Marijean Oldham : Airline Lost and Found (memoir) Dec. 2018

My Southern Legitimacy is in evidence when I tell you that yesterday I wore a dress and stockings to attend a ladies’ tea party where we drank champagne all afternoon. Most of the ladies are aging exotic dancers, and had the shoes to prove it. It was delightful.

Airline Lost and Found

We land, at last. Hawaii! And it looks like it does in the movies, even at the airport which is breezy in the open air, surrounded by palm trees. The kids and I are tired, but soaking it all in.  We have just learned from the flight attendant that aloha means both hello and goodbye so we say it to each other, trying out different inflections. Aloha! Aloha!

We’re surrounded by people getting leis. I realize that it’s not a freebie, that you have to pay to get lei’d. Figures, I joke to my father-in-law, who’s probably heard that one before. My husband’s parents have taken us – all four – to Hawaii for a week, where they have a time share. 

We are their guests. This trip is a generosity that cannot be repaid. We hurry along to the baggage carousel. I’m looking everywhere, breathing in the smell of pineapple, of coconut. I’m so excited at the prospect of this vacation, even with kids and in-laws in close quarters, it seems like a dream come true. 

At my side, my husband drops to his knees and starts rifling through his carry-on bag.  He’s frantic. “Where is my Palm Pilot?” It’s his prized new toy, a costly extravagance we can’t afford. 

“I don’t know. Where did you have it, last?” My heart starts to pound. My stomach is sick. The kids and my in-laws and I stop and watch him search. 

He realizes with dread he’s left it on the plane in the seat pocket in front of him. It will, no doubt, be gone forever. His father tells him he can contact the airline; try to get it from lost and found.

But the spell has been broken. The warm tropical air feels stale. The kids grow silent, watchful. I step away, trying to reclaim the joy of just a moment ago. 

He stands, at last, face red. “Why didn’t you remind me?” I know that I will be made to suffer, that this vacation isn’t going to be what I’d hoped. 

For three days in tropical heaven, he refuses to speak to me. I try to ignore it, to enjoy the kids, the scenery, the hiking, to lose myself in books. I always pictured a Hawaiian vacation as romantic – isn’t this the place people honeymoon? The six of us are together for every meal, on every hike. We go to the beach as a unit. The kids, six and thirteen, swim and play. They turn dark brown before my eyes.  And all I want to do is go home, for him to talk to me again, for it to be the way it was before we landed, before we took off, before we met. 

Travis Stephens: Two Poems Dec. 2018

“12th of February, waiting on spring”

February night the color of jackdaws
the color of sleep under blankets
the taste of dreams.
Names are lost
faces blurry and puffy
like bad teeth in photos
from another age.
War again.
Peace was the last bit of silver,
a touch of sun.
It may rain today
If the sky can work up the
courage, the listless desire
to damp and sparkle.
Left alone
the earth will devour us.

“Beats”

Nodding to the drum shots in the song,
realizing that the Bo Diddley beat is just a
heartbeat riff.
Ba-dum ba-dum.
Knowing that there are eight hundred and three beats in
one of my favorite songs,
Sing it loud.
Know that there are six million four hundred thousand and fifty-three
heartbeats
since I last saw you.

Robert Beveridge : Three Poems Dec. 2018

The Southern legitimacy statement: I was raised by jackalopes. Among them were Jim Boatwright, Liz Morgan, and Dabney Stuart.

Floyd

A pregnant spider twists
on the end of her line
her web breaks
my cigarette’s smoke
into a hundred pieces

smell of grilled pork
caresses my face
father-in-law smokes
over bourbon
says the land is arable here,
the sheep fecund

dog chews a chop bone
I sip my drink
and watch the spider climb
behind it the hills
rise yellow and green
powerline hums

the land continues like this forever

like good Virginia bourbon and chops

all of the spider’s eggs will hatch


Old Town in Winter

Life is good here.
Fireplaces keep out the cold
where people meet and talk:
guns, cards, money on the tables
old friends cheat each other
out of a week’s pay
drink redeye from the bottle

the faded whore everybody’s had
at least twice
sings tunelessly, jollily, lustily
to the piano Harvey is playing
in the corner

the bartender wipes
another glass clean
turns to fill it with his own
private-stock white lightning
for the new guy in town
still don’t know the white
lightning’ll kill ya,
only been here seven years now


Three Carrots, Eggplant, Zucchini

Your enemies: rabbits, deer, hedgehogs.
As you drift off to sleep, you know another
session of nightmares awaits, county fair
blue ribbons devoured by hungry tormentors.
You awake with the sun, emerge to inspect
razor-straight furrows. The mines pristine,
primavera still atavistic awaits the hoe,
fertilizer. Outside the fence a single
chicken crops at dusty ground. You have
never felt so calm, in such control
of your backyard. The enemies, it seems,
have turned their attention elsewhere.

Con Chapman: Hard Times (fiction) Nov. 2018

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Missouri, a border state, the site of a skirmish in the Civil War. I was raised in a county seat with a population of around 23,000, which doesn’t necessarily sound like a small town until I tell you that it was the biggest city in any direction for 55 miles. In between lay acres of farm land, and smaller towns such as the one in which Hard Times is set. In rural towns in the southern Midwest there is little separation between social classes; I worked with the village idiot–as an equal–at the job depicted in Hard Times.

Hard Times

The TV reporter came by the restaurant, the only one in town, Thursday at noon time. She said they were doing a story on how hard times had affected the town, and wanted to talk to people.

“What exactly do you mean ‘hard times’?” Mike had asked her with a playful glimmer in his eyes. He was probably the only person in the place with a college degree.

“You know, how the recession is forcing people off their farms,” she had said. Her camera crew was outside, she wanted someone to interview.

“Who are you talking about, being forced off their farm?” Mike asked. Bill and C.J., two city kids from the county seat fifteen miles away who worked at the seed processing plant, were eating with him.

“Dwight Maier,” the woman said. “He’s filed for bankruptcy in Jeff City.”

Mike looked at the two boys sitting in the booth with him, a facetious smile on his face. “Dewey’s gone under, huh?” he said. “I wonder how that came to pass.”

The two boys grinned, but kept eating. Mike would go back to an air-conditioned office, they would go back to a truck full of wet seed that had to be unloaded. They had to pack it in.

“He says he’s a victim of the hard times that are sweeping the nation,” the woman said, verging on breathlessness at the importance of what she was saying.

“Dewey ain’t the victim of nothin’ but the gross stupidity that’s sweeping his brain,” Mike said, and looked to the boys for laughs, or maybe support.

Bill and C.J. smiled, but didn’t laugh. They were going back to school in the fall and had no interest in trivial disputes between residents of the tiny town where they worked, other than as a source of amusement.

“Could we interview you for a different point of view?” the woman asked.

Mike looked at the boys with a smug grin. “Sure, I’d be happy to talk to you, just as soon as I finish up,” he replied.

“All right, we’ll wait for you outside. Thanks,” the woman said, then left.

Mike watched her go, her skirt tight around her hips. She was probably the only woman in town who was wearing high heels at noon time, he thought to himself.

“Fine as frog’s hair,” he announced to the boys as the woman walked out the door. They both looked at him, then at each other, suppressing a laugh. He thought he was cool, Bill thought to himself, but he was a goofball. He wore black-rimmed glasses and a clean khaki shirt and pants every day, as if it conferred some kind of authority on him to be in what amounted to a uniform. They would laugh about him on their way home from work every night, after the final truck of fescue had been unloaded.

“Well boys, it looks like I’m going to be on the TV,” Mike said as looked at the bill and laid down a five, two ones and a quarter for his chicken fried steak and iced tea.

“I’m going to the little boys’ room to freshen up before I go on camera.”

They watched him stand, hitch up his pants, and make his way to the men’s room with an air of importance that he must have felt was justified by his college degree and scientific understanding. “What a loser,” Bill said to C.J.

Outside the restaurant Dewey was being interviewed by the woman, his forehead plowed with furrows of concern, like the fields of his farm that had so recently failed.

“My family’s been farming in this area for nigh on fifty years now,” Dewey said as Mike came out the door and stood off to one side watching, his arms folded across his chest as if sitting in judgment. “We’ve never seen times as bad as this.”

“And to what do you attribute the severity of this downturn?” the woman asked. Her face was the most serious in the whole town since it wasn’t a Sunday.

Dewey looked at her with a blank expression for a moment, and Mike chuckled softly to himself. Dumb hilljack doesn’t even know what she said, he thought.

“Oh, I don’t know a combination of things. Foreign competition, and uh, the administration’s farm policies, that sort of thing.” He had told her what he thought she wanted to hear.

The woman said “Thank you” and her camera crew stopped taping. Dewey walked off and looked at Mike sheepishly on his way into the restaurant, then stood just inside the door looking out the front window.

“You want lunch there’s room at the counter,” Doris, the only waitress in the place said to Dewey when she noticed him standing.

“Naw, I’m just cooling off for a second,” Dewey said to her.

“Okay, just don’t get in my way,” she said good-naturedly.

The camera crew checked the light and the reporter asked Mike if he was ready to tape.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied.

“Okay—in one, two, three,” the camera man said, and when he had counted off the numbers the woman started to talk, as if she were a sprinter who’d just heard a starter’s gun.

“On the other hand, some say that farmers who fail have no one to blame but themselves for their losses. One of them is Mike Atkins, of Central Missouri Seed Company.”

Mike had assumed she wouldn’t mention where he worked, that he’d just be another man on the street commenting on the market and such.

“Mr. Atkins, you’re one of the ones who say that farmers who fail are responsible for their own fate. Why is that?”

“Well, ah,” Mike started out, not as confidently as he’d thought he would when he was sitting in the air conditioned restaurant sipping iced tea. “Dewey there . . .”

“Mr. Maier?”

“Yes. He, uh, he tried to plant his soybeans there with a damn—I mean darn insecticide sprayer, when he should have been using a planter. I seen . . . saw him out there in his field doin’ it. Lord, anyone ought to know that won’t work.”

“So it was Mr. Maier’s incompetence, and not global economic forces, that led to his downfall?”

Mike felt his cheeks getting warm, warmer than they would have been had he just walked to his truck after lunch under the noon sun.

“Well, uh, yeah. I mean, there’s plenty of people doing just fine this year, they’re just better farmers than Dewey.”

“Your company—who’s the president?”

“Mr. Alton Jones.”

“And how much will he make this year?”

“Oh, hell, I don’t know. I’m not privy to that kinda information.”

“But it’s substantially more than the poor farmers in this area—is that a fair statement?”

Mike felt that the crowd outside the restaurant was growing. He saw Bill and C.J. edge along the sidewalk until they were out of camera range, then get into the pick-up truck they had driven in from the fields.

“Well, uh, sure, I mean, that’s business. The guy at the top, the one who puts up the money to buy everybody’s seed and takes the risk that the price will drop, he’s gonna make more money. This is America, you know.”

The woman turned away from him to face the camera and began to talk at it instead of asking him questions. “Two sides of the story—the farmer and the businessman—in this depressed farming area where grain prices have reached all-time lows and speculators stand to make huge profits. This is Natalie Fuchs, Channel 6 Eyewitness News, reporting.”

“Thank you,” the woman said to Mike when she was done, then turned back to the van with the others from the TV station.

It wasn’t at all like he’d imagined; he’d thought it would be one of those friendly, joshing interviews like he’d seen from Royals Stadium in Kansas City, with the sportscaster talking to one of the ballplayers about how he was doing, what to expect in today’s game and so forth. He took a handkerchief out of his shirt pocket and wiped his brow, then turned around towards the restaurant where he saw Dewey, staring at him with a defeated look on his face through the window.

Mike gave him a half-smile, trying to let him know he didn’t mean it personally, then walked off to the company truck and drove back to the plant.

Lynda Black: Love Lesson #6 – Room At The Inn (essay/memoir) Nov. 2018

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up in North Carolina, within six miles of the land where my ancestor settled in the 1700s. Lacking frequent snow fall as children, my siblings, cousins, and I improvised. We used dried horse manure in our game, guard the fort. We lobbed these so-called horse apples at one another as we burrowed in ditches. The poop crumbled into small bits upon impact. These skirmishes ended with us covered in manure flakes. The most challenging were the ones stuck in sweaty hair. Years later, thanks to the accuracy I developed from this game, I was a crackpot softball pitcher. In church league.

Love Lesson #6 – Room at the Inn

Both my parents grew up hard and knew what it was like to live close to the bone. Maybe that’s why they repeatedly opened their door to family and friends in need. If you lost power in an ice storm, you had a place to stay. If your spouse kicked you out, you had a place to stay. If you came to visit from out of state, out of town, or were just passing through, you had a place to stay.

Once, a cousin was in a bad way and her ex was in no shape to take care of kids. Their two kids, Annie and Shawn, came to live with us for six months. Shawn was thirteen, a lovely age. I was only four and I wasn’t much better. Already, I seemed to have developed a tendency to be impulsive. I prefer to think of it as seize the day, live for the moment, you only live once, or as my nephews used to say, YOLO.

At the time, my brother had a bright red pony with a mane and tail the color of oatmeal. His name was Red Rock. Then, he seemed bigly but now, I realize he was smallish. In all the photos, he is surrounded by kids and his ears are pinned back. This says he was not a happy pony. You know what us horse people say? Ponies are evil. 

One evening, Shawn brought Red Rock out of the pasture to graze in the backyard. Shawn climbed up and lounged. By lounged, I mean he was spine to spine with the pony. The top of Shawn’s head was almost even with the top of the pony’s tail while Shawn’s long gangly legs were bent, his feet resting at the base of the pony’s neck. As an adult, I appreciate how peaceful that must have felt for Shawn. I can’t imagine what he was going through and what his life was like during this time. 

As a four-year-old, I was not as evolved. 

I stood by the picnic table, my hands on my hips, and watched Shawn and the pony. Red Rock munched on grass while Shawn stared at the sky. Or maybe he had his eyes closed, I don’t know and I don’t know why I did what I did. I picked up a stick and threw it at Red Rock’s tail. The pony shot off across the yard. As for Shawn, it was as if I watched a cartoon where the character was suspended in the air then fell to the ground. 

I did the only thing I knew to do, I made like Red Rock and took off. See, even though I was already on my path of living for the moment, I also had a fledgling sense of self-preservation. I had a head start and I wasn’t going to blow it. I ran in the house and ended up locked in the bathroom. Shawn was not hurt but he was spitting mad. I have a vague memory of standing in the bathroom, staring at the door, as Shawn banged on the door and yelled.

It took half an hour to catch Red Rock. When Red Rock was loose, he was running. By the time I was coaxed out of the bathroom, my Mom had calmed Shawn down enough that he promised not to get even with me. My Dad, being a bit of a rascal himself, was amused by the whole incident and I did not have to pay for my crime. 

My father passed away in 2002. My mother, in her eighties now, still provides a place to stay. A few summers ago, my husband and I, along with thousands of people in our county, lost power. Twenty-four hours later, the energy company still couldn’t say when our power would be restored. I was desperate for air conditioning and a shower. I called a few hotels but there were no rooms available. Besides, we had two dogs. Two big dogs.

I called Mom and just as I knew she would, she said come on down. We loaded up the car and traveled three hours to her house. We arrived around eleven at night with our elderly golden retriever and our latest rescue, a one-hundred-pound very hairy dog. My mother didn’t bat an eye. She was still up, playing dominos with her boyfriend and another couple. Dinner at Wendy’s then dominos at my mother’s house is their usual Saturday night routine. 

The next morning, Mom told us she nearly had a heart attack during the night. She woke up and someone had her by the throat. It was the one-hundred-pound very hairy dog. He had rested his head on her neck and shoulder. She spoke to him, I won’t repeat what was said but I imagine she later asked for forgiveness from her Lord and personal Savior. After she spoke, he settled down on the floor by her bed. They both slept until morning. I like to think he was thanking her, in his own doggish way, for taking us in for a few nights. 

While my parents had an open-door policy when it came to people in need, my husband and I do the same for animals. Over the years, we’ve fostered, rescued, or adopted 98 dogs, two cats, two horses, and one time transported a pig to a farm animal rescue. Shawn, my cousin, went on to embrace motorcycles and stayed away from horses. I went on to embrace horses and hit the ground more times than I can count. My mother went on to embrace our one hundred pound very hairy dog but when we visit, she shuts her bedroom door at night. I learned many lessons about love from my parents. One way to practice living with an open heart is to offer an open door to those in need. I hope I do them proud.