A Day Like Any Other
My husband Andrew and I drove up to Oklahoma City on a Friday, and spent an endless, tiring day at the car dealership where Andrew negotiated the purchase of a used BMW. I fidgeted in the vinyl covered chairs in the customer lounge, read books and checked my email.
The Dead Man's Switch
He opened his eyes to a world gone red. Somewhere nearby a woman sobbed, her keening cries almost drowned out by the chug and clack of a locomotive. The man, forty-two-year-old Roy Ellis, sat up and wiped the blood from his face. Gingerly, he probed the wound on his scalp. A painful lump swelled at his right temple.
What Comes Back
The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. I was twelve years old that year, in 1972, the year Nixon went to China and his buddies broke into the Watergate hotel. Billie Jean King beat Bobbie Riggs at tennis, and I dreamed that even an East Texas girl could grow up to be an astronaut.
The Earth Reclaims Her Own
A ringing phone in the middle of the night never brings good news. The voice on the other end of the line was my sister’s. Our mother was dying. The cancer she’d battled for the past year had at last neared the goal line, a ruthless opponent.
The Last Light in Evening
My mother scrubbed the sink — dip, wring, drip, wipe. She washed the sink after she washed everything else. Even before the plague, she scoured anything that came into the house. Groceries, mail, books, clothes — it better all be waterproof.
The Ghosts in Our Clothes
The ghosts of their former owners haunt the clothes in thrift shops. The dead linger, like the fading lilac scent of fabric softener or the sharp stink of cigarette smoke. My mother washed our purchases in vinegar and saltwater, then rinsed with lavender to purge the spirits from the clothes she bought for me. I never found a ghost — not hidden in the pockets of the old jeans or draped across the back of the thin, worn t-shirts.
They picked up the hitchhiker outside Salado, Texas. Twelve-year-old Kenny, his head hanging out the window like a dog’s, was the first to spot the blind man. He stood on the gravel embankment at the edge of the highway, nothing around him — no gas stations, no fast-food places, no buildings — just the flat expanse of fields dotted with scraggly trees. The last rest area had been three miles back, on the other side of the interstate.
Pill Bugs and Other Pets
I’d been thinking about adopting a cat. I wanted a soft, purring companion, one that wouldn’t demand I hand over the remote as they snuggled up next to me on the couch. My vision didn’t include dumping out the litter box. Despite numerous calculations, my bank accounts refused to yield the proper amounts for the large pet deposit required. Was I even ready to share my 650 square feet of space with another living being, one that wouldn’t get its own dinner or tend to its own toilet needs?
The Glue that Binds Us
When my boyfriend, Andrew, told me he had ordered something special for my birthday, I didn’t know what to expect. We started dating in October, and for Christmas he gave me a television. He won it in a drawing at his company holiday party so it didn’t cost him anything, but still, it was a brand new flat screen TV.
The Chicken Dance
I’d been sick with a cold, and in case I didn’t recover in time for the weekend, Andrew and I cancelled the camping trip we had planned. Back then we were still in the early stages of dating when broken plans required a spectacular replacement. He asked me what I wanted to do instead of spending the night shivering in the woods, and I offered up a polka band.
Lemur Island is a Lonely Island
We arrived at the zoo in a car loaded with boxes of books and mismatched towels, two tennis rackets, and some stereo equipment. I’d been lured into the trip by Andrew, my boyfriend back then. I love the opportunity to view any animal secured behind a fence where there is little chance of it being able to bite me, sting me, or pee on my leg. When Andrew mentioned an overnight trip to Waco to the Cameron Park Zoo, I packed my toothbrush.