Sunday Snippet, No Throwing the Corn by Bill Chance

“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”

― John Green, Looking for Alaska

On the way to Toad Corners

No Throwing the Corn

Amanda found an article in the newspaper about some guy that had cut a series of mazes into his cornfield, about a half -hour east of the city – and was charging folks to walk around and get lost. It sounded like fun, so we bundled the kids and a friend up and headed out of town.

It was getting late, the sun was setting as we pulled up. It was a fun place, although everyone was tired and grumpy.

They have a number of mazes. One made out of hay bale tunnels – with instructions posted on the hay. It’s more of a puzzle than a maze. Then there are three labyrinths made up of fencing right near the parking lot. Jim liked those the best.

The main attraction, though, are the two labyrinths cut into the cornfield itself. They are huge, covering about a square mile or so. One maze is more twisty and complicated, the other more open, with long straightaways.

The rules are simple: no running, no pulling the corn, no picking the corn, no throwing the corn, no cutting through the corn. The smell of the ripe, dry cornfield was wonderful.

I can’t speak much of what it looked like because by the time we hit the cornfield maze the night was pitch black. A lot of people were in the maze had flashlights and/or glow sticks – plus some light (and noise) filtered across the freeway from the drag races going on there.

It was fun, wandering around in the dark, dodging the clumps of screaming kids (many ignoring the rule about no running), and trying to figure out the overall layout of the corn. It was easy to get truly lost, especially in the dark. There are clues to help you find your way out, plus a lot of workers in there checking on the customers… though we never needed any help – simply a lot of walking.

It took us about forty minutes to get through the Phase I maze – we probably walked two miles or so. Jim’s knee was aching, so he sat it out while Amy and I made it through Phase II a little quicker.

The kids kept getting frustrated in the maze when we would hit a dead end or realize we were at a spot we had passed before. I told them not to be so bothered, to relax and keep moving. “You have to walk down the wrong paths to find the right ones,” was my fatherly-zen advice.

They groaned at that.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Karst, by Ben Jackson

“I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden & Civil Disobedience

Stack of Stones

From my online journal (blog) The Daily Epiphany, from July 4, 2000, Tornado of Bats

Mostly we walked around the parking lots looking at license plates. Lee is still obsessed with getting all fifty states on his little license plate collection and I had told him the National Park would be a good place to find some more states. It was, we found a cornucopia of vehicles from all over. We were able to finish it all out except for what we knew would be the three most difficult states: Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Delaware.

Lee also was very overjoyed to find a dead rattlesnake in a drainage ditch.

The sun began to creep across the horizon, Candy and Nick came back, and we walked back to the natural cave entrance to watch the evening bat flight. They have constructed a good-sized stone amphitheater at that point and it was filling up fast.

The entrance sits in a sort of hollow and heads almost straight down in a large opening. The Ranger described it as toilet-shaped. As the hour grew later and later everybody became restless waiting for the bats to show. The Ranger explained that nobody knows how the bats, deep down in the depths of the cave, know when it is twilight outside and their arrival wasn’t always like clockwork. A thick cloud of pesky gnats was also driving everybody nuts.

Finally the Ranger announced that the bats were starting to come out and we all sat back to watch. The bat flight at Carlsbad is impressive. The bats don’t simply fly out of a hole and into the sky. They come up into that toilet-shaped area and go round and round in a vortex until they gain enough speed and altitude to stream out over the desert. They swirl in a tornado of bats.

It is an amazing sight and an even more amazing sound, the faint whir of hundreds of thousands of pairs of tiny wings. A gray flittering cone contrasted against the rock and cactus. I sat dumfounded at the beauty of it and the desert sunset.

The only thing that distracted the enjoyment was the idiot crowd. So many people were surly and restless and noisy – yapping and getting up and walking around – it was difficult to listen to the subtle sound of the bat wings. Most amazingly, they kept taking flash pictures. Again and again, the Ranger lectured us before the flight began, “No Flash Pictures! No Flash Pictures! If you have an automatic camera, the flash WILL GO OFF AND SCARE THE BATS, put it up! Put it up!” she’d say. Once the bats started flying, every thirty seconds or so… off would go a flash.

I doubt that the puny flash would upset the bats as much as the Ranger implied, but it is beyond belief that these idiots were doing this. One – she told us not to. Moreover, what are the morons taking a picture of? You can’t take a still picture of a bat flight – especially with a disposable camera. The bat flight is a moving, subtle, dark phenomenon. It was simply the jerk reaction of a tourist to snap a photo whenever confronted with wonder.

We sat around for maybe an hour until it became so dark the bats were almost invisible – we were one of the last ones to give up and leave the amphitheater. We drove back to our campsite at the tacky tourist hamlet outside the park. We were very tired and hungry – thank goodness a restaurant in the hotel was still open and served us watery spaghetti and a stale salad bar.

Wonder of wonders – as we walked through the darkened parking lot, there were only a couple of cars left, but Lee shouted with excitement, “Hawaii! Hawaii!” Sure enough, one of the cars had Hawaii license plates. Lee was tickled pink that he made this discovery, a car with Hawaii license plates in the middle of the night in the middle of the desert in southern New Mexico.

Now he only needs Rhode Island and Delaware.

And, without further ado, Today’s story:

Karst, by Ben Jackson

from American Short Fiction

Ben Jackson Homepage

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Falling Stars by Bill Chance

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

—-William Blake, The Tyger

The Dallas Star

Falling Stars

The houses in tiny Plainview were all made of wood and the walls didn’t even slow the sound down. Mike could hear Aunt Alma and cousin Duane Clankman talking, even out on the front porch, reaching out to knock on the the door. Mike paused and listened to them talking… talking about him.

“Now Duane,” Alma said, “You need to be nice to him. It’s been difficult, you know that.”

“But why is he here?” Duane asked.

“After his father was killed in Da Nang this summer, his Mom, my sister, has been falling apart. She is having a lot of trouble dealing with everything. So we offered to take Mike in for a while, until she gets…”

“Gets her shit together?”

“Dammit Duane! You know I don’t like that language. Gets her life together. She’s gone off to a… hospital. For help. Until she gets better.”

“And when will that be?”

“I don’t know. All I’m asking is that you try to be nice to him. Try to make him feel at home. It’s tough on him too.”

“But he’s so weird!”

“He’s from the city. Plainview must be weird to him too…. Wait, is that him on the porch?”

Mike knocked.

“Come in,” came the voices of both Duane and Alma at the same time.

The door was unlocked. Mike pushed it open and noticed it didn’t even have a lock on it. No lock on the door! Whoever heard of anything like that! It was 1966 after all.

Duane’s father was out in the fields, drilling wheat. Duane, Alma, and Mike sat down to dinner: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. It was very good. Amazingly good.

“Aunt Alma,” Duane said, “This chicken is the best. What’s your secret recipe?”

“Well, thank you dear. There’s no secret, it’s just that this morning that chicken was running around in the back yard, eatin’ bugs. Picked the beans ‘n taters fresh too.”

Mike felt his eyes get big. He always thought chicken came in plastic wrap from the store and green beans in cans.

Aunt Alma began wrapping the leftover chicken in paper, and spooning vegetables into a Pyrex bowl.

“Now boys, I’m taking this out to Joe in the field, he’ll be getting hungry. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be too cold tonight, I thought you boys would like to take the cots here and go camping.”

She gestured at two folded metal and webbing cots in the hallway off the kitchen. Pillows and sleeping bags stuffed into sacks were right next to the cots.

“Camping?” asked Mike.

“In the front yard,” replied Duane. “It isn’t really camping, but it’s kinda fun anyway. If the weather gets bad we can come right back in.”

That sounded crazy to Mike.

“Back home we couldn’t sleep in the front yard, it wouldn’t be safe… or even quiet enough.”

“Safe enough here. Nobody ever comes around after dark. Quiet too, unless the sheep are on this side of the pasture bleating,” Mike said.

The two boys dragged the cots out into the front yard and unfolded them, each pinching their fingers once on the scissoring steel tubes, onto the grass. They unpacked the sleeping bags and spread them out on the cots.

“Here, scoot yours around along the sidewalk like this,” Duane said, handing Mike a piece of white chalk.

“Why? And what’s the chalk for?”

“For counting shooting stars. We lie there in the dark and every one we see we make a mark on the sidewalk. Then, in the morning, we count the marks, see who wins. ”

“I’ve never seen a shooting star,” said Mike.

“You’re kidding me. How is that possible?”

“In the city, the sky is brown. The moon peeks through, but you can’t see the stars. Too much light and air pollution.”

“Well, we’ll see some tonight. In school today, the teacher talked about the Leonid meteor shower. Tonight’s ‘sposed to be the peak. She said we might see ten or so an hour.”

The boys straightened their cots and bags, stuck a feather pillow at the head, and set their chalk down in arm’s reach. Then they went inside to watch TV. As the show ended, a truck drove up and Alma and Joe came in from the field. Mike’s uncle looked exhausted, but was polite and friendly.

“I saw the cots outside, you two going camping?”

“Sure are.”

“Well, I wish I could join you, but I got another hard day tomorrow, need to get all the sleepeye I can.”

Joe shook Mike’s hand with a firm grip, like Mike was an adult.

“You two better get out and get some sleep now… no horsing around!” Aunt Alma said with a smile.

The two boys walked out into the dark and Mike instinctively looked up. He had never seen anything like that. The sky was a dark, inky, perfect black and thrown across the pitch were more stars that he thought could possibly exist. It looked impossible. It looked like more of the sky was star that not.

“Jesus!” Mike said.


“The sky.”

“What? It always looks like that. Unless it’s cloudy.”

“Maybe here it does. It doesn’t look like that everywhere.”

They slid into their sleeping bags and arranged their pillows until they were as comfortable as possible on the sagging cots.

“Grab your chalk and look up,” said Duane.

It didn’t take long. There was something, something fast, a quick streak of light. It seemed to live more in Mike’s memory than in real time.

“I think I saw one!”

“So did I. Make a mark!”

Now that he knew what to look for, he saw the next one better. Then another, and another. Four chalk marks on the sidewalk.

“Duane, they are coming fast. Do they always do that?”

“No way, I’ve never seen anything like this. It must be the Leonid shower that my teacher was talking about.”

And then, the sky opened up. It was like a fireworks show. It was like alien showers of fire. The boys had to stop marking because they were seeing hundreds of shooting stars. They just stared at the sky, mouths open, transfixed.

Mike was astounded. It was like every star was falling from the sky. He thought of the city, where nobody would even see this sight, going on but obscured over their very heads. He thought of his father, and the exploding shells and arcing rockets that must have looked like this on the last night of his life. He thought of himself, there on that creaky cot in the middle of nowhere with the streaks and bursts of celestial incandescence exploding overhead.

He felt so small against such a display. But he also felt huge, expanding up through the air, up into space, enjoying this show that seemed to be created just for him.

The boys stared as the display continued hour after hour. Maybe they fell asleep, maybe they didn’t, but eventually the east began to glow and the stars, both stationary and falling, began to fade.

At breakfast the phone rang and folks came by. It seems like the whole town had wandered out into the night and seen the fireworks. To Mike the world seemed different somehow. The little town felt a little less dingy and plain, the air a little brighter and pure. The two boys ate their fresh eggs and homemade hash browns and then took a nap to catch up on sleep, secure in knowing that this night was etched into their memories, clear until the day they died.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Outta Wood by Bill Chance

What we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

—-Thomas Paine

The Fabrication Yard, Dallas, Texas

Outta Wood

In this modern world we seldom talk to strangers. Think about how rarely you have any meaningful random interactions outside of work.

Sam had plans to convert his garage into a big room for his kids to play in. His youngest was making giant constructions out of these odd plastic connecting pieces. He had a half-finished monstrous roller coaster – the tracks were flexible plastic tubes. It was too large to fit in his own bedroom… or even in a corner of the living room. The kid was upset that he couldn’t finish his contraption because he had run out of space.

Sam didn’t want to admit or even think about the fact that he was changing his house – removing his garage and building out a new, larger room simply to make space for his kid’s toys. He didn’t think about it, but it was true.

He needed somewhere to put all the crap that was in the garage. There was a spot in the corner of the yard up against the fence that he could spare. Down to the Home Depot to look at outbuildings. For years, every time he went to the store (which was at least twice a week) he would walk through the extensive display of demo garden sheds, of many different sizes, prices, and materials, all arranged in the parking lot. It was a small thrill to look through them one more time – but this time with a purpose, and intention to actually purchase one. He chose an overpriced plastic thick walled shed.

Wanting to figure out the best way to do the foundation – Sam went to the library and looked at a book: “A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Building Garden Sheds.” He didn’t check it out – simply sat there taking notes. On the way home he stopped at Home Depot again and bought a new shovel, some concrete pillars and a bunch of treated wood – tying the lumber to the roof rack of his car. This stuff was mixed with sweat, a level, galvanized nails, and some string to make up the foundation and floor.

The prefabricated plastic walls and roof were ingeniously designed to slip together and, shockingly, the instructions were clear, accurate, and helpful. It took no time to get it assembled.

He painted the floor of his new tool shed and then needed to install locking door knobs. The kit that he bought was well-made and complete, but didn’t include door hardware. Sam went back down to Home Depot and was outside looking at the demo model at how they did the doors. He silently congratulated himself when he discovered that the “pros” had done exactly what he was planning on doing.

While he was standing there staring at the demonstration shed an old man walked up and shouted at him.

“You can make one CHEAPAH dan dat! From scratch! Outta WOOD!”

Then the old man turned and waddled off and was swallowed by the gaping maw of the giant store.

He didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t ask any questions. He didn’t speak in intelligent, helpful tones. It was spat out like an insult.

Sam kept shaking his head thinking about that guy. If you don’t have something pleasant to say, shut up. If you’re lonely, or want to be helpful, want to talk to strangers, have some respect.

On the drive home, Sam passed by the Lexus Dealership and the highway exit. He had a fantasy that he would stop, get out, walk around, and yell at prospective customers.

“Y’all can buy cars CHEAPAH than that! Cross da street! From FORD!”

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Six Youthful Encounters With Death by Julie Chen

“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:

the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,

the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success,

the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment,

the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,

the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,

the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,

the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified,

Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.”
― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Red Line DART Train reflected in the gold mirror of Campbell Center at Northwest Highway and 75.

Six Youthful Encounters With Death by Julie Chen

From Cheap Pop

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Collisions by Nicole VanderLinden

“They sicken of the calm who know the storm.”

― Dorothy Parker, Sunset Gun: Poems

November Devil, David Iles, Denton, Texas

Collisions by Nicole VanderLinden

From Atticus Review

Flash Fiction of the Day, Bones Passing Through by Stephen Ground

“my beerdrunk soul is sadder than all the dead christmas trees of the world.”

― Charles Bukowski

The bar dining spot at Oddfellows – a wooden bench, metal pipe for a backrest, and a log for a footrest. Our waitress has my wheat beer and Candy’s wine.

There is a certain kind of long-term despair….

Bones Passing Through by Stephen Ground

Flash Fiction of the Day, Time Travel by Melanie Lau

“This is what I say: I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news is, you don’t have to worry, you can’t change the past.

The bad news is, you don’t have to worry, no matter how hard you try, you can’t change the past.

The universe just doesn’t put up with that. We aren’t important enough. No one is. Even in our own lives. We’re not strong enough, willful enough, skilled enough in chronodiegetic manipulation to be able to just accidentally change the entire course of anything, even ourselves.”
― Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

The Time Traveler of Paranormal Percussion, with Clyde Casey New Orleans, Louisiana

If you could go into the future – maybe only a few hours – can you have your cake and eat it too?

Time Travel by Melanie Lau

from Flash Fiction Online

Flash Fiction of the Day, Father and Son by Flavia Company, Translated By Kate Whittemore

“His mother, long dead, always told him: your father will outlive us all, but not before he makes us suffer as much as he wants to, and more..”

― Flavia Company, Father and Son

(click to enlarge) Sculpture by Jason Mehl, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

One of the things in my life that I am ashamed of is that my Spanish is so bad. After all, I lived a few of my formative years in Spanish speaking countries – you would think I would be fluent. There is no excuse for that, but there are a few explanations (people have difficulty understanding the difference between excuse and explanation – it is a critical distinction).

  • When people realized I was North American, they didn’t want to speak Spanish with me – they wanted to practice their English. And if I just shut up – I could pass for a shy speechless native teenager.
  • English is so important to me, I have trouble switching into other languages.
  • Nicaraguan Spanish is significantly different (especially in slang) than the Mexican Spanish I hear every day in Texas
  • Most important – I am lazy

Most people in my high school were completely fluent in both languages. It was fascinating to listen to them switch back and forth. When discussing something concrete – like giving directions or instructions – they would use English. However, if there were emotions involved, or relationships, or food – then Spanish was the language of choice. For example, there were a dozen different terms that translated as “girlfriend” in English (like the myriad Inuit words for snow) and I was always using the wrong one – to my constant embarrassment.

The difference between literature written in Spanish and English is fascinating. The most obvious one is the success of “magic realism” – which works in Spanish (and even in translation) but feels odd and disjointed in English.

Today’s story is a translation – both languages are at the link. It’s an interesting comparison.

Father and Son by Flavia Company, Translated By Kate Whittemore

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Like Regular Chickens by Bill Chance

Mr. X: Mary usually does the carving but tonight since you are our guest, you could do it, Henry. All right with you?

Henry Spencer: Of course. I’d be happy to. So I just, uh… I just cut them up like regular chickens?

Mr. X: Sure, just cut them up like regular chickens.

—-David Lynch, Eraserhead

Commemorative Air Force, Wings Over Dallas, Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#85) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Like Regular Chickens

I raised another basket of legs and thighs out of the fryer and hooked the wire to let them drain back into the sizzling oil. When the buzzer went off I dumped both baskets out onto the steel tray, shuffled everything around and slid them under the banks of heat lamps.

“Dark meat up,” I shouted.

Chuck had set this job up for me after they fired me down at the country club. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, though I hated the smell of greasy chicken, the uniform and especially the hat. The days went by fast and after my dad had cut off my allowance I needed the cash for walking around money. Actually, my father had offered me my allowance back. I don’t think he liked telling his friends that his son worked down at Chick’n Lick’n. I told him to go to hell.

With my paycheck the week before I had even been able to make the last payment on my car. It was a rolling piece of crap, the air conditioner had never worked, it make a strange growling noise whenever I made a left turn, and I had to put in two quarts of oil a week, but it was mine.

“Hey Sam, get over here, there’s something I want to tell you.”

“Elena, what is it?”

“Sam, what was your mother’s maiden name?”

“Decker. She was Brenda Decker. Why are you asking?”

“That’s what I thought. My dad has known her family for ages. Sam, there’s some guy out front. He’s been in for a couple days now. Says he’s from out of town. Says he’s looking for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s pretty weird… But maybe not. Brenda Decker, that’s a pretty common name.”

“Not that common, not around here.”

Elena and I walked out to the front. She pointed out an old, fat man, his head shaved. He was wearing overalls and sweating something awful, sitting in a booth off to the side, shoving fried chicken into his face.

“Elena, I’m taking my break, I’m going to go talk to him.”

I walked out around and up to the guy’s booth.

“Mister, I hear you’re lookin’ for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s right kid, ya know ‘er.”

“An old friend of the family.”

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want this guy to know that Brenda Decker was my mother.

“I’m Sam,” I said.

“Brush, Brush Holland.”

He stuck out his hand. I gave a quick shake and sat down across from the guy. He still had bits of chicken in his mouth.

“I’m on break, I don’t have much time.”

“Well, where is she?”

“I’m not sure right now, but I can find out, maybe. First, how do I know that this is the right Brenda Decker. There’s a lot of ’em out there.”

“Sure, son. That’s her maiden name, her married name is Holland.”

“Well, then that can’t be her. The name is wrong.”

The Brush guy then described her. It was my mother, exactly. He had her age right, her height, weight, even the way she talked and walked. He said he hadn’t seen her in a long, long, time, that she’d be older, a lot older now. But he knew her, I was sure of that. It was my mother he was looking for.

“Well, I don’t think I know the Brenda you are looking for,” I said.

“Are you sure of that, boy.”

He stared close and hard. I don’t think he believed me.

“You hear anything, you give me a call, now, you hear. I know where you work.”

He handed me a slip of paper with a cell phone number and I told him I had to get back to work. It was hard to concentrate and I burned myself on a fry load of gizzards. The day went slow, I kept sneaking a look out front to make sure Brush Holland wasn’t back. He didn’t show.


“Mom, I met someone down at work. He said he was looking for you. He called you ‘Brenda Holland.’”

My mother looked like someone had hit her in the back of the head with a baseball bat. Her mouth opened and her tongue came out a little, her eyes grew wide.

“I need to sit down,” she said. “Sammy, can you bring me a glass of water, some ice. Maybe put some vodka in it.”

I went to the kitchen and when I came back she was sitting on the couch, her shoes off, her face ashen. She took the drink wordlessly, raised it and drank the whole glass down.

“Do you need some more?” I asked.

“No, I’m fine,” she said, pulling a cube out of the glass and rubbing it across her forehead. She did not look “fine.” She did not open her eyes or raise her head but asked me in a strange, calm voice, “Was it Brush?”

“Yes, Brush Holland. Mom, why did he use his last name for you?”

She was silent for a long time, but began to shake, slightly at first, but her hands began to tremble more and more until she couldn’t even hold the sliver of ice that remained in her fingers, with a tinkle it fell and shattered on the hardwood floor. Then she said is a low voice, so quiet I could barely hear.

“Because he is my husband.”

When she said that she let out a long low moan. I had never heard a human being make a sound like that before, it was like something an animal makes, maybe a farm animal, maybe when it realizes what is in store, mabye when the slaughterhouse is in sight. She moaned and trembled and then wept.

I didn’t know what to do. I sat there, across from her and couldn’t stop staring at her there. She didn’t look like my mother any more. She looked so sad, but so beautiful, like she had been dropped there, crying, on that couch from some spaceship, dumped on this planet with her sadness and grief as her only baggage.

Slowly, the weeping slowed, then stopped. My mother sat motionless for a while, then she seemed to relax. Her head raised and her shoulders unhunched. The color returned to her face. Finally she opened her eyes and looked straight at me. He eyes grew wide and she looked surprised, like she was seeing me for the first time, like I was a strange boy that had showed up in her living room. Finally, her face relaxed and I even saw a little flash of a smile for a second. Then she sighed a little exhalation and began to talk.

“Oh, Sammy, I never thought this was going to happen. Or, actually, I knew it was going to happen. It’s just that, I guess I hoped it wouldn’t, though, deep down, really deep, I knew it would.

You see, Sammy it was so long ago, so long ago. I was only sixteen. Things at home were, oh, Sammy, you can’t imagine. I was so miserable; I was scared all the time. I had a boyfriend, it’s been so long, even his memory, Sammy, I can’t even remember exactly what he looked like.”


“No, no, he was later. This was Dwayne, a boy from school, we ran away. He had a car, we barely had enough money for gas. We were going to Las Vegas, we were going to get married, he was going to work in construction and I was going to dance. We made it to Arkansas, and the car broke down. And then… Dwayne was drinking, he was being stupid, it was dark, the fog… the train, it was so fast. Well, see, he died. I had nowhere to go, I was alone, I could not go home.

So I did the best I could. I got a job in a chicken plant. It was awful. The chickens would come down and a machine would cut their heads off. I had to take the bodies and plop them down on a cone, so the rest of the machines could cut them up. Thousands of chickens, tens of thousands. The smell. It was cold, too, my hands would ache. At night, I couldn’t wash the chicken smell off.

And then. And then there was Brush.”

“What kind of a name is Brush?”

“It’s an Arkansas kind of name. He was the supervisor, the manager. He noticed me right off. You’ve met him?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Well, then you know. I guess he’s old now, he wasn’t all that young then. But I was. I was young, I was pretty. He had his eye on me. I was trapped. I had to get… had to get out of there. He had his eyes on me. I had no choice.”

“You married him, didn’t you.”

“Of course I did. I had no choice. No choice. You can’t imagine.”

“How long were you married?”

“Oh, almost two years. I thought the chicken factory was bad. It came to a point I couldn’t stand it, could take it no more. All I thought about was killing myself. Finally, again, I ran. I paid cash for a ticket and when Brush was out cold drunk I hitched a ride to the bus station and was gone. I switched buses at the next town, and switched again at the one after that. I knew he’d try to find me, but I figured if I ran far enough…. So I came here, started some junior college. Then I met your father.”

“When was that?” She saw me starting to count on my fingertips and actually let out a clear chuckle. I realized it was the first time I had heard her laugh in years.

“Sammy, don’t worry, Brush isn’t your father.”

“So you left and you divorced him. That’s not so….”

“Well you see, that’s the problem.”


“I never divorced him. I just ran. I just ran.”

And then she looked sad again. She looked so so tired.

“Mom, you look awful. You need to get some sleep.”

“Sleep? How can I?”

“Go upstairs and forget about it. Forget for now. I have an idea. Let me try something.”

My mother looked hollow. I took her by the hand and led her up the stairs to her room. She drifted through the door and I pulled it shut. She looked so worn out, I knew she’d be able to get some sleep. I didn’t want to think about what dreams she would conjure up.

I didn’t have time to think, I had things to do.