Weekly Featured Essay
On a single drive with his dad, Chris Davis captures the complexity of being the child of divorce.
by Chris Davis
The red Miata behind us slams on its horn, letting my dad know—in the rudest way possible—he hadn’t merged quickly enough. The speed limit on Central Expressway is only 45mph, but people always seem to treat it like a freeway. Buildings fly by the window in a blur: Fry’s electronics, where my mom took me to buy my first iPod; St. John’s Bar and Grill, where my Dad and I used to get burgers and watch Sharks games; Fair Oaks Skatepark, where I’d split my chin open and the only witness had decided to leave, rather than make sure I was all right. It all seems insignificant as we now cruise comfortably down the road. The car behind us may have been in a hurry, but somehow my dad never was, even though he knew my mom would yell at him if he dropped me late at her house again.
“Make sure you bring those pants back next weekend,” my dad says.Not again. I close my eyes to the buildings outside the window. What is it about the short drive from his house to my mom’s that makes my dad think I need to hear all about how my mom’s the worst person ever?
by Devorah Uriel
A shrill whistle cuts through the warm summer air and I spin to follow the sound, my mouth suddenly dry. Fear takes up residence in the heart like a writhing thing. The mother of all worms, it grows plump and comfortable. Some people believe the heart is the place where love resides. I’m not so sure. The sharp snap of a twig, and my worm begins to thrash.
A brindle hound leaps through the tall tow-colored grass responding to the call of its owner. Releasing a gust of air, I bend to kiss the head of my own four-legged companion, who is sniffing the ground near my feet. The off-leash dog park is spacious, an open place where the breeze can flow between sounds, where internal alarms can quiet, where panic can be more easily soothed.
by Zach Reichert
“Why’s it gotta be so loud?” the patient in Room 2 groaned. “I’m going crazy in here.”
A high-pitched alarm chirped beside his head, slicing through the room with each tone. He covered his ears.
I reached to mute the noise. “How’s that?” I asked.
He paused and looked around the room. Sounds echoed from every corner of the hospital, building to a volume that was impossible to ignore. He looked back at me, his eyes half-closed against the glare of the sun in the window.
“Still sucks,” he answered. “Any idea what it’s like trying to sleep with all this noise?”
I can’t speak on sleeping in hospitals, but I know enough about the noise to sympathize. I think of the alarms and monitors, the voices of nurses and doctors, the cries and moans of the injured and sick filling hospital rooms like smoke. Many patients get lost in this cloud of noise, left to cope with their illness in loud and crowded rooms.
Unlike my patient in Room 2, Gloria was accustomed to coping.
by Tracy Youngblom
You know, he begins, an older person or someone in worse physical condition wouldn’t have survived.
Yes? I say, hesitant to pursue this line of thinking.
It’s better that it happened to me. I was strong and in good shape, so I didn’t die. Someone else would have died.
We are seated in the waiting area of his therapist in vinyl armchairs, hemmed in by a door on one side and a small water cooler and white-noise machine on the other. We have barely made it up the stairs.
You sound like you’re saying you’re glad it happened to you? This is supposed to sound neutral, but it comes out as a question.
As soon as we’d entered the building, I’d remembered clearly: no elevator. I ought to have remembered, since Dan had been my sons’ therapist for years; he’d saved at least one of their lives. Defeated, I pushed Elias in his wheelchair to the foot of the stairs.
A Memory of Smoke
by Stephen Beckwith
From the street, my neighborhood was the perfect post-war collection of starter homes. Boxy ranch houses and faux Cap Cods constructed on large lots among the old growth oaks and sassafras. All fifty-six houses were built in the six years between 1948 and 1954.
Horsebrook Creek ran along the back of our property on the west side of the street. Beyond the creek westward was a land of woods, fallow fields, abandoned orchards, meadows, swamps, ponds, railroad tracks and, farther west, the town’s airport runways. Beyond the airport the woods and farmland ran unbroken for sixty miles.
This was not Christopher Robin’s tame Hundred Acre Wood populated with sweet, befuddled English countryside creatures. In the winter this was the Yukon, in the spring a muddy battlefield in France. In summer we would dam up the creek and go swimming like Huck and Tom. And in the fall, from just after the start of school, until the first snowfall around Thanksgiving, ‘across the crick’ was a forbidden world of pheasant and deer, and red-hatted hunters.
I first began to explore these wild lands when I was six, and these fields and woods became my principal reality. Family, home, chores, these were all illusionary when compared to time spent atop old fruit trees aiming wormy apples at fat grey squirrels. My buddies and I would dig foxholes deep into the soft black peat bog and we would lob hand-grenade-shaped quinces at each other.
by Gary Fincke
We were Sputnik children, the designated smart ones who had been accelerated in science and math since seventh grade, but by May,1963, we were impatient seniors bored with high school. In Southeast Asia, the United States had begun posting military advisors for a war that was so obscure none of us would ever fight, not nineteen bright boys (and two brilliant girls) taking advanced, progressive physics. Not the shortstop on our advanced physics class softball team, the Coriolis Force, who called in our scores to the Pittsburgh Press each time we beat the faculty, the French Club, or even the rest of the senior class minus those who played varsity baseball.
In Problems of Democracy, the map for world policies showed a large blue French Indochina where Miss Ward had hand-painted Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, both North and South. “Maps,” she said, “must last ten years before replacement; this one is two years overdue,” and we snickered like we had when she’d altered Africa as if countries were as temporary as high school.
A Taste of Freedom
by Jay Bush
James held tight onto ropes I’d added as makeshift Oh Shit! handles while we drifted around a corner in my first car, a 1980 Honda Civic—which had been dubbed “The Nasty” by friends and family. In desperation for my first set of wheels, I bought The Nasty from James—who dressed and acted like a bad hybrid of Hunter Thompson and Neo, from The Matrix—for four hundred dollars and an ounce of weed. The exterior of the Civic, when I bought it, was rust covered sky-blue with black rims. I never was one for a sky-blue car and black rims didn’t fit my Toontown-esque idea of life. I decked out The Nasty with some adornments and new paint. A few cans of neon blue for the body; blaze orange for the doors; canary yellow for the tires and rims and, with the addition of a bowling trophy (stolen from the local high school) as a hood ornament, the outside of the car was as flashy as a Jr. high girl’s Bedazzled purse. The car was ready to take bored kids from point A—wherever that may be—to points B, C, D, and back to A where they can rest quietly after a full day of … yikes, did we actually do that?
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.
Want even more? Here are links to our two most recent issues:
A full-bodied, eclectic issue featuring twenty-five essays.
Eighteen essays from Volume 7, Issue 2.
Don’t Forget to Check out Our Anthologies
Encounters features fifteen eclectic essays originally appearing in bioStories magazine, all focused on some of those chance encounters that can transform our lives.
Issue Reviewed at NewPages
Appreciation goes out to Katy Haas at NewPages for taking time to review the Winter/Spring 2016 Issue.