All posts by Susan Shafarzek

Only Skin Deep by Linda Nemec Foster

broken pearl necklace
 

If I could erase anything from my distant past (not the recent one), it would be that first half of fifth grade from September to December of 1960. The country was on the edge of its Camelot years with JFK and Jackie, perfectly coiffed, on his arm. I was on the edge of my first meltdown: pre-adolescent, pre-pubescent, pre-everything. Stuck in fifth grade, I viewed the universe from a basement classroom in the bowels of St. Wenceslas Elementary School in a boring suburb of Cleveland. Most of the teachers were nuns, relegated to black and … Continue reading Only Skin Deep by Linda Nemec Foster

Maida’s Little Books by Susan Shafarzek

Drawing of a house made from neon wires
 

Maida Westabrook was a brave little girl who had a “floating mass of hair, pale gold and tendrilly” and also a serious chronic illness, which had at one time confined her to a wheelchair, but that was in the past. She could now walk, albeit with difficulty, and had many friends. She also had a devoted—and, happily, wealthy—father, a widower who cherished the life of this his only progeny and thus was devoted to making her life satisfying, stimulating, and worthwhile. To that end, as can happen only in fiction, he provided her (in a … Continue reading Maida’s Little Books by Susan Shafarzek

Wrestling With Peace by Mary Alice Hostetter

Rainbow colored peace symbol
 

I remember that day in sixth grade at Gap Elementary School with painful clarity. Mrs. Groff turned from the board where she had written in her careful cursive the names of the countries involved in The War—seemed pretty much the whole world—and she asked, “How many of your fathers fought in the war?” She might as well have asked, “And how many of your fathers stayed home and milked cows while brave men went off to foreign lands to fight for freedom?” That’s how I heard her question, and I wanted to disappear. It was … Continue reading Wrestling With Peace by Mary Alice Hostetter

Just a Crush by John Ballantine

Two people looking out at the sea
 

Did she touch you like that, with a little more than love, a little more hurt than you want? Did you see the pain in the dulled eyes; hear the shame in her slurred words? Did you know the room was not safe? I knew when I turned in the dark that I should not switch the light on—not because my clothes were thrown on the chair, or the book on my desk was opened to unfinished homework. No, I knew that the door was open a crack letting in eyes that were too familiar. … Continue reading Just a Crush by John Ballantine

The Paradox Formation by Mary Pacifico Curtis

Giant rocks in black and white
 

When I was a child, Moab terrain served as backdrop for macho trucks suddenly dwarfed like hood ornaments atop massive mesas, the sun blazing rays from which, within seconds, a Chevrolet logo would emerge. In a photo of Moab terrain, Doug half crouched with his bike on a flat rock precipice, the Colorado River murky in the canyon’s distance below its edge. In the frozen moment, a smile spilled across his face completing the image of energy about to explode into motion. I chose this photo for the cover of his funeral program. A year … Continue reading The Paradox Formation by Mary Pacifico Curtis

The Hit Lady by B.K. Marcus

2 birds sitting on a lamp post
 

She was four-foot-something, ancient, squat, and elegant. I assumed she was Russian, though I only ever heard her speak once. She was born before there was such a thing as the Warsaw Pact, before the Cold War, before the founding of the Bolsheviks. Even in her diamonds and furs, she did not seem out of place in our eleven-story, turn-of-the-century university building, nestled between Harlem and the Hudson, where the elbow-patched faculty of the 1970s lived alongside the Old World émigrés of earlier decades. I could already see over her hat by the time I … Continue reading The Hit Lady by B.K. Marcus

First Favor by Joan Mazza

Trees in the early morning
 

Of all the scenes I could replay to rewrite or undo, one I go back to one again and again. It’s the end of my therapy session and I sit up and slip into my shoes, pick up my purse, when Dr. Bob asks to speak with me a minute. I look up at him, unused to facing him. “Let’s sit in the waiting area,” he says, and slides the pocket door open. I follow him out to the blue family room with a bar. Sliding glass doors open on two sides, facing the Intracoastal … Continue reading First Favor by Joan Mazza

Thirteen by David Gardner

Yellow Grader on side of road
 

Thirteen is a hellish year. I don’t understand why evolution didn’t just let us skip from twelve straight to fourteen. Twelve is really cool. You’re a sixth grader in grammar school (as they called it when I was a boy), the oldest and biggest of all the kids. Everyone respected you. At fourteen, you were a year into adolescence, beginning to be comfortable with it (overlooking, of course, the pimples and the squeaky voice). But thirteen? At thirteen, you were all of a sudden among the smallest at your junior high school, the one everyone … Continue reading Thirteen by David Gardner

What Would Buffy Do? by Miles Fowler

Poster of characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
 

The first fan fiction I ever wrote was inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the television series created by Joss Whedon about a blonde superhero who turns the tables by killing vampires instead of being killed by them. Then, having seen every episode of the series, I wanted something more but wasn’t sure what. I bought an Xbox 360 solely for the purpose of playing the Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game. As my partner’s grandson can attest, I am usually incapable of keeping an avatar alive for more than thirty seconds, but I managed … Continue reading What Would Buffy Do? by Miles Fowler

Life in the Big Woods by Martha Woodroof

View up, through trees, into sky
 

Ten years after my second divorce and one year sober, dreaming of companionable days and zooming up to a net worth of zero, Charlie asked me to marry him and I said yes. It was an act of reckless selfishness. I had no history of peaceful co-existence with a man; no demonstrated ability to function as part of a team, take things as they come à deux. But true love will rise up and conquer common sense even after forty, and one fine September day Charlie and I were married by Rappin’ Ray, minister of … Continue reading Life in the Big Woods by Martha Woodroof