Hard to believe, but a week has already passed since the release of Issue 19. So far, the following stories and poem have arisen as the top 5 most read pieces in the collection (“Inherent Risk” taking first place): “Inherent Risk,” “Bakersfield,” “Excerpts From Sister Zero,” “The Bird,” and “My Children Build ‘Everybody’s Dream Land.’” With that in mind, we asked a few of our editors to share their personal favorites from the issue. For your reading pleasure, we have compiled that list below.
“Excerpts from Sister Zero,” by Nance Van Winckel
Together, the three short pieces in Nance Van Winckel’s “Excerpts from Sister Zero” form a meditation on gender and aging. In the first, “Some Boy with a Football,” the young narrator confronts both the possibility of romance and the unglamorous reality of women’s labor. In the second, “Making It to Vast Old Age, So What,” the narrator rehearses what by the third, “First We Must Put on Our Brows,” has become fact—the infirmity of old age. Yet Van Winckel reminds us that the elderly sometimes wish for the youthful possibilities of “Some Boy with a Football.” If the trajectory she follows is often bleak, it’s tempered by her lovely prose and sly humor.
“Bakersfield,” by Mickey Revenaugh
Mickey Revenaugh’s “Bakersfield” impressed me with its precision in invoking a certain time, place, and socioeconomic milieu. When the narrator’s mother moves the family to Bakersfield, California, in 1968, the children must negotiate the unfamiliar territory of their new home and adolescence; as well as the changing social mores of civil rights, the counterculture, the Vietnam War, and second-wave feminism. In many ways, the family matriarch is the real star here, holding together both the narrative and the family. The incident in which she shares a candy bar with a young child is particularly affecting.
“We are All Human, Even on the South Lawn in 1972” by Heather Boubeau
In “We are All Human, Even on the South Lawn in 1972” Heather Bourbeau captures the paradox of power; as well as the general pettiness and mundane thoughts of an average man orchestrating extraordinary events. This brief flash piece—an imagined monologue of Richard Nixon—felt true to its historical moment, yet also perfectly relevant to current events.
“I Grew a Maple Tree,” by Christopher Rodrigues
The other flash piece that most spoke to me was “I Grew a Maple Tree,” by Christopher Rodrigues. In less than 300 words, Rodrigues does wonderful things with compression and the passage of time. This seemingly simple tale of a boy growing up and growing old and the tree he planted as a child, which he knows will survive him, is a lovely yet bittersweet meditation on human mortality.
“64 Salmon” by Becca Borawski
Becca Borawski Jenkins’s flash piece “64 Salmon” took me by surprise. I’m not normally drawn to stories with a nostalgic edge about parenthood, but Jenkins goes well beyond a father wistfully meditating on times past. Throughout the story, the characters lug a heavy weight through darkness, bugs, and muck toward gentle waters, which is a simple yet subtly drawn metaphor about growing up. This father-daughter narrative is concise yet insightful and evokes a haiku-like feel. I loved reading this story
“Lost,” by B.A. Varghese
In “Lost,” the short story written by B.A. Varghese, the author obsesses his protagonist with the seemingly innocuous custom of taking your shoes off at the door, which I love. This custom is important because it has reason and thought behind it; because it is meant to show respect for another person’s home. It is one that, for the protagonist, must also be upheld because it is culturally expected. In the protagonist’s quest to uphold his social obligations, the author questions the state of the communal relationship and muses on what is lost in the holistic experience when custom dictates every action and interaction. Ultimately, this story grabbed hold of me with its voice, kept hold of me with its almost Chekhov-like sense of humor, and then rewarded me with an ending that still makes my heart ache.
“Hanginaround,” by Dan Morey
Dan Morey’s inventive and wry “Hanginaround” has so much momentum going on right from the start that it’s a pleasure to go along for the ride. Not only are the two main characters compelling, but Morey creates a third character out of the town of Erie, PA, which weathers both the affection and disdain of its two native sons. In less deft hands, the pause/play device for shifting point of view might have been distracting, but Morey’s strategic use of it adds narrative clarity and resonance.
Rosie Huf is the Senior Editor of Cleaver Magazine’s Life As Activism feature and manages the Editors’ Blog. Recently, she received her Master of Liberal Studies degree from Arizona State University, the concentration in Nonfiction and Publishing. She has had several interviews published in Superstition Review and has a forthcoming nonfiction piece in Sundog Lit.