Pubs, Fall Version

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My story, “Dirty South,” is now out in the spring/fall issue (volume 38.2) of Mid-American Review!  Though it’s not available online, single issue copies are available for purchase here.

All of us were all from somewhere else.

Although more and more often, the somewhere else we were from hardly existed. It had been swallowed up. By what? We hardly even knew ourselves. All the same, that somewhere else was still our template.

There had been cul-de-sacs there, we thought (a dim memory), and newspapers tossed onto lawns at four o’clock each afternoon, by a boy older than us who had had a good bike and a pitcher’s squint.

There had been nothing to do.

There had been sprinklers.

We had rushed from that somewhere else to this place, and on our way we’d sped past billboards advertising things that were just up the road, and eroded red-clay gullies, and mare’s nests of barbed wire and discarded tires. All knit together by a green tangle of vegetation that had gotten out of hand.

The lumpy green blanket of kudzu that covered everything was our birthright. We had read our James Dickey back at Georgia and Auburn and Tech and Alabama, and we knew about the land we’d inherited. We knew it was a falsehood, that if you opened your windows at night (a thing none of us had done since we had lived in the unair-conditioned somewhere else of our childhoods), you could hear it growing. It was a falsehood that its broad, handed leaves smelled of the Kool-aid we hadn’t drunk since then either. Or that in the dark it sent questing fingers over the blacktop of county-maintained roads.

We knew all these things. But none of us had ever seen what lay underneath it.

Pubs, Summer Version

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My story “Sunshine” has just gone live at Failbetter.com, which has a lovely layout and  the hands-down best tagline of the literary web:

Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.  —Beckett

“Sunshine” is set in the Rio Grande Valley, circa about 2012, which was the last time I was down there.  I’d probably have to write a different story if I used the Valley as a setting right now — borders conjure up different things now than they did  just five years ago.  I’m glad I caught it at the moment I did.

Taking care. It seems like such an innocuous statement. Take care, Glory had said before Tina hung up this morning. Tina is taking care of things for now, down in the Valley. Take care. Such an acquisitive phrase, as if care is something you have to reach out and grab.

Glory calls twice a day. Once, for the real report relayed by Tina, and once, when she talks to their mother. How is she eating? Sleeping? Is the weather nice? Glory seems to have forgotten the wind incessantly rustling the palm trees, the sky so pale it has stopped being blue. Mami is taking care, greedily, with both hands, because care, as it turns out, is something the world only stingily parcels out.

Blink and You’ll Miss It

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Twenty years ago, about two weeks after The Husband and I moved to Atlanta, I set off one afternoon in search of the closest Baskin-Robbins (his favorite birthday cake:  ice cream).  This was harder back then than you’d think .  For one thing, the car I drove  was over 34 years old, a Ford with a metal dashboard that could be hosed off after you wrecked it, which wasn’t that unlikely, considering that the brake pedal had to be mashed a good 75 feet before I actually wanted to come to a stop.  (And yes, Fords were colloquially described as “Fix or Repair Daily” for a reason.)

For another thing, finding places was  different order of business back in 1998.  I’m sure I used the phone book to look up addresses of Baskin-Robbins stores, am positive I used a paper map to plot my route there.  What I knew about Atlanta geography at that point could’ve fit in a thimble, but I knew Memorial Drive— it wasn’t far from our apartment in Little Five Points.

Memorial was then, and is now, the east-west four-lane  running roughly from downtown Atlanta eastward to Stone Mountain.  Memorial rather than the Fair Street it  started its life as, maybe because of a great plan never seen to fruition to create memorials to veterans of the Spanish-American and Great War all along its length, or maybe because much of  the Battle of Atlanta had been fought over and around its high ridges.  My sentiments the first time I drove it? That it was one of the most blighted streetscapes I’d ever had the opportunity to  set foot on.

For the past two-plus years, I’ve driven it, mostly on auto-pilot, to and from work, thankfully against traffic.  Like so many things about Atlanta I despised when I first moved here, I’ve grown some affection for it (although not for the light at Memorial and Moreland which is always out-of-sync).

Ground zero for tremendous amounts of development, Memorial Drive is a liminal space these days, part old Atlanta, part new,  the new gaining the upper hand every day that passes.

Blink and you’ll miss it.

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Moreland and Memorial

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Maynard Terrace and Memorial, in the convenience store parking lot.

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—How long you had your stand here? —Bout 12 years.  —People buy stuff?  —’Course.  I wouldn’t be sitting out here if they didn’t. 

 

 

 

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Abandoned apartment complex, Memorial and Moreland.

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You can’t keep a good kudzu patch down.

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Yard Art.

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Wyatt’s, Maynard Terrace and Memorial

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Franken-Pine Cell Tower, Candler and Memorial

 

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Signs of the times.

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Memorial at the Beltline:  The future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades. 

 

 

Calculus

Old School > (is less than) Old Hat > (is less than) Passe.

But the bald truth about this place right here  where your eyes landed is greater than the sum of all of those. It equals —it is — pretty close to useless.  There might have been a brief shining moment about ten years ago (about the time I wrote the first post on this site as a matter of fact) , when we weren’t  sure what a blog was actually for, but now we know.

It’s all about selling, of course!  How could we not have seen this?

So just to cut to the chase:  there’s nothing to see here, just move along.

Friends tell me there’s a Facebook group devoted  to the cares and frettings of women to the north of 40 —What Would Virginia Woolf Do? — and this is my cohort, for all that I’ve deactivated Facebook and can’t read it.

What would Virginia Woolf do?

My guess — she would either be scanning the ground for more and better stones with which to weigh down her pockets, or, and this is a pretty big or,  it would be the inverse of that, and she would be seeing the commonplace, the everyday, fringed with—radiating — joy.

At least, my Virginia Woolf would.

So here I sit.  The past few weeks, the offspring I once called Elder Girleen has been trying to absorb a year’s worth of Pre-Calculus.  (Online, of course.)  The lecturer’s voice is so sonorous, she might deserve an A just for staying awake. Using sines and cosines and such, she’s learning how to figure out how far a cruise ship is from a jetty (I think; I’m two rooms away.)

The trajectory I’m trying to calculate is othewise: from the skinned knees of one’s children to the long-term care insurance (or lack thereof) of one’s parents.

Nobody’ll pay you for that one.

 

 

 

 

Pubs, Summer 2016

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The new issue of Cold Mountain Review, which includes my story “Forage,” has just gone live. 

A “mountain story” inspired by morel-hunting on Cold Mountain in North Carolina, for a mountain journal, out of Appalachian State, in Boone:

Clare looks at the slant of the rusty tin roof and the white paint that peels in strips from the siding. The house is the same sort of place that usually sits at the edge of somebody’s grandparents’ land, about to fall back into scrap, jammed, from the scarred pine floor to the 12-foot ceilings, with stored bales of hay: the old place. Whenever there is a newer one, it’s a ranch-style set a little farther back from the road or backed up to a cowpond. Propane tank tethered close; the well out front turned into a planter. They drove past half a dozen like that just on the way here.

Pubs, Spring 2016 Edition

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The new issue of Shenandoah, which includes my story “The Fossil Record,” has just gone live.

The working title for “The Fossil Record” was “The Nanny’s Tale,” and I guess that just about covers it:

The Davenport’s beautiful house is filled with beautiful art.  Art Molly loves to look on. So for a while, the stage before this stage, she supposes, she tried to convince herself that was reason enough to stay with the job, reason enough to be happy — the slant of light on the gleaming wooden floors and the quiet, and the milky bubble at the corner of Odette’s mouth whenever she falls asleep clutching a bottle.  Which she is not supposed to do, or Molly to allow, because it’ll be bad for the teeth Odette doesn’t actually have yet.  The fact is that there are bold still-lifes hung everywhere, even the kitchen, oil paint on canvas, such an orgy of art that Molly can hardly comprehend it.  She begins to run a sponge over the marble countertop.   How much longer can she rationalize what she’s doing?  She needs to go back to school, so she can get her education certificate, so she can teach art to preschoolers, at least until the next downturn, when such positions will once again be cut.

Apropos of the First Day of School…

 

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Always, in the big woods, when you leave familiar ground

and step off alone into a new place there will be,

along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement

a little nagging of dread.

It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and

it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.

What you are doing is exploring.

You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place,

but of yourself in that place.

It is an experience of our essential loneliness;

for nobody can discover the world for anybody else.

It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that

it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and

we cease to be alone.

 

-Wendell Berry

The One-Inch Journey