Disparate Objects: Starting

Often, when I start a new essay, I begin by combining disparate objectsone natural, one man-madeto see if I can somehow relate the two. Today I walked down Forest Street, a blending of old bluestone sidewalks and white concrete, to snap a picture of this longleaf pine. After finishing my errands in town, I walked through the woods and into the cemetery for a photo of a tombstone that caught my interest yesterday. I’m anxious to see what may result from this juxtaposition.



Henry Bixell minced across the rotted boards of the bridge spanning Boydt River. It was something the other boys had talked about but never really meant to attempt, one of those events that would land Henry squarely into the Bravery Hall of Fame. He concentrated on each step, ignoring the water rushing forty feet below. As he reached the other side and stepped back onto land, he smiled to himself. This was the last time anyone would call him chicken. And he was right. From that day forward he was called Crazy Hank. And Henry wasn’t sure which was worse.


This was written in response to the 100 Word Challenge.


Amelia’d calculated the risks for weeks, made a mental list of pros and cons. The Evil had selected her to deliver the document on the 134th day. She knew not what the document contained. Of course she’d stolen a peek at it as they’d known she would. But The Evil had stopped teaching the people to read years ago, so long ago that only the elders could decipher the words

“Have you decided, child?” Amelia’s mother worried the hem of her dress.

Amelia nodded. She’d deliver the message on the 134th day.

But first she’d take it to Elder Grahame.


This was written for the Hundred Word Prompt at Thin Spiral Notebook.

Advent Street

Tess stood at the corner of Advent and Main, leaning against the rusted street sign, holding a cigarette to her red pouty lips. She looked at the line of broken-down houses with tarps where chimneys ought to be. She glanced in the window of number 29, saw her mother sitting in the overstuffed chair she’d dragged from the good side of town where she cleaned houses three days a week.

“I’m leaving,” Tess had told the chair, staring at the hole in the arm where the stuffing escaped.

Her mother didn’t look up from the television. “Be home by curfew.”


This was written in response to The Hundred Word Challenge.


My girls detach the heads from their Barbie dolls. Laugh, watching Barbie’s smiling face roll across the plush carpet my wife insisted upon six weeks before she filed for divorce.

Carpet didn’t save the marriage?

Left me with the kids, the dog and the carpet for a man who sits himself before a mirror every chance he gets, just for the opportunity of admiring himself.

A handsome fellow?

God, no.

But your wife?

Ex-wife. Married him for his money. Truth is the man’s broke.

Shame, ain’t it?

Damn shame. I poured cream in my coffee, stirred it with my knife and laughed.


This was written for the 100 Word Challenge at Thin Spiral Notebook.


Sometimes my father ate Dinty Moore straight from the can, clenching a serving spoon and shoveling the stew into his mouth like he was the lumberjack he’d wanted to be, not the frustrated accountant he was. Dad never emptied the twenty-ounce can. Invariably, he’d hand it to my mother who’d pretend to eat a few bites before feeding it to the cat. Mom didn’t much care for the stew. Neither did Dad. He ate it so that he could briefly slough off one life and slip into another. The stew touched a hunger that neither food nor Mom could reach.

This was written in response to the 100 Word Challenge at Thin Spiral Notebook.

Family History

When he knew he was dying, family history became important to my father. Or maybe I just started listening, trapping his stories on tape so that I could later revisit them. Dad reminded me that the black lantern in my office was my great-grandfather’s, who used it to light the way to the barn. Dad told about his father deciding whether it was a payroll week or a grocery week. He gave me the recipe for milk toast. I often think of my father’s stories. And I think of the stories I lost like butterflies flitting away when Dad died.


This was written in response to the Hundred Word Challenge at Thin Spiral Notebook.

In the Telling Time

We queue beneath the sheltered path, trying to avoid the rain. A child in front of me holds her ration basket with both hands. The line moves forward. A person is dismissed. The girl is summoned. She hands me her basket.

“Tell me child, what colors the rain?”

In a voice clear as love she says, “yesterday’s bomb.”

The child, shot once, falls to the ground as I approach.

“Why is the rain grey today?”

“Volcanic activity.”

The leader nods, dismissing me. As I return to the barracks, the rain blisters my face. Only then do I mourn my daughter.


This was written for The 100 Word Challenge. The word was telling.

Wild Mushrooms

“Money isn’t gonna’ buy you a thing. It’s for the uneducatated, those who don’t understand the new ways of the world. They rush around like chickens, gathering up piles of cash. Before they get it stuffed beneath their mattresses, half the value disappears.”

Grandmother handed me a mushroom, harvested from the woods. “Eat, child. It’s nourishment.”

Was that the truth, or did Grandmother need one less mouth to feed?

Home for spring break before this madness started, I had no idea. My education had not prepared me for this. I took the mushroom. I was hungry. And so I ate.


This was written for the prompt at The Thin Spiral Notebook. 100 words about money.

On Bike Racks and Their Installation


I wish I could live more confidently
knowing all is well and will be well.

Instead I inhabit my small square of life
always looking in the rearview mirror,

afraid that the bikes will fall off and clatter on macadam,
once, the way I saw it happen on the way to Maine.

Is this lack of confidence or is it responsibility?

In this age of selfies, I no longer understand the difference.