Monday, November 14, 2016

America Asleep

You don't see them, but they're all around you. They're whispering in your ear, counting your steps, turning you back. They're controlling you, and you can't even see them. You think you know where you are, where you're going, what you believe in, how the world works, but you can't see the quicksand that's sucking at your shoes. No, your knees. Make that your shoulders.

Who do you listen to? Teachers, preachers, leaders, press—do you know if you can trust them? How many lies have slithered through your ears and you've been too blind to feel them?

You're asleep, and you will never wake up until you question everything you know. It's frightening—the most frightening thing—that fleeting, horrible thought, "Is this real?" For five minutes, step off the brink of reality and plummet into the darkness below. Unhook your brain from everything you've been taught and what you know to be fact. Dare to contemplate the unthinkable:

They lied. And you fell for it.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Forest Spell

I'm not lost, but I wish I were. Here in this green, green place where tree tops disappear at dizzy heights into the mist, I feel small but wish I were even smaller. I sit down beside the trail, tucking my body in close to the earth, crouching, trying to disappear. The tangled ferns at my back are soft and dark and might be able to suck me in, but the hard earth below is a reality check.

The wind rises, and I catch the scent of dampness, a morning dew that never evaporates in this deep place. There's a sense of the cool earth too—swirling—as if something inside the dirt is trying to unite with the cold clouds overhead. The green needles shiver, rubbing together for warmth, and one of the great trees begins to groan. Its swaying is almost imperceptible, but I hear the sound of creaking bones—gentle, almost apologetic.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"I'll talk to you."

"I'll talk to you."

Agatha took a second look at the email. It was quite possibly the shortest one she'd ever received. The absence of a subject line made it stand out from the rest of her inbox. She'd been about to delete it, surprised her spam filter hadn't done away with it first, when the "from" field caught her eye.

R.A. Danningford.

She remembered the name from high school American Lit, the class that introduced her to the wonderful world of CliffsNotes and late-night cramming. Her teacher had forced them to read novel after novel of angst-ridden, abstract prose that left even the most scholarly student longing for a cheesy Hollywood script and a box of popcorn. Agatha must have lacked the "insight into deep layers of thought and psychological analysis" that Mrs. Horn required, as C+ grades were frequent. What had interested the future journalism major far more was the backstory behind each novel, the profile of the author, the whys and whens and hows. She had thought it the most fascinating thing in the world that Ernest Hemingway had a thing for cats with extra toes.

And here was an emailin Agatha's own inboxfrom someone purporting to be the most elusive and eccentric of all classic American authors. A man so cloaked in mystery that the public was unsure as to whether he was a "he" or a "she." They called "him" a "him" more out of convenience than conviction. He was the Banksy of modern American literature.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Library

Hans pushed the weighty door, sliding it back on its hinges to reveal the stately grandeur of the Intramural Metropolitan Library. Every time he came here he had to catch his breath, from aggravation rather than admiration.

He strode forward, soles scraping the soft carpet, ears pricking at the sound of a few typewriters and hushed voices hidden behind shelves of books. Books were everywhere. The place reeked of them: fresh ones, musty ones, sharp and pungent ones, dark and mellow ones…. It was enough to set anyone’s teeth on edge. Walking past Reception (where Wilma gave him a knowing nod), he set his face toward the back right corner. That’s where she’d be. He could see her now as he had many times before, and the thought made his blood boil. Didn’t she know what was good for her? Didn’t she know what was expected—no—absolutely required of her?

Friday, April 3, 2015


Stepping off the plane, I shouldered my carryon bag and quick-stepped down the jet bridge. It was the end of a very, very long day of travel, which had started in a sleepy English village that morning, continued through to the city of Manchester, over the ocean to Chicago O'Hare, and culminated here, over 4,000 miles away in rural Arkansas. One day, a car, a train, and two planes later, I was home. 

XNA interior

My brother ran towards the gate. Rumpled hair standing up in all directions, his backpack bouncing up and down, comfortable shoes skimming across the floor, he ran for all he was worth toward the end of the hall. I imagined the waiting area where our parents would be standing just across the line, craning their necks for a glimpse of us. I'd looked forward to this moment for nine long months.

But for some reason my feet would only movie sluggishly. The white tile floor felt like molasses dragging me down. Coming almost to a full stop, I made myself round the last corner. When I saw my family up ahead, their tear-streaked faces and wild smiles, I could only muster a tired grin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ice Walk

Finally getting up the courage to walk in the snow, I suit up, leaving behind the comfort of a squashy couch and radiant heat of a warm fire and stepping out into the elements. It’s refreshing, but painful. The cold immediately invades my body, stealing my breath, lancing my eyes, squirming under my hat into my ears, and shocking the tips of my fingers. A gust of wind picks up speed across the field and blows itself at me, hardening the flesh on my face.

Stalwart, unwavering, I put one sluggish foot before another and begin slogging in that monotonous rhythm of crunching and creaking boots on snow. Step after step breaks through the icy crust and compacts the fluffy layers beneath, and it’s the only sound I can hear from under my wooly earflaps. As I pass under trees, the warmth of the sun ebbs and flows, sometimes thawing my face for a moment before another wind hurries to attach icicles to my nose.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

First Crush

We all gathered together, so many cats that our mothers had to herd. Beach towels, twisted goggles, foam noodles slapping each other in the face. They called it a "homeschool field trip," but I'm not sure what we were meant to learn. The doggie paddle, maybe.

Give me a the pool by tom@hk | 湯米tomhk
Give me a the pool, a photo by tom@hk | 湯米tomhk on Flickr.

We all crammed into our huge Suburban, Mom taking the wheel while I scrambled to sit between my two girlfriends. Miranda's hair had some real poof to it back then, and Lily looked 9 instead of 11.

The mothers must have been relieved when we piled out at the swimming pool. After we paid admission, we walked through the gates and my stomach dropped into my pool shoes with glee. There was the slide--the big, swirling, colorful water slide that I'd been watching from the road for years--now only a few yards away from me. I almost plunged into the deep end before Mom could grab me and slap some sunscreen on my freckled nose.