Fluromance: Finding Love in the Midst of the Flu Outbreak

by Connor Zimmerman on February 14, 2020


A couple in coughing masks with a pink heart in the background
Photos courtesy of pickpik.com & Graphic Design by Sarah McLaughlin ’23

by Kate Ward ’23

“I got you a present.” His voice was muffled, one hand pressed against the glass, the other behind his back. 

I took off my mask and looked at him intently. “If it’s another mask I’m going to be mad.” I laughed a little. It had been sixteen years since the initial outbreak of the flu and nearly every house on the street had been ordered to put glass around the perimeter of the property. My next-door neighbor Michael and I had become infected at relatively the same time. I caught it first after being hospitalized for a nasty case of the flu. I got out right before Valentine’s Day, and that was when we went on a date. I kissed him, things advanced, and two weeks later he was sick. Let me tell you, fostering romance while sick is an entirely new challenge within itself. I watched through the glass as he took a box out from behind him; it was one of those heart-shaped chocolate boxes. 

“You do know that there’s no way for me to get those, right?” I laughed a little.

“Yes, I do know that, so I’m just going to show them to you.” He chuckled. “No, I’m kidding, I’m going to find a way to give them to you. Here, back up.” 

I took a few steps away from the glass and looked up at where the small air hole was. The air hole was something that the government had decided to put in the ceiling of the glass to make sure we had some way of getting fresh air without spreading the disease. Michael stepped back and then began to run at the glass, jumping and hurling the box through his air hole and into mine. I watched as the chocolate box fell open, pill bottles tumbling out from the inside. 

Gasping as a few clattered onto my head, I whirled to look at him.“Are you kidding me, Michael?”

He was doubled over, laughing loudly as he watched the expression on my face change from shock and horror to anger. 

“What? Come on, I thought it was funny! Why can’t I make jokes about our sickness, huh?” he asked, pressing his hands up to the glass. 

“You think this,” I held up a prescription bottle and flung it at the glass, “is funny?! Do you think this is a proper Valentine’s gift?” I cried. 

“Look inside the bottles,” he said, now more serious.

I shook my head and bent down, picking up one of the orange bottles, unscrewing the cap. Inside there were three tightly rolled pieces of paper. 

“They’re letters,” Michael explained as I went around and collected the rest of the bottles, some already broken open. 

I was quiet for a moment, trying to find the words and the courage to say what I wanted to say. I opened one letter and glanced over it. “This is from our first date.” I picked up another. “And this is from our last.” I looked at him. He nodded and smiled sheepishly. 

“I thought it was a nice idea, I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid,” Michael murmured, his breath fogging up the glass.

“No! No, it isn’t a stupid idea, I mean, at least you got me something. Last Valentine’s Day all I got you was sick with this virus.” I tried to lighten the mood.

Michael chuckled. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The slightly dark and oddly cute sentence caught me off guard. This man was willing to be trapped in a glass cage for the remainder of his life if it meant seeing me each day. 

“I don’t deserve you,” I whispered.

“You’re going to have to speak up; the glass is thick,” he said, pointing to his ears for further clarification.

“I—never mind.” I shook my head. “It was a stupid thought!” Stupid to bring something like that up on a day like today. 

Michael waited patiently, looking at me in case I wanted to say something further. I shook my head again. “I don’t have anything to say, so quit looking at me like that, will you?”

“You know, I was thinking about, like… do you remember back in 2020 when people still used that term ship? I was thinking about our ship name.” He had this stupid yet adorable grin on his face. 

I lifted a brow. “Oh? What might that be?”

He wrung his hands. “I don’t know if I should tell you judging by your reaction to the gift.”

“You can’t just bring it up and not say it!” I cried, pointing at him. 

He put his hands up in surrender, our eyes locking as I watched him try to figure out his next move. “Our ship name isn’t a joining of our names but more like our current… predicament. It’s Fluromance.” Michael grinned. 

I sighed. Flu Romance, of course he would think of something that stupid yet somewhat witty. 

The Last Two

by Connor Zimmerman on February 14, 2020


by Jay Willett ’20

“Cheers,” she raised her wine glass, “to being single on this lovely Valentine’s Day!” We clinked and took our first sips of the red wine I bought for seven bucks at Shaw’s. She wrinkled her nose and gasped.

“That’s bitter!”

“Wine can’t be bitter.” I grinned.

“Well, it is!”

I nodded my head as I drank, catching her doubtful glance that I was enjoying the beverage. It’s true I was bluffing, and after a couple more, I couldn’t stop myself.

“ACK!” I coughed into my sleeve. She folded her arms in self-proclaimed victory. Laughter echoed from upstairs. Noise of the city filtered through cracks in the drywall. It was muzzled but audible to hear the couples dancing and kissing in the streets. She tugged at the front strands of her hair. I stamped the  heel of my foot on the felt carpet. There was no avoiding it; the aroma of love had breached our walls of singularity. Our safe space for honest discussion and unrelenting cynicism had been invaded by the enamored. They took the stage while we fell silent.

a glass of red wine
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

“It’s not fair, you know,” she whispered.


“I don’t know.” She fiddled with her necklace. “Like, that we are here, and people expect us to be sad and lonely tonight.”

“Hm,” was all I could respond with.

“…But I’m not­—I’m here, drinking with you. And I’m happy!”


“I am—I’m—” Tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. I raised my glass.

“Hey­—cheers.” We clinked for a second time. She laughed as I spat out my wine.

Falling Without Gravity

by Connor Zimmerman on February 14, 2020


A heartbeat scan that ends in a heart
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

by Clara Howard ’20

“Hellooo, earth to Marina?”

Marina blinked, the fog of memories and laughter lifting at the voice of the attending on-call and the surrounding sounds of the hospital. “What?”

Dr. Li frowned at her. “Are you okay? That’s the third time you’ve spaced out on me this shift.”

Marina shook her head and shoulders, the way a bird might settle its wings after a long flight. “Sorry, I’m fine. Just have a lot on my mind today.”

“Did you want to talk about it?”

“Not really,” she replied, smiling a little tightly. “Well, not right now, at any rate.”

Dr. Li nodded and leaned forward, resting his forearms on the counter of the nurses’ station. The new position brought his face closer to where Marina’s head was bent over a pile of charts she was supposed to be reviewing. “So, what do you want to talk about, then?” He asked, his voice quieter.

Marina rolled her eyes, a small smile playing with the edges of her mouth. “I don’t really have anything that I want to talk about right now,” she responded, her voice just as low.

“Really, absolutely nothing?”

“Not that I can think of.”

“No special plans for the weekend?”

She shrugged, the smile growing wider with the exchange. “Not really.” She glanced up at him then, struggling not to laugh at the way his eyes sparked with mock outrage.

His eyes widened as he gaped at her. “You wound me, Marina Blair,” he whispered, the mirth in his eyes belying his words.

Marina did a subtle sweep of the space around them before leaning in closer to Dr. Li, making as if she were about to divulge a secret. “Good thing you’re a doctor, then, and can patch yourself up,” she whispered back.

He burst out laughing, clapping a hand over his mouth as his shoulders shook. Marina sat back, her grin turning smug as she watched him. He shook his head and matched her gaze. “So little sympathy for the injured, Nurse Blair?”

“Only when the injured is you, Dr. Li,” she quipped, even daring to shoot him a wink.

“Sounds like someone needs to help you work on those bedside manners.”

“Oh really?” Her dimples came out in full force and she leaned forward again. “And I suppose you’re offering to be that someone?”

His deep brown eyes seemed to smolder with heated promises as he looked at her. “I suppose that I am.”

Her smile turned slow, curling at the corners like a cat in front of a fire. “Then I suppose—”

“Marina, have you seen the chart for the patient in room 207?” Nurse Jenkins interrupted, her nose buried in a bunch of files as she turned the corner and walked up to the nurses’ station. She looked up to see Dr. Li straightening the pile of charts in front of him and Marina searching for a pen. She decided not to comment on the blushes staining their cheeks.

Say It Ain’t So

by Connor Zimmerman on January 30, 2020


Creatures of old sketched on a stone wall like fairies and dragons
Photos courtesy of needpix.com & pixabay.com

by Clara Howard ’20

His Royal Highness Aidan William Rothschild, Crown Prince of Collarch, was royally pissed. And anyone who could hear or see him walking down the hall knew to remove themselves immediately from his path. His sister, her Royal Highness Princess Brianne Aislinn, winced as she listened to the heavy fall of his booted footsteps against the ancient stone floors. She hiked her skirts up a bit higher as she hurried to keep up with his longer strides. But with Brianne’s eyes fixed on the ground to avoid tripping on the uneven stones, she missed Aidan’s abrupt stop in front of the doors to their parents’ suite of rooms. “Oof,” she exclaimed, her voice muffled by the scratchy wool of her brother’s greatcoat.

“Sorry, Bri,” he said, glancing at her over his shoulder, his face softening a bit.

“No worries,” she replied, scratching at her nose. “But, Liam, it can’t really be that bad, can it?”

Aidan’s brows knotted back together. “You don’t understand what he’s asking me to do.”

“Oh please, it’s the same thing he’ll be asking me to do in a few years, and likely Keira and Torin, too.” Brianne couldn’t quite keep the impatience from her voice.

Her brother shook his head and nodded to the royal guards standing near the doors. One of them bowed his head and pushed open the heavy oak door. A footman on the other side held it open as the royal siblings crossed the threshold.

Their parents’ private sitting room was a large, open space, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a grand fireplace, its hearth sculpted by the one of the early kings of Collarch as a gift for his new bride. As a child, Brianne had loved tracing the dips and ridges of the fearsome creatures and the beautiful faeries carved into the stone while her mother wove stories of magic, warriors, and dragons. Though she and her siblings had grown too old for faerie stories, Brianne could still swear that sometimes she thought she saw the creatures move in the flickering firelight.

In front of the hearth, the fire banked slightly in the afternoon heat, sat Her Royal Majesty Queen Fiona Mairéad, her wild red-orange curls unbound and left to cascade over her shoulders and back. Her eyebrows, a shade slightly darker than her hair, shifted up in question at her two eldest children. “Hello, my loves. What—”

“Mother, he can’t make me do this. You have to get him to change the order,” Aidan interrupted, his voice rippling with barely-restrained fury.

“Ah,” the queen replied, her eyes softening a bit. “Liam,” she began, calling him by the name only his immediate family used, “surely your father explained the situation to you.”

“Of course he did,” Aidan bit back, throwing himself onto the couch beside their grandmother’s empty rocking chair. His gaze lingered on the thin layer of dust that had started to gather on the armrests before he turned back to their mother. When he spoke again, his tone was slightly more measured. “But that doesn’t mean I agree with his reasoning—or even understand it.”

“It’s just a suggestion, Liam. It’s not as though Father has already promised you to her,” Brianne broke in, still surprised that her brother was so angry about the whole thing.

“Yeah, it’s slightly more complicated than that, Brianne, so if you could just keep out of it—”

“I was in that room too, William, and it didn’t sound remotely complicated to me—”

“Probably because you were too busy staring at Father’s new Hand the whole time to pay any attention,” Aidan retorted.

Brianne gasped, her brown eyes widening with outrage. “Get off it! I was not staring!” she tossed back, her ears burning a bright red as her cheeks flushed a rosy pink beneath her freckles.

Aidan smirked, his object won, and leaned into her face. “You were too. In fact, is that 

a spot of drool on your bodice, Bri? Think it’ll come out in the wash?”

The princess snarled at her older brother and reached for something to hit him with or throw at him. As her fingers closed around the seam of a pillow, their mother spoke and the siblings froze. “Brianne Aislinn, if you in any way attempt to inflict bodily damage on your brother, I will instruct Lady Quinn to resume your embroidery lessons post haste.” Brianne growled and opened her hand, dropping the pillow and leaning back against the cushions of her chair. Aidan smirked again, but quickly swallowed it as their mother addressed him next, Fiona’s honey-golden eyes blazing with authority. “Aidan William, your King has given you an order which he and I expect you to follow—as is your duty as Crown Prince.” Aidan caught her stare and held it, and Brianne saw that he was struggling to control an impulsive answer. Slowly, he tilted his chin and bowed his head, submitting to the royal command in their mother’s voice. Fiona sighed, and Brianne watched as their mother shifted closer to Aidan. The queen reached out and grasped Aidan’s hands in her own. “Liam, your father likes this plan as little as you do. But he’s got no choice. A bargain was made, and the King of Nesrea did not follow through with his end. Your father has already been generous enough in granting the Nesreans more time than had been originally agreed.”

“But why must the price of their treachery be my freedom?” Aidan’s voice held a tinge of pleading that Brianne had never heard before. “And what about the Nesrean princess? Are neither of us to have a say in our own futures?”

“You’re forgetting that your sister has a point, too,” the queen replied. “Nothing has been fully promised. And besides, perhaps you’ll suit,” she offered, shrugging a thin shoulder, her fiery curls shifting with the movement. “‘Tis not so dire as you believe, m’love.”

After a long moment, Aidan nodded once, but Brianne caught the flash of resignation in his eyes before he retreated into himself. He squeezed their mother’s hands and stood, dropping a kiss on her cheek. “Perhaps you’re right, Mums.” He turned to Brianne, one hand still gently clasping the queen’s fingers. “I’m sorry, Bri. I won’t tease you about the new Hand…”

“Thank you—”

“…anymore today,” he finished, grinning at the growl that escaped Brianne as he chucked her under the chin. With a final smile to his mother and sister—one that Brianne thought didn’t quite reach his eyes—Aidan left the room, his hands settling deep in his pockets.

“Mother,” Brianne whispered, turning to see the queen’s gaze on the doors through which Aidan had just strode. “Mother, is this all more complicated than a simple marriage contract?”

Fiona looked at her daughter and smiled tightly. “Of course not, love. Aidan merely wishes for more independence. Now, come,” the queen coaxed with a softer smile. “Tell me why you were staring at the King’s Hand this morning.”

Brianne groaned and fell back against the pillows, cursing her brother’s big mouth.

Vacuuming Spiders

by Connor Zimmerman on January 30, 2020


A piano
Photo courtesy of freesvg.org

by Sarah McLaughlin ’23

During his piano lesson, Grayson doesn’t really seem like himself.

I know he’s not particularly talkative, but he’s even more reserved than usual today. He looks at the music with stoic, sad eyes and takes longer than normal to pick up on the new concepts I try to teach him. I’m tempted to ask if everything’s alright, if he’s tired, or if it’s too difficult, but I keeping pushing it off. After he finishes this song, I tell myself. But I don’t.

Eventually, we have only five minutes left, and we’ve barely accomplished anything. I check my phone for the time, wondering if I should just wrap it up early—surely his mother, waiting in her car, wouldn’t mind.

“Alright,” I say. “So, just practice the same two pages for next week, okay?”

He doesn’t respond. He’s staring at the open book, completely still.

“It’s okay,” I say carefully. “I know we didn’t make a lot of progress today, but don’t feel bad. Sometimes music is really hard, and you have to take your time with it. It’s…” I trail off as I notice his eyes welling up. Oh, God, have I made him cry?

“Grayson?” I ask, trying my best to make sure I don’t sound like I’m about to burst into tears. “What’s wrong?”

He sniffs and shakes his head.

I shift in my chair to face him. “It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. Do you want me to get your mom?”

He shakes his head again, and this time he opens his mouth. “My…” He speaks in the smallest voice I’ve ever heard. “My Gramma. She’s sick. Mommy says she’s going to be okay, but she looks scared.” A tear escapes his eye and rolls down his cheek. “I’m scared.”

 I freeze. Am I supposed to try to comfort him? What do I say? This is a five-year-old kid, who apparently trusts me enough (more than his own mother?) to tell me what’s bothering him. I’ve never been good at helping friends who are in emotional crises or even just feeling little down—I’m the type of person who offers to grab a glass of water or a box of tissues rather than stay in the room and talk to someone. And if it’s a little kid? Forget it.

Tentatively, I reach out, making sure he doesn’t flinch before I lay my hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay,” I say. “Your Gramma will be okay. And you should talk to your mom. Even if she’s scared, too, it’s better to both be scared together.”

He sniffles again, but at least he turns to look at me. “What do you mean?”

I shrug. “Well, think about it like this. What’s something that you think is really scary?” 

He pauses for a moment. “Spiders. Only the really big ones, though.”

I nod. “Okay. Spiders. I don’t like spiders, either. So if there was a really big spider right there—” I point next to his hand on the piano, and he quickly pulls it away. “—it’d be really scary. But if you show me the spider, I can tell you to keep watching it while I go get the vacuum.”

He laughs a little. “That’s what me and Mommy do. She vacuums the spiders. Sometimes she even screams.”

I smile. “Yeah? So, you see, when both of you are together, it’s less scary, right?” 

He nods. “Right.”

I squeeze his shoulder gently. “So you should talk to her. Tell her what’s making you scared, and even if she is scared, too, she can still help you.” 

He frowns. “But I don’t want her to vacuum Gramma.”

I can’t help laughing. “Don’t worry. She won’t. But she’ll give you a big hug, and you can give her a big hug, too, and then you’ll both be less scared. I promise.”

He looks at me with big, round eyes—bigger than scary spiders. “You promise?” 

I nod. “Yeah. I promise.”

It Wasn’t a Dream

by Connor Zimmerman on January 16, 2020



A silhouette of a man and a woman sitting awkwardly on a couch
Photos courtesy of unsplash.com & graphic design by Connor Zimmerman ’20

The following piece includes a discussion of sexual assault and the subsquent mental and emotional impact it may have on survivors. Discretion is advised. 

by Connor Zimmerman ’20

I stand there in the corner absorbing everything around me. The sounds, the music, and the vibrations crawl their way underneath my skin. The sweat streams down my face, as the heat dances around the room. The smell of drinks envelops me in my corner of the basement. Why did I agree to come here? I look over and see two of my friends high-fiving as they chug their drinks. Some of my other friends are yelling at each other across the pong table. I hope to God that I have some plastic bags in my car.

 As I look away from my friends, I see a girl dance her way through the crowd towards the keg. She moves and twirls through the packs of people till she is almost in front of the line. As she fills up her drink, she looks around the room. She looks over at me, and she smiles. I try to lift my head over the crowd to get a better look. Can’t see anything with the one string of Christmas lights in this basement. 

Suddenly, she is moving through the crowds towards me. I guess I’m not invisible in this corner. She comes up to me and screams over the loud music, “So what’s your deal? You’ve been here forever and haven’t gotten a drink yet.” 

It’s really annoying when everyone wants to know why you aren’t drinking. “I’m just hanging around keeping an eye on my friends.” I point them out, and she takes a look as one of them is vomiting in the corner. 

Laughing, “Well I’m sure the car ride home will be fun.” 

“I’m sure I won’t forget it. What about you?”

“I came over for another drink…and to talk to the only guy with a little mystery in this place.”

“Huh, mystery? Should I take that as a compliment or am I an experiment for your psych 101 class?”

“Only one way to find out. Let’s go upstairs into my office.” She grabs my hand and pulls me through the crowd with her. She leads me up some flights of stairs, and I try to get a better look at her as we climb up the stairs. Her long dark brunette hair bouncing up and down her back makes it hard to get a good look. We come to a living room where the music’s dim echoes are somehow still alive, and the sudden lights blind me. She pushes me, and I fall backwards onto a couch as she disappears. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. I should just leave. Before I can get up from the couch, she comes back into the room with a chair and puts it in front of the couch. 

“So, Doc what’s the plan here? Do you always do business where you live?”

 Without a response she dives in, “So how often do you choose to be the sober one among your friends?”

Drawn aback, I pause. “I’m not entirely sure. No one wants to be the driver, but I’m willing to take the hit.”

Leaning closer to me, “So, Mister Mystery, are you a push-over or are you afraid?” 

Her words are playful, but her eyes are harsh. With a smile I ask, “Can’t I just be a good friend?” 

She smirks and stares at me, “A good friend wouldn’t be the sober one every time, and I have a feeling you’re the usual sober one. A friend is comfortable around those he calls ‘friends,’ and isn’t afraid to speak up for himself.” 

I nod my head in frustration. “Well maybe I just don’t like drinking.”

She shakes her head and gets up from her chair. Taking a seat on the couch next to me, she says, “The way you look at everyone says otherwise. While you stand in the corner, your eyes have a flash of either annoyance or anger…How am I doing?” Inching away from her on the couch, I remain silent. Do I tell her the truth? Maybe it will just end whatever this is faster.  

With a torturous smile she asks, “A one-sided conversation is no fun, maybe we should do something else?” I should leave. I stand up and say, “I think I should go check in on my friends…they are probably fighting about whether their elbows were over the table during pong.”  

She looks at me funny. “Maybe I will make this a little clearer.” She stands up and leans closer to me. Her perfume mixed with a smell of cheap beer draws me in. Her body begins to touch mine, as she reaches her arms around me. As her hand touches my neck, my body feels like it is about to go limp. Her lips approach mine, and I lean forward to kiss her. 

Suddenly the faint music begins to grow and grow and grow until they are screaming. Images begin to flash in my head: a girl smiling at me from across the basement, her hand giving me a drink, the sun striking my face in the morning as I see my clothes by the side of the bed. I can’t breathe. I begin to pull away, as I gasp for air. I run towards the bathroom and slam the door behind me. 

I dry heave into the toilet, as tears begin to well up in my eyes. I hear a soft knock on the door. “Hey, is everything okay?” Trying to calm myself down, I move from the toilet to the sink. Splashing some water on my face, I look in the mirror and instead of my reflection I see a bed with messed up sheets and a man sitting with his head in his arms.  

The door begins to carefully open, as she peeks her head in the bathroom. “Hey, whenever you feel okay, I have a glass of water out here if you need it.” I nod my head, still staring in the mirror. She nods back and closes the door. Breathe in, breathe out. 


I come out of the bathroom and sit back down on the couch next to her. Her hand reaches out with the glass of water, but I just shake my head. 

“So, was my breath that bad?” She asks with a smile. 

Staring at the wall ahead, “No, it wasn’t that.”

“First time?”



Looking at her, “Is this some sort of damn game to you?”

She looks down at the floor, “No. I’m sorry…I…I guess I just had a little too much to drink and….”

Silence sits in the room between us on the couch. I let it linger so that I’m not the only one that is uncomfortable in the room. Shaking my head, I say, “It happened probably close to a year ago. It was a night just like tonight: loud music, a dirty basement, cold and cheap beer. I guess it was fine until…it wasn’t. I started talking to this girl and when my cup was empty, she said she would grab me a drink. It must have happened around then, because I don’t remember much else…just flashes. It felt like a dream. It still doesn’t feel real sometimes.” 

She looks at me and then back down to the floor. “I’m sorry that happened to you. I’ve known people that have been…I guess I just didn’t really know them…you know.”

“Yeah I know.”



“That’s my name.”


“I’m okay taking things slow. I know a great Chinese place in the next town over. I mean if you are free next weekend?” She asks looking at me. 

I look over at her and smile, “Yeah I would like that.” She looks different in the light…she looks real. 

It’s a Wonderful Night

by The Cowl Editor on December 7, 2019


Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

by Erin Venuti ’20

Her last Christmas season here.

The first one was exciting. Although they’d had an entire Thanksgiving break to get ready, it seemed that the campus had transformed itself overnight. Each day, Kate discovered something new—another Christmas tree, more lights, the cheesy decorations in the dining hall. She and her roommate Ashley had made sure to decorate their dorm room as well, so as to feel more at home. One day during the weeks leading up to Christmas break, the two girls made the trek to the Dollar Tree that sat just off campus, where they filled a shopping basket to the brim with garland, stockings, and window gels. They each also picked out a stuffed reindeer. Kate named her’s Gerald.

She was sitting in Alumni when the text came through: all classes canceled due to snow.

There were few times when you could tell exactly what everyone on campus was thinking. The minutes following a snow day announcement fell into this category. In the same breath, the entirety of Alumni gasped in excitement and frantically began chattering about all of the classes they would be missing the next day. Soon, the exodus of students started, no doubt off to begin their impromptu “Friday” night as soon as possible.

Kate had been in Slavin for so long that she’d not even noticed it was snowing. Hell, she didn’t even know it was supposed to snow. She was too busy trying to ward off the imminent finals-induced panic attack.

Her phone started ringing—it was Ashley.

“Hey,” Kate said, her voice cracking from lack of use.

“Where are you? I haven’t seen you in days.” It sounded like she was accusing Kate of committing a crime.

“We had breakfast together this morning.”

“Yeah, but that wasn’t really you. That was Morning Kate.”

Kate rolled her eyes, even though Ashley couldn’t actually see her through the phone. “Did you have a question?”

“No, I have a request.”

“The answer is no, I’m not doing your laundry again.”

“Shut up,” Ashley said, in a suddenly less-serious tone. “I need you to come to the library.”


Ashley started laughing. Kate heard a muffled voice on the other end. She couldn’t tell who it belonged to.

“Don’t worry about it,” she managed to get out. “Just come.”

Kate sighed. “Fine.”

By the time she was off the phone, Alumni had nearly emptied out. There were only a few tables that were still occupied, small groups of friends whose snow-day-eve plan clearly included killing time in Slavin.

Kate quickly packed her things and zipped up all of her layers—in the earlier winter days of her college career, she’d taken care to make sure her hat, scarf, and gloves all matched, but nowadays she just threw on whatever she happened to touch first that morning. Frankly, at this point, her sweater could be inside out and she probably wouldn’t have noticed.

College campuses were strange. Depending on the time of day, they could be completely different places. Just that afternoon, when Kate’s last class ended and she set up shop in Slavin, PC had been bustling with students—walking to class, talking with friends, complaining loudly to parents over the phone. Absolutely kinetic. But then the sun had gone down and a snow day had been declared, and now everything was distant. There was still that same energy, but now, it was all potential. Every student seemed to be waiting for Something Great to happen.

Careful not to slip on the wet tile, Kate ascended the stairs and emerged from the pit of Lower Slavin into the openness of the Slavin Atrium.

Her heart leapt.

It’s snowing.

She smiled, and pure joy trickled from her heart all the way to her fingers and toes.

It’s snowing.

It’s snowing! It’s actually snowing!

It wasn’t like she’d never seen snow before. She’d grown up in New England, after all. But this snow was, somehow, a different kind of snow.

Or perhaps it was the same kind of snow she’d always seen, and that it had only felt different because it had been so long since she’d last felt that overwhelming sense of childlike happiness.

Slavin Lawn and the stretch of campus that led up to the library was blanketed in powder. It was still coming down in a mist that faded the brick buildings, transforming the view into one of those old photographs of PC way-back-when that they have lining the walls on the second floor of Harkins.

It’s snowing!

Kate pulled her hat down over her ears, shoved her hands deep in her pockets, and stepped outside. She could hear the scraping of plows against the pavement off in the distance, a sound that, strangely enough, she found peaceful, having spent most of her school days living on a main road. As she walked to the library, she gave no thought to the goofy grin that was plastered across her face.

She was nearing her destination when—


A small object collided with her backpack. She turned in the direction from which the object came, just in time to be hit square in the chest by a snowball.

Ashley and two of their other friends, John and Avery, jumped out from behind a few trees. Kate’s roommate was cackling uncontrollably, so much so that she had no time to prepare for the snowball that Kate sent flying towards her in response.

It was on.

Soon, the four seniors were engaged in the battle of the century. They were merciless, even after Avery accidentally hit a passing group of friars, who decided that they would have some fun too.

Finally, the winter warriors called a truce, and Kate and her friends agreed to return to Kate and Ashley’s apartment for a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life (a snow day tradition of theirs) and hot chocolate with extra chocolate.

Half an hour later, Kate was cocooned in a blanket and sipping chocolate on her couch in Davis, while her friends were joking around and attempting to toss marshmallows in each other’s mouths. Only now did she realize that she hadn’t given any thought to her finals since leaving Slavin earlier that night. It was as if the snow had covered her anxiety as well—of course, come morning, the snow would begin to melt, and her stress would begin to peek through again. But, for now, all was well.

Kate gave Gerald a squeeze. After three years, his tummy had gone flat and his antlers had begun to droop, but he was still going strong.

If a one-dollar stuffed reindeer could make it this far, Kate thought to herself, So can I.

And so ended an absolutely, incredibly, surprisingly, wonderful night.

How I Found Your Christmas Gift

by The Cowl Editor on December 7, 2019


Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

by Sarah McLaughlin ’23

I found myself shopping for you in Barnes and Noble, of all places.

I never realized a bookstore could be such a shit show, but hey, I guess it’s Christmas Eve.

I’ve never been much of a reader; you know that. You’re the smart one. I just pay the bills.

Kidding. But, seriously, a PhD in English? Did you really think that was going to get you anywhere besides submerged inside a volcano of debt?

Anyway, I procrastinated all my shopping until the last minute, as usual. I was so sure that you were already done by now, especially with gifts for me, and I was freaking out. So I did what all respectable adults do in stressful situations and called my mom.

She advised me to make a list of your favorite things, stuff that you use all the time. First thing I thought of was a spatula. She almost hung up on me. Next I said sweaters, and she said you have enough of those. Also, I think that’s probably what she’s buying us, and she didn’t want me to steal her idea.

But that got me thinking—what don’t you have enough of? Money, sure, but I don’t think you’d appreciate me wrapping up my Christmas bonus and sticking it under the tree. Socks, maybe, because of those damn dryer goblins, but who wants to find socks in their stocking? And then it hit me like the one you whacked me with yesterday when I interrupted your reading. Books.

You’re always complaining that you don’t have enough good stuff to read—which is insane, considering you spent eight years learning about the pinnacles of literature—so I figured that would be a safe choice. All I’d have to do is check your shelf to make sure whatever I bought wasn’t already on it. Maybe chat with a librarian, too. But there was bound to be something on the New Releases table that would pique your interest.

Cookbooks caught my eye first—all shiny and glittery with big pictures of food on the covers—but I know I’d get more use out of one than you ever would. Sure, you like to cook, but more in an experimental sort of way. That’s why I’m in charge of dinner.

Then I saw some romance-y looking novels, and I was so, so tempted to snag the sauciest one I could find, because it’d surely get a good laugh out of us both when you unwrapped it, but I wanted to be a little more mature than that. Joke gifts were better saved for birthdays or Valentine’s Day.

It was after deciding this when I turned and spotted it. The reflectiveness of the gold- edged pages caught my eye; then I noticed the dark red leather binding and the shiny etching on the cover.

Okay, so the New Releases table wasn’t the place to look. Maybe I should’ve anticipated that you wouldn’t fancy anything loud and gaudy with enticing pictures on the front. But the children’s shelf was the last one I expected to end up perusing.

It was perfect, though. I knew it instantly. Standing there, gaping like a complete idiot, I reached out to grab it. I would’ve picked it up, too, had another hand not landed on it at the exact same time.

“Oh! Sorry.” Normally, I would’ve jumped away and carried on, but I couldn’t let go. I gripped the spine like I’d glued my fingers to it.

Great, I thought. I’m about to get myself into one of those Black Friday-type brawls. I’m gonna be on the evening news. I’m—


I finally had the sense to turn and glance at whose hand it was.

I blinked twice. “What are you doing here?”

You smiled. “Shopping. And you?”


You nodded toward the book we both still held. “Looks like we had the same idea.” Then you looked back at me with a grin. “You know me too well.”

I bit my lip. “I’m sorry. I saved buying your gift for the last minute. I didn’t know what to get. But then I saw this, and I remembered how you said it was your—”

“Favorite book growing up,” you finished. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again.

You shake your head. “No need to be. Hey, look, I saved your gift for the last minute, too.”

“Really? You were going to buy this for me?

You gesture with your free hand. “Well, yeah. You said you never read it, so…” I smiled. “Let’s buy it, then. For both of us.”

You nodded. “I like that idea. Less work.”

“It’s a win-win situation, really.”

So, together, we picked it up.

Snowed in for the Holidays

by The Cowl Editor on December 7, 2019


by Sam Pellman ’20

“I’ll never make it home!” she sighed. The schedule just changed from a two-hour delay to now four. The snow was falling hard at home. She looked at the TVs where the runways in NY were covered in white. “We haven’t had a white Christmas in years! Why does the weather decide to act up today of all days?” Michelle had been at the airport for five hours now. All she wanted to do was get home for Christmas. She had been away from home for four weeks now, traveling around Cambodia with her Habitat for Humanity group of friends. She had been building homes for families for the holidays and nothing made her feel better. Knowing that these families have a place to stay and be together for the holidays was the only gift she needed this year. Plus, maybe making it home. In all twenty-two years of her life, she never once missed Christmas at home. But things weren’t looking good. At this point she’d definitely be spending Christmas Eve at the tiny airport in Cambodia. She looked around. Everyone else looked sad as well. Some of them were her friends from the group. She was friendly with them and understood they felt the same way as her. An idea came into her head. She whispered to the people sitting around the gate, telling them to run into the cheesy airport stores and pick out a gift. If they were all going to be stuck in here for Christmas Eve, they might as well celebrate together. Soon everyone was on board with the idea and everyone ran into the stores quickly trying to find a decent gift for an anonymous someone. When everyone was ready, Michelle came up with a system to swap gifts with the person across from you. There were giggles and laughs as some people gave candy and chips as gifts, where others could only find neck pillows, iPhone chargers and coffee mugs. But it didn’t matter what everyone got as gifts, what mattered is no one looked sad anymore. Everyone was so distracted that they forgot they were in an airport on Christmas Eve. The hours passed by quicker, and soon it was time to board the plane. Michelle and everyone else would make it home for Christmas Day. And they all had a great Christmas Eve story to tell their loved ones when they arrived!


A bag of chocolates
Photo courtesy of needpix.com


by The Cowl Editor on November 14, 2019


by Sarah McLaughlin ’23

I hear it as I push away the last needled branch that stands between me and the open clearing.

I’ve always been fascinated by frogs. When I was two years old, toddling around barefoot in my backyard, I saw one for the first time. Somehow, my chubby, little hands managed to corner it, pick it up, and hold it for a while. Either this frog was exceptionally well mannered or it was even more naive than I was.

In second grade, I kept one as a pet. I grabbed every relevant book in the library I could carry. I caught flies in jars and filled a mug with fresh water every morning to pour into the plastic terrarium my mom bought me for Christmas. Eventually, after sitting in front of it for a few hours one day, my chin resting on my folded arms on the kitchen table, I realized that it might not be having as much fun as I was—just squatting there, staring back at me, its white throat bobbing up and down, up and down. So I brought the terrarium out to the furthest corner of the backyard, opened the lid, and watched as it sat there for a few more minutes, black eyes unmoving, before deciding to jump out. It seemed so sudden, as if it were acting purely on a whim, but perhaps it had been pondering the pros and cons of its decision. Almost immediately, it blended right back in with the grass.

A few years later, we installed an in-ground pool. It attracted all sorts of creatures—squirrels, chipmunks, mice, birds. The birds were wise enough to take quick sips from the stone patio, but the other animals would often fall in the water, swim around in frantic confusion, and inevitably have to get scooped out by one of us with a net and released on the other side of the fence.

 The frogs, of course, ended up in there more often than anything else. Each summer morning, I’d walk out the back door, the patio cold and slick with dew underneath my bare feet, and I’d stand at one end, scanning for a tiny brown body with long legs pumping in a desperate breaststroke. If I saw one, I’d grab the net, dip it in the water, and chase the little guy around the perimeter until he finally ran out of breath. They never realize that you’re trying to save them.

When one of my friends found a mass of tadpole eggs in her pool, I couldn’t contain my jealousy. She knew me well, and she gave us half of them to raise ourselves. We brought a clear plastic tub of water to her house, and I held it on my lap on the ride home, now topped with a cluster of thirty or so tiny, marble-looking things. Each had a little black dot in the center that I knew—if all of those library books were correct—would somehow, within a few weeks, grow into a full-fledged frog. I could only imagine how awesome it would be to have dozens of new frogs all leaping out of the tub at once. Maybe, since I’d take such great care of them as they grew up, they’d let me hold them. Maybe a few would even hop right into my hands.

As their predicted hatch date grew closer, I spent more and more time laying outside on the patio, head resting on my arms, watching the eggs. It wasn’t until I awoke one morning to a shout from my mother downstairs that I saw them, though—tiny black dots, smaller than sunflower seeds, with wispy little tails that propelled them around the water without even creating a ripple in the surface.

There weren’t a lot of them, though, I quickly realized. Only a dozen or so had actually hatched—more than half of the eggs remained unmoving. When, after three days, they still showed no signs of life, my mother carefully scooped them out.

Nevertheless, my excitement heightened. I checked the tub every few hours for any signs of legs, even though I knew that first, they’d have to grow larger and more green.

Weeks passed, and the number of tiny bodies and tiny tails gradually dwindled. Legs began to sprout, but they didn’t even outnumber the original count of hatched eggs. Still, I watched them every day, waiting patiently for the moment when a fully-grown frog would swim to the surface.

And it did. One.

It looked so lonely in there all by itself. It swam in circles, bumping its webbed feet against the edge like the ones I fished out of the pool. So I lifted it out of the water, and before I could even move my arm away from the tub, it sprung from my hand and into the grass.

Stepping out of the cover of the trees, I plant my boots on the muddy shore. The pond—if you can even call it one—is small, shallow, and full of dead, bare tree trunks that stick out of the water like broken ribs, but it’s beautiful in its own way. The surface is motionless, like dark glass, the air quiet, not interrupted by even a cricket.

But I heard the splash. There’s not a single ripple in the water, but there must have been a moment ago. When I rustled the branch, something jumped.

It’s been a while since I’ve caught a frog. But maybe I don’t need to. Maybe just knowing that they’re still there—still hatching from eggs, still growing legs, still swimming, still jumping —maybe that’s enough.

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com