Posts tagged "childhood/family"

Review of Blake Bailey’s The Splendid Things We Planned

That brother. You know the one. Conversations about him start with a sigh. He’s last on the list when relatives are discussed, the pause long before his name is mentioned. I refer to mine as the “Drunk Brother in a Cabin.” The response, “You’ve got one, too?” Blake Bailey, known for his biographies of Charles...
One Hundred Days in India

One Hundred Days in India

In India, a dog, a monkey, and a cow attacked me. My husband would say the cow nudged me, but he didn’t feel the horn in his hip. The monkey left marks. As we exited the airport, we watched the slums of Mumbai unroll for miles in all directions. Each home, constructed from cardboard, tarps,...
I Remain Very Sorry For What I Did to the Little Black Kitten

I Remain Very Sorry For What I Did to the Little Black Kitten

I remain very sorry for what I did to the little black kitten. The woman who lived at the end of the cul-de-sac had a litter of cats, and she was looking for people to take them. She said that they would be dead in five days because she was going to take the unclaimed...
Falling

Falling

He was a smart-mouthed, cocky little boy, that fall they entered the fourth grade. She was shy, awkward, with the early beginnings of adolescent acne and a jumble of overlapping teeth still three years from braces. She had never liked a boy before. Her mother, a third grade teacher, called the boy a hood. You...

Lag Time

It doesn’t thunderstorm in California. Not like those from my memory of home. I listen for them at night when the sky half-promises, but it rarely delivers the noise I need. This I know: If you count the time it takes between the flash of a Kansas lightning bolt and the crack before the roll...

The Drowning

In July a boy drowns in the lake. * There is a picture window above our kitchen table and through it a view of the lake.  At noon, when we sit to eat sandwiches, the water is glassy and green, fracturing only when unseen fish rise and retreat.  The sand on the shore is pale. ...

Cherry Red

John Gravely was our neighborhood house painter. He was never John, or Mr. Gravely. Just John-Gravely.  He was always cheerful and whistled when he worked. Sometimes, while he scraped and painted,  I’d climb the creaky wood stairs to the attic, where my parents kept an old office typewriter on an old metal stand that made...

All the Forces at Work Here

First thing in the morning Willie Murnion turns his welding rig onto our road and comes raising a rooster tail of dust fast down the gravel and bangs on the screen door with his ham of a fist and announces to my mother that he’ll go ahead and fix the basketball hoop. My mother, in...

Go

We’re sitting on our bikes and staring down the small alleyway made by fenced-in yards backed up to one another, and one of the kids in our groups says, “Go,” and like a pack of dogs we charge the space, pedaling hard and gnashing our teeth. Ahead the path narrows, and what started out as...

Paducah, Kentucky

It’s one of those places weathermen love saying, like Kalamazoo or Tuscaloosa. The name comes from Chief Paduke, a Chickasaw who welcomed the whites when they began arriving in the early nineteenth century. My hometown is situated near the end of the Ohio River’s thousand-mile drift into the Mississippi, and during the steamboat age this...

Call Me Fritz

This is 1986, and I am seven in Seattle, and Miss Erika is French from Canada with a black leotard and a tight bun twisted like a seashell.  Miss Erika is French, and Edgars Kleppers is the only boy in ballet class, but I am still required to play Fritz, the only boy in the...

The Upholsterer’s Wife

I only met her once.  It was summertime, and I was riding with my dad out to the airport. As an amateur pilot, he was required to log a certain number of hours of flight time per year in order to keep his pilot’s license, and we would often take little trips to neighboring Wisconsin...
Story Boy

Story Boy

This is sixth grade.  We’re in that dim little hallway outside the closet-sized room where they sell popsicles during recess.  The big boys are teasing me, but it’s friendly bullying that I don’t mind.  They’re asking me leading questions.  They just want to get me started. Okay, I’m eleven years old, very hormonal, both smart...

Diagnosable

It comes at me through the back of the head, down by where my neck splits off, comes slicing through the skin and bone and ligaments and mixing up all the different colors of matter in my brain so it’s finally all grey stuff that hits the inside part of my face like John Henry’s...

A Stranger at Dusk

Looking out the window of our front room at dusk that chilly day in the spring of my twelfth year, I saw a tall man weaving toward our front door. I was intrigued not only by his peculiar gait but also by the fact I did not recognize the man.  Strangers were rare in the...

White Lies

Arpi, a Lebanese girl who pronounced ask as ax no matter how many times the teacher corrected her, must have been delighted by the arrival of Connie, the new girl in our fifth grade class. Connie was albino, exceptionally white even by the ultra-Caucasian standards of our southern suburb. Only her eyelids had color: mouse-nose...

The Moment

No sound from the kids, not for fifteen minutes. I trust they’re asleep. I get my tiger-striped chenille robe off the back of the bathroom door and put it on over my jeans and flannel shirt. I am that cold. Lately I stand sometimes for a whole half-hour over the floor furnace. Other times I...

The Watch

It dangled like a bracelet from my aunt’s wrist. Shiny gold links clinked softly as she arranged her hair in the mornings, curls teased and then tamed. The watch clanked against an aerosol can of hairspray, dinged against a crystal bottle of perfume that she raised momentarily to her neck. I must have been the...