your answers,” Matthew stated near two as they gathered their things.


     “Oh, no. No, I’ve got it all under control.” Sam said in a panic, tossing blond hair over a tanned shoulder. Matt chuckled under his breath.


    “I can see right through you, you know that, right?” Matthew said with his brow raised and lips curled on the same side. “Come on,” He called back as he led the familiar way to Sam’s house.


    On the walk, neither of them had a good time. Matthew attempted small talk while Sam just huffed and shrugged her shoulders.


    Matt slumped. “Come on, Sammy. Don’t be mad at me, I can’t take it. Not to mention how hard it is to help someone when they won’t accept it,” Matthew said after walking the mile to Sam’s house.


    Sam thought for a moment. “Okay, but only if you fix the problems I got wrong,” she caved.


    Matthew paused for a moment considering, “I’ll do every other one.”


    “Deal.” Sam said as she shoved her key into the lock of her two bedroom apartment. “But you can’t say anything to my dad.”


    Matt leaned on the door when Sam tried to open it. His nose was almost touching her ear, his sharp cheekbones skimming her hair. “I’ll agree to that, if you show me what happened to that cheek.” Matt whispered.


    Sam’s eyes widened, “How did you know?”


    “Well, you weren’t secretive in the least. I literally scolded you for not telling me, you kept that side of your face away from me most of the day, and you’re wearing cover-up. You never do any of that.” Matt smiled, content with himself. It didn’t reach his concerned eyes.


    “Fine, but don’t get mad,” Sam whispered, reluctant.


    “No promises,” Matt breathed.


    Sam turned her face away then, into the shoulder farther away from Matt. “I’ve gotta go get my makeup remover then,” she mumbled.


    Matt pushed off of the door with a sigh, “Go on, I’ll go find your math.”


    “It’s on my bed, we can just study in there.” She shook. “I just need a second, go on in.”


    “Okay,” Matt relented. He slipped inside the door, leaning out to look at Sam for a moment before quietly closing the door. He wandered to Sam’s room, her private place. This was the one place that her dad had never once followed her into.


    Matt looked through Sam’s rumpled sheets, finding her math pages under it all. “Geez, Sam.”


    Setting about making her queen-sized bed, Matt turned on the latest album from Fall Out Boy from his phone. Singing along to Novocaine under his breath, he finished making the bed and laid down on top of it. Sam crept in quietly, then laid down next to him.


    “You’ve got a nice voice,” she whispered.


    He chuckled, “You’re kidding, right?”


    “Oh, please. You know it’s true.” Sam said as she sat up. Matt saw the purple bruise along her cheekbone for the first time without the cover of her makeup. He reached up behind her to touch the very edge of the ugly bruise, but thought better of it and just put his hand on her farthest shoulder.


    Matt joined her in the position, “You always could see right through me,” he whispered, his arm still around her. He drew her close, as though trying to bury her in his chest, trying to keep her safe. They sat like that for a long time, letting Sam’s tears trickle silently down her face. When her eyes were dry they still sat, clutching each other, not wanting to let go quite yet. Matt cleared his throat. Sam took the hint and sat back.


    He nudged her with his shoulder. “Let’s get to work.”


    After making Sam rework five of her twenty problems, Matt caved and did the rest on another sheet for Sam to copy. “But there are two in here that are wrong. You’ve gotta figure out which ones they are.”


    “Come on, Matt, you know math isn’t my strong suit.” Sam complained.


    “That’s the only reason why we’re here, you know,” Matt replied with a wink.


    Sam scoffed. “Well then, I guess you aren’t getting any of my stuffing.”


    “No, no, no, no. I’m here for that too.” Matt jumped up, bouncing to Sam and stopping close.


    “I knew it.” Sam teased.


    Matt chuckled then whispered, “You got me, now what? Gunna kick me out?”


    “Yep. Have a good life, I’ll see you on the ballots in a few years.”


    “No,” he whined. “Wait, what ballots?”


    “The ones we vote for president with? Duh.”


    Sam was serious. “You think so? I know I want to do something big, but not that special.” Matt said with a raised eyebrow with a smirk. After a moment he shook his head,  “No way.”


    “Yes way. I’m serious, you’re going to do something with your life. I mean it.” Sam told him. He fell back into his trademark smirk, a sort of humble bragging. He had just opened his mouth to respond, when the timer went off from the kitchen.


    “Let’s forget that for now; that’ll be the stuffing. Is it time to eat then?” Sam’s smile faded a little, but she brought it back quick enough that Matt didn’t notice.


    “I guess so.” They ate and ate, not once stopping to think about how much they had eaten of the golden stuffing and honeyed ham. They kept talking the whole time, never allowing a pause or lull in the conversation. That is, until Sam’s dad came home. He stumbled in, drunk like always. Matt visibly tensed and scooted his chair until he was between Sam and her father. Sam put her hand on Matt’s, a silent plea to let it all go.


    “What are you doing here, boy?” he asked with a hiccup.


    “I’ve been tutoring your daughter, sir. Just like every other week day." He paused where he was in the hall, trying to remember.


    “Well, don’t plan on coming back here again. You teenagers can be very stupid.” He wandered over to where Matt was sitting.


    “I don’t need to teach you a lesson for touching my daughter, do I?”


    He glanced at Sam, “No, sir,” he answered finally.


    “Good, now get out.” He belched in Matt’s face. Clenching his jaw, Matt glanced at Sam again. “Stay safe,” he mouthed to her, once safely behind her father. He paused then, waiting for her response and attracting the attention of her dad. When he turned towards Matt, Sam took her chance and nodded, mouthing “I promise.”


    Inclining his head to show he understood, Matt turned without a word and walked out the door.


He walked back to dorm with slow steps and a straight face, shaking his head to get a certain thought out of it every so often. “I have to help her,” Matt repeated over and over as he reached his dorm. He walked in, murmuring the five words to himself as he got ready for bed early. He said his prayers, all for Sam this time. He repeated his mantra as he made the sign of the cross and drifted to sleep.







Rainwater Whisper


The rushing wind idles

to a stop.

The roaring rain slows

to a sprinkle.

The lights blink on, one

by one, each

taking its own forever.


As we come up

the stairs we hear the

drip, drip, drip

of the rain falling,

falling, falling


off the roof;

after a moment

the timely splat,

splat, splat

of the drops hitting the concrete,


one after another.

It has it’s own language-

one that always follows

the violence of a storm.


It breathes through the grasses

and weaves through the tiles

hanging on the roof.


It is the whispering of rain.






Hard to Say


The squirrel scampers

from tree to tree.

Why does he hurry?

It’s hard to say.


His cheeks bulge.

He goes back and forth, back

and forth.

Is he lonely?

It’s hard to say.


He runs after another squirrel.

They spin and twirl together.

Could that be possible?

No, his friend suddenly ran off.

Could the squirrel possibly be satisfied?

He’ll go to the forks in each tree and pause.

Is he trying to find his future home?

He looks around before moving.

Is he playing hide and seek?

Maybe he’s looking for his friends.

Could he be playing tag?

It’s hard to say.


Maybe he’s trying to live his life,

the same way I’m trying to live mine.

But is this what I look like?

Running from one task to another,

and I still have more to do.

Am l so hurried in my life

that I look this frantic too?

Every minute, every day.

Should I slow down?

Can I try to enjoy this moment?

But am I able to take a break?

It’s hard to say.


Can I do something just because I want to?

I don’t think that’s possible. Everything I do

has a reward.

Am I always working?

I have practices and extra credits to make.

Am I able to have fun?

I think I’m enjoying what I do.

Am I always craving more?

I’m always studying to be on top,

but I’m not sure if I’m pushing

too hard, going too fast.

Could I be cursed to never feel like I am enough?

I have to be on top to feel like I can take a breath,

but still I work harder, faster.

Is something wrong with what I’m doing?

With what the squirrel is doing?

Or is something wrong with me?

It’s hard to say.






Johny’s Sketches in Math Class


Cauliflower clouds

float over

the almost abandoned

city of Math.

Looking up into the colorful sky,

the little scribbles stare

at the confused and bitter face

of Johny, their creator.

In this lined, gray world,

very few of the citizens of Math can get over

the holes in the paper walls,

caused by the angry erasers,

hoping to reach the success

of a single correct problem.

Few can make sense

of the flawed algebra

dotting the walls.

No matter what,

no doodle gets over

the ever present canker sores

and runny noses,

caused by an annoyed Johny,

the one who created the sketched town.

The only good thing

about the awful nerd world

is the sky.


As Johny looks through the window,

he replicates the scene for his personal world.

He strays from reality as the occasional cloud rolls

over the paper doodles,

sometimes pouring gnomes.

Johny becomes random

in the boring, solid world he lives in.

“Johny,” interrupts a booming voice

coming from the world of color.

“I hope you’re planning on erasing that.”

Realizing what’s about to happen,

all doodles are over taken by

the eraser that once was angry,

but is now bitter.

“Goodbye for now,” Johny whispers,

sadness coming over him.

“I’ll visit again tomorrow

in the awful place called Math."






The Wasteland


On the other side

of the crumbling rock wall

lies a wasteland,


a place, they say,

that holds a different creature.


It was something that had skin

which she burned on purpose,

punched holes into for jewelry,

and cut to drown her sorrows.


Something that had hair

she bleached and dyed,

pulled and plucked for beauty,

and ripped out to feed her vanity.


Something that had nails

she filed to points,

painted and polished to impress,

and chewed on to stop anxiety.


Something that used clothes

as a summoning for mates,

that she skimped to show tan lines,

and as cover for protection.


But on this side,

we’re not much better.


We are the things

that inspire the burning of skin,

the punching of holes,

and the spreading of sorrow.


We are the things

that encourage the killing of hair,

like the product of the plucking,

and appreciate the absence of follicles.


We are the things

that need the scratching,

are impressed by the nail colors,

and cause the anxiety.


We are the things

that come because of the clothes,

love the absence of the cloth,

and cause the need for protection.


We are living in a wasteland,

simply because we’re human.