It’s Flash (Non) Fiction Week!

Editor’s note:

Usually we only feature the work of a single author each week, but after receiving these three wonderful flash (non) fiction pieces, we decided to publish them together. All three true stories are written by women and all three capture a single moment: when an idol notices her worshippers, a near-death experience, and a conversation with a stranger. We are also delighted to to include the work of two visual artists, a first for our new blog!

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Margaret Atwood and the Stunned Four

image source: http://moniquespassions.com/

image credit: http://moniquespassions.com/

by Mercedes Lawry

The Stunned Four worshipped Margaret Atwood. They’d traveled from different corners of the country to attend her workshop and bask in her wry wit. They also hoped they might feel a small but significant whisper of her affirmation. The Four became instant friends, connected not only by their adoration of Margaret Atwood (or St. Margaret as she was affectionately called), but also by their senses of humor and the camp-like atmosphere complete with dorms and mediocre food. One member of the group rescued a paper cup used by Margaret Atwood during class. Like a relic, it might have the power to confer prophetic proficiency or a deft hand with a snarky phrase. Another member washed dishes at the cottage where Margaret Atwood was staying and where she’d hosted a picnic for the class. That member also played with Margaret Atwood’s young daughter who accompanied her and though that member did like children and found Margaret Atwood’s daughter to be a charming little girl, there was no denying she was also hoping to curry favor. The Stunned Four trekked to town in one of the member’s vans and commissioned a t-shirt printed with a clever phrase that Margaret Atwood had tossed off in class as a dry aside. They presented it to her as a parting gift and she seemed a little startled, not recollecting she had said the phrase. Years later, the members of the Stunned Four were each reading Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of short stories when lo and behold, they stumbled on the t-shirt – their gift – depicted in a slightly different context but clearly recognizable.* They were thrilled, elated, and would share this story with unabashed pride for decades to come. Margaret Atwood had taken note.

*The story is “Loulou, or the Domestic Life of the Language” in Margaret Atwood’s collection, Bluebeard’s Egg and Other Stories.

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A Night By The Sink

Wheeler image

image credit: Lesley Ann Wheeler

by Christine Tierney

It’s after 2am and in waltzes Goldenboy; hair across his golden ass, tight faded Levis, straw cowboy hat worn and split in just the right places.  I’m standing by the kitchen sink.  The window above the sink is open and I am smitten with cricket-song.  But wait — I don’t give a shit about nature, maybe I’m high. Goldenboy reeks of something stronger than beer, and his eyes are blazing red.  Goldenboy staggers toward the refrigerator, slips on Mom’s wicked shiny floor, catches himself, but Goldenboy doesn’t fall. I make a noise — it isn’t quite a chuckle. Goldenboy disappears from the kitchen and returns with his hunting rifle. He rests the muzzle of the rifle against my moist temple, cocks it, and I try not to breathe.  Slowly, Goldenboy counts out loud to thirty, burps real loud like this is some kind of joke, and withdraws. He makes a noise — it isn’t quite a chuckle. Goldenboy and me have unknowingly rehearsed this. Every bitter interaction accreted to this moment. Goldenboy exits the kitchen.  I remain by the sink. A half a minute taints my life.

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This is Why I’ll Never Write a Book 

dd1

image credit: Angie Stong

by Evelyn Katz

Another Monday afternoon in a lifetime of wasted Monday afternoons and once again I’m sitting in the same Dunkin Donuts I always sit in when I think I’m going to be a writer even though it’s not in my zip code anymore and the line of people waiting to use the bathroom is longer than the lines for coffee and ice cream combined.

This time it’s the occupant in the bathroom taking too long and the non-coffee purchasers taking turns knocking on the bathroom door as if a knock on the bathroom door really has the power to speed up the human waste removal process.

One paragraph, God, just let me write one paragraph in peace.

I can never write at home, where there are so many distractions (pets, husband, TV, computer).  I go to Dunkin’ Donuts so I can work in a space where I know no one so, hypothetically, no one should bother me. Three sentences later it’s a phlegmy voice assaulting my ear.

“Hey kid? Wadda ya writing?”

I look up and shake my head. Why God? Why do they call it God-given talent if you don’t make these people leave me alone long enough to use it?

“Is that your homework, kid?”

I twist my neck sideways in the direction of a baseball-cap-wearing, gummy old drunk and tell him, “It’s a story.”

Gummy cups a hand over his ear.  “Wha’d ya say?”

I raise my voice. “It’s a story!”

“A story?  Wadda ya writing, a book?”

“Yes! Yes I am!”

“No kidding, kid? You’re writing a book.” Gummy picks up his coffee cup and spits into it and I think he’s now occupied with whatever landed in the cup so I go back to being a writer again.

Two more sentences and Gummy says, “Hey kid, you a student? You writing that for school?”

“I’m a teacher.”

“What?”

“I’m a teacher,” I over-enunciate.

“A teacher? Nah! You look like you’re ten.  “How old are ya? Twenty?”

“Older.”

“Chirty?”

I hold up four fingers. “Forty.”

You’re forty?  Nah!”

“It’s true.”

“You look like a kid.”

“Thank you.”

I slide my eyes back to the page and draw parenthesis around a word I may or may not use.

“So where do you teach?”

“High school.”

“You’re doin’ alright for yourself, kid.”

I write down two more words.

“You married?”

“Yes.”

“Kids?”

“No.”

“Trying?”

“No.”

“Selfish?”

“No.”

“Then why no kids?”

“Just don’t want them.”

“You got a car?”

“Yes.”

“You’re doin’ alright for yourself, kid.”

“I’m trying.”

The page before me is a jumble of words written by a childless-by-choice woman who is going to have to commit a crime and get sentenced to solitary confinement in order to write one uninterrupted page. Maybe selfishness is a crime.  I’ll go out onto the street and chant childless-by-choice until the cops come and take me away and then I’ll waive my rights to a trial in exchange for pen, paper and solitary confinement.

Gummy gets up, takes his cane that’s hanging on the chair back and says to me, “Alright kid, take it easy,” and shuffles his way out the door.

I lift my coffee cup and gesture in his direction, a silent likewise, because now I’ve decided that if the world won’t let me write my words on paper, then I’m sure as hell not going to sound them out and give them away for free.

This is why I’ll never write a book.

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 About this week’s authors and artists

Primarily a poet, Mercedes Lawry has been published in such journals as Poetry, NimrodSalamander, and others as well as two chapbooks. She’s published short fiction in several journals including 3711 Atlantic, Gravel, and The Newer York and has work forthcoming in Cleaver, Dying Goose and Molotov Cocktail. Additionally she’s published stories and poems for children.  Among the honors she’s received are awards from the Seattle Arts Commission, Hugo House, and Artist Trust, two nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and, a residency at Hedgebrook. She lives in Seattle.

Christine Tierney’s work has been nominated for Best of the Net, a Pushcart Prize, and the Best New Poets anthology, and has appeared or is forthcoming in Fourteen Hills, Poet Lore, Permafrost, PMS, The Tusculum Review, descant, The Yalobusha Review, The Broome Review, Sanskrit, Skidrow Penthouse, Shadowbox, Tattoo Highway, Soundzine, Cider Press Review, Sugar House Review, Gemini Magazine, TheNewerYork, Lungfull!, AEROGRAM, This Literary Magazine, Monkeybicycle, Pismire, scissors & spackle, Weave Magazine, Meat For Tea, and The Boiler Journal.

Lesley Ann Wheeler is a writer, designer, and editor living in Kansas City.  She has a wheelbarrow garden of kale in her backyard.

Evelyn Katz has been searching for space to be a writer since she was in the 2nd grade and her grandmother told her that she was going to be a writer. Her work has been published in RiverrunThe Voices Project and Coffee Shop Poems.  

Angie Stong is a photographer living in Southern Connecticut. At age 17, her photos have already appeared in multiple publications and featured in art shows, and she is recognized for her fine arts approach to photojournalism and portraiture. Her work can be found at:  www.flickr.com/photos/missangieanne or www.facebook.com/AngieStongPhotography.

A Republican’s Story

I’ve been writing this story for months, or years, depending on how you define “write.” I  write and delete, write and delete, until the story’s in tatters. There’s so little left. But it took all that unwriting to figure out that this story is about the telling. And this is how it begins: 

When my grandfather died, nearly 30 years ago, my father received a box of newspaper clippings, college diplomas, and curling black and white photographs that never found their way into an album. In these photos my father is not my father: he’s just another little boy made to smile for the camera.

Dad & classmates

The author’s father, top lefthand corner.

In this box there is a yellowed letter, written just after the 1960 Presidential election, as my father was finishing up his first semester of law school. The letter details his experiences working as a poll watcher in Philadelphia’s 16th ward:

Quote 1

In this letter my father laments how sections of the 16th ward were “herded into the polls” by various political bosses, and as a result, my father writes “Jack took the state.” Even though Nixon lost to “Jack,” my father didn’t see the day as a complete waste. His sharp eye for misconduct and willingness to scrap with Philly’s political machine caught the eye of the aforementioned Ossen, whom my father describes as a “real live political boss”:

quote #2

The letter is signed this way:

Your Staunchly GOP son

But before my father takes Ossen’s advice and runs (and loses) in his bid for political office — before all that it was 1961. Jack was sworn into office and, soon after that,  my grandmother died of cancer. My grandfather’s grief was so unmanageable, my Mom tells me, that my father took a year off from law school in order to tend to him. This story — of my father caring for his own father — surprises me: he was never very good with sick things. When I had the flu, it was my mother putting cool hands on my forehead and rinsing the puke buckets with Lysol. It was my mother who brought me flat ginger ale and made a fuss, not my father. Except for once.

 

When my brother and I were 13 and 8 respectively, my parents brought us to New York City to see Starlight Express (that’s right, Starlight Express) capped off with an extravagant post-show meal at Tavern on the Green, because if children love one thing, it’s fine dining. The wait for our food was interminable and my fancy dress, last worn at my brother’s bar mitzvah a few months back, was scratchy in the summer heat. Realizing their folly, my parents didn’t fuss when I ate all of the bread on the table — anything to keep me quiet.  I even ate the day-old fruit bread, sticky and sweet, and the culprit, according to the white-suited doctor who came to our hotel room later that night, of my violent food poisoning. By the time my meal arrived, the toxins had already started their work. I pushed my plate aside, cooling my cheek on the glass dinner table.

“What’s wrong with you?” my mother scolded, “We’re in a nice restaurant!” I got up from the table and dashed to the bathroom, but halfway there I lost control and vomited all over the slate dance floor. Kitten-heels and leather Florsheims parted like the Red Sea. I also threw up outside the hastily-hailed taxi cab and again in the tall ashtrays in the lobby of the Milford Hotel. I was sick all the next day, too, but I remember one thing made me feel better: my father holding me tight on the train platform in Penn Station. It’s the only time I can recall having my father care for me when I was sick. But, still, he did a good job.

Louis Klein, bottom right.

Louis Klein, bottom right. 

After one year of caring for my mourning grandfather, my mourning father returned to his law studies with a renewed desire to make something of himself, or at least to make something more of himself than his father had. My grandfather was a civil servant in the Navy Depot, and proud of it, as evidenced by the many photographs he saved and labeled with names and dates: Louis shaking hands with the 2nd Lieutenant at the William Penn Hotel, Louis smiling as the Admiral presents a check of $570.00 to the local USO affiliate, Louis at the Civilian Personnel Division Picnic, giving Miss Emma Lambing lessons in how to pose for the bathing beauty contest.

Louis and Emma Lambing

Louis Klein and Miss Emma Lambing

My mother tells me my father was always a little ashamed of his modest upbringing — that he could never understand why his college-educated father wasn’t more ambitious with his career, so happy to work for a small government salary, back pats from Admirals, and pool parties with Miss Emma Lambing . He also resented that my grandparents took in boarders for extra cash, renting out one of the twin beds in my father’s room to down-on-their-luck men. Once my father sassed off to one of these men and the enraged man chased my father around and when he finally caught him? My father spit in his face.

Louis H.S.

Louis Klein, just before going to college.

I try to imagine what my father was thinking as he lay in his bed at night, a strange man breathing there in the dark with him, and how frightened he must have been. I wanted to ask him about it, but my Mom said, “He doesn’t like to talk about it.” We did not talk about it.

What my father did talk about, though, was the day my mother, a tall, blonde shiksa from Pottsville, went for an after-work drink with her teacher friends.[1] He saw her from across the room and smiled in his sharp, navy-blue suit.  “Who’s the blonde?” he asked. “Sally Shellhammer,” they said. Everything before that, though, is spotty. The transmission doesn’t come through.

lsally

Sally Shellhammer

We never asked my father about his past but it existed, stubbornly, anyway. Of the few stories I have, there is one I like best of all, maybe because it involves me and maybe because it involves murder: it’s the story of Marla [2] and it’s a doozy. In the early 70s, in the city where I was born, there weren’t enough Public Defenders to go around, so private lawyers were often asked to do pro bono work. This is why my father was appointed as Marla’s defense attorney, by the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, after she was charged with murdering her husband’s mistress.

Here’s what happened: one summer night, Marla was sitting at home, sewing (this detail is important), when she was informed that her husband was at the bar around the corner with another woman. Marla grabbed her purse (also important), ran to the bar, and found the couple seated on some barstools. As she argued with her husband, Marla reached into her purse and was surprised to discover that her sewing scissors were inside. As Marla stood there, sewing scissors in hand (and confused as to how they had gotten there), the mistress stood up from her barstool, tripped, and fell forward.

According to my mother, my father told the jury that Marla had not intended to stab anyone: when the mistress fell, she just happened to land on Marla’s scissors. Thirteen times. He pointed out that the wounds were unintentional and shallow. But, unfortunately, one of those shallow wounds was in her lungs. Had the ambulance arrived sooner, my father argued, the victim might have lived. Instead her lungs filled with blood and the mistress asphyxiated on the barroom floor, surrounded by the Saturday night crowd. This defense seems hard to believe but Marla was charged with manslaughter — not murder — and served just 4 years in the women’s prison. But this is not the amazing part of the story.

Listen:

Prison agreed with Marla. During her brief incarceration she became a devout Seventh Day Adventist and spent her days making small dolls out of clothespins, which my father would bring home to my mother. It’s hard for me to imagine my father, younger than I am now and still thin, going to visit Marla in jail. But he did. Stranger still: the image of my parents eating dinner, discussing Marla, and her case, and her dolls. This image is a yellowed photograph in my mind: the two of them sitting at the red picnic table in the yellow kitchen in the house where I grew up, even though they wouldn’t buy that house for another few years. But still, I see them sitting there. I think they’re holding hands.

My mother in the yellow kitchen with Muffin.

The author’s mother in the yellow kitchen.

My father was so taken with Marla that he offered her a housecleaning job after she served her sentence. Soon after that he and my mother agreed that Marla would make a fine baby nurse for their new little girl. Marla took the job: she slept on a cot in my nursery for the first two weeks of my life, changing my diapers and feeding me formula.[3]

The author and her brother in the yellow kitchen.

The author and her brother in the yellow kitchen.

The first time my parents told me the truth about Marla, I was incredulous: “You hired a murderess to take care of your infant daughter?” My father’s reply was always: “It was manslaughter, not murder,” or, “You really are prejudiced, you know. Against murderesses.” I think he deflected my questions with humor because this story — concrete evidence of a momentary lapse [4] in his “staunchly GOP” ideology — embarrassed him, like getting too drunk at a party and saying something that’s true and painful at the same time.

I don’t actually remember Marla since she took another job when I was very young. I can’t even conjure up an image of her face, just her soft calves, which I would sometimes hug on the waxy kitchen floor. At least I think I used to do that. In college I wrote a poem about Marla and her soft calves — it was a sestina — and maybe now the writing’s created its own memory [5]? One memory I’m certain is true is of the telephone ringing in that same yellow kitchen, one day, when I was around 5 years old. My mother beckoned:

“Come here, Marla wants to talk to you. She saw your picture in the newspaper!”

Who?”

“Marla. You know, Marla. She took care of you when you were a baby?”

I took the receiver:

“Amanda,” she cried, “you’re in the newspaper! I said ‘My baby’s in the newspaper!’ and I had to call.”

This conversation with Marla made me feel loved and important. I did not yet know that she was a murderess.

T-shirts the author worse when her parents were campaigning in the 1980s.

T-shirts the author wore when her parents were campaigning in the 1980s.

If you haven’t already noticed, I’m also a character in the story I’m telling right now. I play the part of the good Republican daughter raised by Republicans. I said that my father tried — and failed — in his political ambitions. My mother, on the other hand, tried — and succeeded — in her bid for Register of Wills, then County Commissioner, then Chairman of the Board of Commissioners.[6] My father enjoyed my mother’s success as if it were his own. He encouraged her and pushed her. “Klein, get into politics like me and go places,” he must have said to her. They were good Republicans.

flyer

Throughout those early days of my mother’s political career, I was a good Republican too. I posed for family photos and attended county fairs in places with names like Gratz and Berrysburg. I hung back and was dragged forward again to smile in the outfit my mother picked out for me the night before. I played my part well until the age of 16, when I became a vegetarian. This was their first clue. The second clue came when I turned 18 and I registered as an Independent.

“But you can’t even vote in the primary!” my parents protested.

“So I should be a Democrat then?”

“And break your mother’s heart?” my father asked, genuinely, because the word itself was an affront.

From that time forward there were many lengthy and uncomfortable political debates with my family. The irony of these battles is that my “political” choices and acts were so minimal: I wasn’t changing shit. I was just a Democrat who didn’t eat meat and listened to Ani DiFranco. But in my home, with my family, I was Jane Fonda on the tank.

Law school yearbook.

University of Pennsylvania’s Law school yearbook, 1963.

My father, especially, could not understand how I had ended up so different from him, and from the rest of our family. He found my decision to go to graduate school especially confounding. Why, when I could easily go to law school, just as he did and my brother did (and my brother’s wife too), would I choose academia? He expected an upward trajectory: his parents took in boarders, he took his kids to Tavern on the Green, and I go to law school. “Or at least a job that, you know, helps people [7],” my mother liked to/continues to say. I remember visiting my parents during the fall break of my senior year of college and assembling graduate school applications—for a PhD in English—on the dining room table. It was my life’s work condensed into twelve piles of black and white. My father assessed the scene before him and asked, quite seriously, “So when are you scheduling your LSATs?”

***

Louis and Goldye Klein im 1935.

Louis and Goldye Klein, Atlantic City,  1935.

This story began with my grandfather’s box of mementos, which I’m looking through now, for stories about my father. It’s filled with photographs of friends and relatives whom I’ll never meet when they were young and smiling on the Atlantic City boardwalk, but my grandfather’s sloping script tells me their names: Goldye, Utie, Julius. I repeat them in my head like a mantra: Goldye, Utie, Julius.

Minerva and Joe

Minerva and Joe Klein

Digging through the box, I find a picture of my Dad and his grandmother. I learn her name is Minerva. “I think they called her ‘Minnie,’” Mom tells me, but she doesn’t look like a Minnie. We’re both surprised by how much my Dad looks like my son, though that shouldn’t be surprising. We’re doing the same work, my mother and I, snapping the pieces together before they float away. I show her the pictures I find in the box, of her mother, my Nana — so  lovely in pin curls — and she tells me another story. I add it to the pile, I’ll use it.

Jeanette Shellhammer (aka, Nana)

Jeanette Shellhammer (aka, Nana)

My mom only knows so much. These aren’t her stories — they’re my father’s and now they’ll stay untold. So I’m crafting my own story out of scraps of paper so old and thin I can feel them disintegrating in my fingers. I write faster. Then I delete, revise, rearrange. The story’s still not right. But when I put them all together, I’ve built something. My own precious artifact. I hold it in my hands, press its smoothness against my cheek — like my mother’s hands during a fever, like the cool glass at Tavern on the Green, like Marla’s warm calves on the kitchen floor — and I put it in the box.

Louis and Joe Klein

Louis and Joe Klein

Notes

[1] My mother tells me “I was the best shiksa in town.”

[2] Marla’s name and certain other personal details have been changed for this story.

[3] Of breastfeeding in the mid-1970s, my mother assures me “It just wasn’t done”.

[4] Why does this story represent a lapse in my father’s worldview? Because my father was a Goldwater Republican from way back who opposed the concept of second chances; his favorite refrain was “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

[5] Ben Dolnik writes in “My Crush with Celebrity”: “Because one of the strangest things I’ve learned about being a fiction writer — particularly one who has been known to write autobiographically — is how the things you write begin to blend with, and then replace, the things you experienced.”

[6] My mother insisted that they call her “Chairman,” never “Chairwoman” and never “Chairperson” because, she tells me, “That’s just stupid.”

[7] These professions include: lawyers, medical doctors, and politicians.

Reading

by Mark Stricker

This is a story about Pittsburgh.

And reading. 

And writing.

And erasure.

I was supposed to create a “portrait of myself as a reader.”

As with any portrait, its likeness only made me more aware of the limits of representation.

The past self seen in the photo, or the essay, or even the mirror (given the lag of light-speed), lies there like a sloughed-off skin, and is merely a record of where we have been, the distance we have traveled, willingly or not.

To speak of the past in the present tense is the freedom of the living.


I am standing on the sidewalk waiting for the 54C.

I am reading an essay:

Shafts of sunlight, backyards, lakes, the black helix of a phone-cord, a solid wooden desk, the wooly muzzle of a collie.

The bus doors engulf me; I sit, turn the page.

I get off at 19th street and walk ten blocks home.

The husband and the dog and the woman are reunited in the bathroom where she has been crying, and where she has said to herself in the mirror, “It’s a good thing none of this has happened”… the sentence breaks off mid-thought.

Someone has ripped out the final page.

Holy shit.

I sit motionless in the rocking chair.

I rub Christopher’s whiskery face and he slides his wet gray gums against my knuckle.

He purrs.

Christopher

Christopher


It is Wednesday.

The fluorescent lights hum above my head.

Emily has loaned me her book.

Instead of waiting, I stand in the hallway and read it immediately.

I am disappointed by the closure.


We read and we are read.

Allyson unzips the black leather case.

Inside: a small machine, needles.

She pricks her fingertip and a red dot of blood appears from beneath the surface.

The blood goes onto a strip of plastic.

The plastic goes into the machine.

The machine reads the blood.

If the number is too high or too low, she must revise the story her blood tells.


Allyson moves away.

I am alone.

Reading is painful.

Writing is worse.

She once wrote:

Whatever we do with all our keys,
blank spaces,
awful tricks of the heart,
whatever becomes of them,
we swear them our ghosts.


The walls in the Hall of Botany are the color of the sound of water.

In one corner, a diorama: the edge of a house juts into a brick patio.

Rosemary, shallots, lemon basil, rose germanium, and tarragon line the windowsill.

When you stand looking at the herb garden, the Destroying Angel lurks behind you:

Death is certain if you eat this, the most deadly of our poisonous fungi, which causes ninety percent of all mushroom poison deaths.

What is this desire to put the beautiful and the dangerous behind glass?

As if to name possesses.

The Destroying Angel

The Destroying Angel


I am netted from a tumultuous sea of dream.

I get out of bed.

I do the morning things one does alone in a big house.

I put on my coat, step off the front stoop.

Overnight an ice storm turned everything into glass.

Surfaces whistle light.

I stand perfectly still, but slide slowly, slowly, down the sidewalk to the intersection.

Later I write:

The streets are slick with an ambiguous precipitation I am hesitant to name.
All I can do is describe this place, peopling it with abstractions
fashioning fabulous escapes clacking hopes together like dumb rocks
as if to speak slackens constrictions. I call it sleet, this sluice of ice,
and proceed down the slippery slope working a subtle magic
berserk for an afternoon or more of comfort because the job
my brain makes my skin do is boring. All this talk of fine lines,
separations, fractions, broken not like a dish dropped
or a stopped clock, but a clock between seconds.  I want to show you
borders as one shared edge, the map of the body broken into
what cannot be held forever: breath and blood,
the flooded landscape smooth, unbroken.

93 S. 9th St. Pittsburgh, PA

93 S. 9th St. Pittsburgh, PA


Think about a song you carry with you: the one you return to in times of sorrow or joy.

Hum its refrain and feel its vibrations in your throat.

You will never be able to communicate, to anyone, exactly how that feels.


Jo Ann sits in the front and faces our class.

She answers our questions.

I cannot think of anything to ask her.

She talks about knowing when a piece of writing is working:

When something isn’t right, it’s like those spaces on the car radio dial when you can hear two stations bleeding together.

When something is right, it is the clear voice of a single channel.


She writes:

The collie wakes me up about three times a night, summoning me from a great distance as I row my boat through a dim, complicated dream.

She writes:

There are squirrels living in the spare bedroom upstairs….  The collie fell down the basement stairs…. Chris Goertz is sitting near the door and takes the first bullet in the back of the head.

The crisis is inevitable.

And so is the rest of life.

Remember.

Jo Ann has to remember; she has no choice.

Remember.

The reader will remember, too.

You have no choice.

The collie does not die in the essay, but her death is inevitable.

Jo Ann prepares us for this.

Yet, we are unprepared.

Like the story broken before its conclusion.

Like the mind racing across the white spaces between words.

Like the blinking of our eyes, darkness accumulating unnoticed.

Until all at once:

About the author

Mark Stricker is a writer & publisher who lives in Hamden, CT.