Thursday, March 31, 2011

Misc.

Thunderclap Magazine is out with Issue 5. They gave me love. It's late at work and I'm too tired to link (I know: Loserville: Population: Me). Anyways, Issue 5 is out and it rocks it like a slut in bad shoes. Buy it.

I'm currently working on trying to figure out a strange but small thing that occurred on Facebook earlier today. I'll never figure it out, and that's okay. That's the way things work. I'll eventually put it out of my mind.

On the more-self-promotion front, I also have work coming out soon from Moon Milk Review, Night Train and Connotation Press. Also Short, Fast, and Deadly as well as Fiction Collective accepted work from me today. Boom. I like people.

Potato cakes with bits of onion mixed in are good. Not good for my 1,200 cal diet with moderate exercise. But that just means extra working out. Okay.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't Drink and Write.

I have little to say, which you will soon find out is a complete lie. I need to use the bathroom but I'm going to just hold it. It's like when you were young, maybe on the playground or at a birthday party, and you knew you needed to just go ahead and go, but no way was that happening. Miss a moment? No way.

So now that I have you thinking of how you probably need to use the bathroom, too. Let me just say that I've developed habits. Television, as I've mentioned here before, is one. It's an escape from reality. That's my real thrill. To be jettisoned away from this bad world and find another that has strict plot lines and developments that are not nearly as disastrous as those encountered in the real world. Oh, man....the REAL world. What a scary, scary place. No?

Of course I'm only joshing. The real world is a beautiful place. The sunshine beaming down on your face. The touch of a loved one. The sharing of stories among friends. The true feeling of accomplishment that comes with doing work that MEANS something. Really MEANS something. How can these things be replaced?

Better yet...how about telling me how these things feel. If they even exist at all.

I sent my boots to a boot person who fixes boots a week ago. When I gave them to him he said they would be ready (new leather soles, etc.) in two days. A week ago. That's seven days, I think. I wonder what my boots are doing right now while I wear these slimy Sketchers and wait for the return of real footwear? Are they sitting on a shelf somewhere wondering where I am? Probably. Jack Rear, I'm going to call him Jack Rear (copyright Joey Goebel). Jack Rear said he needed to order some piece of equipment to fix the boots with and that was the reason for the extended whateverthefuckitis. Well, I want my boots. Tomorrow, fixed or not, I will spring them from this boot-fixing prison and take them home. Half-done, not touched. It doesn't matter. I want my goddamn boots. And I will have them tomorrow.

Read a post earlier today about some lady who didn't like a review written about her book, which I think was self-published and is lame unless you're Walt Whitman or James Joyce and you're not, and laughed hard. I don't laugh often, so I was grateful to have this moment to get a good gut laugh in. My book is FINE! She said (exclaimed, yelled to convince herself, etc.). I just think it's wonderful. Roxane Gay the Great and Gorgeous posted about this at the GIANT. Thank you, Roxane Gay. You help make me laugh. Negative reviews? Give me all you can. I will eat them like oranges or apples with salt or watermelon, also with salt. I will drink them like black cherry whiskey. Reviews are just reviews. Opinions. If you're gonna get that worked up about a negative review, stop writing. Just fucking stop. Do something else. Plant corn. Build model airplanes. Get your own talk show. I forget the lady's name or I would have mentioned it. I'm glad I forgot it. She pissed me off.

Ah, the rambling I've indulged in these past few hundred words. It was silly, no? I hope so.

Keep it bent, folks.

Dang.

Friday, March 25, 2011

REVIEW: Redneck Poems by Rusty Barnes

I'm not a poet. Wouldn't know a couplet from a coupling. It's why I rarely talk about books of poetry and even more rarely write poetry, but I felt a stout and strong urge to talk a bit about Rusty Barnes' REDNECK POEMS.

In this collection of fourteen poems, there is much to appreciated in as far as poetic device is concerned. I can recognize that much, but I'll go no further on that topic. Rusty moves as easily from poetry to short short fiction to longer works to editing the writing of others with equal ease and skill.

Here we're pulled into a world of hard people who by turns are aslo looking for nothing more than any of the rest of us – peace, companionship, redemption, and a healthy dose of risk in ultimately seeing these things obtained. At other turns, we're shown with a true Appalachian voice just how hard those edges can be, the misery that can come from falling against those edges as we traverse through the collection.

And at times, Rusty allows his characters to fail at the thing they most seek to obtain, as in "Hollywood Appalachian Noir: A Lesson".

In this poem, the narrator has decided to beat a guy's ass for more or less fucking with his woman, the sort of thing that spreads like wildfire in mountain towns, a virtual heat-seeking bomb of information that makes its way with record speed from the nursing home to the honky tonk.

"...I love my wife and Vaughan, /but with his sweat-thick hair and brandy snifter ways /like having a job and cold green in his pocket, /whiskey he doesn't have to color with tobacco /and
all the white teeth in sweet red gums
/he didn't have to pay for on a plan but was born /with. All the teeth in the world won't save him."

And so our narrator makes his move, but there is no hero moment to be found.

"...Vaughan turns round /and strokes my jaw loose on its strings with his hard-/working fist. I am no hand at the arts of mayhem, I fear."

Then in a moment of near metafiction that Rusty manages to pull off without the usual pitfall of authorial intrusion we find the narrator is telling of this encounter after the fact to a cousin as a warning of sorts.

"Soon I am ass-over-teakettle and not even Patrick Swayze /can save me now. Vaughan kicks me into next week, /from which I write this verse. Cousin, don't mess with a /ridgerunner woman."

It's a poem that gives that clear picture of redemption or revenge perhaps that ends, instead, with failure and defeat and then wisdom as a result. And this told through a mix of both lyrical and regional tongue. A strong start for the collection as a whole.

Many of the remaining poems will often move back and forth between this lyrical and common style, but is strongest when we have that in-your-face and matter-of-fact tone such as in "Ode to ___________", where the second stanza starts with both an observation and then confession, all written with economy and that regional voice Rusty has tuned into so well. That voice and this poem is testimony to how clearly Rusty keeps his sense of regional identity in mind and how also well he is capable of sharing it on the page.

"A woman I barely know called /me cowboy tonight. I auto-denied /it; but she's right."

For the most part, the fourteen poems in REDNECK POEMS deal almost exclusively with relationships between men and women, with the exception of two that come immediately to mind – "Cutter" (a father and daughter) and "The Electric Fence" (a group of boys) – which, by contrast, may not fit the overall theme of the collection beyond the idea of relationships and the dynamics within those relationships, but remain powerful even as they stand apart in a collection this size.

At times in REDNECK POEMS, Rusty will write from the man's point of view and then twist his pen and write with spectacular skill from a female point of view as in "On a Miscarriage."

"Outside the piss-yellow moon fucked against the sky. /She thought of the children lost in the night by blood/and by accident and by God. The stars don't twinkle, /she thought. They stick up there out of pure love /or out of cussedness. All those dead babies up there, /she thought. They dare not fall to earth, ever ever again."

This is never an easy task for a writer, to get into the mind of the other gender and especially when tackling a subject such as this, but I feel it is by far the strongest, most honest and well-crafted poems Rusty offers in this collection.

For a chapbook that comes in at just under twenty pages total, Rusty has packed these poems with meat and bone, the hardness of the land and its people, and the heart and heartbreak at core of it all. It's a collection of poems I'll return to frequently just for the joy of a well-told moment in the lives of characters both complex and yet simple in the best ways, and also for the talent in craft that is evident in each line.

To get a look at REDNECK POEMS for yourself visit here where you can buy a print version for a fair and reasonable price or download the chap for free.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Time Management and Breaking My Word.

Ah, hell.....too much going on at work today for me to finish up my thoughts on Rusty's fantabulous poetry. Sorry. It'll be up here soon though. Feel free to call me and expound on what a loser I am at time management and so on and so forth.

Remember, I love you all. Whatever love I have to offer after all my love has battled through, in whatever form from which to give, I give to you. And, yeah, dammit, I'll be giving it hell on REDNECK POEMS tomorrow. And of that you can be sure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

UPCOMING: Talking About Redneck Poems by Rusty Barnes

I've now read Rusty's REDNECK POEMS and I'll be talking about it here tomorrow.

Until then, here is how I feel:




Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Strong Survive. Yep. Maybe.

This guy's name is James Justice and he, no joke, knocked a mule out once. He said he felt bad about it, but the mule was about to give him a good kick and he just reacted. I could tell he was being honest. He seemed genuinely remorseful about the incident, holding his head down while telling me about it. And he only told me the story after a friend of his insisted.



Oh, the hammer. Indeed.

Yeah, that's the largest sledgehammer in the world he's got there. It weighs 100 pounds. I lifted it to just about my shoulder and that was giving it everything I had. James hit that oak stump four good swings in about 20 seconds with it. Sometimes it is about strength.

The second largest, also in his possession, is a 60 pound beast. I did get a swing in with that one. Okay, I just bragged and made myself a little bit sick. I'll get over it. Besides, swinging it is not the hard part. The competition where they see who can swing the hammer X number of times in X minutes is the hard part.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This Whole Pseudonym Thing.

Catherine Lacey, whose work I have to admit I've not had the opportunity to read other than posts here and there, shared this article about writing under a pen name a few days back called "Fear and Bravery of Pseudonyms". It sparked a bit of chatter, and I've been thinking about it, just hadn't written anything yet.



It'd be good to link to and read the article as well as the comment thread before continuing to read here. I'd recap, but the article and comments would be a more informative way of understanding the general thing itself and maybe also my final take on all of it. I left this as a comment on the thread as well. A rare thing for me, but anywho...

So anyways, here's my two cents:

I get the spark that started all this, to a point. But it's always the story itself that's most important. The very job of the writer is to step aside, drop behind the curtain and allow the reader to enter into a fictive world in which the hand of the writer is not seen. At least that's what I've read and been told. Who knows?

Point is, it's the story first and before all else. And I say this while withholding the fairly strong temptation to defend any other points made in relation to this post, especially the writer in question and others for that matter. I know it sounds simple, and as if I'm attempting to take this complicated and healthy debate and toss some water on it, but that's not the case. It's just that it's the work that matters.

Now, can I have my two cents back? I really kinda need it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Going To Try To Walk 20 Miles A Day...Not Really. That Would Be Crazy.

I'm watching calories, trying to lose some weight. Walking three miles a day. Moderate exercise for now until it warms for good and I start back shooting basketball to burn some fat. It's about a quarter 'til 3 p.m. and I still have 780 calories to go before no more fuel for me today. I guess I'll tear into some supper at some point.

I'm trying to get back to my high school weight of 150 pounds by June. I'm at about 170 or so right now. Just tired lugging around the extra baggage, you know?

In some lit-related news, I'm at the table again editing for Metazen. Very happy about this and look forward to getting back into the swing of things at Frank's hangout.

I had a story called "On Eating, My Family" up yesterday at Eunoia Review. I was grateful they liked that story and published it.

My weekly post for PLUMB is up today. I write some about Hunter Thompson and share a video that shows HST doing his don't-back-down thing. Hope you get a chance to stop by and read it and catch up on any of the other posts that have went up there in the last couple of weeks.

I usually post about one story a month at Fictionaut, but this month I tossed two stories into the mix this month because I wanted to contribute to the new group, "What I Wanted". I've read a lot of good stories that came out of that group and felt like sharing what I could manage. Read that story, "1981, What I Wanted" here and the other "Courtship: Five Micros" here if you're so inclined.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Watch, Watch, Watch, or I Never Read Anymore

Hi. I'm Sheldon, and I'm a television addict.

Well, not really. I never watch television. Not exactly. The problem is I buy, borrow or "obtain" seasons of various series such as Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, etc. and then watch them. Completely through. Entire seasons, often one after another if I have them. I break the trance only long enough to eat and tend to other necessary issues.

I once watched nine seasons of a show in this fashion. The world felt fake to me after it was all done. More than eighty hours of television. It fried something inside me. I felt it happening and did nothing to stop it.

All of these shows, and the many others I've not named, are on television. HBO, Showtime, FX, or something. I don't even know. So technically I'm addicted to television.

Okay, so there's that. Only thing is, it's getting bad. If I finish a season of a show, then I have to immediately have another show or another season of that same show on hand or things get bad. I shift around through the house touching walls, sitting in chairs and then getting back out of chairs. I pour coffee. I smoke. I think I might even shake a little, right in the tips of my fingers. I start the season I just finished over. Episode 1. Sometimes I watch it all again, but it's just not the same.

The basic theories are there. Escape from reality and so on. I cannot dispute these or discard them. I have to stare them in the eye. Am I avoiding reality by watching television shows every free minute of my life? This is the question I ask myself.

I refuse to answer. I touch walls. I lay on the bed and then get up from the bed. I feel feverish.

So this is my moment of confession. My testimony. At this point, at this time, given the option to read a book or watch a television show I'm really digging, I will always pick the television show.

This disgusts me just a little bit. I'm suppose to be a READER so I become a WRITER or a better WRITER. Or something like that. I know this because I've heard it a gazillion times: three rules to writing are 1) read, 2) read and 3) read.

Ah, hell. Nothing I can do about it. I'm weak. Willpowerless.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Some Things That Are Going On.

I was a gastarbeiter at Marcus Speh's house Nothing To Flawnt. I shared a story there. What happens in the story is that people play cards. But it's about mortality and family and trust and admiration and the stuff. You know. I'm thankful to Marcus for having me over. My contribution was a story called "Full House Fall, Drop a Flush: A Half-Real Memory and Just a Story" and I hope you get the chance to have a look.

Robert Vaughn, writer and editor and a fine guy in general, currently hosts a program called Flash Fiction Friday on Milwaukee's Lake Effect at WUWM. It's a monthly show in which local authors can submit works of flash, 500 words or less, and normally they come into the studio and read their work. In this capacity, he selects a "national" author and reads a piece from them each month, as well. Robert has asked that I be his March national author and I happily agreed. As I understand it, he plans to read my story "Coming By It Honest", recently published in Blue Fifth Review. The live reading will be Friday, March 18, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., but it will later be archived at WUWM. I'm more than pleased with this invitation, to say the least.

I'm scheduled to take part in a reading at the Theatre Square Marketplace on 651 4th Street in Louisville in May. I have about a 6-8 minute bit to fill and I'm trying to pick some interesting material. It's been organized by two fiercely talented writers, Teneice Delgado and Stacia Fleegal, both former classmates of mine and as good a people as you'll hope to meet. Still, I'm trying to figure out which of my stories to read. I'm thinking two or three flash pieces would fit the time slot. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, as I can never really get a pulse on the faults or strengths of my own work. It all seems fuzzy to me, like something I muttered in a fever-dream.

The new blog, PLUMB, for which I'm a contributing writer, is doing well. It seems a lot of folks are reading and stirring about it. And that's a great thing, a happy thing. I recently posted my first piece there about musician William Elliott Whitmore. If you've not visited the blog, I hope you can when possible. Eric Shaeffer at Legal Underground did and gave us a nod. Thanks for the mention, Eric Shaeffer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

These Mountains, These Words: Part 3

One of the reasons Hemingway’s work endures is because of its unadorned prose and deeper levels of meaning. This is widely known. But like Breece Pancake’s stories, many of Hemingway’s, especially those from his first collection, In Our Time, have that specific Michigan woodland setting.

For Pancake, setting was paramount to his goals. The West Virginia mountains and coal mines and cornfields have a simplicity and hardness that is reflected in works such as “Trilobites,” “Hollow” and “The Honored Dead,” and are widely considered to be metaphorical reinventions of the characters that people Pancake’s stories, cornered by circumstance, existing amid, in spite of and in opposition to time and tradition, worn down, rounded and weathered, claustrophobic. Setting is the mirror at which each of Pancake’s characters stand, evaluating themselves in uncomplicated terms through what can very often be complicated situations. Everything Pancake achieves through setting as metaphor and as a character in its own right, lends itself to his overall style and approach of forcing himself to disappear into that landscape, into the language, allowing these elements to take center stage alongside his characters.



The short story, “Hollow,” opens with the main character, Buddy, working in the coal mine. The description is pared down, but powerful, and lets the reader know right away that setting is of great importance.

"Hunched on his knees in the three-foot seam, Buddy was lost in the rhythm of the truck mine’s relay; the glitter of coal and sandstone in his cap light, the setting and lifting and pouring. This was nothing like the real mine, no deep tunnels or mantrips, only the setting, lifting, pouring, only the light-flash from caps in the relay."

Here we have the notion and theme of being closed in, trapped, which is a common and underlying feeling among many Appalachians. The rolling mountains stand ancient and immovable at every corner, at every sharp curve in the road, a 280 million-year old reminder of limitations, the perpetual life -- work, eat, sleep -- and forever these basic things, with the surrounding valleys and ridges little more than long-vegetated prison walls to either be scaled or fretted over. This mentality can be found throughout Appalachia, haunting its residents and given voice through Pancake’s characters.

In his hometown of Milton, West Virginia, one of Pancake’s childhood friends, Robert Jackson, was interviewed as part of the same National Public Radio profile for which McPherson had offered his comments. Jackson, echoing Vonnegut’s comments to Casey concerning Pancake’s suicide, offered his opinion and spoke briefly about a key theme underscoring much of Pancake’s work, that of escaping both place and limitation.

"You know who I am in the book? I’m Chester the Shithouse Mouse, the one who got out. I got through life a lot easier than Breece did. Probably because I wasn’t as smart. I chose to compromise a lot more than Breece did. Breece was not going to compromise what he knew was the right, true, good way and there was only one way for Breece. And we all know that as we mature if we are going to live a halfway normal life that there are compromises that you make along the way to make life a little more simple."

Jackson’s mention of the “The Salvation of Me” character Chester is telling as it illuminates the duel sense of envy and disgust at those who managed to escape the confines of the mountains. Character would also become a primary avenue through which Pancake would erase himself and bring a more pure story to the page. But, in the beginning, at least, it was setting, his West Virginia, that would guide the young college student on his path to literary stardom. Returning to the short story “Trilobites,” which McPherson claims to be his favorite because it shows clearly the mutual relationship between the landscape and nature, Pancake takes us even further into the structure of his mountain world, beneath even the layered social structure of West Virginia, below the coal mine and the bars.

In this story Pancake introduces arguably his strongest brushstroke of setting, the ancient claim that holds his homeland, the fossils that float forever under the weight of the world’s oldest mountain range. In this image Pancake tosses aside any flare for words the lesser writer might have relied upon and drives home theme in an efficient way, combining the idea of history and the trappings that can develop from that particular land’s history. Inside the guts of the mountains are trilobites, arrowheads, and other items from another time that speak to the reader of Pancake’s work today, no matter where they may call home. Loneliness, desperation and insurmountable odds are not exclusive to the people of Appalachia, only highlighted along its ridges like cracks in a coal seam. The imagery speaks volumes while the writer only presents the case and steps aside, allowing this idea, this power, to take hold in its own right.

In “Trilobites,” Pancake uses this prehistoric marine creature as a metaphorical equivalent to the story’s main character, Colly, smothered beneath the pressure of the mountains and the expectations of his widowed mother to take up the responsibilities his dead father left in the form of a farm that needs tended. Colly’s frustrations, the tug and pull of his sense of purpose against his desire for something better, is the emotional centerpiece of the story and achieved through the character’s inner thoughts and the means by which they shadow that of the land itself. In the following passage, Colly’s inner struggle is made real for the reader through his description of the fields his father worked so hard to maintain. He’s pulled the old tractor from its place and driven out to the field.

"I sit there, smoke, look again at the cane. The rows curve tight, but around them is a sort of scar of clay, and the leaves have a purplish blight. I don’t wonder about the blight. I know the cane is too far gone to worry about the blight. Far off, somebody chops wood, and the ax-bites echo back to me. The hillsides are baked here and have heat ghosts. Our cattle move to the wind gap, and the birds hide in caps of trees where we never cut the timber for pasture. I look at the wrinkly old boundary post. Pop set it when the hobo and soldier days were over. It is a locust-tree post and it will be there a long time. A few dead morning glories cling to it."

The setting is telling the story for the author in this passage. The careful and economical use of words such as “ghosts” and “dead” to describe the heat and morning glories all echo to the reader the underlying tension of picking up where his father left off after dying. Also the reference to the boundary post and how long it will last and continue to be there on the land works to express Colly’s inner, if common, wish that his father were still alive. We are left to wonder to what extent Colly wishes this so as to ease himself of the burdens that were left to him after his father’s death and what portion of this is simple sadness for the loss of a loved one. All of this complexity from what appears a simple descriptive passage. Also, the key description of setting in the passage, the mention of the blight on the cane and how it was too far gone to be concerned with adds theme to the mix. All this detail within such a small space does not happen accidentally, any writer knows this, and works each session either making it to this level or failing. For Pancake, hard work was a tradition brought from the mountains and a way of life he carried over into his day to day efforts as a writer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Old Dogs and New Tricks

I have no agenda in writing this post. This is to say, it's very likely those few of you who actually come to read it will have left by the time I finish this sentence.

Okay, those of you still here. What I said was true. I have nothing significant or intelligent or insightful to say. I have no analysis of anything social, literary, historical or philosophical to say or comment on.

I am drinking a cup of coffee. I am sitting in front of my desk at work. There is a heater, one of those floor heaters given to me by an former co-worker who was fired about a month ago, at my feet. Well, it's actually aimed a bit more north. Nice and warm. See...this means nothing.

I'm freelancing a job right now. A ten-page paper about a guy who was a teacher here in East Ky. back in the 1920s and it's getting the best of me. Only thing is, the guy paid me half up front. So. Pressure = no results for me, at least as far as writing goes. However, I've managed to bang out about half the pages today, this morning and afternoon. So I'm feeling better about that. I care about that. You do not. It's cool.

I'm drinking coffee. It's the second round. I had a pot of coffee this morning and now I'm having a few cups this afternoon. Cops are hateful around here. Hall monitors. Tax collectors. They get really snippy and will have you reciting the alphabet backwards before you can say "DICKS" and shield yourself from being Tased. The coffee will come through for me. It always does.

I have the flu or pneumonia or something. I don't visit doctors or lawyers and avoid police officers whenever I can, so I can only guess. But it feels like flu. If I seem paranoid, it's because I am. Open your eyes, folks. Paranoid = prepped. What's the other option? Blindly accepting and then side-swiped and crying for the mercy of the court. I've been in court. There is no mercy. Only agendas, and people who know people. I know people, but not the kind of people who can help in those situations.

I once spent a night in jail because me and a friend of mine stopped on an overpass and he grabbed a road cone. Blue lights. Sobriety test. Jail. Phone call. Hung up on my ass. Spent the night. Come morning, I'm handcuffed chain-style to about a dozen other guys and sitting in a court room pleading not guilty, even though the cop saw us take the cone, had pulled in behind us and watched the cone be taken from the roadside. I pleaded not guilty and looked at the tax collecting hall monitor and almost...ALMOST....felt bad. I mean, he saw it happen.

How did that turn out? Well, I'm here, at work, pecking away at this post and not rolling cigs from packs of Bugler tobacco and trading my coffee and hairy biscuits for a smoke with a freakin filter. So, things turned out okay. Or whatever.

I'll be writing my first post for PLUMB, the new lit blog, that will appear on Wednesday, I think. I've been knocking around some ideas. Though equipped with two degrees, including a masters degree (don't ask how that happened) I'm not much for elevated discussion about the theory of theory or this and that or the line breaks of Ezra Pound or the muscular prose of Hemingway or the screw-story-concentrate-on-style approach of Joyce and Stein. I don't know what I'm about.

I guess I'm about story.

Where I'm from nothing is just told to another person fact by fact. It's always told in a story. There's the whole set up. Introduction, background, rising action, climax, etc, etc. All of that's important, I'm just saying. I tell stories, so my post will probably feel more like a story than a lecture or a suggestion or anything else for that matter. But listen closely and you'll find that inside that story is what I'm really trying to say. Too much work? I agree. I've always agreed. But old dogs and new tricks. You know how it is.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March Just Got A Little More Ramshackle Review!

Ramshackle Review 3 is packed, including a story of mine called "Outside Eddie's Room In the World". Seriously, I'm linking to my story, but just have a look at this entire issue. It's packed. Capital P.

I wrote something earlier this morning and posted it at Fictionaut. It's called "Courtship: Five Micros" and you can go there and have a look or read below, as I'll post it here as well.

Here's "Courtship". The accompanying photo is by Chloe Cheng.


Courtship: Five Micros


The Old Roses


The old roses came from Ma Trent. The velvet rose I can't remember, but it's a rare one. Maybe he brought it the day he first came to visit with the silly hat, the day my brother said he seemed nice for a guy with big ears.

Tell Me About Her Hazel Eyes

They changed the way you know eyes that color will. Blue, green, blue, green. And it all depended on things like the sunlight or a cold room. Brown even, sometimes. Not often, though. Brown depended on my doing something stupid, and I'm a quick study.

Five

Four children are left. One is dead. He could not be any more dead. And he made it through the war only to come back and die alone in a strange room. But they remember him the day he left for Korea. "You see this hand? This hand and the rest of me will look the same the next time you see me." That's what the fifth, the second oldest, said before he left for overseas. And she still sees him the day he came back, his hair cut perfect so that every black strand curved across his head like a halo bending in the darkness.

Like a Fairy Tale

He's a nice guy for somebody with big ears and that dandy hat sitting on his head like a rooster. She tossed a soapy dish towel at him. Don't say things like that, Son. But he was nice and the hat was a bad one. Maybe their first morning together it would call them awake and then just flop away forever after.

In the Dark

Poppy called me his baby and it embarrassed me then, but now I can see how sweet it was for him to do that. So we'd go to the porch for privacy and have coffee. Out there with him, my dress pulled tight at my knees, we couldn't see too far from the porch, it being well past dusk and full dark. But neither of us tried very hard, either. And good for us, knowing now everything yet out of sight.