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Angie Stein is a poet, short story author and illustrator from Allentown, PA. She grew up as a bookworm and lover of fantasy and horror stories before choosing the path of the writer. Angie worked at The Stinger, her high school’s newspaper, for four years as a writer, editor, designer and award-winning editorial cartoonist. She decided to come to UArts after attending UArts Pre-College Summer Institute at age 16.
Stein works primarily in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres. She enjoys writing about food, video games, crime, the paranormal, mythology, cryptids and pro wrestling in both her fiction and poetry. For her senior thesis, she is currently working on “A Good Day to Die in Duckworld,” a short story collection about a possessed, duck-themed amusement park.
The following poems are taken from Angie Stein’s 2018–2020 class portfolios.
Note: This content contains racial slurs and violence.
generation neXt: issue 2
paige i met you on the front of a book that showed my heroes
getting blasted to smithereens getting dragged around
the ash-festering bomb-blasted ground of chicago
paige you went to save a little girl a mutant like me
i have no tolerance for genetic wannabes
a halfie a chink mom a jew father trading in comic books
for child support just a dollar and and ninety five cents
paige you put on a fake voice
ah reckon ah don’t know about the good life like y’do, mistuh quietus suh
your body like a tuinal tablet red hair blue bikini
making me taste copper on my baby teeth
paige i was only eight you made me want to play with hairy big-nosed men
ah’m just a lowly human attendant
ah’m not used to being around such im-po-tent people
paige you made your debut in daddy issue number 2
paige in the age of apocalypse i have no concept of relationships
a lot of courage in you
i enjoy that in a girl
means i get to break you
paige how did the gun taste
how did he yank the skin off your face
paige they colored in your blood so well
they’ll do anything to get this to sell
it was my mother’s
paige you hid with me in the closet
paige what is a cheating bastard
paige what is an ex man
paige if i dress like a hussie will he shoot me or love me
what was it like living in your mother’s home?
so soaked through with secrets
the floors squished and moaned
when we tiptoed downstairs to pillage her coin purse
looking for baby teeth, sweet sixteen,
candles we never blew out, baseballs we never caught
demons hid in the dresser
cause our bed sat on too many dollar stacks
for much else to fit
a trust-fund husk
i learned to leave instead of live with
and how did your mother acquire her wealth?
every husband who went in never came out
her skeletons in the closet
had gold teeth and swiss watches
when did you decide to run?
when i stood on the top bunk,
eyes closed, arms spread,
i felt ready to leave the nest
i huffed the fumes of take this fifty,
don’t tell anyone,
and you’re no son of mine
so i’d be high enough to fly
did you plan to take your brother with you?
he still sucked his thumb,
drooled in his school pictures
i knew he’d made peace with the place
and he’d stay watching cartoons
on the flat screen forever
did you harm your mother?
the only way to break her heart
was to take something else with it
that night i smashed her best champagne glass
on the granite counter
the way a king breaks a bottle
on the back of a ship
and set sail for someplace else
the house groaned
and if i looked back i knew it’d collapse
and your brother?
the next day i heard the neighborhood
flooded so bad school got cancelled
his black kitten eyes and
the bills in our basement
soaking wet, overflowing
winter in the belly of a snake
Suck out the poison but you can’t pull my fangs
Built my walls up, too wise to self-destruct
Fell in love with myself when I had to be someone else
Sick of Who does he think he is and
Why must you
be this way?
Because I turn copper into gold, hellfire into heaven
Threatened with death so many times
it all sounds the same: holy, orgasmic,
temple orgies in my name
When I was young I dreamt of cobras in the grass on the edge of town
The original sin, familiar and forbidden
Slit their bellies to see if they looked like mine
Gold venom in my veins, shed skin peels away
I grew up so pale, so skinny,
dirty like the snow looked
as soon as it fell
A weed people never watered because
Someday he’ll dry up and beg us for help
Children of Eve know acceptance is a sleeping pill
Black serpents hanging on their chandeliers
I left two puncture marks on the neck of the world
that wanted a kiss but never said it to my face
That some girls grow up and hold white rose bouquets
Forget choking snakes
In their childhood yards
Stay warm in the winter
Look loved, look holy, die slowly
Angie Stein, an excerpt from “A Good Day to Die in Duckworld: Part 1.”
This story’s protagonist works at Duckworld, a small amusement park, and must look for Jim, a middle-aged man and notorious problem employee who plays Penelope the Pink Dragon, similar to how actors play Mickey Mouse at Disney World. Note: This content contains violence.
I hit up every place that served alcohol, then moved on to break rooms, concealed spots near the rides, places where staff like to have a smoke and shoot the shit. No sign of Jim. I was close to giving up and when I saw something stuck to the sidewalk. I pushed my way past a few families, mumbling apologies, to get a closer look.
It was unmistakable: a bit of pink fuzz topped with a single shiny sequin, fluttering in the breeze. I looked ahead and saw another ball of fuzz, then another. A whole trail of magenta fluff and chunky glitter, leading off into the distance. I hurried off in the direction of the trail before the little fibres got trampled or blown away.
Penelope’s trail led to the small bathroom shack in Duck Central town square. Not many guests use that bathroom. It has two sinks, three stalls, and there’s a bigger, better bathroom across the street. It still surprised me when I stepped inside and no lights flickered on. You’d think maintenance would at least fix a busted bulb. The door slammed shut behind me, making me jump, and I pasted my back against the wall. The crowded noise of the park vanished, and I heard my own breathing over the sound of running water.
I flicked on my phone’s flashlight and aimed it at the row of sinks. One had its handle turned and water leaking from the faucet, the basin overflowing. How long had that been running? My flashlight glared against the grimy mirror cracked in a million places, a web pattern that stretched outwards starting above the sink. I saw my shadowy, broken reflection quivering and blamed it on the distortion of the broken mirror, then realized I really was shaking.
A stomach-churning urge to bolt out of the bathroom gripped me like a tight fist, but like an idiot teenager in a horror movie who can’t stand being called a scaredy-cat, I pressed on into probable doom. I carefully stepped over the pools of water, swept the light across the toilet paper-strewn tile floor, and saw Penelope’s trail leading to a locked stall.
“Jim? You in here?” The sticky walls and floor seemed to close in on me, the smell of sewage masked with lavender Febreze stinging my nostrils. I took a step towards the stall and aimed my light at the bottom of the door, bending over to take a look. Penelope’s clawed feet stood in the upper-right corner of the stall. It should have been funny, those plush dragon feet behind the door, but they were so perfectly still, the light of my phone showing every tear, hole, and bald spot, chunks of fluff littering the floor like shed pieces of skin. I started to sweat, and not from the lack of air conditioning.
“Jim.” I couldn’t hide the quiver in my voice. “Get out here. Now. They need you at the birthday party and they sent me to find your sorry ass…”
I trailed off when I heard the gurgling. Deep, wet gurgling, as if coming through a mouthful of liquid, getting louder and louder until it made my eardrums pop. Penelope’s feet scraped the floor, twitching and spasming like she was being electrocuted. My scream got stuck in my throat. I clicked the flashlight off so I wouldn’t have to see, then dropped my phone. The dark swallowed me up. The frantic drumming of my heart mixed with that awful gargling noise and the scratching of Penelope’s feet on tile.
Then it started banging on the stall door. Not fast banging, like with fists, but clumsy, heavy thuds, like someone throwing their body against the door. The metal lock rattled in place and I jumped back, only to slip on the wet tile and fall flat on my tailbone. A garbled mess of words bubbled up through the noise: Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Over and over like a skipping record, in a deep, halting, monotone. An unholy scream broke through, then drowned and suffocated, reduced to mucousy retching and choking. I dragged my hands across the walls, trying to find the door before whatever was in there escaped from the stall.
The moment I felt cold metal and grabbed the door handle, everything stopped. The lights in the bathroom flickered on. A moment of silence passed before I realized I hadn’t been breathing. I swallowed a mouthful of rancid air and coughed hard, holding onto the door handle for support. I pulled myself to my feet, pushed forward, and fell on all fours outside the bathroom shack, the door closing on my ankle. When I rolled over onto my back, I saw a worried, chubby mom crouching over me, waving a water bottle in my face and mouthing something. All I could hear were those last muffled cries of the thing in the bathroom.