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childhood

Reality Marble

One day, while cutting the grass outside Lustrik Corp., Joey came across a garter snake. At Birds Birds Birds they were $11.99 each, but here was one for free, unscathed by lawn-mower blades, slithering right over the boy’s foot. It was the biggest he’d ever seen, and the first brown one.

Millennium

The half-lit classroom smelled like crackers and spilled soda. My class counselor, the dean of educational affairs, and Ella Markovna, my soft-spoken literature teacher, sat along one wall, under the faded reproduction of Pushkin’s portrait. They told me to grab a chair, and I did, putting it as far away as possible. My mother, who taught at the same school, kept inching hers this way and that, unsure whether she belonged with Pushkin and her colleagues or me, the emerging delinquent.

The House That Built Me

The house my mother grew up in burnt down in ’85. I hope y’all never experience something like that—losing everything, Mom told my brothers and me when we were too young to understand.

Of Scamps and Imps

 

Summer is the time of the child, a time to go barefoot in the grass, splash about in the creek, outrun the neighbor’s bull or the neighborhood bully. It is, even more gloriously, the time of the scamp, that subset in the Venn diagram of childhood, a creature of joyful and boundless energy.

The Little Blue Horses

December 3, 2020

Rochelle and her mother lived in a large town that was on its way to becoming a small city. On her way to school, Rochelle often stopped to watch the crews of construction workers erect a new house in the hole where, only a few days before, one of her neighbors’ houses had loomed in sour glory, a car parked on its front lawn, silk flowers sprouting along its foundation like hair plugs. 

Polly, Looking

December 3, 2020

Polly’s problem after the accident, really one of her largest problems, was an inability to prune what she saw and what she thought, to stop her brain. She was both too easily distracted and too attentive. When she’d gotten out of the hospital, she’d gone on a looking binge. Ned brought her photography and gardening books, stacks of Sotheby’s catalogues he found at the local Goodwill store, piling them everywhere as a hedge against her glitches in language. Polly spent one unnerving afternoon flat on her back in the yard, watching trees encroach on clouds. There hadn’t been much to do but observe.

Muster’s Puppets Presents

Claire was coming over with her boyfriend—her partner—and Joan was baking mince pies in preparation, though she couldn’t remember whether Claire liked mince pies. It was difficult to keep everything straight with four children who changed their [...]

The Realm of Possibility


“I have to do the wee,” announced the child.

“You have to make a wee,” her mother said. “And I asked you before we got in the car, remember? It’s too late for that now. You can go at the gym.”

“I have to do the wee,” the child repeated.

Suffer Me to Pass

It was only a beer bottle I found in the middle of the trail, but it pinged an impulse in me to go. Get back to the car, give up our Saturday hike. I didn’t tell Cheryl, who stood by while I picked up the bottle and knocked off the dust. She’s known me for thirty years, since our kids were babies, and mostly she endures my jumpy nervousness. But a single empty beer bottle in the big, wide open of Oregon on a sunny June day—it was silly, even for me, to get worked up over such a thing.

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