All posts by Susan Shafarzek

Lucky? by Christine Holmstrom

Photo of knives stuck on magnetic strip
 

In Alice Sebold’s book Lucky, a memoir of her brutal rape as a college freshman, a policeman tells her she was lucky. He meant she was fortunate to have been raped and beaten rather than being raped and murdered. I was lucky too—luckier than Alice Sebold in that I’d never been raped despite taking risks in my teen years and twenties—hitchhiking, getting shit-faced drunk in bars, inviting men I barely knew into my home. And then at thirty, I’d been hired as a correctional officer—prison guard—at San Quentin, the infamous men’s maximum-security prison. Working at … Continue reading Lucky? by Christine Holmstrom

Demonitisation: Modi and Me by Brinda Gulati

Photo of a temple in Delhi
 

My father, every time I have gone home during the holidays the past two years, has been proud of his legitimacy as a businessman. He says he pays taxes upward of Rs.1 crore. He shows me his golden certificate from the Income Tax Department of India, “I don’t think anyone in our industry has this.” He is a fifty-four year old businessman, in charge of running four establishments full time—the three factories that produce perfume as part of our family business, our villa in Greater Noida, our house in New Delhi, and me, in England. … Continue reading Demonitisation: Modi and Me by Brinda Gulati

JFK and Me by Mary Pacifico Curtis

Photo of news headline reading "Kennedy Dead"
 

In retrospect, I must have taken people by surprise, a seven-year-old standing alone on the corner of Cedar and State Street, passing out bumper stickers and campaign buttons for JFK. It was an act of irony and early independence, having been born into a solidly Republican family marred only by the fact that my mother had voted for FDR…and now me. Passing out understates my zeal; I was determined to get a button on every passing lapel, to undermine the integrity of gleaming chrome with that red white and blue strip featuring the name Kennedy … Continue reading JFK and Me by Mary Pacifico Curtis

Background! by Miles Fowler

Photo of eight men
 

In 1982, when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I became what most movie-goers would call an extra, or what the movie business objectifies as “background.” I was in at least four movies, three of them big releases. A friend of mine, John-Michael, told me he was an extra on the The Right Stuff and said if I wanted to be one, too, I should go to Northern California Casting in San Francisco. There I was told to get a haircut, put on a conservative suit, and show up at the Cow Palace … Continue reading Background! by Miles Fowler

Whatever is Important Will be Engraved in Your Brain by Paul Rosenblatt

Black and white photo of Pacific Ocean meeting land
 

I never thought that by agreeing to teach a class in anthropological fieldwork I would soon be expected to be a spiritual healer. I should never have agreed to teach the class. I had never done fieldwork, so I had no experiences to draw on in teaching the class. Luckily an anthropologist colleague, Mike Kearney, invited me to join him in doing fieldwork in Baja California, Mexico. Our university was a four-hour drive from the community in Mexico where he was studying spiritual healers (espiritistas), so we could go there on weekends and between school … Continue reading Whatever is Important Will be Engraved in Your Brain by Paul Rosenblatt

The Young Man at the Gym by Martha Woodroof

Photo of inside of church with vaulted ceiling
 

“I seem to have become an outrage addict,” I say to a young man at the gym. I’ve just glanced at the TV screens mounted on the wall in front of the aerobic equipment. As usual, CNN is in full eek mode, and so—like one of Pavlov’s well-conditioned dogs—I am eeking away. The young man is tall, thirty-ish, with dark, curly, blunt-cut hair. I am tall, seventy-one, with long, greying, ash-brown hair that stays permanently ahoo. We are both serious weight-lifters, albeit his free weights are a lot heavier than my Cybex stacks. “I gave … Continue reading The Young Man at the Gym by Martha Woodroof

Garbage Pails by Terry Barr


 

“Haze opened the extra door, expecting it to be a closet. It opened out onto a drop of about thirty feet and looked down into a narrow bare back yard where the garbage was collected. There was a plank nailed across the door frame at knee level to keep anyone from falling out.” ( Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood, 61)   In our family album there is a picture of me taken by my Dad using his Brownie camera. The date is March 1959. I am standing in our back yard, about twenty feet from a … Continue reading Garbage Pails by Terry Barr

A Cottage by the Lake by Miles Fowler

Photo of a pond reflecting the sky
 

Most of the year while I was growing up, my family lived in a seven-room house in Worcester, Massachusetts. It had three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, and a two-car garage, although we didn’t have two cars yet. Every June, after school was out for the summer, we would pack the car and drive to our cottage by a lake in Rutland, Massachusetts, where we stayed until Labor Day. The drive seemed long when I was little, but it could not have been more than forty minutes. My father’s parents had given this cottage … Continue reading A Cottage by the Lake by Miles Fowler

Memento Mori by Melissa Knox

Photo of person by grave marked with rocks and teddy bear
 

To be no more; sad cure; for who would lose, Though full of pain, this intellectual being, Those thoughts that wander through Eternity, To perish rather, swallowed up and lost In the wide womb of uncreated night, Devoid of sense and motion? John Milton, Paradise Lost   In the middle of the night, my husband sat up; he’d been coughing too much and I’d been lying awake listening to his rasping breathing. His doctors understand as much as anyone about his little-known lung disease, but that’s not saying much. They’d ordered an oxygen tank which … Continue reading Memento Mori by Melissa Knox

A Doctor Finds Her Way by Cynthia Yancey

photo of structures in mountains
 

The sun was warm and bright as we pedaled our way along the new Ring Road encircling the city. On its outskirts we saw many families working there in the Kathmandu valley, women weaving mats, others rhythmically washing their clothes by hand, beating them on the rocks and stretching them over the banks and stones to dry. Little children were everywhere. There were children carrying children, neatly tied onto their backs with brightly colored cloaks, some babies naked, crawling alongside their mothers who, though busily working, were not too busy to look up in amusement … Continue reading A Doctor Finds Her Way by Cynthia Yancey