All posts by Susan Shafarzek

The City of My Birth by Margaret Erhart

Skyscrapers against blue sky
 

The city of my birth, as seen from above, is a ragged landscape of canyons. Highrises, lowrises, the steeple of an old brick church. Streams of yellow taxicabs where forests of hickory and chestnut once grew. To the north lies the green rectangle of Central Park, the woody heart of this metropolis. There, red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons prey on pigeons and squirrels and sometimes an errant Chihuahua. To the west, across the Hudson River, the fair state of New Jersey. To the east the bridges that stitch the island of Manhattan to the boroughs … Continue reading The City of My Birth by Margaret Erhart

A Late Christmas Gift by Miles Fowler

Wrapped gift with ribbon and bow
 

Like most people, I have done things that I wish I had not done, but it seems rare that something I am sorry I did is linked inextricably to something else I am glad to have done. Growing up in a middle-class family, I lived in material security. My mother and father saw that my brother, sister and I were always clothed and fed. At Christmas, that festival of food and gifts, there would always be lots of presents. Most of my early memories of Christmas are extremely pleasant, beginning with the enormous conifer in … Continue reading A Late Christmas Gift by Miles Fowler

Split Decision by Michael Olenick

Photo of hand ringing doorbell
 

The New Year’s Eve party was near Times Square in the building then housing Show World Center. You sat on my friends’ laps and mine inquiring about our salaries. John had the features of a Jones Beach lifeguard, which, coincidentally, he was. He was neither dumber nor smarter than he looked. Brian was the company ladies’ man, who we had nicknamed Kraven the Hunter. Those descriptions are as dated as the large-lensed glasses we all wore. Another Long Islander, he had studied medieval history at Wichita State because he wanted to get as far away … Continue reading Split Decision by Michael Olenick

On Arizona Highways by Jennifer Cummings

Photo of empty road, going toward mountains
 

There’s a scuba certification center in the middle of the desert, promising a deep heated pool. There’s a billboard with a picture of an elderly couple smiling for the camera, the woman wrapping her arms around the man’s shoulders from behind, with bold white text declaring, “E.D.? Keep the love going!” There’s a prison complex that’s all dirt and barbed wire, directly across from a shopping center advertising multiple designer brands and large stores with mission-style architecture. I stare from the window of a bus as they pass. I’ve driven this highway—which connects my college … Continue reading On Arizona Highways by Jennifer Cummings

Storms by Emily Walling

Photo of dark clouds with sun breaking through over water
 

If you’re standing on a pink sand beach in the Caribbean, the sun burning your back and monstrous thunder speaking to you across the salt water, you should probably listen. I should’ve listened. The sky roared at least half a dozen times, but I mentally shoved cotton into my ears. Bliss and a light day misguided my judgement, the storm rolling in quickly. My husband bleeding on the beach. Carl and I spent the day in the town of St. George on the northern part of Bermuda. We went in and out of the shops, … Continue reading Storms by Emily Walling

Quest for Our Fathers, Living Still by Carole Duff

Photo of man on bench looking into stroller
 

At a recent conference I attended, a young woman stepped to the microphone to address keynote speaker Nick Flynn. “I teach yoga at the same homeless shelter where you worked in Boston. Your book Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is my favorite book. It gives me hope of finding my father.” Flynn replied, “Thank you for the good work you do. As for rest, the best thing my mother ever did was to leave my father. It was a really good thing I didn’t grow up with him in my life.” And yet. The … Continue reading Quest for Our Fathers, Living Still by Carole Duff

Haunted By Halloween by Priscilla Melchior

Close-up photo of group of orange mini-pumpkins
 

I despise Halloween. I don’t wish ill of others. I hand out candy. I praise fairies and princesses, soldiers and supermen. I even humor parents who dress infants as vegetables or baby birds—but all the while, I’m inwardly rolling my eyes, wishing the night to be done. I blame this on one childhood Halloween: the night that penicillin stood between me and perfection. This was during the late 1950s, before every drug and grocery store sold plastic masks and costumes. We dressed in whatever getups we could find, and I had waited a lifetime, I … Continue reading Haunted By Halloween by Priscilla Melchior

Work in Progress by Philip Lawton

Photo of statue of Kierkegaard
 

My wife wants me to write my own obituary. Write a draft in the third person and revise it as many times as it takes to produce a short, readable account of a life that will make sense, if at all, only in retrospect, when a theme or at least a pattern might emerge from the confusion of places I’ve lived, schools I’ve attended, jobs I’ve held. Put it in the safe with my other end-of-life papers, the insurance policies, list of passwords, living will, last will. And no, she stipulates, I may not make … Continue reading Work in Progress by Philip Lawton

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