Category Archives: Essay/Memoir

Whiskey Island Mango Salad by Janine De Baise

Photo of salad with fruit
 

Whenever I say that my extended family camps together in the summer—living in tents, cooking over the fire, and bathing in the river—someone will ask, “And you all get along? For a whole week?” Sure, I say. Of course, I’m lying. My family includes my seventy-something father who loses his temper if he doesn’t get an afternoon nap, my sister Carroll who just stops talking at the first sign of trouble, my sister Laurie who has been known to threaten family members with a sharp knife while making fruit salad, my brother Kevin who refused … Continue reading Whiskey Island Mango Salad by Janine De Baise

Then We had Ice Cream by Isabel Wolf Frischman

Photo of black man on bench that says "Whites Only"
 

In the summer of 1967, the year of my high school graduation, the Newark, N.J.-adjacent town of Plainfield, where I grew up, exploded with race riots. I was in Washington, D.C. when it happened, working as a G-2 clerk-typist for the U.S. Post Office. I didn’t witness the events in my hometown, where an incident in a diner escalated into full-blown violence in reaction to police brutality against people of color. Fifty-one years later, as an officer handcuffed me for attempting to drape the crown of Queen Isabella of Spain with a foot-square piece of … Continue reading Then We had Ice Cream by Isabel Wolf Frischman

The Camel’s Hump by Albert McFarland

Photo of people riding camels in desert
 

The Moroccan village was the same color as the surrounding hills and empty desert. The landscape had three primary colors: sandy tan, sky blue, and, occasionally, palm tree green. The young couple, tourists traveling into the hinterlands, found menu choices equally limited where options, like all resources, were scarce. The couple carried their argument from the restaurant into the night. The man, angry, pulled the woman close, roughly gripping her sweater. “Take care what you say.” From the shadows down the dusty narrow side street emerged a small group of young men, boys really. The … Continue reading The Camel’s Hump by Albert McFarland

When Stevie Nicks Was a Witch in Florida by T. J. Butler

Photo of coastline covered with trees
 

When Stevie Nicks was a witch in Florida, I sent her letters on stationery purchased from the canteen. The new girl at the youth residential center told me her mother was Stevie Nicks, and also a witch. I was fourteen, a year into the system. I didn’t ask why Stevie Nicks’s daughter was also there. Anything was possible; lies about mothers, or the real reasons kids were there: I’d been stealing cars since I was eleven, or my teachers kept calling the social workers, or, my mom’s in jail for selling drugs. I heard the … Continue reading When Stevie Nicks Was a Witch in Florida by T. J. Butler

Happy Trails (and Other Lies I Tell Myself) by Amy Bee

Two hikers jumping on large rock
 

I wasn’t going to make it. I’d made a mistake; this whole stupid backpacking thing was a mistake. I trudged a step further. A young guy, about thirteen, with Keanu Reeves hair and an Osprey backpack loosely perched on his shoulders made eye contact with me. He winked, gave me the “we’re in this together” nod, and flashed a peace sign as he loped past. I looked away, crushed. It’s almost funny now, how I gave up not even fifteen minutes into a three-week backpacking trip. I mean, in redemption stories, the part where the … Continue reading Happy Trails (and Other Lies I Tell Myself) by Amy Bee

The Ornament by Niles Reddick

Photo of various ornaments
 

I’d met three of the Partons: Randy and Stella at a festival in Georgia when I was a kid and Dolly at a concert, where I snagged backstage passes from a friend who knew one of the backup singers. I recalled my preteen daughter and I standing in the parking lot next to semis and a butterfly back drop. When Dolly came from behind the semi with two hulking bodyguards and the spotlights came on, her sequined blue jumpsuit and six inch heels lit up, and my daughter tugged at my Polo and asked, “Daddy, … Continue reading The Ornament by Niles Reddick

What the Land Holds by Kelly McGannon

Photo of a ram with large horns
 

  We met the ram yesterday. The one we were warned about but had forgotten was loose in the world. After the biblical rains, the world felt charged as if pages in time had fallen open. With gaps just wide enough to slip through, we stepped sideways into the crackle to spook around for a bit. There’s a quality to this land that I’ve noted over time. It’s a thin place where spirits on walkabout wag their tongues, the river carries old hymns, and reality bends. On days like yesterday, when forgotten doors to hidden worlds … Continue reading What the Land Holds by Kelly McGannon

The Swordfish by Leslie Middleton

photo of boats on water at dawn
 

It is well into night, and she moves slowly. Her sword pierces the water that slides away like sheets of ice. Bubbles spin into small vortices that carry her forward. She pushes the water, and the water pushes back. The long barrel of her body arcs from side to side as she swims, propelled by her tail fin, scalloped and black, sharp as a sickle. Water, eye, and brain, are all one. Her looking links intention to muscle. Specks of life—the tiny jellies, the embryonic fish and crabs and eyeless shrimp—crowd together into the layer … Continue reading The Swordfish by Leslie Middleton

Hudy’s Secret Recipe by Betty J. Wilkins

Bowl with blue and white pattern
 

Timing is key. I was thirteen when I told my dad that I wanted to learn how to make his special potato salad. He grinned and handed me a knife and a five-pound bag of russet potatoes. “Peel these, and then chop ‘em into small pieces.” He filled a large pot with water and set it on the table. “As you chop the taters, put them in the pot. You don’t want them to turn brown.” It seemed like it took forever to peel the potatoes, my hands shriveling from the juice. I wore a … Continue reading Hudy’s Secret Recipe by Betty J. Wilkins

Valium Dream by J. Thomas Brown

Photo with bright, squiggly lights
 

Our house, built in 1738, stood in the middle of twenty acres of corn field. The hand-fitted Pennsylvania blue-gray fieldstone walls were two feet thick. George Washington used it as an infirmary for his troops during the Revolutionary War and their blood stains remain in the wide plank floors today. The walls were not thick enough to keep out the world’s contumely. The airwaves carried in news of the assassination of Dr. King, American war crimes in Vietnam, and the violent 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, and no mention of the Valium (diazepam) epidemic. Yet … Continue reading Valium Dream by J. Thomas Brown