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By Ethan Johnson


It rests uneasily on my chest throughout the day. I dislike how it feels on my skin, so I wear it outside of my shirt. My dad and grandfather wear them inside their shirts, closer to their hearts. I call it a necklace; they call it a chain because a necklace is “something goddamn women wear.” I take mine off all the time: to shower, to sleep, to think. Their “chains” never leave their necks, just hanging there.

It’s a fairly simple cross on a gold plated chain. My dad’s is almost exactly the same as mine except slightly longer. Mine rests on my collarbone while his sits lower, closer to his heart. My grandfather’s isn’t a cross at all, but a melted-down bullet shell on a chain. He can’t believe I take mine off.

“What are you doing? That’s not supposed to come off! Goddamnit, Ethan, your parents gave you that to wear, not to take the fuckin’ thing off.”

It has dents and scratches all over the cross portion of the necklace.  The actual chain has been broken five times—it’s getting fixed for the fifth time right now. My dad and grandfather have never broken theirs. They say it’s because I take mine off all the time. It just feels weird to have a piece of jewelry on all the time. I suppose to them it’s so much more than a piece of jewelry. I wear it, though, because I can’t imagine not wearing it. I take my necklace off all the time, but it always ends up back around my neck, just hanging there.



Daddy’s Coat

By Jennah Kelley


Write about your fashion staple. What to pick. It could’ve been my leather combat boots that make it easy to dance. Could’ve been my rubber bracelets from my dojo back home that always give me a sense of protection. Could’ve been my new dress from that trendy “all locally made” shop downtown—the dress has a tail that floats out behind me. Could’ve been but it wasn’t. Had to be the coat.

Something about the way the cuffs come down past the middle of my hands so I can play and pull, and swing my arms to and then fro. Something about the way I can shorten my neck, arch my shoulders and become a bespectacled turtle with long hair and young eyes. Or the way that my long hair will slide to cover my eyes as I look down to observe my fingers fiddling with the circles encompassing my wrists and palms. Just something about the way only this coat covers me from the middle of my skull to the bottom of my rump.

Nothing will ever make me feel more like daddy’s little girl than slipping into Daddy’s coat and letting it engulf me.

I push out all the air between the front and the back of the coat, and rest in the cool insides I haven’t warmed up yet. When the warmth sets in, I’ll grab my shoulder with one hand and my ribs with the other. Settle into my surrounding blanket of black-gray. Deep breath to get the scent. Maybe it still smells like him. Maybe it just feels like he’s giving me a hug. Maybe I remember Christmas, him shoveling off the walk under green and red and blue and white lights, all nestled inside their comfortable strings of pokey, green plastic needles.

Whatever you wanna chalk it up to, there’s nothing like slipping into Daddy’s coat. It brings the promise of a smile but also the threat of a bubble in my throat. A hard rock that forms between my lips and lungs, blocking and hurting with every breath. But I keep pulling on Daddy’s coat. It’s my turn to shovel the walk for Mama. I pull on Daddy’s coat when I go to the store, to school, or for a walk or when I’m lonely.

I keep pulling on Daddy’s coat and shoveling my way through the snow.



Minnetonka Moccasins

By Kristy Romo


Out of every single item I ever owned, my moccasins have received the most compliments. They are one of the oldest articles of clothing I own and have been around longer to rack up compliments, but people seem to really like my moccasins. Most of my other clothes never get compliments at all, but for my moccasins, I can count on a couple a year. And they only get more as time passes, which is the strangest part. They’re almost nine years old, and it shows.

I got them for Christmas when I was fourteen. That year, they were an “in” item. Everyone had a pair that year, so I didn’t get many compliments then, nor was I expecting to.

They were a very average-looking pair of moccasins when I got them. Warm brown suede, with the tongue flipped over, tied down, fringed, and adorned with a beaded thunderbird. The suede was soft in texture and weight, softer to the touch than most of my stuffed animals ever were.

Over the years, the moccasins got old, as things tend to do. They’ve been splashed in street puddles, rained on, used to tromp through snow, chucked across rooms, and packed away in several suitcases. I’ve walked hundreds of miles in them. When the stitching started coming undone on one side, I tried replacing them, but the dog chewed up the brand new pair. The unraveling stitching stopped where it was, so I went back to wearing the old pair.

The suede has grown stiff and much of the soft texture has rubbed off. The insoles aren’t the soft pillows they once were, instead looking and feeling more like cardboard where the heels and balls of my feet go. The color’s faded to a vague suggestion of brown, except in the spots where it’s nearly gray. The fringe is curling up funny in a few spots. The soles, still as smooth and tractionless as they were when I got them, are wearing down on the outer side of my heels and at the very tip of the toes. The stitching is still coming undone on the inner side of the right shoe, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to fix it. There’s lint tucked away in some of the tiny creases, and they don’t keep my feet warm anymore. At least they don’t smell weird. About the only thing that hasn’t changed is the thunderbird beading, which is still securely sewn on.

Yet they got another compliment just last week. Almost every time I put them on, I can’t help but wonder why anyone but me loves these old things.

But then I wondered, maybe they’re not old. Maybe it just took that long to wear them in.


Ethan Johnson is an undergraduate student at Bemidji State University.  Jennah Kelley is a writer from small town Minnesota majoring in creative and professional writing.  Kristy Romo grew up in Eden Prairie and is pursuing a degree in creative and professional writing.