In Ferg We Trust

In Ferg We Trust

If you ever find yourself on New Zealand’s South Island, in the vicinity of Queenstown (a four season lake and alpine resort town), and within walking distance of 42 Shotover Street, you’d be foolish to overlook the taste bud-riveting experience that is Fergburger. Established in the year two thousand as a basic burger joint, Ferg has flourished so much that it’s now recognized on an international level. Though it’s yet to launch a chain of restaurants, Ferg has spawned a bakery that neighbors next door and provides burger buns made from scratch daily. Fergbaker specializes in meat pies, bagels, and ice cream. Kiwis take pride in their hometown phenomenon, and it’s no surprise that this restaurant is consistently prosperous throughout all twenty-one of its opening hours.

After a warm summer’s day in January filled with a Lord of the Rings helicopter tour, Moke Lake hiking, and our first hang-gliding excursion, my newlywed husband and I found ourselves bursting with euphoria but depleted of sustenance. It was nearly eight o’clock New Zealand Time, and the Lord only knew what time that meant back home in Colorado. As we strolled past the bustling shops filled with indigenous jade and kiwi bird and silver fern paraphernalia, Jared pointed to a swarm of people gathered across the way at a storefront. Judging by the line, it was safe to assume that either someone was giving away free iPads, or the food was extraordinary. Jared persisted, and I reluctantly got in line roughly half a block from Fergburger.

The line moved rapidly, and we were greeted halfway through by a friendly Fergling with a menu to aid in the decision-making process. The twenty-four item menu was simple enough to not overwhelm the guests, yet it had enough variety to please just about any diet—or to give one a desire to come back twenty-four times to try everything on said menu. Catchy names like “Chief Wiggum” and “Sweet Bambi” alluded to the elaborate burger contents while keeping a low-key edge on the ambiance. Within twenty minutes, we arrived at the entrance. We could scarcely hear the music above the bustle of the crowd, but we hardly noticed as we inhaled the aromatic duo of freshly baked bread and meat on the grill.

We were promptly greeted by attentive employees clad in uniforms branded with their company emblem: a vintage-looking man with a stoic expression and equally intense chops. The employees labored tirelessly but smiled at patrons all the while. The glass case below the register displayed a mini-store reminiscent of California’s In-N-Out Burger, complete with T-shirts and lanyards. Since New Zealand is known for its livestock, I gave “Little Lamby” ($12.90 NZD) a chance, and Jared took the plunge with “Big Al” ($17.90 NZD). Ferg served fries with a variety of sauces (like the Kiwi staple: aioli), along with onion rings and fried calamari. We settled on the classic fries ($4.50 NZD) and onion rings ($5.50 NZD). The larger menu posted inside also offered a breakfast and kids menu, complete with a full list of beers, wines, and non-alcoholic beverages ($2.50-$7.00 NZD).

Our order took another twenty minutes, but Queenstown’s quaint shops and astounding scenery hardly made us notice the time lapse. We spent a majority of our waiting time out by the wharf, watching the sunset over the pristine waters. Ferg bags in hand, we searched for a table to no avail and realized the seating was inadequate for the popularity of the small restaurant. The locals paid it no mind, however, and informed us that most people view it as a take-away (carry-out for us Americans) and simply eat it out by the waterfront or take it home. Eager to fit in, we skipped the crowded tables and dipped out with our paper bags as if we were smuggling hidden treasure.

If I had any qualms with the wait time or lack of seating, they were quickly laid to rest when I set eyes upon my burger in its full glory. Aside from being picture-perfect, my lamb burger was succulent, grilled to perfection, and between the tangy mint jelly and savory aioli sauce, its flavor palette was spot on. My husband’s burger held up to its name; Big Al’s double serving of char-broiled beef smothered in gooey cheese, thick slabs of bacon, and fried eggs slathered in aioli were almost too much for him to finish. Both burgers were bookended by soft, warm buns and layered with crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes alike, complete with a Kiwi favorite: pickled beetroot. The fries and onion rings were crispy and well-seasoned, and we were left with our money’s worth of full tummies and one of the highlights of our honeymoon.

And remember: Ferg loves you. If burger quality equals love, then he most certainly does.

IMG_1475

Inferior

We both stare into the barren wall of Dr. Bäcker’s office, striving to dissolve the moment into nothingness. Peter, our newborn son, has been diagnosed with mongolism. His face is flat, his eyes and ears are tiny, and his entire body is supposedly smaller and stouter than it should be. He will always face developmental and functional issues, the specialists say, and he will never be able to sustain life on his own.

The doctor straightens his spectacles and tells us we can take as much time as we need to process the news; he will be a few rooms over, preparing the lethal procedure. The obtrusive examination table swallows me whole as reality sets in. Emmerich sits in silence, his icy hands clasped firmly around mine. I see compassion in his eyes, but only for me. He releases my hands and turns towards the solitary window. Through it looms a darkened sky scattered with flecks of snow.

I close my eyes and run my hands over my now empty stomach, rocking back and forth slowly. There was no way we could have known that our precious bundle would turn out to be a burden. Yet, I do not mind. But as I stare at my husband’s back, I realize that he does. I want to ask him so many questions. I already know the answers, though, and it makes me shiver. He would not have gotten me pregnant had he known. He claims it is more his fault than mine, as if taking the blame makes the situation any better.

I feel his presence behind me as he pulls me in for a hug, but his breath on my neck causes my throat to tighten. “Shall I let Dr. Bäcker know? Gisela?”

I look back at him and wish we had never met. Not because of our child, but because of his lack of consideration. Emmerich is always thinking of himself, and I am only a thought because I sometimes bring him happiness and pleasure. He finally caves under my gaze, shoves his hands in his trousers, and looks out the window again. His stature is one of defeat, but also one of gentleness, and for a moment, I can see my old Emmerich again. But then he straightens his uniform—his pride and glory—and turns back to me, not as a husband, but as a soldier. His eyes are darker now, any traces of softness have vanished from his face. He will do anything for the Führer, even if it means harming his family.

I slide off the table and reach for my jacket. It is clear to me now that our love has changed drastically like our country. I cannot find renewed hope in either. Emmerich’s eyes widen as his mouth narrows. He places one knee on the ground, his sapphire eyes searching for mine for signs of allegiance. He opens one arm and beckons me to come. I take a step towards the door, my arms wrapped tightly around my body in a meager attempt to stop the chill overtaking my soul. He stands up again, fists clenched, and he beckons me to return to the table.

“We need to get this over with now,” he says.

The love is gone from his voice and replaced with a stoic tone usually reserved for his Nazi soldiers.

“I will let the doctor know we are ready for it to be euthanized,” he says.

I yank the door open before he can stop me and sprint towards the nursery where they are holding my last loved one hostage. Everything will be alright. Everything must be alright.

The Devil’s Playground

Andy skidded to a halt and whistled at her Shiba Inu to do the same. The dog halted and trotted back towards Andy, its red sesame fur gleaming in the sunlight. She had come to the perfect stopping point on her favorite Journey album, Infinity, and she slowed her breathing as she removed her earphones. Andy wiped the sweat off her forehead with one hand and used the other to smooth down the back of her auburn french braid. It was still intact, mostly. She had just finished twisting the lid off her Nalgene when Kitsune plopped down next to her feet. His tongue dangled aimlessly from his mouth, and he began to eyeball the water bottle.

“Good little stud!” Andy exclaimed. “I bet you’re thirsty too.”

Kitsune’s ears perked up, and Andy smiled. He barked at her, and then sat patiently.

“Give me just a sec, ok, little fox?” Andy said.

Andy reached into her backpack, her slender, pale arm squeezing through the hole she had made between the zippers. Her nose wrinkled as she fished around until she finally felt the cool metal of the water dish. Once they were both hydrated, she sprawled out on the soil and looked up at the Colorado sky. Andy sucked the clean, but dirt tainted, air in through her mouth and nostrils. The earth smelled rich, and two mountain chickadees chirped and flitted about in the branches above her. Bees and flies buzzed all around, squirrels argued in the trees, and if she listened closely, she could hear a creek running off to her left. A gentle breeze flirted with a few flyaway strands from her braid, lifting them up and down ever so slightly. It was anything but silent, yet it was peaceful.

“This is how life should be, Kit,” Andy said as she exhaled. “It’s like a playground I never want to leave. How about I tell work to screw off, and you and I run away and build a hovel in the woods?”

Kitsune just stared, his face stuck in a typical wolfish grin. Andy sat up slowly and glanced at her watch to gauge how much time they had left to hike. Once she saw that it was almost three, she shoved a protein bar in her mouth and pressed forward when her phone started buzzing in the back pocket of her cargo shorts. Andy’s eyes narrowed, but a smile crept across her face when she saw the image on the screen. It was a photo of her best friend doing what she did best: plopped down in front of a huge monitor at work, giant mug in one hand, a Red Bull in the other—and of course, clad in massive headphones that only served to further dwarf her already petite head.

“Hey, Jade! How dare thou naggeth me when I ventureth out on a mission!” Andy said.

“You weirdo,” Jade said. “You weren’t answering any of my texts, which is perfectly normal for you and all, but—”

“Eww, I text back at least once a day,” Andy said, feigning a provoked voice. She looked back towards Kitsune, only to see him wandering off to the left of the path.

“—as I was saying,” Jade laughed, “I just wanted to know if you were going to make it back for Kim’s twenty-fourth birthday party tonight? It’s at Old Chicago, but people will most likely go downtown after that. I think the turnout should be around fifteen people, so it should be a fun night. Andy? Are you even listening to me?”

“Yeah, sorry, Kitsune just up and walked off, so I got distracted for a moment. But I don’t know. I mean, I’m planning to be back in town this evening.” Andy paused for a moment. “I just don’t know if I feel like going out. Twenty-four isn’t that big of a deal anyway, is it?”

“It’s a big deal when it’s a good friend that you’ve known for years, and especially when your best friend is going. No way are you making me go it alone, Chica. Besides, you and I both know you could use some more interaction with, well, humans.”

“Fine, I’ll be there,” Andy said as she grimaced and started walking towards the break in the path where Kitsune had disappeared. “But be advised that I chose the veterinary field for a reason. I need to go, but I’ll touch base when I’m back in town, ok?”

“Whatevs! I’ll talk to you then. Love your face!”

“I love you too!”

Andy shoved the phone back in her pocket and stared off into the endless array of aspen trees. Their cream and black crackled skins seemed to be taunting her, unwilling to render up any secrets to the whereabouts of her beloved companion. She crouched to the ground, face only inches from the dirt. This technique worked well for Aragorn in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when he was tracking the hobbits, but Andy couldn’t make anything out in the muddled soil sprinkled with leaves and twigs. She let out an exasperated sigh, rolled her eyes, and strayed further away from the path.

“Kitsune! Here boy!” Andy paused and strained her ears. She repeated it several times and tried to stall the heat rising to her cheeks. “We only have a few hours left of hiking,” she muttered under her breath. “Please don’t ruin this.”

Andy’s pace quickened and she continued calling out. She stopped abruptly when another break in the trees opened up to her right. It looked like it was some sort of path, though it was not one well-trodden. Andy chewed her bottom lip for a moment and then turned right.

——

Roughly twenty minutes later, Andy’s path concluded at a dead end. She tore off her Columbia jacket and used it to mop the sweat off her forehead. She grabbed a jagged stone and was prepared to throw it at a nearby tree when she heard a noise in the distance. Andy started to call out, but stopped suddenly when she recognized human voices. She anxiously ran towards the sound, hoping these people had caught sight of Kitsune. As she drew closer, Andy could make out two distinct male voices.

“Come on, man, are you almost done with that already? I don’t want to be out here much longer.” The first man’s tone was strained, and his speech pattern was rapid.

“Then maybe you should shovel faster!” The second man’s voice was gruff, and he spoke with a much more eased cadence. “You’re the reason we’re in this mess, not me.”

“We were both apart of it! Just because I was driving,” The first voiced paused for a moment, and then lowered his tone, “I shouldn’t have listened to you.”

“Here you go again, you idiot. I’m freaking tired of hearing you whine about this. What’s done is done.” The second voice continued and muttered something unrecognizable from Andy’s position.

Andy inched closer and set her backpack down quietly, her heart rate rapidly increasing. She peered around the trees and could make out two figures about fifty yards away. They were both holding shovels, but only one appeared to be using them. There was a substantial amount of dirt piled in front of the men, and it was obscuring her view. Armed with her mace and a Jungle Survival knife, Andy soldier crawled towards a fallen log that rested about ten yards away from her initial hiding place. She reached the log and wrapped her hands around its moss-covered surface. It was brittle and somewhat moist, and she was soon enveloped in the earthy scent. From here she could make out what appeared to be an industrial garbage bag. It was resting just a few feet from the men and the dirt pile.

Andy scanned the first man up and down. He was actively shoveling, clad in a dark hoodie and beanie with torn jeans. He was lanky and as pale as (if not paler than) Andy. She narrowed her eyes further as she honed in on the counterpart that was reclined against a tree next to the bag. He was partially covered, but it was clear that he was a shorter and sturdier man. He had a brown gristly beard, and he was wearing a camo hoodie and a trucker hat. A can of beer was in his hand, and Andy guessed it wasn’t his first of the day. The skinny man threw his shovel aside and cursed.

“I’m over it, dude. My arms are shot and we have to get out of here.”

“Chill out,” Gristly Beard said. “Sit down and have a beer with me real quick.” Skinny started shaking and sprinted towards the bag.

“No way. Help me get her in here. I want to get the hell away from this place. Hear me?” Skinny began frantically dragging the bag towards to the fresh hole. Gristly Beard just chuckled

and threw his beer can in the hole, causing Skinny to curse again. Andy’s breathing slowed and her body tensed up. Her knuckles grew white as she gripped the log, watching helplessly as the bag was tossed into the human-sized grave. Gristly Beard polished off another can of beer while Skinny began shoving piles of the fresh dirt back into the hole. Andy swallowed and finally came to her senses. Her phone. She needed to call for help immediately. She needed to be a safe distance away first, however, so she slowly inched her way back towards the backpack. She had only made it halfway when her back pocket began to vibrate and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” started to crescendo. The volume was set at level two, but it was enough to draw the attention of the two men in the clearing. Andy gasped and backed up on all fours.

“What the hell was that?” Gristly Beard said. He stood up and scanned the woods around him. Skinny cursed again and clutched his shovel like an ax.

“It came from over there,” Skinny called out, running towards the fallen log. “This can’t be happening.”

“Shut up and let’s do something about it then.”

Andy’s eyes widened and she couldn’t hold back any longer. She stood up and sprinted back towards the path.

“There!” shouted Gristly Beard. “There’s a girl running away.”

“Crap, crap, crap!” Skinny said. He was already following in her footsteps and gaining momentum fast.

Blurs of cream, gray, and black raced by her peripheral vision as Andy dodged small bushes and rocks. Branches whipped in her face, and she held her arms in front of her haphazardly to block the impact. She was increasing the distance between her and the pursuer when her foot caught an up-curved branch. Her stomach tightened as she fell, and her head made an impact with the trunk. Her world instantly went dark.

——

Andy blinked rapidly as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She reached up to touch her head, but her arms—and legs for that matter—were bound roughly behind her back with a rope. Her initial instinct was to call out; however, she let the urge die away. She was lying down on her side in a mostly dark room. The boxy, wooden material underneath her supplied little to no comfort. She couldn’t make out much in the room, save for a single pane window with a sheer, paisley curtain obstructing most of the outside view. The last beams of light were cascading through the window, and Andy’s heart started to sink with the sun.

The door to the room was shut and it was deathly quiet all around. Andy’s resolve returned, and she struggled to sit upright. She paused every few seconds in between adjustments, straining to hear if anyone had caught onto her. The window was ideal for Andy’s height, and she hopped towards it. She fell once and had to back up against a wall to get into a standing position again. Once she reached the window, it revealed a solitary dirt road winding away from her prison. Aspens and shrubs created a blockade around all sides of the road, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Andy’s body tensed up, and she stumbled back. She attempted to wriggle out of her bonds, but her small wrists and larger hands created an impossible barrier.

Andy was seated on the chest again when she heard tires and an engine running in the distance. The color drained from her face, and she prayed it was a kind person as she hopped to the window. A tan Ford Ranger came around the bend and stopped about twenty feet away from Andy’s window. She bent her knees, leaving just her eyes and forehead peeking over the sill. Skinny jumped out of the driver’s side and slammed the door. His face was crinkled and distraught as he walked around and opened the truck bed. Gristly Beard stumbled out of the opposite side, a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He walked a few paces and fell, laughing all the while.

“Never thought you’d be a murdered and a kidnapper in less than two days,” he howled, “You’re Hollywood material now, man.”

Skinny glared as he shoved some items in a sack and closed the truck bed.

“Can you stop joking for like five minutes? I’m already freaking out so stop trying to make my situation worse.”

“Pfff. Why you acting like you have any other options?” Gristly Beard slurred. “She saw us with Jenny’s body. It’s either her life or our freedom now, and I ain’t one to sacrifice my freedom for others. Not even you.”

“Her life? Dude,” Skinny said. “Don’t say stuff like that. There’s gotta be some other way. Jenny was an accident; look where that’s got us. You can’t be suggesting that.”

“Whatever. Lemme know how long that works for ya,” Gristly Beard said as he stumbled towards the shack.

The two men reached the front door, and Andy heard footsteps in the adjacent room. She took advantage of their stomping and hopped quickly back to the chest. She threw her body on top of it and closed her eyes. Her breathing was rapid and it seemed to echo through the room. She hoped it wasn’t noticeable.

“Go check on her,” Skinny said, his voice muffled through the door. Gristly Beard laughed in response.

“You think she hopped away in the last hour? I did everything short of hogtying that girl, and the only reason I didn’t is because you didn’t bring enough rope. She ain’t going nowhere.”

Andy heard footsteps approaching and the metallic sound of a lock being turned. The man didn’t say anything, but she could feel his looming figure peering down at hers. The musty air began to fill with the smell of day-old booze, and Andy’s stomach turned. His breathing was labored and slow. Andy prayed it somehow masked her own exhales. The door slammed, and a single tear ran down Andy’s cheek.

“She’s sleeping like a baby,” Gristly Beard said. “You want me to do it or what?”

Silence.

“I was riding shotgun in that damn boat when Jenny checked out,” Gristly Beard continued, “and I’m not about to be tied into your mess. If you’re too weak—”

“Dude, for real, stop being so chill about all this,” Skinny whispered. “This isn’t a joke, and this could worsen our situation. I’m still trying to figure out if we have another option.”

“Whaddaya mean another option?” Gristly Beard said. “Jenny is dead. Dead, dead, deader than my childhood puppy. It doesn’t matter if it was a boating accident. You and I both know that because there was a death involving alcohol and cocaine, we’re as good as jailbirds.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, and this only worsens our situation.”

“Yeah, so what’s the holdup?”

“Because I don’t think I can do it, ok? And even if I could, what if we got caught with that blood on our hands? That’s so much worse. It’s too much of a risk.”

The room was silent for a moment, and then Andy heard the popping sound of a canned beverage being opened.

“It’s a worse risk to keep her alive,” Gristly Beard said. “No one’s gonna to look for that white trash whore you dated for three weeks. She told us she had no family, and she’s a third-string stripper from Detroit for crying out loud.” He paused for a minute, waiting for Skinny to respond. “This girl, though, we have no idea who she is or who might be looking for her.”

“Right,” Skinny said.

“Right? That’s all ya got? I know I’m right, so now we need to do something soon, cuz’ if we don’t, our entire plan is ruined. She knows what we look like, and if she has half a brain, she probably figured we weren’t planting a garden in the middle of the woods.”

“I know, brother, I feel you. It doesn’t seem like we have a choice,” Skinny said.

“Why are we still talking then? I’ll do it. I just need a few more.” Gristly Beard said.

“Just give me a little more time, please? I want to make sure there are no other options before we both have blood on our hands again.”

“Fine, well I ain’t waiting around bored as hell.”

Footsteps echoed and a door creaked. Andy heard the truck doors open and close, and a few minutes later the steps returned to the other room. A laptop powered up and welcomed someone by the name of Sean, and it wasn’t long before theme music could be heard in the background.

“You have one episode’s worth of time to figure this out, Ben. If you don’t have your solution by then, I’m getting rid of the girl,” Gristly Beard said.

“Ok,” Skinny said. “Where did you put her backpack? I want to look through her stuff.”

Gristly Beard must have gestured because Andy never heard a response. The adjacent room seemed to settle down, aside from the laptop noise which was loud enough to muffle subtle sounds from her room. Andy had no idea what show was on, but she estimated she had at least a minimum of thirty minutes. She tried working her wrists around her bonds again, but it was to no avail. Everything she needed was in her backpack, but it was in the other room with Skinny’s grimy hands probing through it. Since they were just now going through her belongings, Andy wondered how thoroughly they had searched her. She sat up slowly and positioned herself so she could lie down on her right side instead of her left.

She took in a quick breath and let out a sigh of relief as she felt a sharp object press into her skin through her cargo pocket. Her knife was still there. She immediately lowered herself to the ground and started rubbing her cargo pocket button against the edge of the chest. The button’s resolve eventually weakened, and it popped off and rolled across the floor stopping right under the window. Andy instinctively started to cheer, but caught herself and breathed deeply. She climbed back onto the chest and placed her bound feet against the wall. She heard her phone ringing in the other room and wondered if anyone was looking for her.

With her back pressed against the chest, she eased her body over the edge, attempting to be as upside-down as possible. She jostled her body with the momentum from her feet against the wall, and the knife finally slid out and landed with a thud on the dusty floor. Andy tensed up and listened. Not a stir. She guessed that it had been at least twenty minutes now, so she quickly slid down to the floor. The light from the day had ceased, and Andy felt around in the dark for several minutes until her fingers grazed the blade of her knife. She was so caught in the moment that she neglected to hear the theme music playing, signaling the end of the show.

“Alright, time’s up. Did you come up with some genius plan?”

“I don’t know what else to do. I just, I just don’t like it, dude,” Skinny answered.

“Then I’m gonna do it and get this night over with. You follow?”

There was no answer.

“I’ll take that as a yes then,” Gristly Beard said.

Andy heard a chair scoot. She grabbed the blade. She hurriedly angled the knife towards her bonds, cutting her hand in the process. She began to cry out but bit down on her lip instead. Footsteps echoed all around the next room. Andy tried not to imagine what Gristly Beard was planning. She finally released her hands, sliced the bonds off her legs, and jumped up.

“At least she’s asleep. It will make it easier, right? Do you think she will feel any pain?” Skinny’s voice was detached and distant.

“At least no one will hear,” Gristly Beard said. “The nearest gas station is a couple a miles up the road at least.”

Andy’s breathing slowed as she formulated a plan. She awkwardly readied her knife and stood directly behind the door. Light poured into the room as Gristly Beard’s boots creaked on the cabin floor. Andy didn’t wait for her eyes to adjust and she lunged out and immediately began slashing at his neck area. She hit her target several times, and Gristly Beard collapsed on the floor, blood spewing from his wounds. He never had a moment to react due to his drunken state, and he didn’t mutter a sound as he died on the floor. She backed up against the wall, body numb and heart pounding in her ears. His blue eyes stared back at her, and Andy felt a chill run through her as his body transitioned to an empty shell.

Another chair slid back in the adjacent room, causing Andy to snap out of her trance. She saw a small handgun lying a few inches from Gristly Beard’s body. She grabbed it. It felt cold and foreign in her hands. She tried to remember what her uncle said about hunting and guns a few summers back. She was drawing a blank.

“Are you done yet?” Skinny shouted. “I thought you were using the gun, not the knife? Sean?”

Andy, laden with adrenaline, rushed out into the next room. She aimed the gun at Skinny and held her shoulders high, trying to still her shaking hands. Skinny eyes widened as he took two steps back. Andy surveyed the room. There were two folding chairs centered around a cheap card table with a laptop resting on top. A few Wal-Mart bags and food wrappers were thrown in the corner, and Andy’s backpack was in the middle of the floor next to the bag from the truck bed, contents all spread out. Skinny stood between her and the door, and he kept fervently glancing back at it.

“Hold up,” Skinny pleaded. “I didn’t do anything. This isn’t my fault.”

Andy gestured with the gun to the doorway she came from. “Go in there.”

Skinny’s face was contorted and fearful, and it reminded Andy of Donnie Wahlberg in The Sixth Sense. He sprinted towards the canvas bag in the center of the floor. It only took him a few steps to get there, and within moments, he was pulling another gun out of the bag. Andy closed her eyes and pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot made her wince, and she opened her eyes, she saw Skinny writhing on the floor, screaming obscenities all the while. The bullet had penetrated the region between his left shoulder and chest. Andy knew better than to remain frozen this time, and she sprinted for the door.

——

Andy had no idea what time it was when she spotted a gas station in the distance. She had followed the dirt road up roughly a mile, and it turned into a paved highway that she continued down on for a few more miles. She had been jogging for at least forty minutes, yet, not one car had passed her. The stars and waning moon were bright, and they had made her run less treacherous. Andy stared up at the sky and wondered where Kitsune had run off to. She hoped Jade had started to worry by now, and was maybe even looking for her. She fought back tears as she pushed the door to the gas station open. The bell chimed as if it were welcoming her into a sanctuary. A short, stout man with white hair and a handlebar mustache looked up from his newspaper, eyes wide.

“What’s wrong, miss?” the man said.

Andy vaulted over the counter and began searching in a frenzied state.

“Don’t you have a phone here? We have to call the police immediately!”

Despite the man’s protest, Andy located his personal belongings and started to dial 911 on his cell phone. She was getting ready to press the call button when she heard a car pull up outside. Andy froze and looked out the window. It was the tan Ford Ranger. Skinny stumbled out.

“Now hold on a minute, young lady. You best be telling me what’s going on.”

“Duck!” Andy screamed as she hid behind the counter. The attendant shook his head and walked towards the door. Andy watched horrified as Skinny pulled out a gun and aimed it at the attendant’s head.

“Hand her over, old man. I know she’s here,” Skinny said, voice cracking. “I don’t have time for this. Don’t make me hurt you.”

“I’ll do no such thing.” The attendant was shaking, but he held his ground. “You get out of this store right now. The cops are on their way, so I’d leave now if I were you.”

“You’re bluffing.” Skinny’s eyes were wide as he searched every corner of the room. He finally stopped and looked at the attendant with soulless eyes. “Dammit, it’s too late. Sean was right.” Without warning, he pulled the trigger, and the attendant dropped to the ground.

Andy shouted, alerting Skinny to her hiding place. His shoulder was bleeding profusely through a makeshift bandage, but he still managed to move quickly in spite of the wound. Andy grabbed her gun, hoping it had more than one bullet. Skinny ambled towards the counter and dipped his gun over the edge. At the same time, Andy moved from her hiding place and rolled out underneath the swinging door. Skinny turned around just in time for Andy’s bullet to make a clean pass through his stomach. He shot the gun as he fell to the ground, missing Andy by mere inches.

——

The police found Andy crumpled in the furthest corner from the door, chin resting on her knees and eyes glazed over. The bodies were sprawled just a few feet from each other, and blood covered the ground. Two guns rested side by side. One officer’s radio cackled about a body found in a cabin several miles up the road. The incidents were most likely related. They offered her food and water, all the while prying for details. She wouldn’t say a word. Andy was wrapped in a blanket and carried to the highway patrol car. As she neared the vehicle, a familiar face looked out at her through the window. Kitsune started frantically pawing at the glass as the officer reached to open the door.

“Is this your dog, ma’am? We found him several hours ago. He was running down the highway like he had a mission.” The officer shrugged when Andy offered no reply.

She climbed into the car and wrapped her arms around Kitsune’s thick neck.

“Your friend, Jade, gave us a call a few hours ago. We’ve had the forest crawling with rangers. She’ll be happy to hear that you’re ok. Do you want to give her a call? Or your family?” The officer said.

He sighed after waiting for a moment for Andy to reply, and finally started the engine. Andy stared out the window, watching the gas station get wrapped in yellow crime scene tape. It soon disappeared from her view, and Andy was once again surrounded by her favorite playground: nature.

——

Andy watched from the doorway as the pastor wrapped up the message. The funeral was comprised of less than fifty people, but all of them were sniffling and wiping their eyes. It was a simple church, and the set-up for the occasion was equally minimal. Wooden pews were adorned with nothing more than a brief program on the deceased’s life, and the casket lay closed on top of the stage. Andy stifled a cough, but a little girl seated in the very front row turned back to look for the source of the noise. Her eyes were bright despite her evident sadness, and she twirled blonde strands of her hair while she gazed at Andy. The plump woman seated next to the little girl turned to see what distracted her, and the woman’s eyes met Andy’s. Andy looked away and shuffled out of the room.

——

Kitsune gazed at Andy, his amber eyes unblinking. The apartment was quiet, save for the raindrops pelting against the window. Andy reached down to rub Kitsune’s head, forcing herself to feel the different textures of his fur. An hour had passed, and she was no closer to beginning her to-do list. She raised her body off the edge of her bed and trudged towards the kitchen. Kitsune’s ears perked up and he sprinted towards the corner where his food bowl was stored. Andy walked past his dish and fell into the bean bag in the middle of the living room. Kitsune whimpered from the kitchen.

“Crap, I’m so sorry, boy.” Andy’s voice was monotone as she reached for the television remote.

She turned the cable on and switched it to Channel 11 News before heading back into the kitchen. Kitsune sat patiently, the curvature of his tail preventing it from wagging back and forth excessively. Andy tossed aside the measuring cup that rested atop the food storage bin and proceeded to dump some into the bowl.

“And this just in, Bob,” the female news anchor squawked from the television. “The two men responsible for last month’s murder of gas station attendant John Rowsey, and for the kidnapping and attempted murder of Andrea Lowry, have been officially been connected to the homicide of a Detroit girl, Jenny Dawson.”

Andy abruptly set the food bin down, leaving Kitsune’s bowl overflowing with little morsels. Her cheeks reddened as she looked at the faces on the screen.

“Yes, Tina,” the male news anchor replied, “It appears that Benjamin Kutchara and Sean Brown had been connected to another death prior to the incidents that occurred on July twelfth. From the looks of the autopsy, twenty-one-year-old Jenny’s causes of death were drowning and brain trauma. Traces of drugs and alcohol were also found in the body. Experts believe that the factors suggest it may have been a substance-induced boating accident. The investigation is still on-going.”

“That’s terribly sad, Bob,” the female news anchor shifted her papers around as she spoke. “It makes you wonder how the lone survivor, Andrea, is doing. What a courageous, young— “

Andy shut the television off and threw the remote against the wall. Kitsune ran and grabbed the remote in his mouth, dropping it at Andy’s feet.

“Thanks, Kit,” Andy exhaled slowly. “I know you’ve got my back. You need to go for a walk? I sure could use one.”

Kitsune jumped up at the mention of a walk and trotted to the door. Andy glanced at her hiking boots that sat alone on the furthest corner of the doormat. They were covered in a layer mud and sprinkled with a film of dust. She stood there for a minute and chewed her lip, and finally went into her bedroom. She appeared moments later in moccasins and grabbed Kitsune’s leash in one hand and the boots in another. Zipping up her rain coat, Andy sprinted down the stairs and stopped just outside of the dumpster enclosure. She tightened her grip on the leash, and in one sweeping motion threw the boots over the side.

——

“I’m so glad you came out tonight,” Jade shouted above the pounding of the bass. “You’ve been through a lot, but staying cooped up like that isn’t good for anyone, you feel?”

Andy stirred her drink repeatedly with a straw and looked up from the table. Her shoes kept sticking to the ground and the room smelled of Wal-Mart perfume, gym lockers, and nicotine.

“Yeah. I needed this.” Andy forced a smile that anyone could have instantly seen through. Jade propped both elbows up on the table and pulled her glasses further down the bridge of her nose so she could peer at Andy from above them.

“Now, honey,” Jade said in her best motherly voice. “Are you going to turn that frown upside down and have fun with the other kids tonight? That boy by the bar has been staring, and I think he wants a playdate.”

Andy didn’t look where Jade was gesturing and nodded her head in agreement. Jade shoved her glasses back in place and pushed her chair away from the table.

“Wow, that one always gets you.” She grabbed Andy’s arm and they made their way to the patio, weaving in and out through the sea of belligerent twenty-somethings. There were several men out smoking on the patio, but a fierce glance from Jade cleared the prime seating next to the balcony. The crisp air tainted with cigarette smoke smelled like the weekend, and Andy stared up the stars.

“Ok, seriously, please talk to me.” Jade finished off her drink and took a sip from Andy’s. “Eww, vodka cran again? We gotta work on that. But not tonight. What gives?”

Andy turned her gaze from the night sky and looked at her friend. Jade’s sleek black hair was pinned up in a messy bun with some side bangs sweeping just across the top of her glasses. Her spaghetti straps kept falling off her narrow shoulders, and Andy reached out to put them back into position.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Andy started, “There really isn’t much to talk about. It was a scary night and I try not to think about it.”

She grabbed her drink and downed it in one sitting. Jade’s eyes widened.

“Wow. Ok. Let’s slow down on drinks going forward, k?” Jade’s voice softened. “I don’t blame you for not thinking about it all the time, but don’t you think you should confront that night at least once?

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, like, relive what happened, see how it impacted you, take something from it, and move on?”

Andy glared and looked back towards the sky.

“Yes, if life and situations worked out perfectly like that then maybe your idea would work. Please, just stop offering suggestions on something you know nothing about.”

“Ouch. Sorry for trying to help. I’m just concerned because your mom said you haven’t been back to work still or even enrolled in your fall post-grad classes yet, and, well, I just miss my best friend.” Jade squeezed Andy’s shoulder. “Let’s just forget about it for the night, and go from there?”

Andy slipped away from Jade’s touch and grabbed her purse.

“Maybe another time. I’m not feeling this tonight after all. You have a good night, though.”

Jade didn’t get a word in before Andy disappeared through the bar door.

——

Andy looked down at the address in her hand for the fifth time. Kitsune got up on two legs and place his paws on the edge of the gift basket.

“Little fox, get down. This isn’t for you,” Andy said as she sucked in some air. “Ok, let’s get this over with.”

Andy raised her hand and pushed the doorbell twice. Kitsune sprawled out on the ground, enjoying the sun rays beating down onto the sidewalk. Footsteps approached and the little girl from the funeral opened the door. She revealed a toothless smile and waved. Andy cleared her throat.

“Hi. My name is Andy. I, uh, is your mom home?”

The plump woman appeared behind her, concern in her eyes.

“Honey, who is this?” the woman asked.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. Mrs. Rowsey, right? My name is Andy. Andrea. I’m the girl who was at the gas station. The night of—“ Andy wiped away a stray tear rolling down her cheek. “I brought this for you guys.”

She shoved the gift basket in Mrs. Rowsey’s direction and turned to leave.

“Wait,” Mrs. Rowsey said. “Thank you for this. I thought I recognized you from John’s funeral. Would you like to come inside? I was about to make some sandwiches for lunch. We can use some of the cheeses and meats in this gift basket.”

Andy knelt down to pet Kitsune. The little girl just continued to smile, and Andy noticed that she was slowly inching towards Kitsune. She lifted her head to look back at Mrs. Rowsey.

“I’d actually love that. Do you mind if my dog comes in?”

“Of course not, we love animals. Call me Lisa, by the way. This is my daughter, Mary.”

“Hi, Mary.” Andy tugged Kitsune closer to her. “This is my dog, Kit. Would you like to help him inside? He could use some play time.”

Mary giggled and softly took the leash from Andy’s hand. Andy followed them inside, and a felt the edges of her mouth start to turn up.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

The Rise of the Soviet Union: Factors Contributing to Soviet Military Successes After 1943

As quickly as a gentle fall transitions to a treacherous winter, so can the tides change in the midst of a war. At the outset of WWII, it appeared that the Germans had the upper hand against most of their opponents. They had a concentrated stage on the western front, strong leaders, and a fairly cohesive battle plan. The Soviets, on the other hand, were unprepared, had poor leadership, and a faltering armistice with Germany. What happened to cause the drastic change of power at the end of the war, leaving Germany in shambles and the Soviets a new world power to be reckoned with? The reason for the inevitable fall of Germany and the rise of the Soviet Union is centered on two main factors: the leadership of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and the effect of the natural circumstances.

The Soviets’ Achilles’ heel at the start of the war was their poor military leadership and lack of preparation in regard to economics. Although Stalin himself was a powerful leader, he had extensively purged nearly 35,000 men from the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s in an effort to weed out any possible resistance to his rule (Lyons, pg. 106, 2010). This left officers that were in no doubt reliable, but many of whom were lacking in military expertise. Stalin also maintained a death grip over Russia’s centralized economy, leaving it incapable of being mobilized for total war (Lyons, pg. 240, 2010). Where the Soviets’ military leadership lacked and their economy failed, their manpower and quantity of military equipment exceeded expectations. The Red Army (the army of the Soviet Union) was estimated to have roughly “230 to 240 divisions…46 armored and motorized brigades,” “10,000 to 24,000 [Soviet tanks],” and “some outstanding new tanks—the heavy KV and the medium T34—that were superior to the best German models.” (Lyons, pg. 105, 2010). Stalin had supreme authority over the Red Army and felt confident in his ability to repel the German onslaught.

In spite of Stalin’s optimism, Germany was initially successful in its attacks against the Soviet Union. After breaking off the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, which had maximized its value after the siege of Poland with no intervention from the Soviets, Hitler authorized Operation Barbarossa and invaded Russia on June 22, 1941. (Module 12 Lecture Notes). This marked the beginning of WWII for the Soviet Union, as well as Germany’s first major mistake by creating a two-front war. Germany’s motive for invasion, Lebensraum, directly translated from German to English as “living space,” was Hitler’s ultimate goal first mentioned back is his ideological autobiography titled Mein Kampf (Lyons, pg. 36, 2010). This wasn’t simply living space in its usual sense, however, as Hitler’s intention was to expand into other parts of Europe to gain land and natural resources for his growing German race. That, coupled with Hitler’s paranoia about Stalin’s possible alliance with Britain, led to faulty decision making (Lyons, pg. 104, 2010).

Lebensraum was also, in part, conceived from the theory of Karl Haushofer, who claimed that the nation that controlled the heartland—most of the Soviet Union’s area—of the Eurasian landmass would be the most dominant in the world (Lyons, pgs. 47-48, 2010). Hitler knew that Germany’s location was fairly defenseless in his eyes, primarily due to being located in the center of Europe with France to the West and the Soviet Union to the East. He believed that the people of his coveted heartland, the Slavic Russians, were Untermenschen, which translates to “subhumans,” much like the Jews and Gypsies (Module 12 Lecture Notes). As far as Hitler was concerned, it was only a matter of time before the USSR turned on Germany; so he acted first. The initial attacks on the Soviets were successful at first, and the Germans took thousands of Soviet prisoners (Module 12 Lecture Notes). Germany hoped, per the advice of General Franz Halder, that the Soviets “would not be able to resist for more than eight to ten weeks.” (Lyons, pg. 105, 2010).

After a brief bout of success in which the Germans initially claimed large amounts of Russian territory, that theory was quickly proved wrong when the German army attacked Leningrad in September of 1941. It was a crucial city because it blocked the Germans from being able to head north and attack Moscow from behind. The siege lasted 844 days and was one of the worst blows taken by the Soviets (Module 13 Lecture Notes). Daniil Granin, an eyewitness soldier during the siege, stated that “the blockade was sudden and unexpected, as much as the war itself was unexpected for the country. There were no reserves of fuel, no food…. Then one after another catastrophic event started to occur, power supplies were stopped, there was no water, no sewerage system operating, no central heating in place…,” and nearly one and a half million people, most civilians, perished (Appalling Truth of Leningrad Siege, 2014).

With Leningrad held temporarily, Germany turned its sights to Moscow in October of 1941. There was some hesitation at first because winter was about to start, and German forces and supplies were wearing thin (Lyons, pg. 112, 2010). However, Hitler, driven by the idea that by gaining Moscow (the heart of Russia) the whole nation would crumble, agreed to proceed with the attack. The first few weeks were met with success for Germany as the Soviets struggled to hold back forces and provide food, only to be halted by an early, harsh winter. Temperatures dropped as low as 40 degrees below Celsius, and the German’s were ill-prepared for such conditions (Lyons, pg. 112, 2010). The Soviets, on the other hand, were not only familiar with the intense Russian winters, they were also heavily motived by Stalin’s patriotic speeches that “implored them to rally to the defense of Holy Mother Russia.” (Lyons, pg. 112, 2010). Hitler’s army retreated from the Moscow invasion the following January.

Stalin’s patriotism rallies didn’t only impact the battle of Moscow: they played a key role in transition the success on the Eastern front from German hands to Soviet hands. The Russian people eventually “became convinced that [they] could survive the war and became committed to driving the Germans from their homeland regardless of the cost.” (Module 13 Lecture Notes). They adopted Stalin’s disregard for human life, even if it meant their own, and were willing to endure hardships and suffering for the sake of a Soviet victory. Stalin’s crowning glory of rhetoric was his decision to reinstate the purpose of the war. It was no longer a Communist war, but instead, “The Great Patriotic War,” which held ties to Russia’s past (Lyon’s, pg. 242, 2010). The war was supposed to be reminiscent of the war of 1812 against Napoleon, and Stalin went so far as to reconcile with the Orthodox Church to gain further support (Lyon’s, pg. 242, 2010).

The Russian people, although a key factor, weren’t the only aspects of the turn towards Soviet success. The elements and location played equally into victory, essentially because it all centered on the Soviet’s homeland, which was the location for all applicable battles. For one, the freezing winters and muddy summers, though taking a toll on both sides, were nothing new to the Red Army. They were used to the conditions and well-prepared, while the Germans had entered without even basic winter clothing (Lyons, pg. 112, 2010). The Germans had been intent on a quick victory and were soon left with a massive shortage of supplies that were sometimes thousands of miles away in Germany; on the other hand, the Soviets were not only better supplied, they also had quick access reimbursements because the battle was taking place in their own country. Finally, the Soviet army began making impressive bounds in recovery and “whole industries were rebuilt behind the safety of the Ural mountains while whole populations moved to work in new factories producing fighter planes, tanks, machine guns and ammunition.” (Module 13 Lecture Notes).

All of those factors led to the key turning point in the war for both the German and Soviet armies: The Battle of Stalingrad. After the failed attacks of 1941, Germany felt confident that they could win key battles in 1942. That September, the Germans began to encircle the city of Stalingrad. The Soviet leadership situation was still extremely precarious, so just a month prior, Stalin had “ordered General Andrei Yeremenko to form a new army group in the Stalingrad area from reserve divisions.” (Lyons, pg. 177, 2010). The fighting was intense and both men and the city fell prey to attrition. The Soviet forces—in spite of Stalin’s planning—were outnumbered, yet they fought on, even resorting to sticks and knives when necessary (Module 13 Lecture Notes). Although their panzers were found to be inadequate against the Soviet grenades coupled with narrow streets, the Germans gradually drove the Soviets back as they overtook Stalingrad, and by “early November they held nine-tenths of [the city].” (Lyon’s, pgs. 177-178, 2010). Once again, German victory didn’t come as quickly as hoped, and favor fell from their hands.

The waning supplies and lack of preparation for the severe winter left the Germans in a sorry state, and while the Soviets experienced identical conditions, they were far better prepared. The Soviets not only had closer access to reserves, but they also could tolerate the harsh weather conditions of their homeland (Lyons, pg. 178, 2010). The Germans, on the other hand, had nothing more than summer uniforms. Resources were also vastly misused, a combination of heavy artillery use and an overconfident estimate of how long the war would take. Supplies dwindled, men succumbed to the freezing winters and muddy summers, and the Nazi morale was all but lost on the Eastern Front. As the German army weakened, the Soviets encircled them in the ruins of the city. Six months after the start of the fighting end of January 1943, the German commander in Stalingrad defied Hitler’s orders and surrendered to the Soviets. The success led to others, and the Soviets were able to lift the siege in Leningrad that same year. There were great losses on both sides, but Germany suffered what could be considered its worst and most game-changing defeat of the war: “On December 18, there had been approximately 249,000 officers and men inside the Stalingrad pocket…. Only about 6,000 men ever returned home.” (McTaggart, pg. 1, 2006).

Stalingrad set the tone for the remainder of the war, and it became evident that Germany had no real chance of obtaining an offensive victory over the Soviets; by 1943, “it was clear that the Red Army was superior in material as well as in numbers.” (Lyons, pg. 179, 2010). The Soviets had also been supplied vast amounts of war materials by the United States and Britain due to the lend-lease program (Lyons, pg. 182, 2010). Hitler’s only remaining option was to stage a defensive defeat that would hopefully result in a peace treaty with Stalin. This attempt resulted in the Battle of Kursk in July of 1943, which was an eleven-day tank skirmish (Lyons, pgs. 181-182, 2010). There was a great loss on both sides, but once again, Germany slunk back in defeat. Through continued Allied support and determination, the Soviets continued to drive the Germans back through victorious battles over the next two years, working their way through Poland and on down to Germany, taking territory as they went. The Soviets’ efforts finally came to fruition on April 26, 1945, when they encircled Berlin (Lyons, pg. 269, 2010).

Both sides were under the influence of their powerful and persuasive leaders whose primary goal was to obliterate the enemy. While Hitler’s goal was racially infused (Jews, Slavs, etc.), and Stalin’s politically based (fascism), both leaders proclaimed their patriotism and guaranteed better lives for their people. Although both sides had ample support from their homelands—whether out of support for their country or fear of their government—the weather and copious amounts of resources required for war took their tolls. Unfortunately for Germany, the Soviets contended better with their natural climate and benefited from being closer to supply and army replenishments. Finally, although both leaders had their fair share of poor military decisions, Hitler’s initial choice to invade Russian and set up a dual-sided front proved to be too much for the German army to handle. And instead of learning from that mistake, Hitler repeated it again and again. The Soviets learned from and evolved as an army during the war, turning them into the powerhouse that America feared post-war. Stalin’s Red Army, regardless of motivation, was one of the most important factors in stopping the German army and ending WWII.

Works Cited

“Appalling Truth of Leningrad Siege: 95yo Russian Writer Gives Powerful Speech at Bundestag.” RT

International. RT International, 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2016. <https://www.rt.com/news/granin-nazi-siege-survivor-360/&gt;.

Lyons, Michael J. World War II: A Short History. 5th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010.

McTaggart, Pat. “Battle of Stalingrad: Operation Winter Tempest | HistoryNet.” HistoryNet.

HistoryNet, 6 Dec. 2006. Web. 17 Apr. 2016. <http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-stalingrad-operation-winter-tempest.htm&gt;.

WWII, Part III, Module 12 Lecture Notes

WWII, Part IV, Module 13 Lecture Notes

The Wolf of Rhetoric

In today’s enlightened world, there are countless forms of media that speakers can use to share their ideas with a variety of people. Like rhetorical writing, film is a series of messages being sent to the audience. Its success is based on whether the messages are received as intended by the author, which in the case of film, is the director. The audience is intrigued, moved, and informed by these perceptions because of intentional rhetorical decisions made by the director. Argument and persuasion, which are found in rhetoric, always concern a speaker and an audience. The director is much like the speaker, and viewers are the audience. The process begins with writing or language, and then that idea is translated onto the screen through various processes and techniques. The plot is the largest vessel used and the easiest way to spot film rhetoric, however, dialogue (or lack thereof), camera angles, lighting, music, and makeup all contribute to the message on-screen. There are several key components writers and directors employ to convey rhetoric through the medium of film, and Martin Scorsese is a master of these methods.

A famous director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and film historian, Martin Charles Scorsese was born on November 17th, 1942, in Queens, New York. His career currently spans over forty-five years, and it is still on-going. He was a child of working-class parents that enforced Roman Catholic beliefs and practices at a young age, and he was often found indoors with “his nose buried in a book” (Ebert 1). Scorsese became interested in film early on in his life and began meticulously analyzing its qualities while he simultaneously attended movies for pleasure. After being expelled from a Catholic seminary in 1957 due to failing grades, he began attending New York University “where he met Haig Manoogin, an associate film professor” who “attracted [Scorsese] to [his] ideology about combining film theory with practice.” (A Personal Journal With Martin Scorsese 4). Scorsese achieved a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from NYU and eventually went on to obtain a Master’s of Fine Arts from NYU’s School of the Arts. It was not long before this love affair with filmmaking transformed into career, and he directed and wrote his first film titled I Call First (later renamed Who’s That Knocking at My Door) released in 1967 (Ebert 2). The film reflected themes that would eventually be notable in much of his life’s work, namely, Italian-American influence, Catholic infused concepts of guilt and redemption, crime and gang conflict, and, oftentimes, heavy use of violence and profanity. His characters frequently share similar struggles and characteristics, primarily surrounding obsessions and out of control tendencies.

Scorsese went on to direct, write, and produce numerous award-winning films touching on those themes and characteristics: the crime-centered film Mean Streets (1973), the thriller Taxi Driver (1976), the black comedy The King of Comedy (1983), the biographical drama The Aviator (2004), the psychological thrillers Cape Fear (1991) and Shutter Island (2010), and numerous other crime/gang films such as GoodFellas (1990), Casino (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Many of the aforementioned films feature collaborations with his two favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Scorsese has over eight Best Director nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and he is currently the most nominated living director (Awards). He has been married five times so far in life—he is currently married to Helen Schermerhorn Morris—and has three daughters (A Personal Journal With Martin Scorsese 4-10). Scorsese’s deep love of film history is reflected both on-screen and off; the latter is evident in his founding of The Film Foundation in 1990, which is a non-profit organization centered on film preservation. A renowned filmmaker, Scorsese is no stranger to transitioning ideas from paper to screen, and his concepts and techniques have greatly inspired rhetoric through the medium of film.

In order to understand Scorsese’s specific contributions to rhetoric through film, it’s necessary to define the primary ways rhetoric is used, determined, and judged throughout the filmmaking process. For one, society appoints its own ethos for film by perceiving various genres or sub-genres. The type of film being made, whether it’s action, horror, romance, etc., will help in deciphering the context through which the rhetoric should be perceived. People also consider the ethos by observing the sources for the film, which is usually determined by the studio (specifically its reputation and popularity) through which the film is made. The larger and more famous the studio, the greater the ethos of the film. The same can be said of the director. A new director, much like a new writer, will not have as much film credibility as a well-established and experienced director. Scorsese has experienced both sides of the spectrum, but will be historically remembered as the latter.

One way in which Scorsese’s rhetorical style stands out is through his characterization of antiheroes in a great number of his films. For example, in one of his earlier movies, Taxi Driver, Scorsese’s main character, Travis Bickle (played by De Niro), is not necessarily the most likable character. Travis is socially awkward and somewhat off-putting, and he spends much of the film in a dire search for social interaction (Ebert 272). If one has not seen the movie, all he or she needs to know to understand Travis is that his best attempt at a date is offering to take a woman to a porno movie. He has his heroic moments, though, all centered on rescuing a pre-teen prostitute, but these moments are soaked in a literal bloodbath of violence. However, Scorsese banked on his audience’s reaction to Travis being a positive one, counting on a calculated combination of alignment and allegiance. He was aware that his audience would not necessarily approve of Travis and his actions, but Scorsese was certain people would identify with him. In an interview about the film, Scorsese stated “Myself and De Niro, we simply felt a kinship; we empathized with Travis…” (Miller 11), and that empathy, he believed, would resonate with a large number of his viewers, for what person has not felt as alone as Travis at one point or another in life? Scorsese’s strong rhetorical decisions help his audience root for a character they would normally view with disdain.

Though it is a significantly different method than that of the antihero, Scorsese also utilizes slow-motion techniques in many of his films. In Raging Bull, for example, he often slows down time when showing something from the main character’s (Jake La Motta) point of view, through which he effectively communicates the character’s heightened awareness. Audiences often expect slow-motion scenes to dictate when a romantic, melancholy, or catastrophic event is taking place. Scorsese’s rhetorical goal, in some cases, differs from these stereotypical ideas. Take La Motta’s scenes spent observing the apple of his eye, Vickie. By using slow-motion techniques, Scorsese is able to convey that La Motta “sees Vickie so intently that time seems to expand around her” (Ebert 279). La Motta’s essentially hypnotized by her actions, and this is communicated clearly to the viewers. Slow-motion is also used to depict La Motta’s intensifying paranoid state of mind as he over-analyzes every moment and detail, growing more suspicious of the intentions of those around him. Scorsese has successfully mastered the rhetorical implications of the POV slow-motion shot to suggest a subjective state of mind from the character.

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being the president of the United States.” says Henry Hill in the opening scene of Scorsese’s iconic film, GoodFellas. A successful form of rhetoric, Scorsese uses voice-over narration throughout his work to entice the audience on a personal level. In GoodFellas, the narration continues for the duration of the film, both from the view of Henry and his wife, Karen. This narration technique is “crucial to the movie’s success” because it “is a point-of-view movie based on nostalgia for the lifestyle.” (Ebert 281). The initial voice-over is accompanied by an abrupt and violent opening scene in which viewers witness Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy pull over on the side of the road once they become aware that the man in the back of their trunk is still alive. Tommy proceeds to stab the man in the chest several times, and then Jimmy shoots him a few times, just for good measure! According to film critic Richard Lippe, the “sequence’s violence is too graphic, intense and abrupt to be read as other than suggesting a dramatic film but Henry’s voice-over commentary suggests the sequence may be establishing the film as a black comedy.” (17). This technique not only reveals the film’s juxtapositions, it also encourages the audience to understand and even begin to sympathize with the complexities and lives of Scorsese’s main characters.

Many of Scorsese’s filmmaking techniques were groundbreaking and helped with ushering in a new era of film, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s. His rhetorical use of the antihero, specific film editing techniques like slow-motion, and narrative voice-over broke the ground for new styles of film production and inspired future filmmakers to think outside the box. He has other unique qualities too, like an affair with period-style pieces with which he chooses to strip away the “complexity of colors, despite the complex nature of the [stories]” (Goldman 1). That being said, Scorsese’s work was not initially popular on a mass level. Knowing that the Golden Age of Hollywood had ended, Scorsese intended to bring out a darker and more realistic side of filmmaking. Because of this, many critics and audiences found his films too violent and littered with excessive profanity. During an interview in Rolling Stone, Scorsese acknowledged the extremities of his rhetorical style, stating “I saw my films were not as accepted by audiences as Steven’s or Francis’ or George’s, so I had to live with it. I said, ‘That’s OK, I’m still going to do them.’” (Travers 1). This confidence inspired many great films that gradually drew in larger and larger audiences, eventually leading to his first Academy Award as a director for The Departed in 2007. Scorsese is living proof that one does not have to fit into a predetermined mold of film rhetoric to be successful.

Scorsese, who could be considered a contemporary rhetorician, has a pedagogical influence that will carry his techniques on long after he has gone. One of his best words of advice to young filmmakers is to create from their hearts and interests; not to read the public’s mind and then duplicate the findings in a movie. In fact, while making Raging Bull, Scorsese admitted to film editor Thelma Schoonmaker that “we’re making this film for ourselves.” (Ebert 220). Aside from the heart of Scorsese’s approach, many directors have mimicked his methods, including, but not limited to, atmosphere, the intended emotional mood created by the work; genre, the category into which the work fits; and invective, an attachment to using strong, vulgar language. His movies have been screened and his techniques used as teaching devices in many schools, such as The Wexler Center for the Arts and The Ohio State University. Scorsese will also lecture from time to time, and he strongly believes that filmmaking is an intentional art form; one that requires continuing education: “The grammar [of filmmaking] is panning left and right, tracking in or out, booming up or down, intercutting shots, lighting, the use of a close-up as opposed to a medium shot—those types of things—and how you use all these elements to make an emotional and psychological point to an audience.” (Martin Scorsese: Teaching Visual Literacy). To date, Scorsese has influenced a number of filmmakers, one of them the highly acclaimed director of There Will Be Blood (2007), Paul Thomas Anderson, otherwise known as the “West Coast’s Scorsese.” (Schager 1).

The goal of rhetoric is to stimulate emotions, facilitate passions, and foster convictions within members of the intended (and sometimes unintended) audience. Film is a unique medium for the speaker and the stakes are always high, for no other form of media can touch an audience in quite the same way a movie can; one could almost say that it’s the modern-day system for storytelling. Scorsese is a director who is fully aware of the rhetorical implications in film, so he chooses to pack his movies with subtle messages that are intentionally crafted from script to screen. Every camera angle and lighting technique and character are playing a key role in sending numerous messages by the frame. So what makes rhetoric successful? Scorsese is considered today to be one of the most influential people in the film industry, even though he has often been regarded as a black sheep. The answer, then, is simple: there is no right or wrong framework for rhetoric. To be successful, one must run wildly with his or her innate ideas, and find the best way to convey those ideas to the intended audience. And think outside the box. In the words of the film master himself: “We can’t keep thinking in a limited way about what cinema is. We still don’t know what cinema is. Maybe cinema could only really apply to the past or the first 100 years, when people actually went to a theater to see a film, you see?” (Feinberg 1).

Works Cited

“A Personal Journal With Martin Scorsese.” Variety 389.4 (2002): A4. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.

“Awards.” Martin Scorsese Awards. IMDb.com. Web. 02 Apr. 2016. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000217/awards&gt;

Ebert, Roger. Scorsese. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2008. Print.

Feinberg, Scott. “Martin Scorsese Defends ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’: ‘The Devil Comes With a Smile’ (Q&A).” The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Dec. 2013. Web. 02 Apr. 2016. <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/martin-scorsese-defends-wolf-wall-667851&gt;.

Goldman, Michael. “SCORSESE: GANGSTER STYLE. (Cover Story).” Millimeter 34.7 (2006): 14- 21. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

GoodFellas. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Perf. Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci. Warner Bros., 1990. DVD.

Lippe, Richard. “STYLE AS ATTITUDE: Two Films By Martin Scorsese.” Cineaction 41 (1996): 14- 21. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.

“Martin Scorsese: Teaching Visual Literacy.” Edutopia. Edutopia, 19 Oct. 2006. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. <http://www.edutopia.org/martin-scorsese-teaching-visual-literacy&gt;.

Miller, Winter. “Scorsese Master Class.” Daily Variety 299.11 (2008): 1-11. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.

Schager, Nick. “Paul Thomas Anderson: The West Coast’s Scorsese.” The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 13 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/13/paul-thomas-anderson-the-west-coast-s scorsese.html>.

Travers, Peter. “MARTIN SCORSESE. (Cover Story).” Rolling Stone 1025/1026 (2007): 98-100. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.

Grammar: The Recipe for Written Language

How can something be a primal desire, yet also a highly acclaimed art form? The purpose of food ranges from fulfilling innate survival instincts all the way to providing an aesthetically pleasing image on Food Network. The chef is the author of a meal, regardless if it is delicious or not. Whether a novice sandwich maker or a five-star cook, the chef brainstorms (or borrows) an idea, crafts (or follows) a recipe, tests it out, and serves it up as a finished product. Writing—or storytelling, in some cases—also ranges from a basic method of communication to a form of entertainment or enlightenment. A writer must follow the rules of grammar, like a recipe: punctuation, parts of speech, and rhetoric, with the yielded product being a paper, essay, poem, novel, or journal entry. Some final products are shared with the masses, while others are simply for personal enjoyment. The writer is much like the chef, and words are her ingredients. Grammar is the recipe that guides the writer.

As with many recipes, grammar rules have some flexibility. The chef can tweak a cookie recipe to an extent by leaving out a fraction of the chocolate chips or adding in some nuts. Similarly, grammar is sometimes preference-based (is it grey or gray?). However, at the heart of both cooking and writing, the creator wants to stick as close to the recipe as possible so she winds up with a product that elicits pride; a product that others can enjoy and, in some cases, be jealous of. A great chef wouldn’t throw a bunch of ingredients into a bowl, toss it on a baking sheet, throw it into an unspecified oven temperature, and actually expect something delicious to come out, would she? Why then would a great writer consider that approach with writing? When followed strictly, grammar yields wonderful results that make writing a fluid process enjoyed by all.

A key component in a recipe is a step, which contains a complete action or thought. When a chef follows a recipe, each step is clearly indicated by a break on the page or an indented line. These steps convey a new action is taking place, or that something else is being added to the recipe. This is parallel to a sentence in writing. Like a step in cooking, the period is a closing mark in writing that signals the ending of one sentence and the beginning of another. Not all varying instructions in the recipe signify a new step, however, and not all punctuation indicates a new sentence. A semicolon indicates a close relationship between clauses, one that doesn’t require as drastic of a break as created by the period. While cooking, the chef will let a pot of gravy simmer, but will stir it every once in a while. The acts aren’t so far apart that they need to be listed as separate steps in the recipe, but they aren’t close enough where it’s the same activity. Although visually similar to the semicolon, the colon is instead used to list off appositives or to join two independent clauses where the second completes the promise of the first. The former use is similar to the list of ingredients at the beginning of a recipe, as all of the ingredients make up, and therefore describe, the item being prepared.

Even the semicolon and colon are too harsh at times, and a softer pause is needed. A comma is a break in the sentence, meant to set off clauses, listed items, introductions, or to add emphasis. In cooking, the comma is like the waiting period in between steps. For example, allowing the bread to rise is a pause in the cooking process, but it’s not setting off its own step like a period. The chef can also add eggs, oil, and vanilla extract in one step, similar to how multiple commas can be included in a given sentence. A writer can also use an em dash to interrupt or set aside parts of the sentence, and add emphasis to a particular word or phrase. In cooking, sometimes an ingredient needs to be abruptly thrown in, much like how a bread recipe may instruct the chef to suddenly add raisins during the kneading process. Finally, some punctuation is meant to marry words together while keeping the integrity of each word intact. Not to be mistaken for the dash, a hyphen links together compound words or phrases. The chef utilizes a similar system when cooking with ingredients that are already combined, such as buttermilk, lemon pepper, and flavored yogurt.

While the boundaries of where recipe steps start, pause, or finish are important to understand, one must also be familiar with what the steps are actually saying. The basis of each step in cooking is the ingredient itself. The chef has to discern what item is being added or addressed in the step. The recipe may call for cheese as an ingredient in one step. Is it simply cheese? multiple cheese slices? Swiss cheese? Whatever it may be, the step would not be complete without the ingredient, and neither would a sentence be complete without a noun (implied or not). In writing, a noun is the subject of the sentence, and it often holds the headword position. Most nouns can be plural or possessive. The addition of an ingredient in a step is of no use if the chef is not told what to do with it. Is the cheese supposed to be sliced? melted? simply added? Similarly, the noun needs a verb in the sentence to describe what it’s doing. A verb is the action word in the sentence, and it can end in -s and -ing. In cooking, this is similar to what the chef is supposed to do with the ingredient. Without the action, both the step and the sentence would be meaningless.

Although the step is compete with both an ingredient and an instruction, a great chef knows that a recipe will fall flat without more pizzazz and detail. A sentence can also stand on its own with just a noun and verb, but adjectives and adverbs bring it to life. The ingredients themselves often need further description for clarity, much like how the adjective modifies the noun in a sentence. For the chef, this may entail requesting more specific ingredients, such as half-and-half as opposed to milk, or organic, stone-ground wheat flour instead of just flour. It would be bland recipe, however, if the ingredient was the only thing elaborated on; the action in the step needs clarity too. An adverb modifies a verb in the sentence, just like how the chef reads the recipe to learn how quickly to stir a batter, exactly how long to brown a pancake on each side before flipping it, and how finely to chop the onion.

Sometimes a recipe requires further clarification on an otherwise generic instruction or ingredient. An appositive is a noun phrase that describes or further identifies a nominal structure, often another noun phrase. This would be similar to a recipe stating to use green onions, also known as scallions. A chef, being efficient with ingredients, may swap out a known brand or ingredient for something generic to save time and/or money. Similarly, a pronoun takes the place of a noun or nominal, such as he, she, and it. The noun it replaces is referred to as the antecedent. It’s generic and used for simplicity. For the chef, this swap is very much like using store-brand sandwich cookies instead of Oreos, or using frozen pie crust as opposed to making it from scratch.

These specific parts can be further organized because various instructions and mini-steps comprise a step in a recipe. For the writer, these instructions and mini-steps within the step are like clauses and phrases within a sentence. Clauses have subjects and predicates, while phrases don’t have both subjects and predicates. Only clauses can be sentences. For the chef, a mini-step consists of both the ingredient and what to do with it, while the instruction just consists of an ingredient or step. Clauses can also be dependent or independent, much like how aspects of the recipe could stand on their own and be edible, while others won’t be complete without other ingredients and steps. For example, cookie dough is a delicious stopping point, but one wouldn’t want to eat raw chicken nuggets. Some steps contain two edible mini-recipes, like how a compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses. Similarly, other steps contain an item of food that needs to be cooked further, like how a complex sentence contains a dependent clause.

The chef will sometimes combine several of these ingredients and actions into one step. For the writer, this is parallel to the use of conjunctions, which are words that join words, phrases, or clauses. There are three types of conjunctions for the writer to choose from. The first is a coordinating conjunction, which joins things of equal importance. This is like a recipe saying the chef, based on preference, can add either raisins or currants to the bread. The next is a subordinating conjunction, which signifies a dependent clause is on the horizon. This would be similar to a step in the recipe suggesting that if one is at a high altitude, one may want to use more water than normal. The ingredients are dependent on the climate, and must be adjusted accordingly. The last is a correlative conjunction, which pertains to a reciprocal or complimentary relationship. This is similar to the recipe stating to mix both cake batters the same way, or never add walnuts—or any kind of nut, for that matter—to the initial mixing step.

On top of all of these elements, the chef must ensure the ingredient ratios are exact. If the amount of eggs is doubled, the amount of flour must be doubled as well. Similarly, the writer must honor agreement by ensuring that the subject and verb of a sentence always agree. The recipe needs to follow a logical pattern. It wouldn’t make sense for the chef to preheat the oven if the dough still needs to rise for four hours. Likewise, cohesion is needed in writing to have a smooth connection between sentences. Part of cohesion is respecting the known-new contract, which is where old information will appear in the subject position, with the new information in the predicate position. This is similar to starting with a simple recipe to understand a more complex one later on.

Although understanding the components of the recipe and how they work is important, the chef must also look at it as a whole and understand the single recipe’s place within the meal itself. The cooking process has a certain flow to it, and an experienced chef knows how to coast through the recipes simultaneously. For the writer, sentence rhythm is the pattern of stresses in the spoken language, much like the patterns of the recipe. The chef must work to keep all parts of the meal progressing at once, such as boiling water for the noodles while sauteing the mushrooms. Coordination is also crucial if the chef wishes to multitask while cooking. For the writer, coordination is expanding the sentences in which two or more structures of the same form serve as a unit. Likewise, certain steps in the recipe my call for the chef to put the milk and the eggs together in the same step, and then to mix them the same way.

Once the meal is complete, the context in which the chef serves the food will greatly impact the food’s purpose and meaning. For the writer, this is identical to rhetoric which is the discernment aspect of writing. For example, it’s common sense that one should have cereal for breakfast and pasta for dinner, or to serve juice boxes to children and wine to adults. One wouldn’t (usually) offer guests coffee at eleven in the evening, and neither should one utilize text speech in a school paper. One’s brother might love pizza on football night, but one would probably serve one’s sweetheart something classier on Valentine’s Day. A research paper will usually have distinct verbiage differences from a blog post. Rhetoric is understanding who the audience is and aiming your writing at that audience. It’s all about the dinner guest, or in the writer’s case, the reader.

All of this would be meaningless if every meal tasted the same, regardless of which chef cooked it. The final aspect that sets the cooking apart is the flair with which the chef crafts the meals. The chef may have a favorite spice to use, a trick to ensuring the cookies are always cooked to perfection, a certain way to marinate the meat, and a secret ingredient in the prize-winning stew. A writer’s style is one and the same. The writer may have a certain diction, tone, inclination towards sarcasm, or sentence patterns that make their writing distinctly unique. Style is what sets the writer’s work apart, or at least gives it some notable features that can be recognized regularly throughout their writing. Style is the writer’s voice.

Without the chef adhering to all the components of the recipe, disaster would ensue. If incorrect ingredients were used, or the wrong food was served to people at a bad time, the meal would be a wreck. Likewise, the writer’s project would be quite a disaster if it was riddled with poor grammar and read to the wrong people in an improper setting. Clarity is a crucial component of writing, and it can’t be achieved without proper grammar usage. The writer, like the chef, must follow the system as closely as possible to achieve great results. They must embrace these instructions and immerse themselves in them, instead of harboring a grudge towards the system that only seeks to better their craft. Remember this: Anyone can cook, but only a great chef understands the intricacies behind the recipes, and uses them to her advantage. The sign of a great writer, then, is not only demonstrating knowledge of the system’s rules, but the ability to manipulate those rules into achieving the desired results. Those who accomplish that are masters of the trade.