by John Bowers
A frog in my playpen. It is my earliest memory. Between the bars, a fat Red Oak River marsh frog on the floor of my playpen, breathing bulbously and staring at me. I cried out in alarm. I hadn’t learned much language yet, and I cried out by echoing the words I had just heard on the TV. “Crest twenty feet!” I yelled. “Cwest twenny fee twenny fee twenny feeeeeet!”
My grandpa Farhad rushed into the room and stood looking at me. “You talk to the frog,” he breathed in amazement. He got down on the floor and picked up the frog and held it in his hand, waiting for more information. The Red Oak was flooding and all the property owners along its banks were worried about where it would crest. My successful forecast via the frog became family lore.
Mom and I visited Grandpa Farhad at the Talaville prairie home every summer. We lived 600 miles east in Louisville. Come late May we’d leave behind school buses, supermarkets, traffic lights, and urban vermin to make the grueling trip on two-lane roads. I would mentally shelve my latest resentments and crushes, brushing away a year’s worth of tests and
by William Matthew McCarter
The late morning sun felt like it was bashing in the sky and a darker, hotter, purer form of light was leaking through the clouds. Jake and I knew that it was too hot to do much of anything except go swimming and that’s why we were down at the swimming hole that all of the locals called Round Hole. Somewhere, not far from Round Hole, there was a spring that fed into a creek that fed into the creek that helped make Round Hole and somewhere on the other side, there was a creek that fed into Scott’s Creek that eventually emptied into the Piankashaw River. Gram showed us Round Hole years ago. She told us that she used to walk down to Round Hole and pick blackberries from the bushes scattered along the road that led up the rocky hill where the railroad passed through Piankashaw County. This was the first year that Gram would let us go down to Round Hole by ourselves. Jake and I weren’t entirely sure if it was because we had taken the swimming classes at the pool the previous summer or if it was because Gram and Big Daddy
by Elaine Rosenberg Miller
The sea was green. An hour or so earlier, it had been steel gray. Now, like some animated blanket, the verdant water cover spread towards their eighteen-foot motorboat.
She had never been on the sea before, having been born and raised in a large, noisy city.
The silence and empty space of the horizon were unsettling.
The boat was made of fiberglass. Discarded beer cans rolled on its bottom. The vinyl seats were worn and cracked, the plastic windshield dull …
They had borrowed the boat for the day.
She held her fishing pole lamely in her hand, reluctant to reel in the line, lest she discover that she had no bait and would have to reach into the bucket and pinion a squirrelly, tomato seed-eyed shrimp.
The boat had no radio, no flares and no water.
Feelings of restlessness swelled her body.
“What am I doing here?” she thought.
She would have liked to have stayed back in the apartment and work the crossword puzzle in the out of town newspaper. The local paper published announcements of picnics, bible meetings and the county fair.
“I can’t live in a place that has no sidewalks,” she had cried.
But he asked her to stay. It was his hometown.
by Julie Britt
When my cousin, Carol, invited me to spend bicentennial week with her family at Myrtle Beach, I immediately went to J.C. Penney to search for the perfect bathing suit.
Carol and I spent a lot of time picking out clothes, shoes and hairstyles that enhanced our feminine allure. Snug tops emphasized perky breasts and slender waists. Tight hot pants hugged our behinds and exposed lengths of tanned legs. We weren’t dressing for sex. That would have been wrong. We were only 17, not to mention unwed. We just wanted potential boyfriends to notice our timely fashion sense and get a hint of what might be theirs if they were patient enough to wait for love in God’s good time.
The first day at the beach, we paraded down Ocean Boulevard in our new denim cutoffs and tube tops. We giggled as boys honked, whistled and called out compliments.
“Ooh, baby, come to Papa!”
“Marry me, darlin’!”
When the compliments turned to raunchy innuendo, we ducked into the Gay Dolphin, a souvenir shop whose inventory included thousands of treasures from the sea — genuine sharks’ teeth, shells of every hue and the mysterious sand dollar with its reminders of our Savior’s sacrifice. We had
by Evan Guilford-Blake
There is mist falling through the chilly Saturday afternoon sky, and the still-stark trees tilt from the wind. There are small pits, small swells in the old road. Now and again, the old shocks fail to cushion her and with one hand she holds to the dash to keep from bouncing. With the other, she touches her stomach.
The roundness is just-visible to Walt, still invisible to nearly everyone else, though she has seen it for weeks, felt it, she’s sure, for longer than that. She runs her other hand over it, watching the road, the rain, thinks the baby, the baby.
“Are you cold?” she asks Walt.
“Me? No. ’re you?”
Megan nestles herself tighter into the seat. “Little,” she says.
“Turn up the heat.”
She does. “Seems chilly, even with it on.”
“We should get it checked again anyhow, huh?”
“Uh-huh,” he says, as the car bucks once again, this time with more force. “Walt,” she says, “be careful.”
“I am,” he says. “It’s this road.” He leans over the wheel, hands together at twelve o’clock, chin atop them, eyes fixed. “You okay?”
“Yeah. I guess.”
He smiles and nods. “How ’bout … ?”
She runs her hands over her stomach. “Yeah, just, I can feel it
by Diane Kimbrell
Othermama’s biggest fear in life was death. Her second biggest fear was that she would be buried in potter’s field—a bleak burial ground for paupers located about a mile outside our hometown of Quicksand, North Carolina. To make sure she didn’t end up there without so much as a stick to mark her grave, Othermama, my maternal grandmother, took out an insurance policy with the Quicksand Mutual Trust Agency. She had no intention of being buried in an “ole cold, pine wood box,” as she put it. Her monthly payments to Mr. Mosely, the tall, thin insurance man, ensured that she would be laid to rest in a satin-lined coffin with a lid. Although she couldn’t bear the idea of being closed inside of anything, it was preferable to being exposed to the elements and eaten by worms—worms, which by the way, were her third biggest fear.
Othermama had always lived with us. To this day, nobody in my family will admit it, but we all dreaded her death as much as she did. I never understood why she was so afraid of passing on to her final resting place. Perhaps she feared being cast into the Devil’s lake
by Frederick Charles Melancon
“And then, she cheeked me.”
“Cheeked you? What does that mean?” Gabe asked as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.
Louis put the shovel down against the huge oak tree with ancient meandering branches as he thought. “Well,” he finally began, “We had a great night. We were outside her front door. She was smiling. I thought that now was the time for a first kiss, and when I went in for the kiss she turned her head. And I kissed her cheek instead of her lips. That has never happened to me before.”
Gabe shook his head knowingly. “One time I kissed a girl, and she slapped me.”
“So what did you do?”
“What do you mean what did I do? I didn’t kiss her again that was for sure. And I think you could use that advice.”
“But we had such a good time,” Louis protested.
“But did she kiss you back? No. So you need to move on.” Gabe all of a sudden pointed at the sign on the ground. “It is just like the story on that sign and the whole reason we are sweating our butts off out here moving this sign: to keep people from touching something
by Donna Smith Fee
I left him in the oven with his feet sticking out like a turkey too big for the pan. Giggling at the thought of Hansel and Gretel and the nibbled house of sweets, I felt like a good witch.
Driving south on 441 from Athens, Georgia, I matched my breathing to Naomi’s slow deep breaths. Roommates at the University of Georgia twenty-plus years ago, she and I had always gotten each other into and out of trouble. I wasn’t sure who was in more trouble this time. Me, for pushing her husband into his bakery’s oven, or her, for leaving the hospital despite her broken ribs, miscarriage, facial contusions and I.V. drip.
“What?” she looked so weak in her hospital gown and stolen scrubs.
“It is just a little funny. A baked baker.”
“What if he’s dead? How am I going to explain that?” Naomi sought the order in things, looking for the whys. I mostly struggled with the why-nots. We slowed down as we passed through Madison with its streets lined with antebellum homes supporting fabulous porches and Boston ferns bigger than tubas. The town claimed they were too beautiful for Sherman to burn on his march to the sea.
by Julie M. Stephenson
“Where are you from?” It was a normal question, but a question I dreaded nevertheless. I didn’t like to lie. “Sumter,” I answered. My new fourth grade classmate smiled, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been there. You can sit by me at lunch today.” Technically, I hadn’t lied. I was born in Sumter. I lived there until Daddy took Mamma and me home from the hospital. After that, I lived in Lamar, and I certainly couldn’t tell anyone that.
Lamar, a tiny town in Darlington County, South Carolina, surrounded by cotton and tobacco fields, had been the greatest place on earth. One of my favorite places was school. Red-bricked Lamar Elementary for grades 1-6 was connected to a matching Lamar High School by a cement breezeway. I had been walking those gray-green halls for as long as I could remember. Mamma was the kindergarten teacher, so I went to kindergarten when I was three, four, and five. Daddy was the high school principal, so after school I could walk over and see him. His sturdy rectangle of a desk was where, to my later dismay, I carefully printed, “Form, Julie” on twenty-eight of thirty cartooned Valentines. On the way to
by Julie Britt
As soon as I discovered that nasty thing the grownups called “sexuality,” I just knew it would get me in a lot of trouble some day—with Jesus, my parents and some yucky boy—so I hid it. But my Mama and Daddy noticed my sinful sexiness way before I knew I had it, not to mention what I was supposed to do with it.
I was only 10—too young to be thinking about boys, sex and chastity, a real important and mysterious word they talked about in church all the time.
One night I was filling the tub when I realized we were out of bubble bath. I turned off the faucet and briefly considered taking a bath in plain old water. No. That wouldn’t be good enough. It was summer, and I had spent most of the afternoon playing in the woods with Josh, my pesky little brother. I needed the extra clean that only Mr. Bubble could bring. I figured Mama had a fresh box in the pantry.
“Mama!” I called through the bathroom door.
Daddy probably had turned up the TV so he could hear his western above the racket from the kitchen, where Mama was busy preparing our