All posts by Susan Shafarzek

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

Bring Them to an Art Show: On Teaching Imaginative Writing by Rich H. Kenney, Jr.

White horse head morpihing into flowers
 

If a piece of artwork could express itself in words, what would it say? This was the question I pondered while visiting Time Lapse, an art faculty show at Chadron State College (CSC) in Chadron, Nebraska several semesters ago. Here’s the beginning of what Black and White Crease, a painting by adjunct faculty member, DeWayne Gimeson, seemed to say to me: I believe in creases like the ones that form on balls of paper we too often throw away. We rarely see their peaks, their crevices, their unscripted shadows save for the quiet exhale—the curious … Continue reading Bring Them to an Art Show: On Teaching Imaginative Writing by Rich H. Kenney, Jr.

Piano Lessons by Miles Fowler

Close up of Story and Clark piano
 

The Story & Clark piano with its warm, reddish brown finish looked nice in the living room and probably improved the appearance of our home. The problem was that none of us played the piano. So my parents decided that their middle child—me—should take lessons. My older brother already had plenty of activities. My younger sister was not considered. At nine, and without a lot of extracurricular activities, I was apparently the perfect candidate. Except that I had no interest in studying the piano, or any other instrument. My grandmother, a kind and generous person, … Continue reading Piano Lessons by Miles Fowler

First Responder by Joan Mazza

Back of brown envelope
 

Tired of bars and discos where I met men who drank and were in search of easy women, horrified by the scary men I met at church singles groups, I decided to be bold and placed a personal ad in the newspaper. “Are you out there?” the headline read. It was 1979, before the Internet, before Herpes and HIV were in the lexicon. I didn’t tell anyone but my shrink. I made my case: I could specify the kind of guy I wanted: smart, kind, solvent. He had to love books and dogs. Surely, I … Continue reading First Responder by Joan Mazza