Weekly Featured Essay
In this week’s featured essay, Paul Juhasz looks backwards into his childhood and faces some hard truths about his father, racism, and the protective, complicated grace of friendship.
by Paul Juhasz
On a cold, clear winter weekend morning, of the kind pictured on postcards and calendars, Derrick called to see if I had any plans.
“Why don’t you come over and bring your bike. There’s a park near me with some trails and a pond. There’s usually someone playing pond hockey, so bring your skates and stick.”
“Sounds great. See you in a bit.”
I hung up and went to ask my father for a ride.
He was, as always, lukewarm about any plan involving Derrick. To counteract these nascent reservations, I told him we planned on playing hockey, assuming his love for the sport would trump any misgivings he might have.
This turned out to be a tactical miscalculation on my part.
Fixing me with a piercing stare, he asked, “What are you really going to do?”
On Hitchhiking, Horses, and Heroes
by Joshua H. Baker
My wife and I were attending the western-themed annual banquet for the local fire department when a fellow firefighter greeted me and assessed my outfit, head to toe.
“Those aren’t cowboy boots!” He said as he took a gander at my second-hand boots. I knew what he meant, even as I felt defensive. The boots have somewhat rounded toes and low heels befitting a western work boot or Wellington, rather than the steep-heeled style so unpleasant for walking many associate with the vocation of cowboys. Having grown up in a small western town, Ron had redneck credibility as I did not, and his gibe crept under my skin. My defensive reaction may have been rooted in my history.
As a young man ready to graduate high school, I had made no plans for college or career. I’d pored over college information books, but nothing fit. I did not want to be a doctor, lawyer, or biologist. My dream had been more outlandish. I wanted to be a cowboy.
Hide and Seek
by Steven Wineman
I was sitting next to our cabin in a low-slung canvas folding chair, waiting to see what would happen next. It was the summer of 1962. I was thirteen, my brother was seventeen. He had called my parents from Detroit, saying he was going to kill himself by driving his car into a tree. It was over a boy, David, who apparently had rejected him. My mother told me all this. She spoke in an even voice, trying to be calm and matter of fact. But I had been reading my mother’s emotional state all my life, always on the alert for the next outburst, and I could tell she was using every ounce of strength to hold herself together. “I don’t think he’ll do it,” she said. “It’s a plea for help. If Jimmy meant to kill himself, he wouldn’t have called.”
It was a warm, bright day, and I maneuvered the chair into a patch of sunlight that managed to wend through the branches of tall trees surrounding our cabin. I felt the heat of the sun on my face, on my bare arms, and I listened for the approach of my brother’s car. Instead I heard the subdued voices of my parents from inside the cabin. It was a rare event for my mother and father to be carrying on a civil conversation. I couldn’t catch the words, but their tones said everything I needed to know.
by M.K. Hall
That August, the week I was supposed to deliver the baby I had miscarried, Joe and I went to Costa Rica to watch the turtles lay their eggs. The trip had been my idea. I wanted to both run away and press into my loss. “The turtles arrive in the rainy season with the new moon,” I had said, enchanted by the grand synchronicity of their motherhood. “They come out of the water all at once and dig their nests in the night.”
When we arrived, the sun was setting. Exhausted by our travels, we decided to forego the guided nighttime expedition into the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, opting instead to stretch our legs at the beach not far from our hotel. The formal tour was supposed to be spectacular. Our innkeeper told us that in a span of only four days between 150,000 to 200,000 olive ridley turtles visited the beach. It was a phenomenon, he assured us, “not to be missed.”
by Joanne Passet
My great grandmother spent forty-six years in the Toledo State Hospital. In the only picture I have of her, Elizabeth Ross Frank stands in a grove of pine trees on the hospital grounds. Taken in the 1930s, it shows her wearing a slightly rumpled long-sleeved dress sewn from dotted fabric, a few wisps of silver hair escaping a pragmatic bun at the nape of her neck. Despite being institutionalized for over four decades, she stands erect and dignified, hands relaxed at her sides and dark eyes gazing into the camera’s lens. She does not look insane.
I first learned about my great grandmother the year I turned thirteen. One warm Saturday in the late 1960s, the pastor drove a station wagon full of teens across northwest Ohio to tour the state hospital. Eager to spread good cheer, we crafted fluffy flowers from colored tissue paper and fastened them to green pipe cleaner stems. Clutching bouquets in our hands, we entered the ward, but came to an abrupt stop when we encountered a long hallway lined with wheelchair-bound patients. Heads lolled on chests, muttering filled the air, and the smell of urine stung our noses. An elderly woman reached out to me, but I recoiled at the sight of cloth ties binding her body to the chair. Forcing an awkward smile, I thrust my flowers into her gnarled hands and retreated outside.
In the Matter of My Law Degree
by Barb Howard
We are moving. Packing must begin. But, first, a weeding out of the things that should not be packed. The junk. I bravely start in our ersatz storage space—known as the crap closet. In the closet, along with ski boots that don’t fit anyone in our house, a loosely-strung badminton racket, a ball pump, and a clothes iron (so that’s where it was!), there are certificates of education of the type that one might hang on an office wall if one didn’t work primarily in one’s kitchen. Among them is my law degree. Roughly three times larger than the others—making it about the height of a beer fridge—the law degree stands out from the pack. There it is: ironic (given its relative size and how little law I practiced), non-reflective (figuratively, but also literally because I paid for non-reflective glass), and, frankly, with all its self-importance and Latin curlicue-ness, kind of goofy. I won’t go so far as to say the degree looks like a joke.
Birds and Beatles
by Rick Bailey
I’m reading a New Yorker article about Paul McCartney at the breakfast table one morning. At the top of the page there’s a black and white photo of him and John Lennon, circa 1965. It’s the year, the caption tells us, of Help! and Rubber Soul.
My wife and I are leaving for Italy in a week. I’ve been downloading stuff to my Kindle to read while we’re away. I’ve got enough to last me quite a while, some novels (a few trashy ones, a few edifying ones), Clive James’ Poetry Notebook, a bunch of articles from the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, and the New Republic. (I guess I’m keeping it New this spring.) When language fatigue sets in over there, and I know it will, with the constant strain of trying to listen very fast to decode flights of Italian, it’s a pleasure to lie down in silence and read in my own language.
“Photo by David Bailey,” I say to my wife. Our son’s name. “How about that?”
“This article about Paul McCartney. It has a photo by David Bailey.”
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.
Summer/Fall 2016 Issue Released
Nineteen essays from Volume 6, Issue 2.
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.
Issue Reviewed at NewPages
Appreciation goes out to Katy Haas at NewPages for taking time to review the Winter/Spring 2016 Issue.