SUNDAY by Suzanne Farrell Smith The small space for god in me aches, so I turn from the one-way mirror through which I’ve been watching my twin seventeen-month-old boys bawl. Golden Graham pulp has stiffened their fine hair into sticky strings. I’m even messier, in stained yoga pants and a blue sweater marred by snags. I would have dressed in a clean shirt, something slipped from a hanger rather than scooped from the floor, but I didn’t plan to be here. It was only decided that I should leave the apartment when my husband started to spoon-feed yogurt to our three-year-old, who has a genetic syndrome that makes self-feeding a trial. “How’s he ever going to learn?” I said. He just pointed to the floor. The splat mat that usually protects the beige carpet was missing, and we don’t own the place. My husband and I faced each other as … chop! chop! read more!
Clear, cool morning. The two of you are the first ones at the park. Your year-old daughter craved the red swings. You craved quiet. This morning had so much potential quiet.
The reality is the racket of a power washer. Groundskeepers from Parks and Rec are cleaning the patio by the bathrooms. The air compressor hammers, staccato, like the sound of a strobe light if a strobe light made a sound. The blade of pressurized water hisses a loud tssssssssss, sustained as only a machine can sustain a thing.chop! chop! read more!
The patient is nervous. He should be. His renal allograft is new, he has an infection and his immune system is compromised. It’s a bad combination. But I’m going to be positive. I’ll emphasize that he is getting better, his white blood cell count is in decline, he seems to be eating and he isn’t coughing. I intend to be reassuring, cautiously optimistic. He’ll be looking for optimism.chop! chop! read more!
Because of the D.C. sniper, I get my first cell phone. A Nokia with impossibly small buttons. When I look up, my parents’ smiles are even faker than the ones in family photos. I’m twelve. Old enough to know they want me to be able to call for help. Last year was 9/11. We live sixteen miles from the Pentagon, and the CIA is around the corner. Since 9/11 we hold our breaths when we drive past Langley. Everyone’s afraid that’s next. But we’re wrong. This year some guy is shooting kids for sport.chop! chop! read more!
MAGIC CICADAS by Kat Saunders In the summer of 2016, the cicadas returned. More accurately, a new brood of seventeen-year cicadas, conceived and hatched in 1999, during the previous cicada summer, emerged. Underground, they’d slept undisturbed through the new millennium, the September 11th terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and our first Black president’s inauguration. The cicadas were suspended in time as if cryogenically frozen, but I grew—eight years old when the cicadas had last cried, and almost twenty-six when they reemerged. The cicadas had been unchanged by time, but I’d menstruated at thirteen, fell in love three or four times (I could never decide), graduated from college and graduate school, moved to West Virginia, and settled into what probably appeared to be a stable relationship with Jeremy, a kind, home-owning man who bored me to death. That summer—like the cicadas—I, too, longed to burst from the earth. In late May, my … chop! chop! read more!
Human skulls leered from a shelf in my father’s basement den. Sets of false teeth lay on his desk like paper weights. Before the age of ten, I’d bring my younger brother into the den with me, more than a little uneasy to go it alone. I’d occasionally take a skull from the shelf, surprised it was light as an apple, and cradle its smooth dome in my hands, poking my fingers in the nostrils and running my finger along the teeth, which remained sturdy in spite of yellowing enamel. Teeth endure.chop! chop! read more!
STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT by Carroll Sandel STATEMENT OF ACCOUNT Hospital Service Association of Pittsburgh April 22, 1943 Patient Mrs. Margaret Smith Hospital Sew. Valley City Sewickley Subscriber David Smith Group 1143 Contract 55788 Statement of Account This statement from Blue Cross details the charges for the subscriber’s wife and their baby’s thirteen-day stay in the hospital following the birth on April 8, 1943. The subscriber fulfills his financial obligation for this bill as he will all others during the ninety-four years that will span his life. Throughout his adulthood, he will disparage those who abdicate these responsibilities as “free-loaders,” as “deadbeats,” will flare his nostrils when talking about his brother who was forever calling him for a bail-out. In a thank-you letter to this baby when she was in her late forties, he will tape a three-quarter inch clipping from a magazine: “Depression dad, he was like so many other … chop! chop! read more!
ME AND MRS. BEE by Rae Pagliarulo When Mrs. Bee leaves her house, she uses a metal cane to get down the steps, the kind they sell at Rite Aid next to the plastic bed pans and ace bandages. It taps against the concrete at perfect metallic intervals, tink, tink, tink, as she lowers herself down. I hear it even when she isn’t home, when I lock things up for the night, when I nap with the windows open. It’s a small block I live on, houses jammed together in squat, red brick rows. You don’t miss much on a street like this. ◊ Years ago, on the other side of the city, I shared a second floor apartment with my boyfriend. His amusing irritation, once directed at the world, shifted at some point to contempt, aimed squarely at me. Life with him was a full-time job—I managed his moods, … chop! chop! read more!
Lying on your side on the table, the gown covering most your body, you stare at the picture on the wall, placed precisely there to catch the gaze, to offer something while the unpleasantness of the female body is dealt with. No one has ever prepared you for such an encounter and because of this, you’re trying not to laugh at yourself for being here. Perhaps mocking yourself is already part of the problem.chop! chop! read more!
“He doesn’t want to work. He just wants to get drunk and grow his hair long.” I could hear my grandfather’s mocking voice as I stood beneath the rusted ass of a machine that roared and spit cranberry residue. It was the end of summer. I’d just returned from California, a cross-country one-sided love affair with a hippie woman and her dog that ended in disgrace when we settled in with her stunt pilot boyfriend in a San Fernando bungalow and I realized I was the third wheel. I was twenty-six and going nowhere, back home and living with my mother, who worked nights at a nursing home. After a few weeks I was hired at a juice factory through a temp agency.chop! chop! read more!
On the first morning after our return to the old house, I listen to Brad sleeping beside me, his full-bodied inhale and exhale bubbling slightly, like water coming to a boil. At first, I forget where I am. But fresh paint, its sharp scent in my nostrils, reminds me of this new beginning we’ve made. As I open my eyes, I remember the boxes stacked high in the living room waiting to be unpacked.chop! chop! read more!
“Mom,” I call, “Steven’s sick!” It’s nighttime and I’m standing in the dark hall outside my bedroom, a long corridor that connects my room to my little brother’s. I am nine years old, and Steven is seven. The light is on in the bathroom at his end of the hall, it’s bright, the bathroom very white in the darkness. He’s thrown up in the hall just in front of the bathroom door. I woke up to the sounds of him heaving and the acrid smell of vomit. I hug myself, trembling in the cold.chop! chop! read more!
I sit in the waiting room of an animal hospital, holding my phone in my lap and my head in my hands. I tap my feet and rub the dust between the tile and each shoe’s worn sole. Magazines cover a table beside me—Popular Mechanics, Martha Stewart Living, Highlights—all months old. I grab my book from under my chair and spread it open. The characters are dead on the page, interred in type. Nothing can change what befalls them. There is no “is,” no “will be”—only what was. If only my fate were so determined.chop! chop! read more!
Over dinner the Brazilian painter says she doesn’t believe in time, or maybe she says she’s skeptical about the measuring of time—I can’t be certain as we meet haltingly between languages. We are painters and photographers and musicians and one writer, me, in a crumbling Catalonian farmhouse at the foot of a mountain that looks like a pile of noses.chop! chop! read more!
The dissection, in simple terms, is a search. Imagine searching your house for a pair of socks. Now, imagine searching your specimen—for our purposes, the body—and this time, the body is your house, and its secret is a pair of socks, misplaced somewhere in the body for you to unearth.chop! chop! read more!
Christmas morning two years ago. Cold and snowless. My father hauled a leather instrument case through the front door and set it at my feet. Next to its handle was a little gold plaque, its logo embossed in fine script. Martin & Co., Est. 1833. Up close, the case smelled like his car: a mixture of coffee, Red Bull, and sweat. I unfastened its buckles and pulled the top open. Inside was a new guitar. A particularly beautiful one, smaller than a dreadnought. Black, gourd-shaped mahogany body with ivory binding along its waist and edges. Cream-colored, vintage-style tuning pegs, pearlescent fret inlays.chop! chop! read more!
I receive a text from a friend.
Since preschool, our girls have been kindred spirits. They are on the brink of young adulthood, buds pressing through tee-shirts, splotches of pink and red in a of constellation across their hairlines, limbs long and gangly.chop! chop! read more!
He’s a grotesque in primary colors, as much David Cronenberg as Clark Kent. The cartoons and the movies and the coloring books—they usually forget that. The idea of Spider-Man is, at its core, revolting. When it is time to suit up, Superman bears his classically handsome mug. Batman, Captain America, and Green Lantern, at the very least, leave their chiseled jaws exposed. With Spider-Man, everything hides beneath his spandex. Should you be saved by him—hung up in his gangly, yet muscular arms as he swings you off to safety—you’d look into the face of your hero, and there’d be no reassuring grin or playful wink, but, instead, two pupil-less eyelets, teardrop-shaped and alien, staring hugely as if frozen in shock. It would take all you could muster not to scream.chop! chop! read more!
SEAN’S ROOM by Blake London Steam from the shower moves in columns to the ceiling. I’m holding Sean’s hand, and his eyes close with the bathroom door—we twine and twist into sheets of flesh. Sean said the comedown is the hardest, but I’m still electric, can hear a crooning in the static of my fingers on his spine. It’s a slow dance with small movements, and the glow in my bloodstream says sway, so we make the steam vibrate in the small space. My fingers smooth water from the divots of his waist. The lazy warmth of him runs down my legs, floods the pale stucco floor. His curves, his hardness, his breath on my neck all feel ancient and half-remembered, and here I am, touching him for the first time again. We let the water run down the drain, dry off with a shared towel, and crawl under the … chop! chop! read more!
Buddy is a good friend but will be an even better Marine. He is open to following directions. He will die face down in Pleiku, far away from his dreams, alone. But today, Buddy is twelve and entitled to his share of dreams. After all, most nightmares are reserved for adults. Buddy’s stepdad had a job for us.
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My not-yet-stepdaughter sprawled on the couch, laptop open. Annabella was 12, her long hair parted straight down the middle. That evening I stayed with her for the first time while her father went to a work event. It seemed more normal than I’d imagined, just another evening at home. I read a magazine while she did homework.chop! chop! read more!
THE REVOLUTION IS NOT DEAD: I’M WEARING IT by Holly Li It was a dingy street stall, somewhere in the back alleys of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The uninterested teenage boy manning the booth flipped through a magazine while I rummaged through bins of t-shirts wrapped in clear plastic. Some were printed with Chinese words; most had faces I didn’t recognize. “An old Chinese Communist hero,” my dad would explain as I pointed indiscriminately at one and looked to him. “Another old hero,” he chuckled, as I held up yet another generic grinning face, this one with rosy cheeks and a red star cap. For seven yuan (a dollar), I could afford to buy them all, but I took my time. I made piles of favorites, weighed options carefully on a rubric of juvenile aesthetic taste and shock value, then narrowed them down. Eventually, I settled on the Glorious One: … chop! chop! read more!
I wonder at the little dead lady on my carpet. I found her as I was picking up tissues from the floor of my bedroom, underneath the bed, lying on her back like a lentil. I had an urge to put her in my mouth, but then I remembered that she must be the same one that was crawling around my room in September. I had identified with the little lady, indecisively flitting around the room, landing on the white plastic blinds, walking along there for a while until she came to what she thought was the end of the earth, and beyond that the buttery yellow fabric of my curtains: heaven, for a bug.chop! chop! read more!
My earliest memory of Po-Po is her cooking: the thick aroma of beef and bok choy wafting through our old kitchen, and the sight of her tightly permed semi-afro through the steam gathering over the stovetop. After dinner, she would humor me as I tried to teach her English. I never had much success, but I remember her nodding and smiling along as I read my favorite picture books to her.chop! chop! read more!
The summer after my senior year of high school, I worked in a donut shop selling macchiatos and breakfast pastries to young office workers in downtown Portland, Maine. I decided to get a job because my best friend Emma wanted a job and we were drunk off the prospect of making money and never having to go back to high school. We promised that the rest of our lives were going to be spent with only each other so we better start saving money so we could eventually live in Paris or New York or somewhere else far away from where we grew up.chop! chop! read more!
Babushka certainly doesn’t remember.
Mom remembers the call, my sister doing her best to keep her composure on the other line, I just called Babushka and she was talking strangely maybe check on her? And so she put me in her car and drove into the evening, calming me down I’m sure it’s nothing and me I’m sure it’s nothing too but the two of us dashed from the elevator to her room nonetheless.chop! chop! read more!
Early one evening in 2001 I watched an airplane as it cut through the African sky leaving its long and distinctive vapor trail. I stood still, taking a moment to wonder what the view looked like from above. Recalling my own thoughts when traveling—arrival, the days that lay ahead, a new movie on the in-flight entertainment, the ever-shrinking leg room—I realized that few would have reason to suspect the calamity that was unfolding below.chop! chop! read more!
On July 20th, an article appeared in the New Yorker detailing the specific ways in which my hometown will be wiped off the face of the earth.
The article, entitled “The Really Big One”, described an earthquake that is due to devastate the Pacific Northwest within the next fifty years. Everything west of Interstate 5 will disappear, including my own city of Eugene as well as most of the major population hubs in Oregon. The piece was well-researched, visceral, and packed the hard-facts punch of any other apocalyptic warning: Billions will die. Cities will burn. Don’t bother with the hazmat suits.chop! chop! read more!
On the night the hunter shot the moose, they asked me to hold the lantern. Three men struggled to hold the body so the hunter could make the cut, and I cast gold light over them as he sawed along the ribs of the bull. There was no smell but male sweat and the crush of dead leaves under the tarp around us. Death hadn’t been there long enough to diffuse its odor into the night.chop! chop! read more!
In 1944, at the age of five, I invented the magnifying glass. The end of a Coke bottle, when held up to the sun, could make anything burn and vanish. First, bits of paper—cellophane from my dad’s Chesterfield packs, and my bubble gum wraps—then live things like slugs, worms, the hind end of ants. Once I torched a whole village, many casualties, dead ants smelling like burnt tires. I needed to hurt something that couldn’t hurt me back.chop! chop! read more!
You will score 135 points in your next high school basketball game. January 26, 1960 is the night it will happen. Hello hoops history. Guinness Book of World Records, here you come. Your name is Danny Heater, and your record, 135 points, will last. But, this does not come as straight victory. It does not come without problems. And which problem is worse: that your mother missed the game or that you didn’t even get to enjoy your record? Your world record, the one that congeals and permanently attaches itself to you. It’s basketball. It’s a game. But your record makes you proud and embarrassed. It makes you happy and sad.chop! chop! read more!
A rose means many things and only some of it is love. Desdemona means innocence. Sir Galahad, humility. Give Dainty Bess to show appreciation. Silver Shadow for admiration. You Only Live Once for gratitude. Eleanor is the lavender of love at first sight. So too is the plum of Night Owls. The Middlebrough Football Club is the cultivar for desire and enthusiastic passion. Its particular shade of orange is as ridiculous as a riot. Red as Satchmo, red as Happy Christmas, red as City of Leeds. Red means enduring passion. From the beginning a rose meant there was an old poet who thought himself unreasonably clever and was obsessed with the virginity of much younger women. From the same, but less quoted beginning, roses meant fire.chop! chop! read more!
In rural upstate New York, kids start driving young. Fourteen and fifteen-year-olds are driving tractors between fields before they start high school. A few years later, their trucks are flying into parking lots with friends piled in their truck beds, searing black streaks of tire rubber onto the asphalt.chop! chop! read more!
Schools were opening in less than a week. The five-year-old boy in front of me had autism. He couldn’t speak. His eyes flitted like hummingbirds over the hundreds of colorful toys and books in the classroom. The boy’s father, Mr. Nassar, sat stiffly on a tiny chair next to his son. He had come to register the child for regular kindergarten.chop! chop! read more!
I’ll do it, Love,” my newly retired husband, Weldon, said when I mentioned our book collection needed cleaning. It took him two years to finish the job. I knew the books were getting dirty again, but I held my tongue—I didn’t want to dust them.chop! chop! read more!
THE RED MOON by Mark A. Nobles My father turned into the driveway a little too fast, just like he always did. The Studebaker’s engine growled and the spring shocks squealed as my mother held her breath and closed her eyes, and my brother and I bounced in the back seat, almost hitting our heads on the roof. It was a Sunday night, March 13, 1946, and we were returning home from church. It was a fine spring evening. I remember the sermon that evening being especially fiery, even for Preacher Bonds. It had been a hell and brimstone, apocalyptic, God fearing sermon, and I had been particularly caught up while mother cried, father slept, and Jim, my younger brother, fidgeted. Preacher Bonds was as charismatic a Southern Baptist preacher as ever lived. Southern Baptists work from the premise that a good Christian is a scared Christian, and they have … chop! chop! read more!
Adonis was a painting. Or rather, he was a boy, but his limbs and lips looked as though they were made of artistry and creamy filaments of paint. It is no wonder, then, that Venus loved him. She kept him pillowed in her lap, far from the wars and deaths of heroes, and whispered him stories, her warm breath travelling across his lips. On days she was forced to leave him, Adonis made love to the forest instead, exploring it slowly, deliberately. On one of these days of absences and longing, a wild boar came across Adonis and gutted the canvas of his torso from stomach to collarbone. When Venus returned and found his broken body, she discovered the shape of heartbreak. Distraught, she made the spray of his blood bubble into hard teardrop seeds. And so, nourished by the blood of the most beautiful man to have ever been loved, the pomegranate blossomed into existence.chop! chop! read more!
BEAUTY IN ELEVEN ENCOUNTERS by Ollie Dupuy i could blame it on the culture of america, korea, science, but i boil it down to being the first korean word i learned, yeppuda yeppuda rolling off the tongues of halmonis and imos and echoing around the room like a bullet: beautiful beautiful. they flap sun-spotted hands to my sister’s and my hair, our flat stomachs, our long legs, and the only word i could understand was yeppuda. i begin to think of it as a science, as a fact, a ledgehold in the vast canyon of earth and universe. sun is yellow. clouds are white. i am beautiful. yeppuda, yeppuda. it takes a little time but i discover tragedy backwards, and suddenly i’m a victim of a crime i didn’t even know existed and i can’t stop thinking about my mother crying into the golden light of a therapist’s office. (no … chop! chop! read more!
I discovered a near-limitless capacity for patience on my parents’ back porch, hiding out, eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and reading Richie Rich comics. I was skipping school, biding my time until the end of the afternoon when I could pretend to come home. That first morning, I had slunk down behind an old green aluminum chair and sat in an upright fetal position, knees to chest, arms swaddling legs. I counted the boards on the floor, twenty-five. The rails along the side, forty-eight, and 360 holes in between the crisscross side rail, 250 yellow leaves on the porch, 423 reds, five points in this yellow leaf, eight in that red leaf. I counted my fingers and my toes and every letter in the alphabet, and then, when that was done, I made up a new game. I spelled out every letter:, A, AY, B, BEE, C, SEA. I spelled my name: Ay, En, Gee, El, Eye, Cue, You, Eee. I spelled out whole sentences. “Angie is skipping school today.” “School sucks.” It wasn’t long before I was bored.chop! chop! read more!
Holiday party season is once again upon us—a time of dough-forward cookie trays and ornamental cabbages, of feigned interest and conversational quicksand. This year, why not ride the crest of incivility that has taken our nation by storm? Say what you mean. Say whatever you feel like, then get the hell out of Dodge. Examples follow…chop! chop! read more!
The slow snow first and then the hard snow with left and right men shoveling, cars swerving, stalling, spinning out, and drip by drip the icicle daggers sharpening, waiting to descend as we women lug logs up the porch steps and the dogs slink off, shivering, tails between their legs.chop! chop! read more!
Play. It’s 7 a.m. in Erie, Pennsylvania. Two young men sit at a bus stop on East 6th Street across from a paper mill that closed the previous year (2002). One young man, Dan Morey, is recently returned from a West Coast university, where he earned a master’s degree in English. When people ask him what he’s doing now, he tells them he’s “considering a PhD.”chop! chop! read more!
We rolled into Bakersfield in 1968 the way the Okies did in The Grapes of Wrath — with everything we possessed packed into a creaking car and trailer, kids stacked on top of each other and no place yet to call home.
Following a dust-devil down Highway 99, leaving my dad and his other wife at the Sacramento end of the Central Valley, my mom strangled the steering wheel of the Belvedere wagon until it and the U-Haul came to rest, hot and ticking, beneath the cement awning of the Capri Motel. Piling out, we could see the yellow arch across Union Avenue spelling out Bakersfield in bold black letters. Tall desert palms spindled the endless, empty sidewalk while sun-spotted traffic coursed by the motels and take-out shops and liquor stores. It was May and already close to 100 degrees.chop! chop! read more!
Portland is where the nice go to be nice, where the humans go to be human, and where everyone goes to eat lobster. So yes, it’s a wonderful and liberating city to create in, but regardless of where you are or the tools at hand, it’s important to recognize that you can achieve that kind of creative liberation in all of your travels as a photographer or a tourist. A good photograph tells a story that allows the viewer to fill in the blanks or complete the story themselves. Keeping this in mind while you travel is vital to travel photography. Don’t just take snapshots, because you want people to be as stimulated as you were when you felt the moment needed to be captured. The images you make on your journey say something about yourself and the nature of your experience, so seek out the frames that will capture that essence and make them immortal.chop! chop! read more!
The orange sticky-note is hard to miss—the corner peels off, pricks me as I pluck it from the headboard of my bed. Your handwriting is large and round. ‘I hope your interview goes well tomorrow. Remember to be yourself!’ I toss it into the garbage and get ready for bed. The next morning, I pause in front of the mirror and I dig the note out of the bin before shoving it into the pocket of my dress pants.chop! chop! read more!
I can’t remember how to breathe so the nurse hands me a brown paper bag along with the white jumpsuit and matching cap. Sixty seconds before that they wheeled my wife away, her belly bulging under the white blankets, in her belly, our baby choking. Sixty seconds before that, the room a flurry of nurses and someone saying, “We have to take the baby,” like there’s a place where they take babies and never bring them back. Sixty seconds before that the baby’s heart rate crashing and the pulsing alarm. Sixty seconds before that joking that I hope the baby gets born fast so I don’t miss the golf on TV later. That was four minutes ago. Four minutes ago everything was normal. Four minutes ago I assumed everything would happen as it did when my son was born. But this is different. This time I’m hyperventilating, thinking I may never see my wife again, thinking our baby girl might die, the nurse smiling, patting me on the back, saying how they always seem to forget the dads in these situations. It’s not funny, but she tries to be. Nothing about this is funny. My baby girl is choking. And this is real. And she could die. And we don’t know which way to spell her name. And I can’t remember how to breathe.chop! chop! read more!
We took seats in the back of the planetarium. I glanced over at you, my face warm with anticipation. You leaned back and looked up. When the lights went out, would you cover my knee with your hand as a deep, slow voice described which stars we were seeing? Would I rest my head on your shoulder, at peace with the world and the universe, as Orion moved West, poised to shoot?chop! chop! read more!
He took about a week to consider.
I imagine he woke up Monday, warily shaved his cheeks and chin in his bathroom, then stared at his hair in the mirror. Tuesday, the same. Wednesday, with frustration. By Friday, disgust.chop! chop! read more!
The year is 2017, and it is still young. Yet already it has managed to make me very concerned about how it will turn out as it grows older.
At present, I’m staying with my aunt Rebecca in her house in San Francisco, California, under the wing of her charity. The back of the drought has been broken by a glut of rain. Every night Rebecca watches the news. She watches the news of her own will and choosing, and I am simply there for it, experiencing its noise and light because I am in the same room while it plays. Rebecca is an American, by her own identification, and lives in America. I am simply here in it, situated physically in this spot on the earth, borrowing space in other people’s lives.chop! chop! read more!
Facebook has had one of those circulating memes, the ones that ask you to make lists that somehow make you feel nostalgic for a life you’re not sure you ever really had. The latest: list ten albums that influenced you as a teenager. Then: list ten albums that influenced you before you were a teenager. I do not make a list. Instead, I read your list, the choices that betrayed your rebellion or geekiness or prescient cool factor. I want to make my own list, but your list is better. I want to make my own list, but my throat catches as I hum songs I once took great pains to forget, songs that betray a disjointed yet emotionally accurate soundtrack.chop! chop! read more!