Monday, June 25, 2018

June 25: Allie Leach • Erik Anderson • Sara Marchant • Pamela Krueger • Christopher Citro • Maura Featherything • Amanda Yanowski • Emi Rose Noguchi • Melissa Matthewson • Amanda JS Kaufmann

Today we present ten more dispatches from June 21, 2018 to you. More details on the project here, but, in brief, we asked you to write about what happened on one day in June, and are publishing the results, largely unedited, for the next month and change, roughly ten a day. If you wrote something (it's not too late!), send us your work by the end of June (at the latest: earlier is better!) via this submission form (it's okay if you didn't RSVP before: the more the merrier).

—The Editors

June 25: Allie Leach • Erik Anderson • Sara Marchant • Pamela Krueger • Christopher Citro • Maura Featherything • Amanda Yanowski • Emi Rose Noguchi • Melissa Matthewson • Amanda JS Kaufmann


In the shower this morning, my toenail falls off, finally. I bruised both toenails pretty badly after a long day of hiking three months ago. I’m mildly distraught that I don’t have a toenail anymore and start thinking about things like beauty and womanhood and self-consciousness and Frankenstein.
     I just finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein last night. What a book. The symbolism! The allusions! The characterization! The story within a story! The heart and soul! This summer, I’m trying to read some of the classics that I haven’t read yet, trying to fill-in the gaps.
     Breakfast. Blueberry Frosted Mini-wheats. It’s not my favorite cereal. Cereal is one of the many mundane things you have to compromise on when you’re married, like having a fan on when we sleep at night to drown out the sound of trains. But I don’t mind the trains. It’s comforting to know that other people are awake and aware while I’m asleep.
     Get on the computer. Read emails. Today’s my in-laws’ 44th Wedding Anniversary. My mother-in-law sends photos from their wedding day. Oh, the 1970’s. I love how bridesmaids wore big floppy hats and skirts that looked like flowery curtains. The best picture, though, is the last one: a close up of the bride and groom. My father-in-law has his head casually cocked to the side. You can see his dimpled cheek, and his eyes and mouth seem to say it all: he really loves her. Her eyes are downcast but not in a submissive way. More like she knows that a picture is being taken and has something sassy to say about it. Her tongue is hitting the roof of her mouth, a gesture that I’ve seen her do often. The email my husband sends to his parents in response to these pictures is lovely and makes me happy to be married to him.
     I’m already back on Facebook. News headline: “Woodside, CA: Koko the gorilla passed away June 19 in her sleep at the age of 46.”
     Waste some time on Instagram and YouTube. Highlights include: Mandy Moore getting a cast of her face made, saying “this was for the incredible FX company who does all of our prosthetics to have a proper mold of my face finally!” It seriously looks like she can’t breathe during the entire hour-long, time-lapsed process. And the comedian Nick Kroll participating in an interview while eating chicken wings, that veer from mild to insanely hot. He asks, regarding the drink that will soothe the heat, “Is this milk or bull cum?”
     I don’t have children. I’m a middle/high school teacher off for summer break. If I had children right now, I probably wouldn’t be able to have the kind of relaxed, carefree morning that I’m having right now.
     Clog my toilet by absentmindedly flushing a tampon down it. The plumbing in our 1902 row house can’t stand feminine products. Is this just because of the antiquity of the plumbing or is there some deeper meaning in its rejection? Silly rabbit, I say to myself.
     I go outside and grab the toilet plunger from a steel contraption in our tiny backyard that houses the water heater. There are cobwebs and spiders inside it, and I grab the plunger quickly, with a pink towel around my hand. The plunger works like a charm; toilet is fixed. I feel like a boss.
     Make a pitcher of homemade lemonade, (water, three squeezed lemons, three squeezed limes, quarter cup of sugar) and now I feel like a bombshell.
     Back on Facebook, a girl named Robin that I went to high school with, who’s a stay-at-home mom with two kids, posts a picture of cut bananas with caramelized brown sugar on top, with the caption, “Got overripe bananas that no one wants to eat? Drizzle in honey and cinnamon and bake for 10 minutes at 350. Holy deliciousness, Batman!!!” I feel like I’m a stay-at-home mom this summer, except without kids.
     My next door neighbor, Phyllis, who’s in her 70’s, sends me a forwarded message via Facebook: “Hey girl…have a favor to ask for Breast Cancer Awareness month! Could you put a  on your FB wall, without comment, only a heart, and then send this message to your women contacts? This is for women to remember it’s the week of breast cancer prevention! ❤ Hold your finger down on the message and hit forward. 
     Phyllis is a breast cancer survivor. I obviously hate breast cancer and think that being aware of breast cancer prevention is a good thing, but I don’t want to annoy my Facebook friends. So: I do nothing.
     And then there’s the news: immigration and children and families and that jerk face Trump are always on my mind as of late. In a telephone call with my mother-in-law yesterday, I admitted to her about Trump, “I know this is crazy, but when all of this stuff builds up in the news, I just wish so hard for him to die or get killed.”
     “Well, that is crazy. Plus, then we’d get Pence!” Her solution, much more altruistic: she wants to fly to McAllen, Texas and take care of the children who are being housed in old Walmarts, in cages. “I want to take care of them. I’d be good at it,” she says.
     I run errands for three hours and come out a victor: closed-toed sandals to hide my Frankenstein toe. A new swim suit that fits me. I get my cell phone shiznit figured out. Fill up the five-gallon jug full of water. I’m aware that I’m fortunate to be able to run these kinds of errands. But is awareness enough?
     When I wait in the checkout line at T.J. Maxx, a notice a woman, maybe in her 60’s, who has a hunched back. Maybe from scoliosis or kyphosis. I’m not sure. She drops a red shirt, and I think about picking it up for her, but by the time I decide to, she’s already bent down and gotten it herself. Would picking it up for her draw too much attention to her back, or would she be grateful that she didn’t have to bend over? Does it hurt? I look down at my Frankenstein toe and think about how other people have it worse off than I do.
     One of the things that I hate most about my summer breaks from teaching are the reminders that I’m so lucky to have this time off. What have you been doing with your summer? This question is often asked with a kind of undertone that asks: why aren’t you being more useful? Why aren’t you doing more to help me? Why aren’t you doing more to help the world? A kind of undertone that says: man, you teachers. You’re all so lazy in the summer.
     Sometimes I want to remind those people and their undertones that I spend every weekend and many a weeknight during the school year grading essays, making PowerPoints, and lesson planning for two sets of classes. And during the week, I teach five classes a day, have around 150 students total that I see and teach and manage and care for every day, five days a week. Plus student hours, plus clubs, plus after-school meetings and dances, plus emails. I think I deserve some R&R without question, no? The only people who truly understand this predicament are other teachers. I chatted with my high school friend Jean recently, who’s also a teacher, and when she told me that she’s been spending her summer lounging by a pool, being a couch potato, and smoking pot, I felt relieved that she wasn’t being an overachiever. Not everyone gives teachers that kind of leeway. Here’s what I want people to say: Congrats! It’s your summer. Relax and enjoy how you see fit. You deserve it.
     And yet it’s hard with everything that’s going on in the world to do just that: relax. To relax means to have time. To relax means to have money. To relax means to have guilt. Privilege.
     On my way home from running errands, I see a young black woman wearing a long, sparkling turquoise dress, a cropped black sweater, sunglasses, and a tiara. She’s with her friend—a young, black man—and he’s laughing at her in a way that says, “You’re so amazing to be doing this right now.” She struts down the side walk like a peacock with so much confidence. Now, THAT’s a good way to spend June 21st, I think to myself.
     Make a kale salad for dinner with a colorful collection of veggies that would inspire my dad to want to take a picture of it. Listen to the local radio station, KXCI, while I’m chopping. The DJ, Hannah Levine, is playing songs that have to do with summer and sunny weather. The Kinks “Sunny Afternoon” plays in the background. Summer indeed. The first day of it. June 21. 106 degrees.
     Eat dinner with my husband. Discuss if we should bring just one or two big backpacks on an upcoming trip to Spain and England. I’ve been telling people that I’m going out of town instead of that I’m going to Europe because I fear that it makes me sound too hoity-toity. My friend calls me out on this. She’s from New Jersey. “Just say where you’re going! It’s awesome!” Two big backpacks is the verdict. I win that one. Skip my run for today. I deserve it, I say to myself. 5:30 am running date with my friend Jen tomorrow morning. We’re going to truck our butts up A Mountain. Sleep with the fan on. Can still hear the trains. Good night.

—Allie Leach

Allie Leach lives in Tucson where she teaches middle and high school English at BASIS Oro Valley.


1. “Answers Me,” Arthur Russell (1986)

Impossible to know, streaming wirelessly from router to phone to speaker, that the peculiar, percussive cello and half-sung, half-mumbled lyrics belong to a man now dead of AIDS for more than twenty-five years. I pour a cup of coffee, unload the dish rack, gather what I’ll need to make breakfast. 

2. “Deadly Valentine,” Charlotte Gainsbourg (2017)

At thirteen, Gainsbourg recorded her first single with her famous father, the controversial “Lemon Incest,” launching a career that hasn’t been short of provocations, including the self-administered clitoridectomy in Lars Von Trier’s 2009 film, Antichrist. The song is made of lighter stuff. It float-throbs through the kitchen as I dice tomatoes. 

3. “The Way Life Goes (feat. Oh Wonder),” Lil Uzi Vert (2017)

I woke early, as I often do, wondering whether I could curate a day as I might a playlist, but when Uzi’s baritone enters thirty seconds in, I’m sprinkling nutritional yeast on ciabatta, and it’s like I’m listening to a different song, standing at a different counter, the song within the song whose conciliatory lyrics are a foil to the swagger of the first. 

4. “F E M A L E,” Sampa the Great (2015)

At the table, my son quietly downs his store-brand cheerios, topped with fresh strawberries, coated in flax milk. There’s no applause. If Q-Tip had been born a girl in Zambia, I wonder, but raised in Botswana, would “Can I Kick It?” have sounded like this? 

5. “You Wanted A Hit,” LCD Soundsystem (2010)

Like an anthem, sometimes: that’s not what I do. If only I cared less or, like James Murphy, Nancy Whang, & co., could make it my own. All those children, my wife says in the car. What about the children, our son says. How to take care of today, I wonder. 

6. “Summer Friends,” Chance The Rapper (2016)

The only part I ever sing is the guttural hugh-hugh. 

7. “Black Truck,” Mereba (2018)

Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, the algorithm’s namesake, was a ninth century Persian mathematician who spent much of his career at the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, capital of the reigning Abbassid Caliphate. And so a song arrives following a set of rules and calculations I don’t pretend to understand. Sometimes it feels like mercy. 

8. “The Warning,” Hot Chip (2006)

Music isn’t just background, although it’s often that too. A song is an event. Which is why I listen as I jog through the leafy neighborhood west of town: Hot Chip has my almost undivided attention. As though, I think, crossing Marietta, any of these guys could hurt me. 

9. “Let You Down,” Ramaj Eroc (2018)

I make breakfast, I make lunch, I do dishes, beds, fold laundry, more dishes. I’m essentially a domestic creature who doesn’t leave the house much and mostly stays within the confines of his yard. I live on a quiet street, punctuated by the occasional outburst. A friend writes: have I heard the latest about Junot Diaz? 

10. “Django Jane,” Janelle Monáe (2018)

Janelle Monáe at the Women’s March. Say his name. Say her name. Sandra Bland. Michael Brown. And now, Antwon Rose. Context haunts. It illuminates. 

11. “Great Day (Four Tet Remix),” Madvillain, Four Tet (2005)

That not a lot happens today, like most days, makes meaningful what does: patterns and durations, qualities and consistencies, repeating riffs, new versions of old dilemmas. There’s the texture of a day, week, month, but its rhythms too. There’s a good chance I’ll have forgotten this song, most of these songs, next year. 

12. “Tezeta (Nostalgia),” Mulatu Astatke (1974?; reissue, 1998)

Until the Derg, a Marxist-Leninist junta, seized power from Haile Selassie, deposing him in a coup on September 12, 1974, Ethiopia was a noted center for jazz—as I learned this week from watching the episode of Parts Unknown in which the late Anthony Bourdain travels to the country with Marcus Samuelsson and his wife Maya. Music is a thing that happens, to and around you, yes. But things also happen to it.  

13. “16 Shots,” Stefflon Don (2017)

Laquan McDonald, seventeen years old, shot sixteen times in about fifteen seconds by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, now facing six counts of first-degree murder. And here I am, armorless, on my patio. Nearby, the brightest red cardinal roots around in the grass.

14. “Rosebud,” U.S. Girls (2018)

I get annoyed, reading an interview with Meghan Remy. “The average person has enough realness in their life,” she tells the Guardian, “they don’t want to be hearing about it through their entertainment.” And still I move about in my seat, shoulders dipping, hips rocking. 

15. “UMBO (Come Down),” ÌFÉ (2017)

Your life has another beat. You can’t always catch it, but it’s there, thumping along. A young Mark Underwood from Goshen, Indiana, gets a free flight to Puerto Rico and becomes Otura Mun, musician, Yoruba priest. It isn’t all about chance, but it is about what happens, which isn’t always just about what happens. 

16. “Theme 002,” Jaimie Branch (2017)

When things just sort of fall apart: energy expended, the theme shakes out into nothing, and Jaimie Branch (Jaimie Branch!) blows a whisper of a note, holds it a moment longer, I mean just the tiniest moment longer, than I expect. 

17. “All That Matters,” Justin Bieber (2014)

Meghan Remy sighs, shakes her head: “It’s all distraction.” But there’s nothing wrong with Justin Bieber that isn’t wrong with the rest of us. 

18. “Nothing Burns Like The Cold,” Snoh Aalegra, Vince Staples (2017)

I’m listening in the kitchen, I’m listening on the patio, I’m listening as I run, I’m listening in the car on my way to pick up my son. A continuous surround: sometimes a blessing, always a marvel. 

19. “To Follow & Lead,” Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (2017)

No, it isn’t all about chance, much less rules and calculations. It’s also about who and what you pay attention to. About someone you trust saying listen. 

20. “Ya Bnayya,” Omar Souleyman (2017)

From the album To Syria With Love: a world I can barely imagine, the arrangements of bodies and chairs in the rooms where it’s played or performed. That I hear it on a highway outside Salunga, Pennsylvania, feels in some small way like our moment can be redeemed. 

21. “Because I’m Me,” The Avalanches (2016)

It’s complicated, I say, when my son asks. It has this classic backing track, drenched in nostalgia, but also something forward-looking, genre-bending. A driver pulls out in front of us. I brake, lay on the horn. It’s more of an answer than he wants, but he likes it, my son, the song.

22. “F.U.U.,” Dream Wife, Fever Dream (2018)

My wife returns, my wife leaves, and I spy with my little eye a recipe left on the counter: white bean and spinach tacos. I empty the dish rack again, and Rakel Mjöll sings, briefly, in Icelandic. I chop the onions and garlic, rinse the beans, measure the spinach. Dream Wife could definitely hurt me.  

23. “Echo Home,” The Kills (2016)

We think of life as a series of events, but it’s equally a series of songs, shows, books—the culture we consume, in which we participate. It’s another way to gauge a life, a playlist, a reading log, and maybe it’s no truer than an itinerary, but perhaps the question shouldn’t be what did you do today, but what did you hear? 

24. “I'm Gone,” Son Little (2015)

A barely song, my favorite sort. Strip away the appurtenances and don’t expect much, as Aaron Livingston, aka Son Little, sings. Soon the day—no fade out, no delay—will fall apart, go quiet. Tomorrow, the remix. 

Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson is the author, most recently, of FLUTTER POINT: ESSAYS, selected by Amy Fusselman for the 2015 Zone 3 Nonfiction Book Prize. 


June 21, 2018 is three days after my husband’s father dies; six years after this man said he was glad my baby died because his son didn’t need another mouth to feed. June 21, 2018 is the day after my husband opens his father’s safe and finds $50,000 in cash and all I can think about is that when my husband’s mother’s clothes dryer broke, her husband refused to buy a new one. June 21, 2018 is the day my husband opens a money market account for his mother and has to teach the 78-year-old woman how to manage it. This is the day my husband, twelve years sober, cracks open beer after beer and I do nothing to stop him.
     In the evening, when he’s hit with an urge to see his mother again, check on her widowed existence, I drive him to her house where my husband’s brother’s family and two of my husband’s grown children and my husband’s ex-wife are about to eat dinner. I don’t know if my husband was invited. On June 21, 2018, in the house where I haven’t stepped foot since my husband’s father celebrated the death of my child, I’m invited to join their family prayer circle. This is the day I refuse.
     June 21, 2018 is the day I remind them that I am a Jew, that I do not eat their food, I do not pray to their God, and I will no longer indulge them to keep the peace. They tell me they will pray for me. They are watching FOX News, they are reading Guns & Ammo Magazine, they are defending Trump. There is no peace to keep.
     June 21, 2018 is the day I leave that house, wait in the car for my sobering husband and tell him that I will attend his father’s memorial to support him, he will then get sober and we will go on with our married life. My husband asks me if I heard his ex-wife call his dead father “dad” and his living mother “mom”. I tell my husband that I am done. I tell him that I wish his family well in their lives, but they are not a part of mine. On June 21, 2018, this is the only time I lie. I do not wish them well.

Sara Marchant

Sara Marchant received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside/ Palm Desert. Her work has been published by Full Grown People, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Coachella Review, East Jasmine Review, ROAR, and Desert Magazine. Her essay, "Proof of Blood," was anthologized in All the Women in my Family Sing. Her novella, "Let Me Go," was anthologized by Running Wild Press. Her novella, "The Driveway Has Two Sides," will be published by Fairlight Books in July 2018. Sara’s work has been performed in The New Short Fiction Series in Los Angeles, California. Her memoir, Proof of Blood, will be published by Otis Books in their 2018/2019 season. She is a founding editor of the literary magazine Writers Resist. 


I first woke at 4:22 a.m. to the sound of my printer. Imagining some mad ghost needing to print out a report, I let the sound drift. I woke again at 7:11 a.m., the more typical time for my waking. Until today, this hour meant it was time to make sure Oliver was awake and getting ready to catch the school bus down our switchback hill. The bus driver was a bit of a thrill seeker, it seems, often traveling at precarious speeds, whether in snow or rain or sun breaks that make up much of northwest school years. Today, it was still time to let Buddha out and give him tiny morsels of dry packed protein. A light rain provided relief from yesterday’s heat wave, when I felt the temperature evening out with my body’s, making me feel less visible. I decided to eat the last donut while Buddha sniffed for news in the dirt and ferns. It tasted like nothing with a hint of raspberry.
     I decided to return to the covers, Oliver’s school year actually over, both boys sleeping, Scott on the other coast. I decided to savor the scent of rain in my bedroom, even as I scanned social media friends’ posts for news about immigration and having to put it down because a cringe-worthy “cartoon” somehow stopped time and would let me scroll no further. I picked up Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering, wanting to finally finish it and add its flavor to my annotated bibliography for my creative writing thesis. Having read Lauren Slater’s Prozac Diary in one sitting the day before, a short sitting at that, I contrasted their approaches. Both told their story of the story from inside of it. The new meta of nonfiction; the story of addiction by one addicted, the story of mental illness by one afflicted. Inviting us in to cross the boundaries of self, unrestricted. I read for a while and then set it down. I decided to try to return to slumber, a luxury uninhabited over the course of the last year.
     At 10:53 a.m., I felt like I’d been lying there forever, even as my privileged dreamy state seduced me to stay. The doing pace of the last year’s weight pressed on me. Master’s programs, massive volunteer roles, and the fourth mega-year of witnessing my oldest son’s long endured suffering while providing him my utmost care, ended by the arbitrary end of his cancer treatment. Like the expiration date on a package of food that doesn’t necessarily signal the end date of viability. The viability of the insurmountable weight of loss and pain.
     As I sat up and pushed myself out of bed, that weight came with me, felt like it was me. I approached my desk and found the sitting unbearable.
     And just as quickly, the weight lifted, as I greeted each of them, these children I bore long ago. Ethan joked about not being invited to lunch, “Hey, what about me?” Oliver warned me that he was not willing to “sit and listen to that crazy dentist and her flossing fanatics.” Neither Ethan’s nutrition nor Oliver’s dentist chair fears were connected to the last four years of our family fear marathon. They were just average teenage complaints. What lingers is the residual family stasis, shaken loose from the not-knowingness of survival.
     For much of the rest of the day, I lingered in a mixture of getting-things-done and wanting-to-stand-still. I wanted to assemble the possibilities of what comes next without taking action, to savor the fact of choice. Knowing that thousands of children were being wrested from their loving cocoons in the name of pretextual justice made me feel my range of choice as an embarrassment of riches. Breaking away from comparisons and knowing the relativity of grief well, I spent time scrolling and scrolling for actions I could take while trying to build a new life from the ashes of my family’s past. And so I let the weight of sadness return, continue to wash over me. Having come to know its contours well, I’ve come to trust in its gentle caresses that remind me what it means to live. In it, I’ve come to realize the ways that it can propel me forward, to do what needs to be done.
     As the summer solstice slipped into view, its wonder pressed me into slumber. Hearing my sons’ voices, talking late into the night on the front porch, I received the sounds of their voices like nighttime frogs and morning birds. The momentary sounds of my world in repose.

—Pamela Krueger

After a lifetime spent writing poetry, most of it reactive to her life circumstances, Pamela Krueger began her intentional journey as artist and healing professional at age 50. Having spent decades writing legal briefs and memoranda in a career she left behind when her son was diagnosed with leukemia, she entered the OSU-Cascades MFA program in 2016 and the CIIS Expressive Arts Therapy program in 2017. She is currently working on a creative nonfiction thesis that contains a series of segmented, linked essays that are witnessed medical memoir.



"Mon Dieu!" he ejaculated. "What is it?'' "The hands of the watch point to seven o'clock!""What?" cried the examining magistrate, astonished.But Poirot, deft as ever, took the broken trinket from the startled commissary, and held it to his ear.—Jonathan Oliver reading Agatha Christie's Murder on the Links on my pillow speaker as I wake
Cat meows. Toilet flushes. Sink water splashes. Downstairs windows slide up. Front door opens. Back door opens. Water pours. Tea kettle toots. Spoon clinks in mug.
We had our day, but now it's over.
We had our song, but now it's sung.
We had our stroll through summer's clover,
But summer's gone now. Our walkin's done.

—Townes Van Zandt singing "None But the Rain"
Spray bottle mists. Paper towel squeaks across glass patio table. Lawn mowers and weed wackers across the street. Cars mumble by, some hauling rattling trailers of landscaping machinery. Bird sings wee-duh-dee-dee. Jet planes, many and various.

Two robins, wings pressing the air chasing one another. Police sirens. Keyboard clacking. Children's voices in the distance. Hawk cries.

Plastic lids snap. Microwave breathes. Fork tinks on plate. Toilet flushes. Sink water falling. Keyboard clacking. A lot of keyboard clacking. Hours of keyboard clacking. A helicopter thumps above the house.
This is what we're learning about this jacket. This is Melania Trump boarding Air Force One to head down to [visit the child immigrant holding center in] Texas and the back of the jacket apparently reads I don't really care. Do U?
—CNN Breaking News
Water filling pot. Chopping onions, peppers, and garlic. Dog barking at two young deer across the street. Phone vibrates.

SARAH: I'm here. Just dealing with traffic.
ME: I'm gonna whip up some sauce and we'll have some of your homemade linguini for dinner. With herbs and a salad from the garden. We'll go for a run when you get home.

Sarah meows to the cat as she comes through the door. Kissing her as she changes into running clothes. Clipping mesclun salad greens from the garden with kitchen scissors. Cars mumble by. Screen door slams. Pasta sauce pot sizzling against the glass top stove.

Asthma inhaler puffs. Rubbing sunscreen on her arms and legs. Door closes. Key in lock. Car doors open and thump close. Engine starts. Clicking sounds from the back of our Toyota. Rattling of a poorly installed muffler. Passing traffic.

ME: Talked to Dustin last night. He told me about putting in a stone path in his backyard with the help of a homeless friend named Z. Said they talked about music. The guy was really smart. Said he worked hard. And Dustin paid him.
SARAH: Good.
ME: The guy usually hangs out on a certain block that Dustin walks by when he goes to work. Some of the people on the block let the homeless guy sit on their porches.

Thumps from potholes in the parking lot. Car doors slam. Father and young daughter tossing lacrosse ball back and forth in the grass.

Feet crackling on gravel path of Erie Canal Trail. Couples and families talking. Feet running on gravel path.
[Theme music fades] How ya' doin? You losing sleep, like everyone should be? Are ya? Is your conscience weighing heavy on yas, as it should be? It's difficult, ya know—good morning, good afternoon, good evening. How are you?—Marc Maron speaking on WTF Podcast posted today
WOMAN ON TRAIL TALKING INTO CELL: There's something wrong with my muffler.

Everything ok in the car, everything ok with your kid, everything ok at work? How's it going on the treadmill? You doing alright? How's that walk? How's your dog? That's a nice looking dog. 


Just checking in with as many people as I can. Is your eye ok, is your ear ok, is your fingers ok? That thing with your stomach work out? How's that foot? Is your foot alright? Should I start again? Are we okay? Today on the show…

SAME WOMAN TALKING INTO CELL PASSED ON MY WAY BACK: She wants to stay there all weekend. I don't even want her to spend one night, and she wants to spend two.

Feet running on the gravel path. Feet walking on the gravel path. SUVs slowing down so we can cross street to the lot. Post-run groans as we stretch together by the car.

ME: You always look so good. Even after 40 minutes of running you look beautiful.
SARAH: That's not true.
ME: It is true. You look great and I look like I've been pulled backwards through a bear's ass.

Key in lock. Engine starts. Clicking sounds from the back of our Toyota. Rattling of a poorly installed muffler. Passing traffic. Generic rock 'n' roll from a car beside us at a light. Yawn.

SARAH: That lady's always walking her dog when we come back from our run and she always looks pissed.
ME: Oh yeah? I don't recognize her. She's got a cute dog. What's she got to be pissed about?
SARAH: Maybe she doesn’t like it.
ME: Maybe that dog's a dick.

Toyota grinds up the drive. Car door slams. A gust of wind. A dog barks. Screen door. Downstairs shower. Running bag flumps against the downstairs floor. Downstairs bathroom fan through the floor. Upstairs shower running. Sink splashing.
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds.
The heat was hot and the ground was dry,
But the air was full of sound.

—America singing "Horse with No Name" 
Cupboard doors close. Water pot boiling. Cat meows. Salad spinner whirls. Cat meows. Car alarm. Cat meows. Stove timer beeping. Cat meows. Sirens. Collar clinks against floor as cat eats tiny shrimps. Cutlery clinks against plates and salad bowls.

JEEVES (played by Stephen Fry): In my experience, ladies who spell Gladys with a "W" are seldom noted for their reliability, sir. It gives them romantic notions.

More sirens.

Telephone ring tone.

BOB: When I got home from doing the things I did today I sat down to read The Grapes of Wrath in this big chair in my bedroom, and Jake my dog got up on the bed and laid down and let out a big sigh of contentment. That's the best thing I heard today.

Telephone ring tone.

BRIAN: Wah-wah guitar in Chicha music. I finally got around to listening to this music from Peru that I've heard about, and I didn't realize that almost every song there's like two guitars and one is giving straight melody and the other is a wah. The first time I heard the wah I was like, "Oh cool!" and then I realized this is a component of the music.

Telephone ring tone.

DAVE: "Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude." It's a line on It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, the album by Public Enemy. Also: "Many of us, by the way we act, we've even lost our mind."

Telephone ring tone.

NEHA: It's like a cheeping, creaking, chirping sound. It's from behind my stove and I don't know if it's because the machine is broken or creaking or if it's because of a rat or mouse. I heard it first in the morning and thought, Is this maybe the wind?—it's been quite rainy and crazy out here today. But then I heard it consistently when I was cooking dinner, especially when I dropped a mushroom. It sounded like a much more satisfied cheep. That's when on the spectrum of "Is it a broken stove or a mouse?" it's kind of turning more to "It's a mouse."

Telephone ring tone.

DUSTIN: So I'm waiting for the music to happen and it keeps getting delayed, and I'm like, Why am I waiting at The Mark Twain House after work? I could be going home. And immediately as soon as you leave his house you get back to Hartford, Connecticut reality. And the first thing I hear is, "Hey, what you doing?" and I ignore it. Someone behind me. And again, louder and angrier, "Hey! I'm talking to you!" And so I look behind me and it's just the security guard from Mark Twain House. He was just fucking with me. We walked a hundred yards down the street talking, and that was that. That was the best thing I heard today.

Telephone ring tone.

MELISSA: We actually had a thunderstorm which is very rare in the Pacific Northwest and I love the sound of thunder. So I was pretty excited that I got to hear thunder today.

Telephone ring tone.

J: Lainie calls me at work and says, "Dad, Edgar ate half a squirrel and left the other half on the deck." And I say, "How lovely. She's saying 'Here's something for you.'" So when I get home I have to clean up the top half of the squirrel. Edgar ate the ass half—I kept expecting to see her vomit up squirrel tail. I see the face half of the squirrel and I see a plastic container from a vegetarian burger I got the night before at Red Robin. I use the big carryout clamshell to scoop up the squirrel. Later Lainie asks me, "And so what did you do with the squirrel?" I tell her, and she says, "So you boxed up Edgar's leftovers?" And that was the best thing I heard today.

SARAH: I'm tired. I'm going to go to bed.
ME: What time is it?
SARAH: Bedtime.

Toothbrush. Sink water splash. Toilet flush. Futon creaks. Lovemaking. Deep breathing. Traffic sounds through the open windows. Bedside lights click off.

ME: What's the best thing you heard today?
SARAH: As I was leaving the office—you know I kinda go down the hall and say, "Goodbye everybody!" I do it every day. And I guess Mimi is in a really good mood—everybody's like, "Okay, bye!" and Mimi's like, "We love you, Sarah!" And I said, "I love you, too!"
ME: Ah. That’s great.
SARAH: Yeah, it was sweet.
ME: Goodnight, darling.
SARAH: Goodnight, sweetie.

—Christopher Citro

Christopher Citro is the author of The Maintenance of the Shimmy-Shammy (Steel Toe Books). His awards include a 2018 Pushcart Prize for Poetry and the 2015 poetry award from Columbia Journal. Recent publications include poetry in Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, The Missouri Review, Gulf Coast, The Massachusetts Review, Best New Poets, Narrative, Blackbird, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pleiades, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. His creative nonfiction has appeared in Boulevard, Quarterly West, The Florida Review, Passages North, and Colorado Review. Christopher lives in Syracuse, New York. He'd like to give a special thank you to his partner Sarah and to his friends and family who picked up the phone when he called late in the night of June 21.


In the last sleep of this morning I urgently sought a bathroom through a basement level hookah lounge; in my dream I walked through brightly painted rooms full of swirling purple smoke where white kids sat cross-legged on cushions, to a back corner bathroom with three gray toilets surrounded by potted jungle plants. In my dream I thought, ‘they’re probably disgusting,’ but they were pristine, not just clean but new. For 30 years I have walked my dreams looking for bathrooms, a recurring dream where the toilets are piled with unspeakable filth, are in a public place, are unusably filthy and yet most of the dream involves some form or precarious, vulnerable urination. The relief in the dream was vast. Upon waking I took my uncomfortably full bladder to our white toilet, emptied it, and returned for another hour’s sleep. Our youngest and largest cat leaped to the bed for her post-breakfast lounge; we had a nuzzle and then she settled herself into the warm spot as I vacated it. 
     I returned to the bathroom where I sat and checked my email on the phone; I read about Merriam Webster’s word of the day, voracity, where the example sentence referenced the voracious appetite of spiders for insects. I opened today’s reminder email, then read the sample essay for writing about this day. 
     I noticed a baby spider dangling from my hair, so tiny and close I could not properly see it until I untangled it from my hair. It hung from my fingertips, where the morning glare from the window behind it outlined its limbs in glowing light. I marveled at the furious speed with which it moved its many legs. I reflected on the people I know who have a terror of spiders. I love baby spiders whose time of year this is, emerging as they do in corners on the porch, tiny black dots that explode into movement when I tap their webs. I untangle this little baby and wish her luck.
     I made a small snack of avocado and furikake on rice cake before bicycling half a mile to my twice-weekly Tai Chi class, where I am a beginner. Most days I enjoy alternately floating and fumbling through the forms, especially when my arms, waist and feet movements synch briefly up and I experience a moment of body wisdom that I trust will grow into longer moments as I practice, but I today was distracted by my own impatience with feeling crowded by another student. Still useful, to meditate on my own childishness (Mom! she’s touching me!) but not the cleansing satisfaction for which I yearn. 
     My home is in a bit of an uproar, as I move my office from the common space of our 2-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of an old 3-story house into the second bedroom, a move engendered by the decision of my loving man to share a studio outside the home. I am taking the opportunity to rid myself of unworn and worn out clothing, the cute metal free-standing classroom movie screen I have nostalgically retained and never used, broken heaters that were once precious and are now inexpensive and easily attained in perfect condition; additionally I am washing all the wool clothes and storing them away until next winter, keeping out one wool sweater which I have worn now every day, as the weather has suddenly cooled. I sorted leather jackets and outerwear from the futon where we will tomorrow host a visiting witch, and prepared my food for the day.
 Mushrooms to rehydrate, greens to steam, yams to bake; no dairy, nightshades processed foods. All day, every day as I move through these tasks I think, cancer cancer cancer. After tidying up the kitchen– I’ve never liked to cook, and with my new cancer food plan, now 6 weeks in place, I cook, it seems, constantly–I meet with a mentor for two hours and cry as I pick a path through the maze of cancer and old behaviors. I am late for my weekly cancer support team meeting with my incredible friend who dedicates her Thursday evenings to my well being, and cry through that meeting as well. We get a lot done at both meetings; I have accepted that I now cry through some days. 
     En route to the second meeting I consider this essay. Few people know about my diagnosis. The awareness of cancer is lately my constant companion. I compare it to a new love affair, when it’s still a secret between me, my body and the other person– I think about it all day, it permeates my every task–slicing mushrooms, I think, these are for you, cancer; the greens I steam, I steam for you. For me. In so many ways, this diagnosis has been a healing one, inviting me to put myself in the center of my own life in a way that I have never felt so urgently, trained as I am to seek and serve. 
     While at the second meeting, where we strategize the second opinion calls and the planning for my upcoming 50th birthday party, I receive a text from old friends who live down the street from my house, inviting me to their Solstice barbecue. When we finish the support meeting and my incredible friend asks if I want to drive up the butte and see the sunset, I begin, again, to cry. “I just want to go home.”
     “Please promise me you won’t drive while you are crying. And text me so I know you got home safe.” I agree.
     I get in the car, pause crying and drive across town, stopping at the cheap gas station to fill the tank. Gas prices are over $3 again, ranging from $3.70 to the $3.19 at the place I frequent. My outrage is cooled by the receipt I found in a jacket I stored today, for gas at $3.79/gallon in 2013. (I put that jacket in the giveaway pile). 
     Once home, I change into my one sweater and jeans with gardening stains on the knees. I cut and de-thorn a lovely yellow rose and bike over to my friends’ place, where I see people I have known over 20 years, sitting around a fire, along with a few children and new faces. Cancer can be a tough companion at parties; on the way I prepare a list of answers to the question, ‘What have you been up to?’ so I don’t have to gag back ‘Cancer!’ I think, my new studio! Here’s a party flyer! And the old standby, “What are YOU up to?” 
     It’s a sweet night. I give my host the yellow rose, to her delight. I receive a big hug from an old, badly-fallen-out friend; we all take turns jumping the Solstice fire to burn away anything we don’t need to expand into our summer selves. I jump several times, and think, cancer, cancer, cancer, and laugh with everyone, bobbing on the lake of my hidden tears. 
     When all the guests leave, I share my diagnosis with my old friends, which is unexpectedly sweet, to cry in the arms of these people with whom I have created over the years much art, drama, trouble, healing and community. So many meals, so many miles traveled on bicycles, in costumes, so many houses painted and odd jobs worked. I try to deny the shame I feel at bringing my cancer to the Solstice party, then I just speak it, and my friends reassure me, no, no shame. 
     One of my friends retires for the night with her girlfriend; the other makes me tea, and we sit to put fire to bed. A young man on drugs wanders up–he stays around the corner with a neighbor, he needs help getting air in his bicycle tire. He is high, barely tethered to our reality, asks us do we have a cigarette, do we have smoke, do we party–over and over and we say, Naw, man, while my friend kindly fetches tools so the kid can get his bike on the road. After 11 I take my leave, and ride off, listening to the kid, ‘You got any food? Can I buy that car? Can I have your bike?’
     My cat meets me at the door. I store my bike and turn the lights off. I have a long hot shower and scrub myself with salt, shedding anything the fire did not burn, asking the water and the minerals to take it away. I fall asleep while reading the current issue of the New Yorker, just before midnight.

—Maura Featherything

Maura is an artist, witch, writer and laborer who lives in Portland, Oregon.


When I wake up, there’s an owl-shaped cup waiting for me on the headboard. I sit upright in the middle of the bed, sipping coffee and scratching a chip in the mug against my cheek—when did the owl’s beak break off?
     My husband is rattling around in the kitchen, toasting an English muffin. I remember that I am currently unemployed. There is too much mucus in my throat—this summer cold is still hanging on. I leave the bedroom blank-faced, knowing Kevin will remind me to put on my glasses before he leaves for work. While he packs his lunch, he drinks pickle juice straight from the jar.  I don’t taste pickles or coffee when he kisses me goodbye.
     I sink into my big blue chair and read an essay by Robin Hemley. I tweet a quote so that I might remember having read it: “We carry our secret histories behind our words, in another room, in the eyeglass case on the dresser in the bedroom. Maybe someone comes along and finds the right pair. Maybe we have too many, unsorted.” I close my eyes and try to store my thoughts. The water fountain’s motor is buzzing—the cats need something to drink.
     When I receive a text alert from my bank notifying me that my checking account balance is low, I study my recent transactions—nothing but submission fees for the past week. My email delivers a short story rejection. I think about how this is the longest day of the year. I eat cottage cheese. I order two copyediting and style guide books from Amazon because yesterday I applied to a dozen new editing jobs (including one at Amazon). I remember that a few months ago I bought a beginner tarot deck just for kicks and consider finally looking at it. I wonder if Kevin’s hair is curling in the humidity.  I send him a Gmail chat message: I feel listless. Also hungry.
     My throat is clogged, so I spit into a banana peel—there’s nothing else around. I feel disgusted, disgusting, but also grateful that I unplugged the cat camera yesterday so Kevin won’t witness this scene from his cubicle across town. Winifred, the older of our two cats, makes a series of unpleasant sounds before throwing up her breakfast. The need to clean up her mess gives me a reason to worry about how she will die someday, but also a reason to stand up and throw away my own mess (the banana peel). I stare at Gale, the younger cat, while she stares at a wood block in the corner of the windowsill. We use that block to prop open the window when it’s nice outside, but it’s supposed to hit 100 degrees in north Texas today.
     I don’t want to wash my hair. I put on a baseball cap and decide to spend the rest of the day cleaning out the closet in our extra room. The walls in this room are lined with bookcases and the temperature is at least three degrees cooler than anywhere else in the apartment. I think about curling up on the floor or in my old papasan chair wedged in the corner, but don’t. Instead, I empty the closet onto the floor and papasan: picture frames, Christmas decorations, VHS tapes, puzzles, four rolls of duct tape, three rolls of packing tape, an old desktop computer, a lace umbrella, a never used pizza oven, an almost never used sewing machine, a flute, bins full of old letters, bins full of camping gear.
     I work for hours at recycling, reorganizing, and listing things for sale online. The cats play and hide in the closet’s new open spaces, they take naps in empty bins. I eat broccoli and hummus.
     By the time Kevin comes home from work, there are organized piles all over the apartment: electronics in the living room next to the tools, artwork in the hallway. He drops off his bicycle and walks to buy some beer from our favorite spot just down the road. We spend the rest of the night drinking cans of Montucky Cold Snacks and making endless decisions about what to do with extra pens and keychains. He will let go of that paperweight, but will take the Kermit the Frog figurine to work.
     We sit facing each other on the floor and agree that it is finally time to recycle our old CDs. When I find a burned disc titled This American Life, I set it aside because I want to know which episodes of the radio show we once needed to preserve. Kevin decides to keep the first CD he remembers purchasing—Green Day’s Dookie. Mine is the Cool Runnings soundtrack, and we keep that too. We fill one small book with all of our old mixes—discs with Sharpie marker titles like “Car Tunes” and “Winter Season Jams 2” and “Road Trip! Huzzah!” and declare that when people ride in our car they will have to choose music from this selection. I hand Kevin one of the last discs because I can’t read the title, and he says it’s called “Purple and Mauve.” When I confess I have never heard of that album, he tells me that it’s an original mix, too—that he used to name his mixes after color combinations. For a moment, I think we might never stop laughing.
     We each grab one last beer. Kevin sorts through a file drawer filled with old iPods, mouse pads, and remotes. I comb through letters and cards I have saved, reading him excerpts from the notes he wrote to me while we were dating. I like that his writing sounds young. When we go to bed, I almost accidentally use Kevin’s new toothbrush. It’s after midnight, and he is happy it’s officially Friday—practically the weekend. I fall asleep without watching Frasier. 

—Amanda Yanowski

Amanda Yanowski is a writer and freelance copyeditor based in Denton, Texas. She holds an MA in creative writing from the University of North Texas. Her writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly and South Dakota Review.


I have been complaining about the cold and the fog almost every day for the past week. I live in Tucson, or I should say I pay rent in Tucson. Right now I am staying in San Francisco’s Sunset District. The apartment is close to a long, narrow park where every morning my partner and I accidentally come across people who don’t have houses, bundled in dirty blankets, still trying to sleep through another cold, wet summer night. 
     Every night the heat coming off our sleeping bodies steams up the room. The window drips beaded water. Upon waking I look for the little smile I drew with my finger the morning before. It is barely visible through the new condensation, and I feel a small happiness that the smile will soon disappear of its own accord.
     Before we leave, we eat a simple breakfast, an effort to save money on our way out the door. The blueberries are sour in my minty mouth. It’s blueberry season somewhere, I think, but my knowledge of seasonality from my youth in New Jersey doesn’t translate across the Rockies, where so much is in season all the time.
     “I’m in a cloud,” I tell my partner David as we walk out into the mist. We are going to work on our computers in a cafe in the Mission, a more reliably sunny microclimate. He doesn’t say he chose the neighborhood because I have been complaining about the overcast skies in The Sunset.
     All over the streets in The Sunset are people who look like me. This is a new feeling, one that brings me little waves of riotous joy, to blend in within my own country. There is dim sum a block or two away and multiple places to eat pho and there are signs in Chinese from which I can only grasp partial, passing meaning, like Something Something Heart Place and Family Something House. People who know the city ask me if I’m staying in Outer Sunset, but I can’t answer them properly because the GPS on my phone isn’t specific enough to give me an answer. I know that the marine layer comes in overnight and sits down on top of us here, chilling the air to something very much not my vision of a California summer. I know that the ocean is close enough to be recognizably at the end of the street but not quite close enough to be visible, and I know that sometimes, as on this morning, when you walk out onto the street, you walk into a misting rain.
     In the car I recognize a nursing home but no neighborhoods. In the Mission people make competing claims on streetside parking spots and wait too close to one another’s bumpers. David and I discuss the colorfulness of the murals. I note silently that the second language has turned to Spanish. A blonde cashier pours me twelve ounces of drip coffee into an insulated glass the likes of which I have never seen before. I wonder if I could make coffee in San Francisco, as a professional. I wonder how many hours of that wage it would take to pay rent.
     Upstairs in the cafe, David applies to jobs. I make comments on student essays. I listen to the new album by the Carters. I grade homework assignments. The almond milk in my coffee kind of curdles, but I never waste what I’ve bought. I finish the coffee with the curdled almond milk.
     On the internet I see a photograph of Melania Trump boarding a plane to visit a children’s detention center at the US-Mexico border. She wears a thirty-nine dollar jacket that reads, “I really don’t care, do u?” Some people on the internet are desperate to note that she did not wear the jacket within the detention center. I can’t help but wonder how much work went into getting such a low-cost item of clothing into the gilded hands of Melania Trump in the first place.
     The jacket is maybe besides the point. But isn’t it also a very pointed message of the cruel indifference of the powerful? I call her “GARBAGE!” online in one language, then two, and go back to grading for completion. Today, despite Melania and the detention centers, will be a nice day for me. 
     I increasingly don’t know what to make of the gap between my personal, lived experience and the horrors happening to real people in the border town where I pay rent. I share links and occasionally donate. I cling to my happiness, too, try not to feel guilty for wanting it. Sometimes doing small, selfish things like writing about my day in a sunny neighborhood feels very much like complicity.
     David and I split the difference between our old lives in New York and David’s new one in San Francisco, eat pizza to-go in Dolores Park while people around us play with their dogs, feed their babies, chastise their dogs for chasing after baby food, but most often: share joints and listen to music on speakers. 
     I read from a book about love and reality TV by Lucas Mann called Captive Audience. I realize, as I toggle between reading and sighing and texting friends the latest passage, that for the first time in years, I have been enjoying reading books for myself. My depressed brain can support the weight of a five-hundred page book over ten days. My depressed brain has let in enough light to focus my eyes on the words and read them one after one until the story sinks its hooks in. The pages turn again. I feel the reversal of that loss. 
     I write part of this essay from David’s bed. We eat dinner with friends and watch a horror movie I’ve heard referred to as “The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby of our generation.” I enjoy the house and the mother’s miniatures, colorful, wallpapered, cladded in dark wood. I thrill at the uncanny movement of bodies, floating, clawing through the air, hanging like bats just out of focus, banging their heads on the ceiling. My lizard brain does not like that these bodies keep defying physics.
     At night, when David and I are home after dissecting the movie over Japanese snacks and beer and colas with our friends, we brush our teeth together in the bathroom and giggle about how afraid we are of the dark apartment. David asks me how the takoyaki was. “It was really good, actually,” I say. That’s another thing that’s returned to me since I got depressed in Japan. My taste for food.
     When I fall asleep, it’s to the sound of a comedy I’ve closed my eyes to. “Are you falling asleep?” David asks. We agree it’s time, and I turn out the light. I don’t feel afraid lying together under the weight of our mattress pad-turned-comforter. When I wake up in the morning it will be the next day. Because I paid attention today, I will look again for the smile I drew a day ago in the window. It will still be there, but just barely. Within another day it will be gone.

Emi Rose Noguchi

Emi Rose Noguchi is originally from North Jersey and now based in Tucson, AZ. She is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Arizona and a 2018 Grand Manan Field Studies in Creative Writing Fellow. Most recently, she has been writing about a godlike cat named Cat and a talking raven named Raven.


I woke to see what it would be like to live a long day and by this, I mean to live from astronomical dawn (3:20 a.m.) to astronomical dusk (11:06 p.m.). There are three stages of dawn—astronomical, nautical, and civil—all occurring before the actual time of sunrise, but I decided that 3:20 a.m. (astronomical) was too early to rise, so I settled on 4:11 a.m. for the second phase: nautical. According to, the nautical dawn is the moment when the geometric center of the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. It is possible to use the brightest stars to navigate the seas at this time. I wasn’t at sea and I didn’t need to navigate anywhere, so I made coffee and took my head lamp out to the yard where I could see over the hills a layered horizon of peach and gray. I read on my phone that the day would be one second longer than the day before. I had taken two Advil for my neck pain, a consequence of my poor sleep and a crowded bed of daughter and husband. I hear voices in the house and my dog growls. What I think are voices in the house are actually voices from a radio down the road: Kip and Brenda must be up milking the goats at this hour. I’m hyperaware of this task of paying attention. 
     The birds begin at 4:30 a.m. I hear a fox down by the creek and then another animal, like a cat. Perhaps it is Burdock, our gray tabby, though I want to believe it is something wilder. I’m thinking of breakfast—fried eggs, maybe cherries. I think more coffee. I check Twitter at 4:46 a.m. Prince Harry has followed me. I’m excited by this, though I don’t know why, silly, and then I realize it’s just a bot. Not the real Prince Harry. 
     Civil dawn sets in at 5:00 a.m., the moment when the geometric center of the sun is six degrees below the horizon. I no longer have to use a headlamp to write. I walk out to the deck and take a picture of the Western Kingbirds on the power line. They have been nesting on the transformer for the last few months, raising fledglings and generally making chaos as flycatchers will do. I take a walk toward our barn, it’s cold still, and follow the drainage up toward our pond and the edges of our farm where blackberry, willow, and oak grow in a tangle of wild. I think about edges. I think it could be cool to write an essay about edges. I take a picture of the well pump and greenhouse against the sunrise sky and post it to Instagram. I hear activity in the barn and find my husband packing boxes and preparing the delivery truck for the day’s vegetable deliveries. After a small exchange, I return to the house to make eggs with tortillas. My son rises and we talk about the history of ice cream and the tragedy of Shakespeare. He stretches his arms and tells me he is growing. He is small for his age with a heart defect and as a pre-adolescent, he worries over this. 
     I go back to bed at 7:00 a.m. and fall asleep for two hours with my daughter warm in my bed. I wake with neck pain and think about necks and how weird they are. I look up animal necks on Google. I find Sloth Neck Pillows for sale and a Camo Recovery suit for cats at $34.00. XX Small. Science Daily tells me that all mammals have the same number of vertebrae in their necks, no matter if you are a human, a giraffe, or a mouse, except for sloths and manatees who have abnormal cervical vertebrae related to evolution. I think how there is still so much day. 
     I make green tea, oatmeal for my daughter, and answer emails I’ve been avoiding all week. I don’t check the news. My daughter comes into the bedroom and counts my hanging clothes: 74 pieces, she declares, including sweaters and dresses. I work on a short essay about turkeys and empathy, then check my email and see I have received a rejection from an agent. The agent says my writing is shrewd and lyrical, but she’ll have to pass on the book. I think about the word shrewd for a while. For too long. I look up the definition: keen, piercing, but also artful and malicious. I’m not sure which of those to hang on to, so I decide to pay the late government payroll taxes for our farm business, file two years of Form 940 unemployment taxes that I forgot to do at the beginning of the year and for which the IRS has now warned they will seize our property if we don’t do this. I pay Oregon unemployment and withholding taxes for the first quarter. Also late. I think about Donald Trump. I braid my daughter’s hair. 
     At the solar noon, I weed my front garden then harvest yarrow, lavender, and poppy seed pods for dried flower bouquets. My husband thinks this is a waste of time, it doesn’t make any money, but I think it’s beautiful and I enjoy it and there’s always room for more beauty. I wander around the barn looking for a ladder, but I can’t find one. I know we own one and it seems strange because ladders are stored in barns. I bundle the flowers anyway and hang them on the walk-in cooler. They look pretty. My daughter finds me in the barn and tells me she’s hungry, so I make egg salad with dill and cilantro and sit with her in the yard as we eat cucumbers and she sings me a song in German. We talk about tattoos and which I should get. She thinks a baseball bat or a blue heron. I’m thinking a peony. 
     After lunch, I turn on the sprinklers, play solitaire on my phone, feel guilty about this, read some from a strange Russian fairy tale novel set in the 14th century. Nap. I put together a puzzle with my daughter: a map of the United States. Maryland and Iowa are missing. I try to think of a metaphor for this. I can’t. The map illustrates symbols for each state: salmon for Oregon, oil rigs for Texas, alligators and flamingos in Florida, mining in Nevada. I think about Rachel Carson and disappearing flamingos and climate change. My daughter and I eat pistachio and coconut ice cream while staring out the kitchen window. I go out to the yard and nap again until my husband and son return. I meet our new neighbor Buck. He’s just purchased forty acres next door. He has beautiful eyes. 
     I decide to go for a bike ride. My husband wants to come. It’s warm, 85, but there is a breeze, so at four p.m., it’s a good time. Should we leave the kids—7 and 11—but they are playing video games and listening to stories and we live far out and we’ll close the gate as we go and our farm manager will be home soon—so we go, but our dog follows us down the road. My husband turns around to take him home. I bike alone for 11 miles. I see butterflies, llamas, and the half moon. I have a general feeling that I have lived today. I return home and open a bottle of the Sardinian wine I love. I’m convinced I’ll live forever if I drink this wine. I begin prepping dinner while my son and husband jam on the band equipment in the basement. I turn on my own music to drown out theirs. My son is still learning the drums. I cut cucumbers for salad and crumble feta and dill into a bowl. I cut up sweet potatoes. My daughter sorts the Tupperware while I cook. We grill in the outdoor kitchen—hamburgers and garlic scapes. We drink Sardinian wine. The light is long. This day is long. Two hours until sunset. My daughter rides her bike around the barn. The kids play with the new hens and the black rescue cat, Zuri, who we’ve been keeping in the barn shop. He’s a long hair, my husband says, as if that’s a bad thing. 
     Toward sunset, we wander down to the vegetable fields to move irrigation pipe and set water on the dill, kale, cilantro, and other crops. My son carries his notebook and is writing a new song called “Not About Wyatt.” I read over his lyrics. He really needs to improve his spelling. I’m feeling lazy so I don’t help my husband with the irrigation pipe, but sit on the hill and take pictures of the sunset while my kids attempt to rap Hamilton. There are many mosquitoes and “ladybird bugs” my children call them: orange and fatter than the red ones. My daughter compares the vegetable fields to a bed: the kale is the blanket, the fallow field is the pillow, and the flowering mustards look like the bedpost. We comment on the sunset. I take a picture and post it to Instagram: 13.5 hours from the first. We’re waiting now for the three twilights—first civil at 9:26, then nautical at 10:11, then astronomical 11:06 p.m., but we’re all tired, so I put my children to bed and I read from the Russian novel determined to stay awake, but I make it to nautical twilight, and decide this is good enough for today and turn out the lights.  

—Melissa Matthewson

Melissa Matthewson lives and writes in the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon. Her essays have appeared in Guernica, Mid-American Review, River Teeth, Bellingham Review, and Sweet, among others. She teaches writing and literature at Southern Oregon University and runs an organic vegetable farm. 


Dawn. I have to pee, but I don't want to get up. My husband Matthew and I talked about this last night: Don't get up for the day before he leaves for work. I hear the garage door close, I pee, I go back to bed, swigging some children's Benadryl. 5:55.
     When I do get up for the day, I see that my friend Laura hasn't explained the text she sent me the night before about an old co-worker of ours dying. I didn't really know the person and so didn't know what to say.
     I rinse the crust off my face, put on SPF, and get into my running gear, even though it's going to be hot, not good running weather. I collect the trash for pickup. Downstairs, I pet the little cat; she's been watching the rats outside the sliding doors. She stretches, and I get working on coffee. There are two squirrels going at it outside the kitchen window. I guess they're mating, or they're fighting. It's not entirely clear.
     Pop my Prozac, grab my coffee, and head to my desk, adjusting the Sonos to something low and mellow. There's a voicemail from a guy interested in the elliptical we advertised on Next Door. My browser window opens to the Mercury News: Koko the gorilla has died. I used to volunteer proofread for the organization. I'm sad. I open my personal email: There's a note from my friend Harrison; he's commemorating the second anniversary of his son Tyler's death by sharing three of Tyler's poems. I'm grateful for the poems. I respond. To move on and distract myself, I email the neighbors about coming over for dinner on Saturday. Matthew ordered some special tri-tip, so we'll catch up over marinated beef.
     Work email … I sit and stare at it. So much of it, mostly tickets from a bug-tracking system that's in use for a software-conversion project I'm working on. I email Ander at the UofA to tell him how glad I am to be participating in today's writing project; community means so much to me. I think about how I need to write, and I think about how my planned winter sabbatical might need to cancel because work is too slow right now, and I'm developing new business that might come into focus then. I'll figure it out.
     I call the guy about the elliptical, his name is Chris, and he's able to come over. I remember to remove the trash I tossed outside for the garbage can. I text Matthew about Chris and find out he's not the guy that had inquired the day before—that guy is coming over on Saturday to look at the machine. When Chris arrives, I explain the mixup and that he'll be second in line if the other guy isn't interested. Awkward.
     Back to work email. There's another film festival invitation, but I've already submitted to plenty. I text my friend and fellow film collaborator Mike about the Friday the 13th lawsuit news I've been seeing. I wrote to Victor the other day but haven't heard back. I know this is hard for him.
     Lunch. Even though I'm trying to cut down on bread, I decide on a bagel and some fruit. I flip through the photo album I pulled out the other day after seeing some fellow UofA comrades—their daughter just graduated from Stanford. In the pictures, she's just a year old, but it's definitely her, her features are distinct. Both she and her mom absolutely kill it, they are amazing. And the family is moving to San Francisco this summer, woohoo!
     I'm happy to see my intern Katelyn has emailed me with a question about the files she's pulling together and formatting. It's always better to ask than assume—she's doing well.
      Terminix calls to say they're going to replace our bait stations again. They've already done this, it makes no sense. They are the worst. There's another call from someone about the exercise equipment we're re-homing, but the connection is bad. I get her name and number; she said she'd email.
     I finish slogging through the bug tickets and head to FedEx to pick up the Thrasher Editorial postcards, which needed trimming in order to fit into my colleague's mailer, we're doing some co-marketing. I'm at a weird angle in the garage, and I end up scraping against the door frame, even though I tried to correct my position. Dammit. At FedEx, I give the guy at the counter the receipt from my prescription sunglass lenses that I ordered, thinking it was a FedEx receipt. Then I realize I never got a FedEx receipt. OK, let's try this again ... The total is only $6.50 to trim 1,000 cards. I'm amazed.
     At the running trail, I decide it's not excruciatingly hot, I'll see how it goes. Chickens cross in front of me. The headwind is cooling on the way out, but I know it'll be hot on the way back, and the last part of the trail is nothing but sun. I pass a few fellow runners and some bikers. The chickens are there when I return. I think about how thirsty I am, that it's warm. I think about dying and depression and my next appointment with the doctor.
     Back at the car, there's an email invitation from my MA/TESOL advisor, she's having a reunion. I cry with joy.

—Amanda JS Kaufmann

Amanda JS Kaufmann is a 1991 UofA creative writing graduate. Kaufmann has comprehensive publishing and production experience with clients in academic, scholastic, and occupational settings, and she founded CA Thrasher Editorial, LLC, a digital media company, in 2015, serving as editorial director and producer. Thrasher Editorial's first short film, Mother's Milk (2018), starring Friday the 13th's Victor Miller, has won two IMDb awards and is currently in the film festival queue, providing lots of anxious waiting moments.

Check back for more dispatches from June 21, 2018 tomorrow. —Editors

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