All posts by Susan Shafarzek

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

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