Archive by Author

The Life of a Former Baby Genius

25 Jun

*It feels good to be back. Get ready for our new website design which should go live at the end of July. Love you all. Now read the post.

Lavender is my fave

My best friend is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met.

She got pregnant with my god-daughter, Aubrey, our junior year of high school and still graduated valedictorian. She gave birth to her son the summer after graduating from college (in four years) and started her first f teaching position about two weeks later. Then, she started and finished her Masters degree in two years–all while teaching ESL students full-time. This is normal for Ashley.

When we were seniors in high school, Ashley got in my face. That was not normal for Ashley. We were walking to class, she was telling me she was beginning to worry about another girl in our class who had been steadily creeping up our class rank and was clearly trying to graduate with that precious V. Ashley had held tight at number one all four years, but this girl had recently crept up to number 2. Before the pregnancy, since our freshman year, Ashley told me countless times she was going to graduate Valedictorian then go to Notre Dame, possibly with a softball scholarship. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to work for it. So, when her beautiful daughter came along and at least two of those three goals went out the window, she put all her energy toward the first one–and being a good mother, of course.

I was listening to her that day in the hallway. I heard everything she said about this girl. Ashley is in no way a mean-spirited person, but she is pretty competitive. This girl was coming for her and Ashley wasn’t angry–but she was dangerous. I did not share her love of competition. I mean, I got it. She was raised by a football coach. Our high school’s football coach. I was raised by…well, my mother. Who is also not competitive unless it’s in an argument. A character trait I, unfortunately, inherited.

I always thought a big part of the reason Ashley and I were such good friends was having nothing to compete over, which is why she surprised me so much that day on the walk to class. She played volleyball and softball; I was all about band and theater. She wanted to be valedictorian; I just wanted to get into college. We were both into leadership, but were involved in so many separate activities, we were never trying to be leaders of the same organization. There was never any reason to compete. We didn’t even like the same kinds of guys! The only man we’ve ever agreed on to this day is Optimus Prime.

In-between her hissing venom about the rank-crawler, she turned to me and said, “This is kind of your fault.”

“Um. Huh?”

“You’re probably the smartest person I know and you just refuse to work hard for anything. I shouldn’t even be thinking about her. I should be trying to beat you for valedictorian.”

I was pretty damn dumbstruck. Let’s be honest, my entire educational life, my teachers have been telling me that I was capable of more than I was giving them. Didn’t matter if I got an A or B there was still a note: Good job, but not your best. Specifically not MY best. Maybe your classmates best, Ashley Ford, but not YOUR best. And yeah, they were right. You see those little standardized tests aren’t just used to pinpoint and label the children who are a bit behind, they also stick a big fat gold star next to those students who might be baby-geniuses.

That’s right, Lucky Reader. You are now skimming the words of a bona fide baby-genius.

For all of elementary and middle school, I was given tougher books to read and more difficult spelling lists than my classmates. Then, I had to go to another classroom with a few other kids like me so we could learn at a level that was less boring for us. They eventually had to start busing us to other schools with better programs they couldn’t afford to offer us for part of our school day. I was usually the only black child in my “special” classes and definitely the poorest.

When the other kids brought in reports they’d typed on their computers at home, or had money for lunch and didn’t have to whisper, “free lunch” to the cafeteria workers who then had to look up your name in a big orange binder, I was embarrassed. I made up for my uncomfortable poorness by making the other kids laugh. I spent more time doing that than working hard, which meant I got in trouble for not doing assignments, but these classes were about potential not production so I never reached my goal of getting kicked out of the program. I missed my poor friends at my poor school a lot. I hated being a baby-genius when I was a baby.

Hear this, dear reader: I’m not a genius. I was a precocious child, I was funny, I knew much more about life than I should have or was expected to. I was a child who loved to read. I am an adult who loves to read. When you start reading your mother’s novels in the second and third grade, your ability to retain information is going to be better than your second and third grade peers. I was not great a problem-solving, seriously, fuck a context clue, I was just an exceptional remember-er. This definitely helped in school, but I wasn’t going all Good Will Hunting on the homies, or nothing. I was a smart kid, no doubt about it. Maybe even a little smarter than most, but by no means was I, or am I, a genius.

Still, my teachers, professors, mentors, and best friend were/are right. I haven’t done enough with my potential. I’ve settled in the most terrible way. I’ve settled for myself. I’ve rationalized my way into a life that’s nice, but not great. Instead of seeing stepping-stones, I see flat surfaces to rest on. Indefinitely. Not because I have no motivation, not because I don’t have desires. I do this out of a very real fear.

My greatest fear is actually having all that baby-genius potential firing through me, combining it with my secretly stubborn motivation, maybe even a little new-found competitive spirit, that elbow grease (which may actually just be cocoa butter) and missing every mark. What if I have to look into the faces of every person who pushed me up and up and up and see nothing there but disappointment in a fail investment. People are INVESTED in me. My life, my accomplishments, my failures matter to people.

I’m at this place in my life right now where I’m tired of giving people 75-90%. I’m not an adult genius, but I am kind of smart, and Haven Kimmel winked and told me I was “funnier than most”. I’m ready to try to blow somebody’s mind. Maybe not everybody’s mind, but somebody’s. Maybe even, a few somebody’s. I’m ready to start giving my life a whole lot more 100% investment.  I’m pretty sure that’s what baby-genius Ashley Ford would have wanted, the ability to be smart on her own terms. I’m pretty sure that’s what people who love me want. It’s what I want.

I’ll make good on those investments.


Submit, I Say!

23 Apr

Today, I’d like to direct you over to Bull: Men’s Fiction in hopes that you SUBMIT some of your best work and make this next issue their best issue yet. This is important to me. When the VIDA research came out this year and showed how underrepresented women are in lit journals, it sent a lot of people into quite an uproar. The only way we combat numbers like those are awareness and action.

Seriously, I’m loving what they do over at Bull and I’m loving the idea for this next issue, so do as I say. For the love of all that is holy and sweet, SUBMIT SUBMIT SUBMIT!

Oh, Last Night. Oh, My Heart.

16 Apr

Handsome is one of my besties. He was at VGR in spirit.

– Last night was (obvs) the CHICKLITZ reading at Village Green Records, and my goodness, so many people we love came to support us, and wow, that was just lovely. Having Jill Christman (the spirit animal of CHICKLITZ) introduce us, and love us, and be there was amazing. Moms, sisters, fiancées, friends, professors, and heart-dwellers all shhowed up to stand in our corners! We performed separately, we performed together, we had others perform our pieces (Spencer McNelly is EVERYTHING) and we did it all nervously, but with so much love for everyone else in the room.

That chapbook was beautiful, the girls were gorgeous, and the crowd was full of eye-swelling faces, making me feel some kind of way, you know? There will be pictures soon. I just don’t have any. I brought my camera then got too excited to document much.

– I got my very first rejection yesterday. Yep, right before the reading. I didn’t say anything to the girls because it somehow didn’t seem relevant until now. I didn’t get upset about the rejection. They said they liked my writing, but this story didn’t really work for them. It was a personal rejection. That made me feel better. The best part? I didn’t die like I’d somehow convinced myself I would if I ever received a rejection. Either I’m gaining some confidence in my writing or–wait, no–that’s exactly what it is. I know I’m a good writer. I’ll find a new home for that story.

-Last night I dreamt I found out I was related to Oprah. Like CLOSE related. She was my aunt, or birthmother, or something. She came to hang out with me in Fort Wayne. I took her to Hyde Brothers book store. We browsed for hours, sometimes running to different ends of the store to find one another and read some passage in a book that made our bellies drop to our knees. If she was really impressed, she’d hold the book above her head and yell, “BOOK CLUUUUB!” The smile on her face would be wide and real, and I would not be embarrassed. Not even a little. My birthmother/aunt/muse/fellow-book-lover was giving me something like purpose and I just want to make her smile again. Off in search of the next scalp-blowing passage.

This Is How I Love You

9 Apr

Something I’ve been working on for a while. Trying to get it right. Offer constructive to critique if you are moved to do so.

This is How I Love You

Amy and Ray sat on the hood of her white Oldsmobile in the liquor store parking lot. He popped the champagne she’d just bought, tried to convince her to take a swig.

“It’s bad for the baby.”

“So is smoking,” he said.

“I’m going to quit.” She threw the still burning cigarette onto the grass beside them. He shrugged, slipped the open end of the bottle between his lips. The syrupy bubbles moved over his tongue, made his throat swell.

They were five hours married, two days babied. When Amy was seventeen, a doctor assured her two out-of-order ovaries meant she would never conceive. She’d cried right there on his desk. Her face staining the papers swept across it in waves.  He petted her shoulder with sharp raps of his palm, reminded her of all the unwanted children in the world who would need good homes. When she was ready. She was more concerned with the kind of man that would want someone like her now: a baroque woman who would never bear the fruit her curves swore would come easily.

Ray hadn’t cared about dating a barren woman. He hadn’t cared about too many things that wanted him. He smiled up at the night, convinced that something had finally answered his disjointed prayers. He was damaged, but now he would be daddy. Somebody’s version of perfect. Kids don’t know what poor is, they don’t care. They only know that you love them, and they love you back for it. Babies can fix broken things. They promised to tell their baby about this night, about their hopes for her, but really for themselves.

They sat scared and happy and wrong. This baby was not a savior, and she would not be blind. She was not a miracle. She would not see them as Gods, and she would not want to be them. She would see their tarnish, waste, and their ugly. She would learn their shames from bitter family members when everyone else was three eggnogs past crying.

Her father would leave and that baby, now a young woman, would find it is possible to miss what you never had. She would grow up and away from her mother. She would love her, but she would hide. She would lie to her often and without guilt.

Some days, never at the same time, they would all think back to the night spent on the hood of that car. They would consider who got the story wrong. They would wonder about driving away, drinking themselves to death on a cold wet pavement, black as an empty womb. Their faces would get warm, their throats would swell.


When I Was Without Women

26 Mar

Firstly, I hope you can come see me and some splendiferous writers read in Indy tonight at Vouched Presents:Ling, Pritts, Harriell, Ford, and Blanchard. We’ll be reading at 7:00 PM in Big Car Gallery. I’d love to see you there.

This is a really exciting time in my life. Headed toward graduation, writing better and more often, working two jobs I love. Feeling useful feeling loved feeling nice. Elysia and I will be moving into a beautiful (my goodness–TRULY beautiful) apartment together this summer. My family is doing well. I am completely engaged in my life. Over the past six months or so, I’ve dealt with some tough things, yes, but I’ve never doubted my ability to handle any situation I was in. I’ve felt supported, even protected from the thought that if I should fail in any way, there would be no way back. I often wonder what’s changed for me that I feel closer to complete in a way I haven’t most of my life.

I think it’s the women.

I’ve never been the “girl who doesn’t get along with girls”, but I have been the girl who just couldn’t seem to relate. From a very young age I learned to get along with girls without actually having to talk to them. Most of the girls I grew up with had been taught to talk about pretty much three things: boys, beauty, and braids (well, hair, but every little black girl had braids it seemed). Clothes were of little concern to me. I NEVER had braids (scandalous!). I had a few big crushes, but even then, I crushed so intensely that unlike other girls who had a different crush every week, I crushed on one boy for an entire year, an eternity in kid time. Which makes sense because I’m the same way as an adult. I just can’t stop loving you. RIP MJ. (Our n*gga dead!)

I suppose from a young age I felt like women were constantly judging me. My mother, my grandmother, my aunts, cousins, teachers, etc. I felt I had to be someone else around women, someone I wasn’t comfortable being. Someone I had to force myself to be. To be fair, there weren’t a lot of men around to be judgmental. Still, that mess was exhausting. And so boring. So it became that I would seek out few women to spend a significant amount of time with out of fear of being shamed. Most of my friends were male. Nerds, but still male. Boys who let me be exactly who I was and didn’t try to change me. I was obviously weird, but so were they. So we were weird together and dug for worms and threw rocks at the mouths of people who made fun of our round wire-rimmed glasses or our shoes from K-Mart.

We don’t play on the streets.

As I got older, my need for females friends my own age became a hungry thing. Although, my guy friends and I were still tight, I was dealing with things internally I knew they just couldn’t understand, and I couldn’t talk to my mom about them. Everything changed my freshman year of high school. That was the year accidentally I stabbed a girl named Ashley in my Algebra class with a pencil. For the third time. It really was on accident. To this day, I don’t think she’s being completely honest with me when she says she never got mad about it. Anyway, I stabbed her and then she was my best friend. I’d had female best friends before, but only superficially. No real hanging out, speaking outside of school, or being particularly involved in one another’s lives. This is the way I preferred it.   Ashley is a woman, a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a teacher, an athlete, an activist, and she just happens to be the love of my life. My whole life. Ashley is my soul mate. I don’t mind telling people that even when it sounds like I’m a creep who is not only announcing to the world she is her own soul mate, but also talks about herself in third person like a douche.

Ashley taught me how to be friends with a woman. A real friend, a good friend. She’s still teaching me. And it’s paying off. College has allowed me to come in contact with so many blooming women. We are all unfolding, becoming so much of everything we’ve always wanted to be: happy. I’m watching us all move closer, and my God, these women are catching me. They are watching and waving and sweeping me off my heels. I’m meeting them, speaking to them, falling in five kinds of love with them. I am a part of something with them. How could I not find joy in my life, when I am moving in time with these audacious and moving creatures?

I am still a woman with close male friends. Lots of them. Now, I am also a woman who found the beauty in simply being a woman.

Not that there is anything simple about it.

I Will Not Apologize

26 Feb

My post wasn’t in on time today. In fact, I sat down to write a post yesterday and started writing a a story instead. That story turned into two stories. So here’s the thing, I’m working two jobs now. Yeah, I’m working two jobs, I’m contributing to different sites (sometimes), I’m preparing to attend and participate in readings, I’m introducing, I’m blogging, I’m reading submissions, and I’m trying to be a good friend/daughter/girlfriend/sister/writer/reader/eater.

It’s all happening. Everything. Now. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, but exhilarated and like my life has purpose and this is just a rough spot, a beginning place, but things will get smoother more like combed cotton less like fresh-picked. I’m sure it will even out, when there’s less training more doing.

This is where I would say sorry that my post wasn’t on time. This is where I would worry that people are pointing and thinking “What else does she have to do? Why must she continue to be a slacker?” This is where I might not post anything at all out of fear of confirming what my brain voice says everyone already thinks about me. This is where I would apologize.

Only I’m not going to apologize, no way. Not because I think being busy means I can get away with not posting on time, not because I’m not worrying that somebody still thinks I’m just lazy, and not because my time is more valuable than anyone else’s time. Here is where I do not apologize because yesterday I wrote first drafts for TWO stories that I am incredibly proud of, and for the first time in a long time







I won’t apologize for letting something in me take over and remind me why I do what I do. I let something grab me by the throat and say “Write this down now or I will kill every other person in the room.” For a day, I paid a ransom for my words and I’m just so so glad to have them home where they belong.

So, yeah, not sorry. Grateful. Happy. Ready to be threatened again.

The Bodies of Men

5 Feb

“Mama is going to knock the water out of your eyes if she sees this.”

My brother sat, knees to chin, folded into the corner of my walk-in closet. The muscles in his arms struggled against the inexpensive and supple fabric holding the sleeves of my hippie Halloween costume together. His well-built jaw harassed the seamless curves of the garment’s round neckline. There was never enough space for his overtly masculine body between the threads of my fragile wardrobe.

He stood when he knew it was only us. Unruffling himself from the closet floor, he struck his head on the exposed light bulb on the ceiling. Water balloons full of tapioca pudding were bosoms mashed between his solid chest and crushed velvet seams.

“She doesn’t get home until 4:30.”

He began removing the dress too quickly to be careful. I knew Mama was still working. Thought maybe I should tell him so he didn’t rip my costume. Not like I would be getting another one.

“Hey man, be careful with that. Slowly.”

“Help me get it off then.”

The waist was caught at his shoulders. I slipped my fingers between the cloth and his skin, gingerly tugged it over his head, unsure which fragile thing I was protecting. The pudding breasts fell to the floor. They did not break.

Standing there, in the middle of my room, he wore his Hanes and my tights. There are men who would have broken the bodies they had to look like him. I still get angry at such a lean body belonging to such a shiftless man.

I rolled the wrinkle-free fabric into a ball and threw it onto my bed. My brother draped himself alongside my pink and purple comforter, stroked the imitation embroidery with his skyscraping fingers.

This time of day was his time. When the coach wasn’t asking when he was going to try-out, when the teacher wasn’t asking what he was thinking about instead of her lecture, when Mama wasn’t asking why he didn’t have a girlfriend; all A’s; or why he couldn’t be more like me.

“Ashley, doesn’t have to stay after school for no damn tutoring, so why do you?”

“Ashley, could probably hook you up with some of those cute girls she hangs out with. “

“Where the hell is my eyeliner?!”

She found everything that had gone missing in his room and never asked why. The eyeliner, the heels, the silk scarf she wore to church: breadcrumbs my brother left behind. Mama followed, refusing to pick them up along the way.

I watched his brow furrow, his eyes shadow, knowing his time in the day was done. This hour when he got to feel fully-clothed was ending. I wondered if he contemplated staying right there, lifeless, until she saw him. Forcing her to look, to know her humiliation was his livelihood.

I leaned in close, gathered his shoulders in my hands. He was getting closer to broken every day and I was without the tools or maturity to be of any real assistance. Just a sister, a big sister, whatever that implies, with too little understanding and too many pudding stains in her carpet.

“I wish I was as pretty as you. I love you.” I tried to make him hear me, to believe what I said. He reached down and ripped a hole in the tights.



Maya’s Girl

23 Jan

That smile is the truth

My best friend says that Oprah is my mother and Maya Angelou my grandmother. If that were true I probably wouldn’t be stressed out about future student loan payments (education is expensive as shit). Anyway, it seems that Maya Angelou has been following me my entire life. At nearly every turn and transition, she’s shown up and made herself into someone or something I needed. I didn’t always know it was her, but I was always left with something tangible to wear around my neck. Something to keep close to the thump-thump-thumping in my chest. She says that words have weight, and one day, we will be able to measure the weight of what we put into the world. She makes me want to be heavy with meaning and good.

When I was six, I moved back into my mother’s home after living with my grandmother in Missouri for over a year. I wasn’t happy about it. I loved living in the old farmhouse with my grandmother, and even at six years-old, I was well aware that my mother and I did not get along. One day she rented the movie “Poetic Justice”  for a night in. I fell asleep early and didn’t get to watch it with the rest of the family. The next morning my aunt came to borrow it and I heard my mother say, “Not yet. Ashley didn’t get to watch it.” So, I woke up an watched it. I remember feeling surprised and pleased that my mother out my desires before someone else’s. There’s a moment in the film where the leading character recites the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou. I don’t remember understanding it. I do remember loving it, and deciding in that moment, that I loved poetry.

In middle school I was angry. My boobs were growing as fast as my ass, I was sometimes fighting other students, but mostly fighting teachers. The oldest of four children being raised by a single mother, I felt years ahead of my peers, and immaturely mistook adult responsibility for being an adult.

It would have been easier for me in school had I been more respectful. Being emotionally responsible for three other people, I had a hard time allowing for the condescending tones of most of my educators. For the record, I still think it’s bullshit for a student to be reprimanded for having read ahead in a book OR finishing before the rest of the class.  Seriously, what twisted logic does that pretend to come from?

In the seventh grade, the principle and I came to the conclusion I would do much better in my classes if I were given time in the school day to do something I wanted to do. That something became an hour in the library during homeroom, first thing in the morning. I had the entire library at my disposal for 1 hour and 15 minutes every. single. day.

One of the first books I read during that time was “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings“. At that point it was the most beautiful prose I’d ever experienced. Experienced is the right word. To say I read the book is not inaccurate but it isn’t accurate enough. I lived in that book. I rubbed it under my arms, rolled in it, and slept with it under my nails. It wasn’t just a reading. By this time, I’d read and forgotten many stories. This story pulled out my hair and stuck in the back of my throat. I didn’t stop fighting teachers, but I did begin talking to them. That was a good start.

By the time I started high school, I was much more in control of my mouth. I still wasn’t one to stand for pejorative language being thrown in my eyes, but I was much more likely to choose my battles. One morning, after a doctor’s appointment, my mother dropped me off at school. I gathered my books from the floor of the car and headed toward the building. Putting the books in my locker, I found I’d accidentally taken one of my mother’s. It was “Heart of a Woman” by, who else, Maya Angelou. I had been finding and stealing my mother’s books for most of my life. I even got in trouble in third grade for reading my favorite Danielle Steel novel during silent reading time (Assholes). I hadn’t read anything of Maya Angelou’s since “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”  but knowing how I felt about that, I thought it’d be a good idea to read this one. One of the lines in the book is,

“We are all human beings, therefore no human being is more capable of greatness than any other. If you’ve seen anyone be great, so can you. You are a human being. Nothing that is human can be alien to you.”

When I read that, I decided I could go to college. My hunger for learning was insatiable, and according to Ms. Angelou, I was worthy of an education. I could do it. I could make it work. Yes, even me.

This morning I woke easily and happily. I’d DVR’d an episode of “Oprah Presents: Master Class” with “guest lecturer” Maya Angelou. There was so much packed into that hour, I was gasping during the commercial breaks. I’d been holding my breath when she spoke. I sat on my futon, pad and pen in hand, writing feverishly, sloppily because I didn’t want to look down and away from her face. Maya Angelou smiles with her whole body. Tyra says smile with your eyes, but I’d rather smile like Maya. Shoulders squared and thrown back, eyes thin and tight, cheeks high, corners of mouth making a beeline for the tops of your ears. A smile that forces other’s to smile back.

For such a happy woman, I don’t smile as much I should. I’m blessed in a way some people will never be. I have the honor of knowing for sure that it is possible to overcome the conditions you were born into. Statistically speaking I should be dead/addicted to drugs/HIV positive/uneducated/impoverished (with children)/domestically abused. In this morning’s “Master Class” Maya said,

“Love liberates. It frees you and gives you room to grow. It will not bind you.”

What a revelation. Where I have bound myself with negative thoughts, doubts, and general feelings of unworthiness, I have been liberated by the love of family, friends, and educators who encourage me despite my inclination to engage in self-sabotage. How do you repay that? How do I say thank you for being feet, hands, and tongues? Thank you for falling on my neck and gathering me up? I’m still not sure.

Ms. Angelou you make me shed tears of joy and understanding. You are palpable inspiration in my thoughts and I am thick with your words.

Sleepovers, Skating, and Readings HOT DAMN!

15 Jan

These chickz have had a busy and beautiful week.

Classes started for (some of) us Monday and we were only kinda ready for that. The Saturday night before we had a sleepover complete with Bananagrams, Apples to Apples (then created our own version of Ball State English Department Apples to Apples), drinks, music, ice cream, brownies, and a bedtime story. Basically, we’re a college-aged version of the Baby-Sitters Club.

Lindsey and Elysia perplexed

Abby! Abby! Abby!

Layney baby

Lora and just one of her descriptive faces

I won the Christman card!

Women writers require ice cream

Night Lindsey and Abby!

Night Layne and Lysi!

Our ragamuffin morning before we head to breakfast

In just the past week we’ve met for multiple dinners, lunches, ans small breaks. Yesterday morning, we went to see Cathy Day present at Minnetrista. Getting up to see a professor speak off-campus before any of us has class made me pretty proud of us. Cathy’s presentation was amazing. We all took notes. Even the lady who was OBSESSED with how adorable our Elysia is (E’s wearing the red headband). Although she was speaking mostly about her book “The Comeback Season” (which I bought, ladies, so you can borrow that when I’m done!) we’re more familiar with her first book “The Circus in Winter” which Lora blogged about recently. Another reward for our early-morning goodness? We got to see Jill Christman! We love her.

Talking with Cathy Day

Posing with Cathy Day

A Very Christman Surprise!

Christman's husband & our professor, Mark Neely

Thanks for the great presentation, Cathy!

Last night we went skating. Like at a roller rink. We held our own against derby maidens and preteen love connections. We unfortunately, did not have the foresight to bring a camera, or in the case of others, money (me). But we had a lot of fun, were committed to challenging ourselves, helping one another, and apparently convincing the rest of the rink that we were all lesbians. Yes, we did a lot of hand holding. And singing like this:

TONIGHT we will be traveling down to Indianapolis for Vouched Presents: Readings by Sean Lovelace, Aaron Burch, Andy Devine, and Matt Bell at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art 7pm. We’re all so excited to meet more writers, take more pictures, learn more, and maybe even buy a book or two. Tonight will be a great night.

Hope to see you there!

It Won’t Cure Cancer, But It’s Okay

8 Jan

Last Saturday I wrote this post about revealing the process of beginning a story to finishing it. This is a story that I have been working on for some time. I’m really invested in it, and really want it to be good. I’ve already begun the process in this story, but I think it still counts as “revealing my process”  because of my attachment to it, and the fact that it’s still under construction.

I am open to suggestions and comments. If you’ve read this in an earlier version, let me know.

Don’t be nice. Be helpful.


Grandpa’s fingers were separating the edible parts of a frog. The frog was only kind of dead. His fingers bent and popped its sinewy limbs, separating the body from its parts. The nearly departed performed a table marionette’s dance for me, wasting its breathless performance on a child who had not yet learned to appreciate nuance.

The kitchen walls were old smoker’s teeth. Age and abuse made them sweat yellow. I ignored a small splashing sound coming from an old bucket next to the refrigerator.

“Don’t trust them boys out there, little girl. They ain’t worth shit, and they don’t know shit.”

Grandpa spat the words onto a stunned frog’s half open body. If it had been more alive, I wouldn’t have been certain he was speaking to me. This was the beginning of another story to get hung up inside me. It would dry against my ribs. Another story I couldn’t repeat.

My grandparents fought hard when they were together. If I closed my eyes when he spoke, I saw my grandmother wielding a cast iron skillet in one hand, a pot of boiling water in the other. He rocks away from the water and is bludgeoned by eight pounds of Calphalon weaponry. These stories made me sad the way a woman is sad.

“She’d knock me on my ass then yell at me for making too much noise.”

Grandpa shook his head, looked to his walls. He remembered when these walls were white. I wondered when yellow happened, how yellow happened. Dead frogs don’t read your mind, and sometimes grandpas are only kind of alive.

SPLASH. The bucket turned over feeding the floor a small flood of lake water and a live catfish. The water raced outward toward dirt-filled crannies, cleaning places that caught what no one else could reach. We watched the catfish struggle for air or the opposite of air, spastically flipping from side to side, end to end. When it stopped moving, gills still fluttering, Grandpa picked it up with both hands, sat it in front of me.

He bent the fish into itself until there was an audible pop. I continued to hear a phantom splash.

I was angry with my grandfather the way a learned child is angry. These animals had eyes, and far as I knew, ears. Why did I have to listen? Grandpa broke and ate everything that might love him. I didn’t want to learn to do the same.

I was gutting a fish like a man, and it was another thing I had to know. Knowing was a thread stitching you to a moment. I would always know how to gut a catfish in a frog’s grave. I was sewn into his regrets. I would always be angry about it.

When he laced his fingers and turned his elbows out, ready to release tension and air built up between his knuckles and palms, I covered my ears and begged him not to.

I couldn’t take another pop.