The Bluest Eye

Without warning, as if following some Biblical injunction, the boy reached in and plucked out his left eye.  He did it quickly, right hand ambushing his face.  My sister and I stepped back.  It’s rare for a glass eye to make it into your home.  And even more rare for it to pop out.  There...

Future Ex Buys Pajamas

We begin our descent somewhere over Normandy when I read in Let’s Go! France that the Eiffel Tower is this beacon for suicide. Host to twelve successful attempts every year. Katja tells me the jumpers tend not to be locals. She says no Parisian would be caught dead anywhere near the Eiffel Tower, and by the...

Beyond Chagrin

When I was in the second grade I wet my pants. At a rehearsal of my grade school’s pageant, just before I spoke my lines—well, line, but, according to the director, a fourth grade teacher who’d minored in drama, it was a crucial one. For in this version of “Little Red Riding Hood” the BIG...

Jimi Don’t Play Here No More

After getting booted from high school three times, I joined the military. Three years into my enlistment, the Navy cut me loose. I moved back to Pennsylvania and got married, but then my wife split, taking our baby boy with her. I was a 24-year-old cyclone of poor decisions. In time, I landed in county...

Suspended

The locker room walls were painted puke green and lined like a cage with metal hooks, and red mesh equipment bags hung from the hooks like meat. One of the bags was swinging, and I was swinging in it, and Drew McKinnick slapped at it and did his punching, and the janitor got me down....

Hill Street Blues

My first memory fails me.  Brown shag carpet.  I am in the living room.  My mother is watching the end of Hill Street Blues on a color television.  She lights a cigarette.  Smoke rises, spiraling toward the ceiling.  When her show is over, an orange racecar with a Confederate flag painted over the top jumps...

Tenderness

Ronnie Thomley banged on our door early one morning. He runs heavy machinery for Willie Thrift, the pond man. He showed up at our place in the pine woods of panhandle Florida driving a compact air-conditioned tractor equipped with a front-loaded rotary cutter.  Ronnie’s boss had sent him over to clear out some of the...

Review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel

Free Press, 2008 I’m sitting at my desk, sipping from a water bottle with the name of my alma mater scrawled down the side. I might get a cheeseburger for lunch because sometimes I crave greasy foods, and at those times, I don’t care how bad it is for me. I will eat a salad...

Review of Richard Todd’s The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity

Riverhead, 2008 I’m haunted by past sins and follies: my quip that hurt a friend; the foolish act trying to impress a woman; my silence when my father, being thrown out by my mother, told me he loved me. How we leak guilt and shame. Dear God, forgive us our trespasses. Yet isn’t anyone worth...

Review of Kim Sunée’s Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home

Grand Central Publishing, 2008 “I leaned back and closed my eyes, ready for him to kiss me, but he filled my mouth with sweetness I had never known before, deeper than honey. I opened my eyes to a handful of fresh fat figs dripping with their own milk.” Kim Sunée’s memoir is a fairy tale...

“Perhapsing”: The Use of Speculation in Creative Nonfiction

At some point, writers of creative nonfiction come to a road block or dead end in our writing, where we don’t have access to the facts we need to tell our story or to sustain our reflection with depth and fullness. If only it was ethical to just make something up, we might think, or...

On Practice: Letter to Holly from Cougar Ridge

Editor’s note: Brenda Miller and Holly Hughes are collaborating on a book on writing tentatively titled The Pen and the Bell: Reading, Writing, and the Contemplative Life, which will feature a series of letters the authors have written to each other. Following is a sneak peek at a letter by Miller that speaks to the...

Cathy or Katy

The rain fell through bus headlights, getting us ready for the big lie.  We spent the weekend in New York City, my heart beating up through my neck in the gold glow and enormous doors of the Mayflower Hotel.  Eric and I, when the urge to crawl out of myself toward her became no longer...

The Crab in the Stars

I am home alone—sort of.  I am almost twelve, and I am unsupervised.  My parents have gone shopping.  My brother is at a friend’s.  It’s just me and my grandparents, who live in an apartment attached to our house. My grandfather is sick.  He has been for a year.  For a few weeks now he...

You Like It Don’t You, You Like It Hard and Cold

and sweet with surprises inside well let me introduce you to the state line dairy where the cherries in the sherbet are harvested from virgins and the girls filling the cones all have boyfriends in vietnam and the thing in the jar on the counter is a pickled pig’s foot let me introduce you to...