I’m a teacher’s aide in a first-grade class outside Tacoma, WA. I brought the kids out for recess on Friday afternoon. It had just rained; the old blacktop was covered in puddles. The kids loved it. They jumped from puddle to puddle, splashing around in their cheery yellow galoshes and rain slickers.
Two minutes in, Lily Yamagata tripped over Sophia David’s backpack and skinned her knee. She was crying. I headed over to comfort her. I picked her up and brushed off the sand and grit. There was a hole in her tights and a little blood seeping from underneath. Nothing bad. Nothing she wouldn’t forget about in five minutes.
“You’re okay, Lily!” I announced, smiling. “Don’t worry, the nurse will get you a nice band-aid. What’s your favorite one?”
I’m an intern working at the Center for Entomology in Colombia. Like all interns, I do the jobs everyone hates: fetching coffee and tea, delivering mail, janitorial work, etc. The hours are long, the pay is nonexistent, and the people are rude. All that said, though, I’m learning a hell of a lot. I get to work with some species seen nowhere else.
The other night, I was mopping the floors. Since the Center is in the middle of the of the rainforest, quite a bit of mud gets tracked in by the researchers and employees. So, every night, usually well after midnight, I’m the last guy in the place until it’s all cleaned up. One of the final rooms I clean is where Scolopendra gigantea are housed.
I hate that room. Despite my love of insects and bugs and spiders and all manner of other creepy-crawlies, giant centipedes scare the hell out of me. They shouldn’t be so big and aggressive; something about them seems out of place in a rainforest that otherwise appears to have an equilibrium among the species. Maybe I’m just a wimp.
For the last month, I’d been pestering Mason to come with me to explore the old mine outside town. It was one of those places everyone said was haunted. You know the type. Of course, most places like that have scary legends to keep people away so the goth kids can go and fuck one another in peace. There was nothing really haunted about those spots, of course. This mine, though, kept even the goths at bay.
There were so many rumors about why the mine was haunted and downright dangerous. Some said it used to be a government uranium mine during the Manhattan Project and you’d get irradiated the minute you set foot inside. Others claimed that after the Civil War, town officials had used the place to secretly imprison and torture freed slaves whose vengeful ghosts would kill anyone foolish enough to explore. Even though there was no evidence for any of that, folks still insisted it was too dangerous to visit. It had grown to become a town legend. People were told never to go in, so they stayed away. Continue reading “The Old Mine Outside Town”
As one might imagine, a degree in Film doesn’t immediately lead to job offers. At the age of 23, I was desperately looking for a job – any job, really – but if I could find one that used my talents and my passion, I’d be ecstatic. When I refreshed the job section of Craigslist and saw, “Cameraman Wanted” with an email address, I shot off an email as fast as I could and within an hour I heard back.
After a brief email exchange, the next day I ended up interviewing with a thin, well-dressed man in a beautiful midtown apartment. The man, who introduced himself as Andrew, was polite and straightforward. “Do you have any moral issues with homosexuality and filming homosexual acts?” he asked, studying me for a reaction.
My wife lost her battle with bone cancer a year ago. I have no one.
I’ve worked from home for the last six months. My employer has been sympathetic and accommodating after everything that happened. Too many workplaces neglect and end up getting rid of disabled employees. I guess I should feel valued.
Breakfast was mac and cheese left over from the night before. I hadn’t made enough for the meal to be even remotely satisfying. Stock prices and quantitative analytics spilled from my computer monitors as I tried to concentrate on work. My eyes kept drifting over to the picture of me and Brynn on our wedding day. I have no attention span when I’m hungry.
I groaned as I lifted myself into a standing position. My knees were shot. I made my way over to the kitchen pantry and got a bag of chips and a bottle of soda. Coughing as I trundled across the office over to my desk, I’d already opened the chips and was pushing them into my mouth. As I walked by and saw my reflection in the glossy murk of my hibernating television, I could swear I saw Brynn standing by my side. When I blinked, she was gone. Just like a year ago. Continue reading “Comfort Food”
My sunflower seeds started talking to me last month. I couldn’t believe it; I’d been lonely for such a long time. It felt good to have friends. I bet it was my mom who asked them to keep me company. I miss her terribly.
The clearest memory I have of Mom was when she told me that all the beauty in the world grows from something small. I was helping her in the garden, and we’d just planted sunflowers. My favorite. A couple days later, she showed me the tiny, burgeoning sprouts that would eventually become the towering, yellow flowers I loved so much. She repeated what she told me about beauty. I remember being amazed. I’d wake up every morning and head outside and check their progress. Each time, they were a little bit bigger. Continue reading “Sprouts”
There was something unbelievable about the stuffing my grandmother made every Thanksgiving. It wasn’t just good – it was beyond amazing. Every morsel of meat and bread and vegetable was flavored to perfection. The meticulousness and love involved in the preparation process shone through with every bite. We’d eat until we were stuffed (pun intended) and still felt great afterward. Hell, we even felt invigorated, which was the last thing one would expect after Thanksgiving dinner.
Our family had been trying to get her to tell us the recipe for years. She wouldn’t even give us a hint.