Weekly Featured Essay
In this week’s featured essay, “This House Burns Blue” by Gabby Vachon, readers are are asked to enter the complex, tempestuous relationship between a mother and the daughter she wishes to protect.
This House Burns Blue
by Gabby Vachon
My mother wears so much blue, it’s fucking ridiculous.
Her whole house is decorated in blue, so much so that she has a room called “the red room” because it lacks the hegemony of blue of its neighboring kitchen and laundry room.
People—like her sisters, her personal trainer, and the cashiers at the local grocery store—often remark upon the blue, even poke fun at it. But their criticism never bothers her.
She just smiles her famous tight smile and lets out a light suburban-mom laugh.
So Long, Promised Land
by Michael Englehard
As the old year fades from view, I am busy boxing up things for my move to Alaska. Sifting through detritus accumulated over the years, I try to decide what is essential, what is too heavy or bulky, what can be left behind. Stacks of discolored photos quickly distract me from my task. Lost in reveries I shuffle these mementos of a love affair with the Colorado Plateau, an affair that began more than two decades ago.
Wild Cherry Tree
by Gabriella Brand
Mother hated that tree. The messy wild cherries that fell over our bluestone patio, the undisciplined way that the thin branches spread out like unkempt hair, the crookedness of the limbs.
“We should just chop it down,” she’d say every spring when yellow-white tentacles of blossoms appeared, then gave way to small, pea-sized fruit.
“But it’s beautiful,” I’d say.
“We have other trees,” Mother would insist.
Hide! You’re a Woman
by Seetha Anagol
The Jeep tailgates us. I cower further down in the backseat of the taxi. We are in the Bandipur National Forest, bordering the State of Kerala, in South India, on our way to Calicut.
We race past the tall, dry sandalwood and teak trees, blurring browns, yellows and greens. The gray langur’s chatter is muffled and the occasional jungle fowl pierces the forest with its shrill ku kayak kyuk kyuk. The unexpected drop in temperature makes me shiver, and I cling to the warmth of the setting sun. Pulling the loose ends of my cotton saree over my head and shoulders, I bob up to check on Senthil, the taxi driver.
Living in the Nut House
by Richard Ault
For five weeks last winter, I walked a half mile each morning from the “nut house” to my cancer treatments.
Munson Manor sits at the border of the campus of the Munson Medical Center and the old Michigan State Mental Hospital campus in Traverse City. When the mental hospital officially closed down in 1989, after years of slow decline, it was designated an historic site and preservation efforts resulted in what is currently known as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Munson Manor, now a gracious “guest house” for hospital outpatients and their families, was originally just plain “Building 27”, built in 1903 for female mental patients.
by Miriam Mandel Levi
The only other person I knew who feared darkness as I did, was my grandfather. He grew up in a village in Lithuania where ghosts, draped in prayer shawls, prayed upside down in the synagogue and invited unsuspecting boys to join their minyan, while others in the study hall rattled the windows on winter nights.
For me, nights brought the witch. She would tap on my window pane with her long, curled nail, her tattered black cape flapping in the moonlight. Where her eyes should have been were black-holed sockets. Her teeth, she had three, were pointed and razor sharp. I trembled under my ruffled yellow bedspread. As her silhouette loomed larger and larger, I would leap from my bed and sprint headlong through the darkness to my parents’ room. There I crawled between their sleeping forms on the wire-veined electric blanket, safe. Too soon though, my father would awake. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he would say, “There’s no such thing as witches,” and he would carry me back to my room.
by Atticus Benight
During my first year in AA baseball, the team’s marketing director, Rob, beckoned me into his office just after the start of a game. His shelves were lined with limited edition memorabilia—bobble heads, signed balls, and souvenir bats—all products of his tenure with the organization. On the opposite wall, life-sized posters hung depicting some of the team’s most promising prospects from the past several years—Kenny Baugh and Max St. Pierre.
I occupied a corner stool, the only seat capable of accommodating my tail. As he closed the door, he lowered himself into the vinyl office chair across his desk. He scooted close to the desk and leaned in. As he did so, I noticed an odd resemblance to a young Mickey Rooney—round face topped with red hair, and a lip full of tobacco.
“I need a straight answer,” he began with a minty tone of mock sinistry. “What are you willing to do for this club? Any limitations, tell me know.”
“Depends on what you had in mind,” I answered with a hint of hesitation.
“Well,” Rob continued. “Would you be willing to ‘apprehend’ a few of our competitors—put them out of commission ahead of this next road trip? You know—get the bad juju going for their team?”
“Kidnapping,” Rob said. “More precisely—kidnapping Steamer and Diesel Dawg.”
Comprehension dawning at last, I nodded. After considerable thought, I did what any self-respecting employee might do when their boss asked them to commit a felony—I asked for an advance.
by Amy Kathleen Ryan
I was on the subway. It was Sunday evening, but the train was crowded. A family got on at Union Square. The woman was tall and heavy, with an open face and thick russet hair. She had round trusting eyes. She had her little boy sit in the empty seat next to me while she sat across the aisle. Her little girl, in a stroller, she arranged in front of her knees, while her portly husband stood over them all, in the center of the aisle where he could see everyone. I made eye contact with the woman and asked if she would like to switch seats with me so that she could sit next to her little boy. She smiled and shook her head no, that wasn’t necessary, thank you.
I felt trusted.
I rode a few stops with the family, and I watched the little girl. She had her mother’s round eyes and lovely pale tan skin. I stole glances at the little boy. He was so small, and I felt quite large sitting next to him. He was such a little person, complete unto himself.
Again, I made eye contact with the mother and smiled at her. In New York, you do not smile at the children themselves, you smile at the parents to give them the intended compliment. Your children are beautiful. She smiled back at me. Thank you.
MORE RECENT WORK: Like what you’ve been reading? All the fine essays published throughout the history of the magazine can be accessed via the contributors/archives page.
New Anthology Released
We are pleased to announce publication of our new anthology Encounters, which features fifteen eclectic essays originally appearing in bioStories magazine, all focused on some of those chance encounters that can transform our lives.
Recent Issue Reviewed at NewPages
Appreciation goes out to Katy Haas at NewPages for taking time to review the Winter/Spring 2016 Issue.