Weekly Featured Essay
In this week’s featured essay, Susan Moldaw looks fondly back upon her deceased father and his repeated, and accurate, assurances that her three sons were going to turn out just fine. A father, his daughter, and his grandsons demonstrate the triumph of love.
by Susan Moldaw
Despite my skepticism, about a year ago I went to see a medium at a mindfulness spa in Arizona. The medium met me in the hotel lobby and led me to a small, windowless room with two straight-backed chairs and a desk between them. We sat and faced one another across the wood divide. She had full cheeks, a snub nose, and a blond bouffant that fell blowzily past her shoulders.
“You’re here because your father wants you to understand he’s with you all the time,” she said. Her clear voice conveyed authority. She tapped her high-heeled sandals against the concrete floor.
I reached for the box of Kleenex on the desk, my rational mind already a muddle. My father died five years ago.
An Unreasonable Couple
by Marlena Fiol
On June 9, 1941, two years into the second Great War, as Nazi troops advanced deep into the Soviet Union, a young, single, adventurous doctor named John Schmidt boarded a ship in New York for the eighteen-day trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a stopping point on his way to Paraguay. The Atlantic Ocean was a war zone patrolled by Nazi submarines. Because the U.S. was still neutral, the ship’s name and two large American flags were painted on both sides of the hull. At night, the ship sailed fully lit. It was a mighty blazing vessel, making its way through dangerous waters, carrying among its passengers a zealous man on a mission.
After spending a few days in Rio, John boarded a plane that took him across the vast land of Brazil. He arrived in Asunción, the capital city of Paraguay, on a cold rainy afternoon in mid-July. Gaunt and emaciated from almost constant diarrhea and vomiting during more than a month of travel, he deplaned and breathed in the smoky, sweet, heavy, pungent odors of Paraguay.
by Joyce H. Munro
I’m pretty sure I know how the fire started, though I can’t be certain. Newspaper reporters weren’t certain either. You can read evasion all over their conclusion: “The origin is supposed to have been a defective flue in the basement of the Riverside Hotel.” Defective flue, my eye. Something more combustible happened down in the basement that night in 1875.
Eight o’clock—closing time at Nat’s Oyster Saloon. Knowing Nat, he probably told his kitchen help to go home early, business was slow anyway. Then he stayed on alone to close up the place. His pride and joy. Recently opened in downtown Milton, Pennsylvania, on the lower level of his father’s new hotel. The place of resort for gents and ladies. Good square meals at reasonable prices. Best desserts in town. Fresh bivalves served in any style desired. Raw. Baked. Stewed. Scalloped. Fried.
If you’re like me, you eat your oysters on the half shell or fried. Forget chopped-up or soupy. My husband likes them fried, he, being from the south where frying is de rigueur. Ever since we moved to the Philly area, he’s been on the lookout for restaurants serving decent fried oysters, but there’s only one that meets the desires of his taste buds—the Oyster House in Center City. So on occasion, we have resorted to frying them up ourselves.
by John Garcia
The other week when I followed a dirt path in an industrial area of Kansas City, Missouri known as the West Bottoms, I found a kitten. Or, I should say, it found me. The trail twisted around trees and over rusted train tracks and past a camp of homeless army veterans. I was a reporter writing a story about federal budget cuts in programs for homeless veterans for The Kansas City Star. I wanted to ask them what they thought of the reductions.
Just as I was looking for a place to sit, I felt something claw into the back of my right thigh. I jerked around and looked over my shoulder while swatting at my leg. Whatever it was, dug in deeper, and I turned faster and faster, cursing, and finally grabbed it but I lost my balance and fell. One of the vets stepped over me, bent down and picked up whatever it was that had been squirming in my hand. He looked down at me, the trees behind him towering above us blocking the sun.
“Cat,” he said.
Mercy in Decline
by Connie Miller
Somewhere in her late fifties, my mother started telling me I had to kill her. She’d reiterate the request periodically, as if to tattoo it onto my brain. “I can’t bear the thought,” she’d repeat, “of becoming bedridden and dependent. You have to kill me before that happens.”
My mother’s end-of-life plans, emphatic as they may have been, hovered like storm clouds on a far horizon, ominous but reassuringly remote. Until she started falling. She cracked her head on the corner of a table. There was blood on her carpet. The retirement community where she had stayed on after my father died was 2000 miles away from me. That distance, manageable for occasional visits, yawned, abruptly, into a chasm.
by Wendy J. Thornton
Once, long ago, when roving bands of hippies traveled the country, moving from place to place, drawn by dreams of freedom or just by the idea of living in a place with better weather, I met a young man who was kind enough to save me from sadness. See, I had fallen madly in love with a surfer who lived on the east coast of Florida while I lived on the west coast. The surfer was charming, popular, so handsome he practically made my heart stop and he didn’t know I was a nerd. We had a wonderful fling that I thought was the love of my life, but that he thought was—strangely enough—a fling.
When the surfer dumped me, I fell into a severe depression. I wrote bad poetry about my lost love, poems that included lines like, “Let me winterize my spirit so I will feel no pain.” I played mournful music like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”. It got so bad my parents begged me to turn the stereo down or let them buy me headphones. I read tragic stories of lost love, Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, and even, God help me, the insipid Love Story. Echhh. I contemplated becoming a Buddhist. Then I could give up everything, including my never-ending crush on Surfer Boy.
by Christina M. Wells
The small piece of paper had a name, address, and phone number written in a hand I didn’t recognize. “Betty Friedan,” it read. I wondered if Friedan had scrawled this in a meeting somewhere, maybe in the living room down the hall. “Betty Friedan sat on my divan,” my grandmother, Juanita Dadisman Sandford, had said so many times. I could see her in the kitchen, gesturing with her arms as she mentioned The Feminine Mystique’s author. But now my cousin was down the hall, packing up the dishes for the estate sale.
“Hey, we could call her,” my wife Jen said, looking at the slip of paper. “Maybe she’d like to know.”
“Unfortunately, I am pretty sure she is also dead.”
Chapatis and Change
by Sean Talbot
Days float through Udaipur, Rajasthan, like beggars indifferent to distinction. The warm January sun shimmers on Lake Pichola, reflects the region’s august history in its murky water. There are three clouds in the sky, more than in the week since I arrived.
Across the street from Café Edelweiss, where I am eating dessert before breakfast, a blind local man stands on a speed bump, white cane in hand. Dark skin and cataracts, thick mustache, carefully combed hair. A rusty sign hangs from his neck. A message in Hindi is painted in beautiful script. What I presume to be the same message in English is written in a sloppy hand, blue text on white:
My Eyes Opration.
Please Help Me.
He holds a receipt book in his left hand, a written record of those who have not ignored him. It is open to the first page. He wears a five o’ clock shadow, and leather cross-trainers, dirt-ridden and worn like the oily hands of the motorcycle mechanic who works in the open air nearby.
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.