Saturday, January 14, 2017

Meditations on a Sand Picture

It begins without event. A flat, calm firmament of white, black, and blue disguises a landscape of mountains and valleys, magically suspended above an empty world. The only barrier between sky and the below is a line of fragile and fleeting bubbles.

The instant the world is made, its destruction becomes inevitable. Trickles of sand, just two or three particles wide, seep through the barricade. The channels are tremulous, hesitating to fall too fast, drifting slowly from heaven to earth. The effect is slight at first but gradually takes shape on the empty ground. The percolating streams build into dells and hillocks, imperceptible and without a sound.

Is this how our world's own peaks were formed? Valleys overhead, invisible above the rippled skies, dissolving into mountains below? Or when God said, "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," was this the picture Adam drew in his mind's eye? An ocean of dust, dissolving inescapably into a lower ocean? Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Gregory's Garden

Seeing Gregory was the highlight of Lisette's day. She always saw him in profile as he sat on his grandmother's porch swing—his messy dark bangs hanging over a large pair of glasses that kept slipping down his long nose that was always buried in a book.

But that's as far as it went. Seeing. And she couldn't look too long or he might notice the strange, freckle-faced girl next door staring at him and then she'd never be able to go outside the house ever again. It would be awkward to become a permanent hermit. She'd have to get her mom to go to the library for her, and the chances of traveling to Italy from inside her Minneapolis home were slim to none.

photo by Joe Kirschling
Over the last couple of years, Lisette had tried everything to get Gregory's attention. She'd "accidentally" thrown a piece of paper over his side of the fence and been forced to retrieve it, she'd managed to be outside nearly every time he came home on the bus, and she'd even gone so far as to wave hello on more than one occasion. Last spring she had taken up gardening just so that she'd have an excuse to spend hours in the front yard. She'd done everything but actually speak to him; that was something reserved for daydreams.

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.