Category Archives: Essay/Memoir

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

Doubts About the Enterprise by Angela J. Latham

Photo of pen writing on paper
 

I can’t tell if it’s a naturally recurring feature of my post-mastectomy slog, or just another variation of my chronic struggle to feel relevant. Four weeks out from surgery I stare at my screen and write sentences, only to delete them seconds later. “I decided that if I let a boy get me pregnant, I would kill myself before I’d ever tell my parents. I would have too.” Hyperbole. Delete. “Later I learned that there were problems in the Evangelical Women’s Caucus. By 1987 it had split up into two groups, each better reflecting the … Continue reading Doubts About the Enterprise by Angela J. Latham

From One March to Another: My NICU Baby and the Pandemic Turned One by Jamie Farnsworth Finn

Photo of cake with rainbow colored layers
 

I stared at the thick frosting of the cake, dotted with rainbow sprinkles, wondering if this would be what made him sick. I’d messed up the recipe, not realizing that “pasteurized egg whites” were different from just regular eggs that you took the yolks out of. So, the buttercream frosting included a decent amount of raw eggs. I’d already spent every day since his birth worried he would get sick. Today, on his first birthday, I worried the cake would be the reason. When you’re born in a pandemic, death seems as likely as life. … Continue reading From One March to Another: My NICU Baby and the Pandemic Turned One by Jamie Farnsworth Finn

Puzzle Envy by Vicky Oliver

Photo of hand holding pen filling in crossword
 

Each week, my husband completes the New York Times Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle in about thirty minutes, leaving no square unfilled. He writes in pen and never crosses anything out. Starting at 1 Across, and moving across the puzzle like a ravenous lawnmower razing grass, he completes all the Across sections to approximately 120 Across, only deigning to glance at the Down clues if he reaches a difficult patch. If I were an insecure person, I’d feel pretty dumb by comparison. The only clues he ever asks my help with are the names of makeup … Continue reading Puzzle Envy by Vicky Oliver