Shi Shi Jacobs '20
WELCOME TO VAULT
Vault is a student-run literary magazine featuring writing and artwork by the students of the Cambridge School of Weston. The Spring 2020 edition of Vault has moved online in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We are a community that prizes art and creativity in all its forms, and it is our hope that our magazine can help us form connections with each other and celebrate our students even when we cannot be together.
Ordinarily, we charge $3 per one paper copy of our magazine. Since this edition is online, it is free to read. However, we ask that you consider putting those three dollars (or more!) towards a local organization working for racial justice and against police brutality. You can donate directly, through the links below, but we would prefer that you instead send money to @Eli-Keehn on Venmo so we can keep track of how much money we raise. Please write "Vault fundraiser" in the "what's it for" section. That money will be divided evenly between the three organizations below. If you do donate directly, we would love it if you would email us at email@example.com to let us know! We will update the community on how much we raised, with donation receipts, on 6/15. (Update: we raised a total of $650. Thank you for your generosity!)
The Boston chapter of the well-known racial justice organization, which "centers work against racist policing and police violence, abolishing mass incarceration, economic disparities and factors that allow the school to prison pipeline to exist."
"The Massachusetts Bail Fund pays up to $2000 bail so that low-income people can stay free while they work towards resolving their case, allowing individuals, families, and communities to stay productive, together, and stable." The work this fund does is always important, but it has been especially essential in the past weeks as peaceful protesters have been put behind bars.
"The mission of Violence in Boston is to improve the quality of life & life outcomes of individuals from disenfranchised communities by reducing the prevalence of violence and the impact of associated trauma."
All submissions are reviewed anonymously in our weekly online meetings. Many thanks to our wonderful faculty advisor Eli Keehn, everyone who participated in our meetings, and everyone who submitted their work! We hope you enjoy reading our publication as much as we enjoyed making it.
Rachel Sontheimer '20
El Clavenna '21
Impi’s feet were going numb. She was perched on a stone with her legs dangling down in the middle of an icy-cold creek, whose temperature belied the sweltering ozone of the forest. She didn’t mind. The water ran fresh and clear with snowmelt from some mountain deeper in the woods, and it made the midsummer heat quite bearable indeed.
Tugging idly at one of her dark curls with her dagger, she peered into the stream, waiting. Its floor was muddy and littered with leaves from the hornbeams above, which cast a brilliant yellow-green glow across the wood in the afternoon sun. Suddenly, a glint of silver caught her eye, and she tensed; a young grayling was ambling upstream. It looked exhausted, Impi thought. She wondered how anyone could think that these paltry creatures feed on gold; it looked hardly big enough to swallow a blackfly.
She set her dagger down on the rock and dipped her hands into the creek, flinching slightly at the cold. Leaning closer still, so that a tendril of hair fell from behind her ear and rested on the surface of the water, she flitted her eyes shut and began to hum.
Moments later, a grin leapt to her face. Something was wriggling in her cupped hands. She opened her eyes and lifted it slowly out of the stream, raising it to her face for a closer look. The grayling writhed as the remaining water trickled from between her fingers and dripped down onto her skirt.
She continued to hum, the tune deep, soft, and slow. She drew her feet out of the water and twisted into a kneel, careful to keep her hands steady so as not to let the fish loose. This was proving less and less difficult, anyway-- the creature’s flailing had abated, so that now it only squirmed in the languid fashion of a child nestling into their sheets before drifting into slumber. Soon it lay still.
Impi closed her eyes once more and whispered a quiet thanks before taking the grayling in one hand, reaching for her dagger with the other. She did not grimace as she cut the eyes from the creature’s head, nor did she blanch at the smell as a rivulet of pale red blood slithered down her wrist and dripped off her elbow. When she had finished, she set down the eyeless carcass and the knife, and dropped the eyes into a leather sachet tied around her waist. She opened it wider to check the contents… that was two more, which would make it twelve. She sighed. The recipe called for fourteen.
She looked back at the creek. There was not a fish in sight, but her protracted shadow across the water reminded her that it was getting quite late. There was still time, she was sure of it. She guessed about a half week. She would have to come back again tomorrow.
Impi dunked her arms and her dagger in the water to rinse off the blood, then stood and stretched. A warm breeze was wafting through the forest, carrying with it the dizzying scent of earth, and she could see the sun beginning to set over the treetops. Not the worst place to die, she thought, hoping that this would be some consolation to the spirit of the grayling, wherever it may be. She picked up its body, quickly dipping it into the stream as well, before stepping off her rock-perch and making her way to solid ground.
There lay the other five graylings, and now she did grimace, in spite of herself. She had tossed them haphazardly to shore after carving out their eyes. She knelt, her knees falling with a soft thud onto the moss below. Something horrible and cold was coiling in her gut, and she thought she might be sick. She stared, transfixed. Twelve black and bloody sockets glared back at her.
I’m sorry, she thought, rather desperately. Grayling eyes-- I need them for the medicine. The sockets seemed to bore holes in her skin. My people will die without it, you see, a terrible disease comes to our village every year at the start of hazel moon… we were cursed, is the thing, and I’ve found a way to stop it, only it requires quite a few nasty ingredients…
The forest was closing in around her. Where was the sun, for it had been high in the sky just minutes ago? Impi squeezed her eyes shut, overcome.
And then it was over, just as quickly as it had begun. She opened her eyes and looked down at the carcasses, only now they just looked like fish, however mutilated. A long, shaky breath escaped her lungs-- this was part of it, she thought, it must be. It seemed obvious, now. Shaking her head as if to ward off a fly, she sunk her fingers into the earth and began to dig. Then she lay the graylings one by one in their makeshift grave.
- El Clavenna
"Zero Gravity," Stuart Heintz
"Greetings from the Moon," Rachel Sontheimer
"SANCTUARY," L-J ShenFilerman
"Feet," Lily Thomson
"Necklaces," Lily Thomson
"Lust," L Brock
It was my uncle who decided to give me to the wolf pack. Not that I’m complaining or anything. It was the best thing he’d ever done for me.
He really couldn’t have been more obvious about it. He gave me a basket full of sweet bread and meat, put me in a bright red parka, and told me to walk through the woods to catch the train to Grandmother’s house. Might as well just hang a sign around my neck asking to be kidnapped, according to the stories our neighbors tell. There are always rumors about the woods—how the people who live there are evil, even insane, and how the wolves who roam the trees are as smart as human beings. Uncle must really think I’m dumb, especially as there’s a path along the edge of the trees that’s much safer and only a few minutes longer. But I didn’t complain, and I wasn’t surprised. I had been planning this with the Wolves for months.
I stood at the door, my basket hung carefully over one arm. Most of my few belongings were already with the pack, but the last of them were hidden under the food in my basket—my journal, my stuffed bear, and the bag of coins the wolves had paid my uncle for me. He wouldn’t be happy to see it was gone, and I allowed myself a moment of grim pleasure at the thought.
Uncle waved me out the door. “See you later,” he said, gruffly. There wasn’t a trace of regret in his voice.
I didn’t look back once. I had only spent a year within the walls of that house, after Mom died and I was shuttled off to live with my uncle, and I had no affection for it. I walked past the rows of dingy and colorless cottages, past the graveyard that held my mother’s bones, towards the woods and my supposed doom.
The smell of the trees wrapped around me like my mother’s arms as I stepped into their shade. In the village it was only grey and brown and more grey, but there, in the filtered light, there were more colors than I knew how to name. Thousands of shades of green rustled and glimmered around me, in the moss and the leaves and the patterns shifting against the forest floor. The air was damp and clean, free of the rot that hung over the village. I felt like every step pulled some kind of poison out of my body.
Shapes began to flit through the darkest shadows along the path only a few minutes into the trees. I remembered, briefly, my fear when I first arrived and heard the howling from the woods late at night.
But then I had met Yuna on one of her weekly trips to the market for supplies. The market is a loud, dangerous place, full of people who would happily cut your throat to steal a loaf of bread. But she was quiet and thoughtful in the face of it all, and she walked with a straight spine and unhurried steps—like a person who had made friends with her fears. I was drawn to her straight away. I kept coming back to talk to her every week, and eventually she introduced me to the Pack and invited me to join them.
They were nothing like I had expected. They cared for each other and the forest more than most people in the village cared about anything. Those were my friends circling in the shadows; soon I would learn to change form like they could. So when the shape of a wolf darted out into the path in front of me, I broke into a smile.
I watched as its fur vanished and its bones lengthened, quickly, into the shape of a girl. In seconds, Yuna was standing on the path in front of me. I leaped to embrace her.
She laughed and kissed my cheek as she hugged me back. Her long black hair hung in a single braid down her spine, and a few loose strands tickled my nose. “Hey, Rossa,” she said as she pulled away, her dark eyes glittering. “Are you ready to be kidnapped?”
I dug out the bag of coins and returned it to her, grinning. “You bet.”
She tucked it away and took my hand. “Then come on, already.”
The excitement that had been living dormant in my chest expanded and thrummed through my entire body, and I wondered if Yuna could feel it sparking in my fingers. “Are we going home? To the den, I mean?”
“Wait, what?” I drew up short, and the shadows along the path stopped too. “Where are we going?”
Her fingers tightened on mine. “First things first. We’re going to teach you to shift.”
I caught my breath. “Now? Already?”
“You never really explained how this works. How are you going to teach me?”
She smiled at me—a little sadly, I thought—and we kept walking. “Rossa, do you know where the stories the villagers tell about us come from?”
She took a deep breath. “Well, about twenty years ago, a bunch of people decided they wanted to cut the woods down to make it easier to come and go from the village. They didn’t succeed—obviously—but they did get rid of a couple acres of trees, and hunted many of the animals they displaced. They managed to kill off every last wolf that lived here.”
I tried to follow. “Real wolves, you mean? Not you guys.”
“Yes and no.”
“Yes, they were real wolves. But they’re the reason we’re able to do what we do.”
“Shh.” She let go of my hand, and we watched as the wolves crept out of the trees towards us.
I drew a little closer to her when I saw how many of them there. I knew those were my friends, hidden under layers of muscle and fur and glinting eyes, but they were certainly a scary bunch.
They sat calmly on the path in front of us, and all at once, they changed back into the people I knew—Alice with her pink hair and gentle old Curtis with his cane and everyone else in between. They smiled at me silently. I tried to move forward to greet them, but Yuna stopped me with a hand on the arm.
I turned to ask her what was happening, but something in her eyes stopped the words from coming.
“Don’t be scared,” she said softly, letting go of my hand.
She closed her eyes, and as I watched, the faint shape of a wolf broke away from her form, almost like dust. It landed on all fours on the forest floor. I recognized that snout, the muscle in its shoulders and the small nick in its ear. This was Yuna on the ground in front of me—or at least, what Yuna looked like as a wolf. But human Yuna was still beside me.
I didn’t say anything as the whole pack underwent the same strange process until there were nine wolves standing before me, sunlight filtering through their forms. I remembered what Yuna had said: they managed to kill off every last wolf that lived here.
I felt tears fill my eyes as I suddenly understood. These were the spirits of the animals that had died.
More of them materialized out of the trees. I saw birds and deer and even a bear, and finally, the shapes of three more wolves. One of them came and stood right in front of me.
I got down on my knees. I knew the wolf was dead, but its eyes looked so very alive—full of light and danger. It pulled its lips back in a growl, all its muscles tense and quivering, and it sprang.
I couldn’t help it; I screamed and fell backwards. But no pain came, as I expected—just a blast of cold and a rush of images.
My own memories rose up in me first. I saw the home I shared with my mother, remembered all the peaceful nights at home—felt, for a moment, as if she was there with me—remembered watching her grow ill, and then burying her and living in a haze of grief with my uncle, cut off from my home and the people I loved, until I met Yuna for the first time.
Then the memories shifted, and I saw the wolf’s first moments with its eyes open, staring up into its mother’s fierce eyes—saw its first kill, felt the excitement of dusk falling and the simple wild joy of living in the pack. Then, inevitably, came the familiar stab of loss. I saw the cold blue eyes of a hunter and felt the memory of the bullet piercing its ribs. My memories mixed with the wolf’s until I wasn’t sure who was who anymore.
As I sat there, shivering and trying to process it all with Yuna’s steady hands on my shoulders, I understood why the new pack protected what was left of the woods with such vigor. I sat, and breathed, and let the memories flow. A new peace of mind stole over me as the images began to slow. Under all the chaos of the wolf’s thoughts, I uncovered a fierce kind of loyalty—to its pack, to my friends, and now to me. I understood that I was a part of the pack now, permanently linked to the forest and everything that lived there.
I don’t know how long I sat there before my vision cleared. The faint shapes of the spirits had departed—but I could still feel the wolf there with me, ready to become flesh again if I called, and I broke into a smile. I looked up to see all of my friends but Yuna shift back into wolves.
“Welcome to the pack,” Yuna said, and all around us, the wolves began to howl a welcome song.
"I AM A WOMAN," Vicky Cojab
I get ready to watch my class graduate from the other side of the field. It’s the kind of day that gets slapped onto postcards and promotional websites. Most guests are seated under the big white tent but due to my late arrival, I stand with my toes just grazing the edge of the shade, my ankles aching in heels that weren’t designed for standing. I start tearing up the plastic cup in my hands to avoid chipping paint off my nails.
It takes me a moment. He was my height the day I met him and now my nose is level with his shoulder. His face is still the same, a square jaw, freckles like brown sugar and bright red hair. He still has some baby fat on his cheeks but he dresses like a fifty year old college professor wearing a tweed jacket and round spectacles.
“Hi Cooper.” Cooper is not my friend and he never was. He was two grades ahead of me and we came to the school at the same time and were in the same orientation group. There was enough familiarity for one of us to say hi to the other if we passed in the hallway. But there was also enough distance to keep us out of each others' general orbit.
Cooper perks up like a puppy when he realizes he’d guessed correctly. “Hi! It’s so good to see you.”
“How are you?”
“Fine except for the heat.”
“Oh yeah, I know what you mean. Anyways,” he continues, “aren’t you supposed to be up there?”
“Nope.” I can practically see the questions bouncing around inside his head. And the assumptions. I consider leaving it at that, just to see what kind of conclusion he comes to. But maybe it’s my pride that makes me elaborate. “I transferred schools last year. Can’t get a diploma if I’m not enrolled.”
“Oh, I see. Yeah that makes sense.” That’s the most common response I get whenever I explain this to someone who went to this school and it confuses me to no end. How? How does that make sense? Did my bad grades bleed through my skin? Had I been unknowingly broadcasting my depression like a sleepwalking radio host? Or did my anxieties ring out like broken guitar strings?
“So where will you be going next year?” He asks.
“Boston.” This time, I have no need to elaborate. This was a bad idea. Small talk is always a bad idea. I should’ve hidden behind the bushes and waited until the ceremony ended.
Cooper’s attention goes to something behind me. I turn to see that the graduation procession has started. Girls walk by, looking elegant in their white lace dresses, matching hair in their matching braids with matching flower crowns up top. I avoid eye contact and fiddle with the hem of a dress that will sit at the top of a donation pile next week. The boys look about as handsome as they could in their suits and ties and loafers, the same uniform they’d been wearing every day for the past four years. They remind me of my brother’s high school friends who now have bushy beards and man buns. I watch every face pass by, seeing some I don’t recognize and glimpsing those that I do.
There’s the first boy to ever break my heart. There’s the girl I could’ve been friends with if she wasn’t always on honor roll while I got straight C’s. There’s the boy who started rumors about my sexuality during freshman year. There’s the boy who asked me out after knowing me for a week and ignored me for a year when I said no. There’s the girl who I wanted to ask out until I realized I had waited too long. Here were all the boys I want to yell at or, in some cases, push off a cliff. Here are all the girls that scared me with their Lily Pulitzer dresses and Kate Spade phone cases. And here I am, on the other end of the field, listening to the speech of a soon-to-be-retired teacher about “courage” and “the future” and “community.”
“So why did you come?”
I look up towards Cooper, who I’d assumed had gone back to the cluster of people who’d once been his own classmates. Instead he’s still standing with me, his elbow grazing mine as he bends down to whisper. There’s a table in front of us covered in filming equipment. The large cameras and mics are pointed towards the stage but I don’t doubt they could pick up this conversation if we aren’t careful.
“I was in town,” I say. “My family is hosting a reunion and the main house is a thirty minute drive from here.”
“Oh. How’s the reunion?”
“It’s going great. There’s a lull in activities right now so I’m not missing anything.”
The speeches are finally over and the Headmaster is reciting the names of the graduates as they rise to receive their diplomas. Someone calls out for Cooper, probably a former classmate, and he waves to them.
“Well,” he says “it was nice to see you, Mara.”
“You too, Cooper.”
“Good luck in Boston.”
“Good luck… wherever you’re going.”
“Right. There. Good luck.”
With that and a quick smile, Cooper turns and walks away. Leaving me to stand on the sidelines and watch.
The ceremony ends with a rousing cheer for the class of 2019. They receive a standing ovation and applause that sweeps over the field. The audience shuffles about to make room as the graduates walk out towards the quad to reunite with families and give teary goodbyes.
Maybe there’s a version of me that did better here. She would’ve gotten her shit together sooner, or didn’t have anything to clean up in the first place. She’d have sat at her little desk pressed up against the window, finishing her homework on time. Or she’d email a teacher to ask for help because that would be something she’d have no problem doing. Her roommate would be her best friend and they’d plan trips to downtown to see a movie or have dinner with even more friends. She’d know what to wear and say and do. She’d join clubs and take art classes and play sports. She’d be a team captain or a part of student leadership. She’d be sitting up on stage, with her white dress and braided hair and flower crown, feeling overwhelmed and bittersweet for all the right reasons.
Maybe there’s a version that doesn’t do great but got better here. She learns to ask for help and put herself out there. She accepts those offers from other people to sit with them, even if she believes that it's out of pity, because she knows it beats eating alone. She teaches herself to stop waiting for a rejection or an insult or a fight. Her grades get better and she’s still not very well-known or popular, but she has her people and they are enough. When she’s on that stage with her dress, braids and crown, she knows this won’t be the best years of her life. But she stayed and made them better.
And maybe there’s a version that does worse. That doesn’t get better and doesn’t even try. Just trudges through four years of frustration and depression. She’d keep her head down and try to squeeze herself into cracks where no one would find her. She’d stay out of people’s way and take up as little space as she could. She’d teach herself how to watch everything go by and act like it’s fine. Even if it chips away at her until there is nothing left but dust. She’d leave this place feeling the weight of those four years she’d never get back.
Maybe all of them are out there, somewhere else sitting in different places, experiencing different things. But I’m the one who's here. My grades didn’t get better because I wasn’t taking classes here. I didn’t make any friends because I wasn’t around anymore. I didn’t suck it up or stick it out, didn’t fight for a seat at the table. I chose to leave and try to do better somewhere else.
The new alumni walk past me clutch their diplomas as they wave them in each other’s faces. Someone is crying through a gift exchange with a teacher. Some are passing around a celebratory cigar to commemorate their newfound freedom. I stuff my program to the bottom of my bag as I walk back to the car.
Shi Shi Jacobs
"Lily's Chair," Rachel Sontheimer
"Stuck," Max Starr
One More Summer
This Spring in New England is too cold
Last Springs were cold
But this Spring freezes more than New England
Creeps from the Earth's limbs
And permeates into its skin
Icily, intercepting the speech
Icily, dulling the breath
For the first time
I learn the way people join hands:
Some are imprisoned in their lives
All are imprisoned in their lives
So I become a prisoner in my life
May the egoists admit
The claims thou freely released
were not lily-white pigeons' wings
But twisted thick strings
Dragging the public to meet your needs
Should I stay in prison
Struggling, lingering, and dying
With my bleeding, shivering fingers
trying to remove
The hostile swords pointing at each other
humbly and silently
People even pity to peek
At ourselves, powerless to resist the calamity
But why still we–––
Overlaying it with further man-made tricks
And smashing the rare gift
Peace as it at least seemed
Living spirits burn and crunch
Fried in the greasy pan
violent bumps only leave ruins and regrets
on the riddled land
I refuse to grow weak
Turn into an earthworm
Squirm on the lawn
Sink to the bottom
Sleep in deep
I want to spend one more Summer
In the forgotten field of wheat
- Frances Yang
"Cool Cat," Stuart Heintz
"Who Am I Becoming?," Ameile Rearden
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Community Reflections on COVID-19
The world has changed dramatically in the past few months, and the lives of students, faculty, and staff have been impacted in a myriad of small and large ways. The rest of this edition is dedicated to art and writing from the CSW community reflecting on our experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shi Shi Jacobs
"School in Outer Space," Ameile Rearden
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your
I've never wanted a tribe beyond blood
Not a rejection, a knowledge gap
Privilege & childlessness, perhaps
Now I see our crowded table and want it
spread with onion-free, toddler delicacies
more places than can fill right now, because
I see others around, beyond, forward
unknown & welcome, like children's heights
ready for someday eye-to-eye when I am
I see your spaces by the fire, unfenced yard
Thank you for the gap filled in friendship
"Pandemic Journal Snapshot: Too Happy," Stuart Heintz
"Pandemic Journal Snapshot: Ripping at the Seams," Stuart Heintz
"Pandemic Journal Snapshot: Growing Back," Stuart Heintz
My card table in the living room started out clean and organized but has become cluttered with the cords of chargers and headphones, loose papers, magazines, and many newspapers with articles I intend to one day read. My father brought it into the living room with the intention of getting me out of my room. I was certainly hesitant initially. It faces out the window, where, through the trees, I can occasionally see a mother and daughter walk by or sometimes even someone walking their dog. Just beyond the road lies the neighbor’s house, a powder blue Victorian, holding people I haven’t spoken with for years. I watch time pass from my window. One day it’s rainy, the next it’s sunny. I think it’s getting brighter.
My table separates the worlds I exist in. When I sit down, I can guarantee there will be no disruption, and I can play normal.
And when noon comes, I always have to get up and remember my smaller reality. It gets much quieter.
The presence of life expands at my table.
- Anna Whitney
"Time Freefall," Jamie McCreath
"Terrible Fate," Jamie McCreath
Thank you for reading!
Our Editorial Board
Editor-in-Chief: Rachel Sontheimer '20
Assistant Editor: El Clavenna '21
Faculty Advisor: Eli Keehn
Staff members: Nina Bunn, Lily Thomson, Mia Vittimberga, Cam McAdam, Eliza Greenbaum, Grace Ellis