By Joanna Laufer Ten days after my mother’s surgery, she asked me to look at her body without a breast. As the doctor removed the gauze dressing and Steri-Strips, the nurse held up a hand mirror by the stem. I was twenty-three. I stood beside her, leaning against blue crinkled paper on the exam table, squinting at the mirror like it was harsh light. The stitches were red, raised, and ran diagonally across her wound. The remaining breast, partly covered by the open cotton gown, was so large next to what was missing. What my mother said she remembered—and said for…
by Allison Scagliotti I remember when Tower Records shuttered for good. Gen Xers wept openly, bemoaning the death of their community locus. Too young to have integrated into a scene of my own, I wondered what my version of this loss might be one day. My view from the minivan passenger seat was as much about deciphering the L.A. in which I’d eventually be turned loose as it was navigating from valley apartment to casting call, Thomas Guide open on my lap. Now, after twenty years as a certified Angeleno, the city of my youth fades from existence the way…
By Jill Kolongowski Our baby is three months old, the pandemic is five months old. I’m watching shameful amounts of TV. TV while the baby nurses for an hour. TV while I try to sleep. TV at 3:00 a.m. when I’m feeding her. In the middle of the night, I watch entire seasons of shows—Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sex Education, Community, Arrested Development, Derry Girls—and snack on dry breakfast cereal scattered around the baby’s head on the nursing pillow. I wake with the baby every two hours and am sometimes so tired during the day when I’m awake I feel…
by Heather Browne
I was eight before I knew she was crazy. Until then, I thought maybe it was me. Maybe I was confused or maybe not all that bright, not brilliant like her. I was eight before I understood that talking to trees, dogs, the coat hanging in her closet, dancing with imaginary fairies that only she could see, was something other than spectacularly magical. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes between creativity, genius, and mere insanity, especially when you are too young to even know how to slant your pen.
by Mary Higbee
My sister Nancy and I have become used to answering the door to strangers. Since arriving a week ago, people we don’t know have shown up bearing sympathy cards, plates of cookies, and casseroles. They also brought a story or two to tell us about some adventure they had shared with my father.
But today we are too busy to welcome callers. The severe winter storm predicted to descend in twenty-four hours has shortened our time for being in Arkansas. Noon tomorrow is our deadline for starting homeward if we hope to stay ahead of the bad weather. My husband, sister, niece, and I are down to hours to get the house ready to close up and for each of us to pack the chosen keepsakes we are taking.
by Roger Real Drouin
For Sandy Hound (2000 – 2015)
I remember the sweet shade.
Sandy hound scoops the bit of bark and tosses it, catching it in her paws as she did as a pup. Except now, the dirt’s on the blaze of her muzzle that’s showing more white than fawn. She gnaws the bark, cabbage palm worn smooth and the size of a small sea shell, then cradles it in her paws.
The breeze comes across. It’s warm, draped in humidity already, but it feels good. I put my pack down beside the cabbage palm and get out the Dukjug with the small glacier of ice clinking inside and Sandy hound’s bowl, and I rest my hat atop the pack. My eyes adjust to the shade.
The art of waiting for catastrophe; or, why I’m hoping toilet paper remains the icon of the coronavirus days
BY LAURA BERNSTEIN-MACHLAY
Right now, my small family and I are beginning our second week in isolation here in Detroit.
Well, okay. We’re mostly isolated. My husband Steven and I still make the odd grocery store and pharmacy runs for whatever happens to be available on the shelves. To alleviate anyone’s worries, let me assure you that we’re fine for toilet paper. We haven’t hoarded, though, so in a week or two, we might have to scramble. Or, you never know; maybe the buying frenzy will abate by then as we all fold ourselves like origami creatures into the reality of this extraordinary new existence.
Meanwhile, even with my online classes to manage, my panicked students to soothe, the latest coronavirus updates to voraciously consume, I’ve got lots of extra time—useful for organizing crammed-full closets or meditating. Not so swell when I chew my nails and fret about whatever fresh chaos lurks just over the horizon. About the breaking world and rising infection rates and the recession churning through America’s economy; how, if it lasts, my college-student daughter will surely suffer—as she’s already suffering with her own classes relocated online, with being trapped in the same seven rooms with her fussing parents for weeks or maybe months to come, with her friends, even the local ones, utterly untouchable.
by Cynthia Bruckman
“EXCUSE ME, MISS! ARE YOU JEWISH?”
I had just moved from San Francisco to New York City. I was walking down Park Avenue, heading to the 6 train after a particularly grueling day of work, when I was approached by two young men from the Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement, waving what looked like willow branches at me as they shouted and ran in my direction. I had that dark-haired “Jewish look,” I suppose, that they were eagerly scouting for in rush-hour Manhattan during Sukkot. They were very excited.
“It depends on how you define ‘Jewish,’” I answered. It appeared as if I were about to be blessed by their branches, and as a newly arrived New Yorker, I needed to be blessed.