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by Cherine Marie
sway in time
with the blues as music
curls around his world.
Her high heels click a tune
as she walks around him
He stares at the seam
of her black fishnet stockings,
a road map on the curve
going north, and he rises
to follow his compass.
The Cheek Pincher
by Karen Smith
She pinched my cheek that day she came to our house. Her leather gloves were soft. Mother had only wool gloves, and she never pinched anybody’s cheek. I knew then she was not like Mother. She was soft and fuzzy. Mother was burlap-rough and ready.
The Cheek Pincher had not come to visit us in ten years. I think of her as the Cheek Pincher because no one ever called her by her Christian name. Mother would say "she called" to "the gift is from her" but would not say her name. It just doesn’t seem right using her name now. Anyway, Mother was surprised and a little put out when she called out of the blue and said she was coming for a visit. Over the years, we talked about her only on holidays and birthdays when she would send us expensive presents. Mother would frown. Daddy wouldn’t say much because he did not want to upset Mother. All I know was the Cheek Pincher had more money than we did. When her husband died, he left her plenty, and since she did not have children of her own to spend it on, she spent it on is. That didn’t sit well with Mother. I think it annoyed her that the Cheek Pincher had anything to do with our family.
I took the Cheek Pincher’s suitcase to my bedroom where Mother told me she would stay. I would sleep on the couch. I could hear them talking, Mother and the Cheek Pincher. She told Mother she had come to visit because she wanted to be with the people she loved. The Cheek Pincher started to cry. When I peeked around the corner, I saw Mother frown. Mother never cried except maybe once when our old dog died. I thought I saw a tear on her cheek, but I was not sure. Mother changed the subject so the Cheek Pincher would stop crying. She told her that she was too thin. The Cheek Pincher agreed she was too thin; still she didn’t eat a thing when Mother put dinner on the table. Mother frowned again.
That evening after dinner, we sat around the den and talked. Mother and the Cheek Pincher did not share childhood stories though they had been children together at home, along with the Cheek Pincher’s husband. Mostly they talked to fill the silence. The Cheek Pincher did ask me questions about school and football. I answered them politely so as not to upset Mother. I secretly liked the Cheek Pincher.
The next morning, I discovered why the Cheek Pincher was so thin. When I knocked on the door to get her up for breakfast, she did not answer. I carefully opened the door and looked in at her. Somehow she looked different than just asleep. She looked peaceful but pale and too quiet. I touched her and she was cold.
When the doctor came, he told us she was eaten up with cancer and speculated she probably came to our house to die with her family near. He was amazed she could even talk that night she spent with us. He told Mother she was lucky to get that last bit of time with her sister. Mother did not answer. She did not look as if she felt lucky.
When we opened the Cheek Pincher’s suitcase, we discovered she had come to die at our house just as the doctor said. Among her things was a fine Sunday dress for her burial and instructions on what to do with her remains. An address for a lawyer and more than enough money for her burial was also in the suitcase.
Mother took care of the funeral arrangements. She seemed burdened by the whole situation. She greeted the few guests, mostly our church friends come to help. Mother would not let then help. I heard some of them whispering that they did not know Mother had a sister.
After everyone left, Mother stood in the kitchen washing the dishes. As she worked, I looked at her to see if her cheek was shiny, like with our old dog. It wasn’t. She just stared out the window into the shadows. I thought if Mother had died first, the Cheek Pincher would have cried, but not Mother. Mother never cried.
by William Netherton
An Icarus in overalls,
She startles her grandmother guards
Who roost beneath her childhood walls.
Jessie dances on the edge:
We spring to catch before she falls.
(There’s little need. She seldom falls—
and the pain, for her,
is worth the flight—
But still, we spring,
for she often leaps
to reach a greater height.)
Her mother and I are used to it:
Born with the cord wrapped round her neck,
Jessie’s always felt tied down,
Twisting even at the breast.
Two years old and fearless now,
and smiling at the rest who fear
her flight (because they fear her bent),
She fills her little fists with fire
from the sun in her descent,
and those who catch her catch desire
and Heaven’s holy hint.
At Home with the Pox and the Discovery Channel (April 10, 1991)
by Dwight Huber
My child, at two, is bored by the
Lions that stretch their legs
And yawn. Their soft large
Paws, spiked clubs, release
Her-limbs and mind-unharmed.
Once free, she pounces me and
Pulls and tears at me, forward
Off the bed and down the hall
Toward noontime dreams of apple juice,
Cookie lions, and thin-sliced cheese.
"But wait," I say. "Wait to watch
Those muscles harden, the golden
Ripples, the awful teeth made
White by shattering bone. The
Roars can take your breath away."
No use now to talk to her of lions.
It’s lunch she wants, and where she
Leads me is stairs away from Serengeti.
And yet I’m glad we’re here, glad
She’s had her way, glad she’s mean.
"Sit here!" she cries. And I obey.
Sometimes holding hands and sometimes
Picking up what’s spilled, I smile
To think that she’ll be lean and
Fierce and take a breath away.
by Shara Wetzel
I feel like snow.
Scattered, cold, and wet. That’s me, standing on the sidewalk and wondering if miracles still happen to women who can’t even watch Cinderella anymore with a shred of belief, as if my destiny would fly out of the sky and bowl me over if I rekindled the dream that true love happens to everyone and that someday my prince will come.
Just a tired song with a child’s nostalgia attached.
And yet, I’ve stopped here in the growing sleet. I left Penny’s apartment for something, but I’m not moving. Can’t even remember what it was I needed.
Oh yes. Wine. Wine for Tabby’s birthday dinner. Need to buy wine. My side of the street has stores that closed an hour ago, but the corner of the opposite side has a little liquor store. The night manager’s really nice. He knows exactly which wine goes with what meal, dessert, mood, or flower arrangement. A picture of his kids is taped to the inside of the back office’s window. The first time I met him, desperate for what to serve with Pistachio so I could impress my then-future in-laws, he introduced me to all four of his kids through the picture.
But no more in-laws because not even my engagement was a keeper. At least, that’s what the girls at the office tell each other. Engagements have sunk to the level of casual dating. Sometimes you just look over wedding invitation booklets and decide you really don’t like this person, though in my case it was during Penny’s bridesmaid fitting and he was tired of stifling his "inner self."
He immediately starting dating a girl who worked nights as a call girl. I still keep the voodoo doll Aimee gave me on a bookshelf. Whenever I feel particularly bitchy, I just stick a pin in and imagine him clutching his face while his call girl rolls her eyes and orders another round of drinks.
Uhmwine. Right. Wine. I glance both directions and cross the street. I’ll probably have to borrow some of Penny’s clothes now. Even my socks feel squelchy.
Finally moving with something resembling haste, I slip into the liquor store and look for the night manager. But he’s not here. The guy behind the counter looks at me with amusement. Then again, I am dripping on his floor and probably looking very disoriented. "Where’s Rick?" I ask with no "Hi, how are you?" I’m starting to feel very cold.
"One of his kids is sick. He won’t be in." I glance at the picture of his children, wondering which of them it is. "Do you need help?" the Man Who Is Not Rick asks gently.
"Wine for a friend’s birthday," I reply through chattering teeth. I shift from foot to foot.
"Are you OK?" he asks, coming out from behind the counter. He looks at the wine and not at me, so I feel like I can answer without receiving the third degree. Making polite conversations with the customers is probably Rule #2 for working here. Rule #1 being don’t drink the merchandise.
"I don’t know," I say. "I’ve been standing outside a long time. I don’t know why either.’" Raging nutcase. I need to shut up.
"Maybe something crawled across your grave." For a second, I can’t even comprehend why he’d say that. But then I review it. He said it like a person who’s recently listened to an aunt or grandmother say that, possibly in regard to something that he said.
"Maybe," I reply, gazing at the wine bottles in front of my face. The bell on the door jingles and goes silent. I glance at the new customer. He looks hopped up and jumpy. Probably doesn’t need anything more to drink than he’s already had. For a moment, he glances at the counter like he’s lost. Then he looks around and sees me and the Man Who Is Not Rick.
"You!" the customer shouts, and I blink. Out from the coat comes a gun, pointing directly at me. Oh, I don’t believe this. Now I’m cold, wet, scattered, and about to be a hostage. "Gimme all the money!"
"Uh, I don’t work here," I reply, as Not Rick doesn’t seem to want to speak up about that either.
"Oh. Gimme all the money!" the man shouts again, this time at the appropriate person. The Man Who Is Actually An Employee scuttles behind the counter while I wonder if there is any wrong liquor for a birthday party. Probably not.
I glance around me and notice a shelf of brandy bottles. Some of them are pretty big, probably heavy too, since they’re glass. "Is there any way to bring the wrong liquor to a birthday party?" I ask aloud, crouching to examine the brandy.
Not Rick whimpers and continues to raid the safe. The robber looks at me and considers. "Maybe tequila. Some people can’t take their tequila too good. Specially girls." He turns back and watches Scared Little Bunny drop a handful of quarters all over the floor.
I "Hm" to myself and heft the largest bottle of brandy. Yup. Definitely heavy, sturdy glass. I slide my feet so that they don’t squelch and swing the bottle at the back of the robber’s head. The bottle breaks, and brandy splatters all over my legs. Ick. Now I’m cold, wet, and smell like brandy.
Robber dude groans at my feet, clutching his head. I pluck up his gun and lightly place it in the metal trash can by the counter, setting the handle of the brandy bottle on top of it. I poke the robber with my foot and say, "Thanks for the advice. Here’s some that might be useful for you. Go home." He groans more and gets to his feet, stumbling against the counter to the door.
Once again, Not Rick and I are left alone in the store. He looks at me like he might cry, he’s so relieved. "Where’s your cheapest vodka?" I ask. He points to the left and croaks, "Last shelf."
I retrieve the bottle that seems the cheapest and head for the door. Along the way, I slap a cold, wet, brandy-scented $10 bill on the counter and say, "That’s for the brandy. Very top dollar stuff."
Back out in the sleet, which is turning to intermittent snow, I sling the bottle of vodka onto my shoulder and march across the street again to the darker side. Tabby hates uptown parties anyway. I think we’d all much rather get drunk and tell stories about how we’ve been in robberies and with whom our next engagement will be.
M’enage A Trois
by Johnny Sawatzki
She lies on her side in the center of the bed.
A beam of moonlight illuminates his hand
As it presses softly against her breast.
She runs a finger over dark, silky hair
While he sucks greedily at her nipple.
The mattress comes alive, as if from an earthquake
As two hundred pounds of male flesh turns about behind her
Then a massive arm is thrust possessively about her waist.
Her eyes close.
Father and son share her body,
And neither sees her smile.
by Rhiannon Selby
From the long drive around the parking lot in the futile search for a parking place, she had developed a bitter distaste for a "higher" education. Already late and off to a bad start, even more time was wasted the better places had been taken, and the better futures were in the making, as she was walking up the sidewalk in the cold wind, in the shade of the big, intelligent-looking buildings.
She was already fifteen minutes late to the calculus class, and deciding whether or not to go in late. Of course, if she had gone to the cafeteria like she wanted, the guilt and worry would have overridden her. Oh, what an ulcer!
In any case, the cold forced her into the nearest building, which just happened to be the engineering building where the class was already in session.
She didn’t call it "her" class it was more or less taking her, not vice versa. Oh, what agony! She knew that if she dropped it, it would be a tiny suicide, a small admittance to failure.
"When I am old," she thought, "all I will have left is my mind and hopefully what I’ve written. The math notes will have been long forgotten, and since improved upon anyway."
The door opened, and the clock was ticking. The clock was always ticking. The clock at home seemed to be behind the clock in the car followed the clock at school. It was darned frustrating to walk out the door, get in the car, and already be late.
So, the decision faced her: whether to just walk straight through the lower corridor to the cafeteria or to climb the steps up to the halls of lectures and math offices.
"To be or not to be," she thought. "To change my major from architecture to English," she wondered. But which should be priority and which should be pleasure? She had written for pleasure since years before - she knew that the writing talent was not common, and for some English professors, getting students to write was worse than pulling teeth.
"Hmm, the leaders and the followers," she thought. "The reading process is a cycle, where the math process of learning is linear, with little creative dimension." She valued creativity above all eons' development of math.
Math had been causing people like her trouble since its very beginning, especially since it became a requirement. Who cares how the universe works? It’s an inspiration.
With this resolution, she sat down at a table in the top of the stair corridor on the little balcony and started writing. She used her calculus book as a lap table, as the various instructors’ voices floated down the hall in a sort of unsynchronized, moaning chorus.
by Ginger Everitt
I am comfortable in my solitude,
My self-made tent of aloneness.
I can sit and ponder.
I can recline and think.
There is no one to hurt me.
There is no one to fail me.
I am completely alone with myself.
I sit in anger and contemplate the wrongs done me.
by Jan Prater
If he’s a day
But he’s still a young man
In his own way
His face is wrinkled
His hands are curled
From life’s imperfections
At the work in his world
He still wears his Stetson
Though it’s dirty and worn
There’s a patch on his blue jeans
And his shirt pocket’s torn
But his eyes are alive still
With the fire of his youth
He speaks and we listen
To his view of the truth
The stories he tells
Of his day on the land
When he worked as a cowboy
And he rode for the brand
He tamed the rough broncos
And roped the wild cow
When a top hand was needed
He showed them all how
Though age might have slowed him
And dimmed his bright light
He will not go down gently
Or give up the fight
If he’s a day
But he’s still a young man
In his own way
Ice Cream and Other Lessons
by Carol Gonzales
My uncle Beanie got his name from the time he got hungry for pinto beans and decided to cook himself a big pot. Having never done this before and being very hungry at the time, he put ten small sacks of dry pinto beans on to boil. He didn’t know they swell as they cook. By the time he got through, he had filled every pot his wife, Aunt Flo, owned plus all our pots and our neighbors’ pans. When he was finished, he had enough beans to feed everybody we knew and some we didn’t. He did just that, handing out beans to everyone in sight, thus insuring that everyone we knew would call him Beanie for the rest of his life.
He was always up to something, usually something kind but different than anything anyone else would ever think of doing. I loved to be around him. He never got upset over anything I did--not even the time he gave me a hundred dollar bill to look at and hold while we rode the ferry in San Francisco. I had never seen a hundred dollar bill before. Nor had I ever been out on a boat. The wind blew white waves in the choppy water that day. I thought paper airplanes sailing just above them would look great. Uncle Beanie kept right on talking to Daddy while I made a paper airplane out of the bill he’d given me to hold.
It made a good one. When I lifted my arm to sail it overboard in the brisk breeze, he just gave me a grin and grabbed my hand, extracting the carefully folded bill. He told me money was not usually used to make paper airplanes, but he thought I’d done a good job. Then he gave me a big hug, straightened out the bill, and put it back in his pocket.
I was happy when he and Aunt Flo decided to go shopping with my parents and me that Saturday afternoon. It was the hottest summer day California had yet produced for its transplanted Texans. We’d shopped for three hours and felt like we were melting when Uncle Beanie spotted the ice cream parlor.
It had seven flavors displayed where even a child could see them plus cones in several sizes, one of them enormous. All the pastel colors looked cold and delicious. I spotted lemon, lime, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, cherry and my mother’s favorite, butter pecan. It would be a hard choice, but how fun to make it! I started to ask for a cone and a dip of chocolate and one of cherry when my mother silenced me.
"Carol will have one dip--a small one--of vanilla, and she’ll have it in a cup so she won’t get it all over herself," she said in a voice that brooked no dissent. I gave Uncle Beanie a stricken look, and he and my father both frowned at Mother, but she ignored them. "It’s too close to supper for her to have two dips," she said. "She won’t eat her dinner if she has more than this." She glared at me as if daring me to open my mouth, so I didn’t. When we finished eating, Aunt Flo said she was tired and ready to go home.
After we got there, Uncle Beanie and Aunt Flo went next door to their home. Mother told me to lie down and take a nap. At six I felt too old for naps, plus I wasn’t tired. Instead I wanted to go play outside, and I started to tell her so. A loud knock rattled the front door before I could finish. When Mother opened it, my Uncle Beanie stepped inside, gave me an amused grin, and told Mother he could see that she was tired. He suggested she take a nap while he took me to run an errand.
Mother started to protest, but Daddy stuck his head in the room and told her to hush and let me go. She never argued when Daddy used that tone of voice. Uncle Beanie took my hand, and we were off.
The "errand" he had in mind was a return to the ice cream parlor we’d just left. He motioned for me to get up on the stool at the counter, and then he looked at his watch. "It’s at least three hours until supper," he informed me, his expression serious. "If I get you more ice cream, you have to promise me you’ll eat every bite of your dinner--well, maybe not dessert, but everything else. Is that a deal?"
"Oh, yes, Uncle Beanie," I promised, glowing with gratitude. "Every bite, I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die." I crossed my heart to seal the bargain.
He grinned and turned to the waitress. "You see that big cone there, the one on the end?" The waitress looked at me and indicated the third largest.
"That one?" she asked.
"Oh no," said Uncle Beanie. "The one on the end. The biggest one you’ve got. And fill it with one dip each of every flavor for the young lady. And I want one just like it myself."
I had never seen such an ice cream cone. Top heavy but beautiful, it made me feel so loved. Uncle Beanie always made me feel like I’d just had my ear licked by a dog I really loved, one who knew me.
After I’d eaten four dips, he told me to slow down a little and said we’d take the rest home. We wrapped the remainder of our cones in paper napkins. I ate one dip in the car and finished the last two as we walked through our front door. Uncle Beanie still had a few dips to go and finished his at our kitchen table. Then he asked what we were having for supper. Daddy’s eyes were dancing, and he invited Uncle Beanie and Aunt Flo to join us for dinner.
Mother was speechless. She looked grim and like someone had just pinched her hard. I went outside to play and gave her a wide berth when she called me in to wash up for supper. I wasn’t a bit hungry, but I said nothing when she gave me an extra helping of everything. Daddy, Uncle Beanie, and Aunt Flo all smiled at me after we said grace.
I ate every bite on my plate just like I promised Uncle Beanie I would. Uncle Beanie had seconds on everything and told Mother he didn’t notice that nine dips of ice cream in mid afternoon had affected his appetite, adding that he wanted a piece of pie with a dip of ice cream from the freezer for dessert. He smiled at Mother and said, "And see, Frances, Carol ate every bite of her supper. And I did, too."
"The Things They Carried"
by Gary Powell
No matter how much a person may carry, it is often outweighed by things of an intangible nature. A person can carry things weighing up to a hundred pounds, but they might seem insignificant when weighed against something as light as a "pebble" (275). Something having no mass or form, such as thought, emotion, or memory, weighs infinitely more than any object weighed in pounds. Tim O’Brien’s story "The Things They Carried" is about the physical burdens the troops in Vietnam bore, and even more so, this story is about their emotional cargo.
The things they carry are physically cumbersome. Their material possessions, which entail everything from can openers to Kool Aid, "weighed between fifteen and twenty pounds" (272); "jungle boots-2.1 pounds" (272); "steel centered, nylon covered flak jacket, which weighed 6.7 pounds" (272); the M-16 carried by the majority of troops "weighed 7.5 pounds unloaded" (274). All totaled, these few basic items weigh over thirty pounds. Aside from their gear, which was often far heavier than the 30 pounds previously mentioned, they also bore the physical burden of the environment. They picked up many things to carry along the way, everything, from "leeches" (278) to "diseases" (278). Another burden was the earth "itself-Vietnam, the place, the soil" (278). Even the laws of physics are toted with them: "they carried gravity" (278). Infinitely many physical hardships are endured by the men in this place.
However, material weights often pale in comparison to the emotional rigors they endure. The term "hump" (273) means "to walk" (273) or "to march" (273), but it is often applied to "burdens far beyond the intransitive" (273). O’Brien describes the hump: "The hump was everything, a kind of inertia, a kind of emptiness, a dullness of desire and intellect and conscience and hope and human sensibility" (278). Their day-to-day existence is this hump, "the endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing won or lost" (278). The hump is an endless exercise in boredom, fear, and uncertainty. The one constant fact was that no matter how many things a soldier carried, they would never outweigh his fear of death. In fact, this fear increases their burden to unknown bounds. O’Brien tells us this when Ted Lavender, "who was scared" (274), gets killed. Lavender "went down under exceptional burden, more than twenty pounds of ammunition, plus the flak jacket and helmet and rations and water and toilet paper and tranquilizers and all the rest, plus the unweighed fear" (274).
The main character, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, bears the burden of his fascination with a girl named Martha. He also bears "the responsibility for the lives of his men" (273). Jimmy cannot stop thinking of Martha: "his mind wandered, he had difficulty keeping his attention on the war" (275). He is weighed down with his thoughts of her: "she was a virgin, he was almost sure" (275). She sends him a "simple pebble, an ounce at the most" (275). It is this pebble he carries in his mouth in early April before Ted Lavender gets shot. He remembers kissing her: "She received the kiss without returning it, her eyes wide open, not afraid, not a virgin’s eyes, just flat and uninvolved" (277). His thoughts are of being "just a kid at war, in love" (277). It is at this moment that Jimmy picks up his greatest burden of all. Ted Lavender is killed, under his command, while he is lost in thoughts of Martha. He is grief stricken and blames himself because he "loved Martha more than his men, and as a consequence Lavender was now dead, and this was something he would have to carry like a stone in his stomach for the rest of the war" (279).
Many times they would "discard things along the route of the march" (278) "because by nightfall the resupply choppers would arrive with more of the same" (279). After Lavender’s death, Lieutenant Cross discards his "daydreams" (283) of Martha and replaces them with the burdens of his command. O’Brien is using Cross to show how many of these men lost their innocence in Vietnam. Cross comes to the conclusion that "this is not Mount Sebastian, it was another world, where there were no pretty poems or midterm exams, a place where men died because of their carelessness and gross stupidity" (283). He has the realization "he would show strength, distancing himself" (283). The following sums up what O’Brien is trying to say: "They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing-these were intangible, but they had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight" (281).
"The Story of An Hour" Realizing Freedom
by Marcus Thornton
Kate Chopin’s 1894 short story, "The Story of An Hour," describes a wife learning of her husband’s accidental death, realizing the potentially positive implications, and then dying from shock and dismay when she discovers her husband is still alive. Some critics assume that Chopin intended her readers to see the wife as a spoiled, unappreciative wife. However, by examining the story and the life of Chopin, it is easy to show that the assumption is incorrect. On the contrary, Chopin shows a sensitive, repressed woman coming to life -- perceiving a previously unknown freedom and embracing it -- while simultaneously making a statement that women in her time, through accepting current societal norms, are blinded to their potential in life.
Daniel Deneau notes that there is a continual debate about the wife, Louise Mallard: "Is Louise a normal, understandable, sympathetic woman, or is she an egocentric, selfish monster?" (2). He argues that she is sympathetic not selfish because the change in her feelings is gradual and not understood at first: "If immediately after learning of the death of her husband Louise had gone through a rapid logical process leading to a celebration of her total freedom, she might have seemed to be a hard, calculating and therefore unsympathetic woman" (Deneau 3). In fact, her slow awakening to the concept of freedom is precisely what proves Louise is not spoiled or selfish. In "The Story of An Hour," several clues about Louise Mallard’s personality and feelings indicate she is not spoiled. They are her feelings toward her husband, her physical condition, her resistance to change, and her understanding of her freedom.
Louise is not unfeeling towards her husband (Howard 3). "She wept at once" (Chopin 1) when she learns of her husband’s death. She admits that she loved him, not a perfect love, but the love is recognized (Chopin 2). When she thinks of him, she does not think of the cruel or unkind memories, but instead thinks of his "kind, tender hands" and his "face that had never looked save with love upon her" (Chopin 1). She also realizes that seeing him at the funeral will be a painful experience. That Louise seeks to be alone indicates her feelings are strong and that she is deeply affected by the loss of her husband. As one critic notes, she is so sensitive that the proper social etiquette facade could not hold up under such a loss, and subsequently she sought to be alone with her feelings and her private self (Papke 132). The feelings Louise exhibits throughout the story show she is a sensitive woman who cared for her husband.
Louise’s physical condition is a good indication of the type of person she is. Wohlpart advises that society during Louise’s time "perceive[d] women, and wives in particular, as weak creatures who need[ed] to be handled very carefully, almost like children" (1). Louise is young and pretty but has heart trouble, appears exhausted, and even her "two white slender hands" seem powerless (Chopin 1). Wohlpart further explains that "the true nature of Louise’s trouble [is] the lack of emotion and affection in her marriage and life" (2), robbing her of strength and inspiration. Her face, showing the evidence of repression (Chopin 1), is hardly the face of a spoiled woman. This is a woman who dreads the future, who "only yesterdayhad thought with a shudder that life might be long" (Chopin 2). However, the underlying strength in her face and her eyes, which are brightened by realization and enthusiasm (Chopin 1), show she is a woman with potential.
When Louise slowly begins to perceive the implications of her husband’s death on her life, she does not greedily snatch the idea and run with it. She is actually resistant at first. As "he was beginning to recognize this thing...he was striving to beat it back with her will" (Chopin 1). Society had taught Louise to ignore her yearning for freedom and she was alarmed by the prospect (Wohlpart 2). Her reluctance to acknowledge this newfound freedom at first shows she is not used to the idea and, therefore, had not secretly wished and hoped for it beforehand. She is not a spoiled wife unappreciative of her husband, but a woman going through a change and a rebirth.
Even Louise’s perception of her new freedom is indicative of a sympathetic woman. She does not blame her condition or state on her husband or anyone else. Wohlpart asserts that Louise realizes "that even within the confines of a loving and supportive marriage, the woman as wife lacks identity and voice" (2). "[S]he understands that any institution, whether kind or cruel, that suggests suppression and repression of individual feminine desires denies the identity of women" (Wohlpart 2). Louise comes to see the "blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature" (Chopin 2) and sees that it is wrong. She does not even consider blaming someone; instead she avoids analyzing it, "not stop[ping] to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her" (Chopin 1). Rather than bitterly blaming her husband or society for her lost freedom, she just looks forward to the freedom she can now have.
Another clue to support the idea that Chopin intended Louise to be a sensitive, repressed woman rather than a spoiled one is Chopin’s life and the statements she makes in her other stories. As early as her time as a young debutante, she was exploring the concept of independent women in her diary (Kimbel 1). Chopin lived her life how she wanted, both "mentally and physically rather than play the role society expected of her" (Deter 1). In Chopin’s society, "marriagewas the goal of every woman’s life, service to her husband and her children, her duties, passionless and submission her assumed virtues, selflessness her daily practice, [and] self sacrifice her pleasure" (Howard 3). Yet when she married, she continued to follow her ways rather than society. Rather than finding women like Louise spoiled, they intrigued her: "The woman who demands her own direction and chooses her own freedominterest[ed] Chopin most" (Howard 3).
In her works, Chopin portrays over and over again the importance of women finding their voice and freedom and how society prevents them from fully realizing this freedom. In her first story "Emancipation: A Life Fable," written at age 19, Chopin wrote of freedom and restriction (Kimbel 3). Mary Papke believes Chopin is making a statement about society with Louise, showing that she could not survive with her wonderful new freedom because she was the only one who changed, not society with her (134). As another critic says, "Chopin uses [her works] on two levels, to open an avenue for the discussion of feminine identity and, at the same time, to critique thesociety that denies the identity" (Wohlpart 1). Chopin’s works express her personal beliefs and question the ideas of individuality and autonomy in her society (Deter 1). Her beliefs are consistent with the concept that Louise is not unappreciative, but just learning of freedom.
"The Story of An Hour" is about a repressed woman rather than a spoiled one. The story vividly describes Louise’s tender feelings and the progress of her emotions and desires. Chopin’s life and beliefs are reflected in all her works and also serve to confirm Louise as a deprived woman coming to life as well as to confirm Chopin’s desire to tell society it is preventing women from truly living.
Chopin, Kate. "The Story of An Hour." Bibliomania. 2000. Bibliomania.com LTD. 17 February 2004 .
Deneau, Daniel P. "Chopin’s The Story of An Hour." The Explicator 64.14 (Summer 2003): 210. Literature Resource Center. 21 February 2004 .
Deter, Flora. "Kate Chopin: In Search of Freedom." What You Need to Know About: Literature: Classic. 2004. About, Inc. 17 February 2004 .
Howard, Ann Bail. "A Woman Far Ahead of Her Time." Great Plains Chatauqua Society. July 1997. 21 February 2004 .
Kimbel, Bobby Ellen. "Kate Chopin." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 78: American Short-Story Writers, 1880-1910. Pennsylvania State University, Ongontz Campus. The Gale Group, 1989. Literature Resource Center. 17 February 2004 .
Papke, Mary E. "Mary E. Papke on The Story of An Hour.’" Kate Chopin: A Study of the Sort Fiction. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996. 132-134.
Wohlpart, Jim. "Patriarchal Society and the Erasure of the Feminine Self in Chopin’s The Story of An Hour’." Florida Gulf Coast University. 1997. 26 February 2004 .
Each year the Amarillo College English Department holds a Writer’s Roundup contest to encourage beginning as well as advanced writers to demonstrate their creative flair. Students are given a prompt and have two hours in which to write. The type of writing is up to the student.
For more information on how to enter this friendly competition, please call (806) 371-5170 or email Angie Kleffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Echoing Cry
by Lucius Ramos, Grand Prize Winner
For ten years, I have sat here on this swing. For ten years, I have watched the tree above me. I have seen the leaves grow and fall. The way the leaves dance as they fall to the ground. I have seen the darkness that engulfs the tree during the harsh winter. The branches of the tree looked like fleshless arms flailing in the wind during the winter, but life comes back to the tree during the spring.
For ten years, I have sat here on this swing. For ten years, I have watched the birds nest in the tree above me. I watched as the birds spent weeks making their nest. The birds spent all day gathering twigs and strings to make their nest. After the birds made the nest, they would lay their eggs and tentatively watch over the eggs. Rain, sleet, and violent winds did not keep the birds from protecting their nest. After the babies flew away, the mother and father never returned. The nest would lie there in the tree until the icy wrecking ball of winter came, and it knocked the lovely nest from the tree. The nest lying on the ground decimated like a pile of bones, but new birds would come and build another nest during the spring.
For ten years, I have sat here on this swing. For ten years, I have watched the swing decay. The swing’s paint has chipped and fallen off the seat. The wood of the seat has an ashy look of bareness. The metal frame of the swing is rusting, but the chains of the swing are worse. The rusty chains remain, but they get worse after the icy touch of winter. The swing gets worse and one day it will break. The chains will snap, and the wooden seat below me will have bone-curdling crack. The swing will break, but someone will come repair it during the spring.
For ten years, I have sat here on this swing. Eleven years ago, my wife and kids died. I sit on this swing remembering how John and Jessica would run around the tree, and they would tweet at the birds. I sit on this swing remembering Angela’s warm embrace as I held her in my arms on this swing. I sit on this swing remembering how Angela was always happy when spring came because she wanted to come out on this swing and hold me while we watched the kids play. I sit on this swing remembering the day I sat down on the swing for the last time ten years ago. Now, for ten years, the wind blows through my ribs, and wind rips at my bones slowly wearing them down just like the swing. Now, for ten years, the snow collects on my skull, and my bones are falling off just like the twigs of the nest. Now, for ten years, I sit here like the tree during the death of winter. For ten years, I have sat here on this swing, while nests are made new, swings wait to be fixed, and trees bloom again. Life is a never-ending cycle of rebirth but not for me For ten years, I have sat here on this swingFor ten years, I have sat here on this swingFor ten years, I have sat here on this swing. For ten yea
Promise of Butterflies
by Linda Pulliam, First Place Sophomore
Life promises nothing. The experiences in life teach us this lesson. We can see this as a great disappointment, or a lesson for living to look back at and enjoy. When I was six years old, I had a lesson in empty promises. I look back and chuckle as I recall my hopes and the promise of something more.
It was the summer of my sixth birthday. My aunt and uncle from Texas had sent me a beautiful sombrero from Mexico. I loved this creation of straw and pompoms of rainbow colors. It was so pretty to look at. I remember the sun shining down on me when I wore the hat; the pompoms would bounce in the shadows of the hat on the ground as I ran to play. Nobody had a hat like my sombrero in the middle of the cornfields of Illinois.
This particular summer, I was best friends with the little girl who lived down the country lane behind our house. She lived on a real farm with cows, pigs, chickens, and grain fields. When I visited with her, we walked on the tops of the animal pens, peering down into the mass of goats and pigs. Occasionally, we wandered through the barns, watching the cows being milked or gathering eggs from the chickens. Most of the time, we spent our time chasing butterflies in the fields of wheat between our houses and down the lane.
I could catch the butterflies by creeping very quietly up to them as they sat on a bush or stalk of wheat and grabbing them by their wings. I did this ever so gently, so I would not smear the powdery coating on their wings which smudged their beautiful colors. That summer, I had a jar of beautiful butterflies which I had caught during my constant forays down the lane.
Perhaps it was the revenge of these beautiful creatures of nature or the innocence of being six, but I learned a lesson of nature. As a six-year-old, I had gone to school for my first year. I loved learning. Not only did I have books, but all of nature was an instructor. I was intrigued by the idea that butterflies come out of cocoons. All summer long, as I wandered the lane wearing my sombrero with the colorful pompoms, I looked for cocoons. Towards the end of summer as I was harvesting a new crop of butterflies, I saw what I thought were cocoons on the bushes beside the road.
I was so excited and ran and told my father all about the cocoons. He looked at me with a grin in his eyes which I did not notice at the time, So, I made my plans. If I gathered the cocoons, I would have all the butterflies which would come out of them. Hurriedly, I ran down the lane to the bushes laden with cocoons. I was so excited about gathering the cocoons that I didn’t bring a jar, but I used my sombrero to collect the cocoons off the bushes. Inside the sombrero, I put every cocoon I could reach from the bushes. I then spent the rest of the day waiting for the butterflies to come out. All day long I waited until it was time to go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I would have butterflies.
As the sun began to shine on the window of my room the next morning, I scooted out from under the covers and ran to my sombrero. There inside my beautiful sombrero I did not find butterflies as I had hoped; instead, I found hundreds of bagworms crawling in and out of the beautiful pompoms and straw.
Alas, the promise was nothing but bagworms instead of butterflies. I never wore the pretty sombrero with the many colored pompoms again. I don’t know if it was because of the memory of the disappointment or the thought of a bagworm popping out from one of the pompoms.
by Lynn James, First Place Freshman
People choose many different forms of recreation. My father’s passion is music. My wife is addicted to television. I have uncles that are amazing carpenters. I know people that love gardening and yard work. It is a small matter of taste, but I do not understand the draw of any of those activities. I suppose that recreation gives a view into the deeper aspects of personality, and I am an intense person. I ride motorcycles—any kind of motorcycle. If it has two wheels and an engine, I want on it. Today, the only thing between me and a day in the dirt is this paper.
Since I was eight years old, I have ridden, and I cannot imagine a life without bikes. I struggle when I try to put riding into words. It is a feeling that defies definition. There is power and beauty and fear all wrapped up in every instant. I truly understand the meaning of the word "alive" when I ride. It is so much more than Webster could ever explain.
Excitement builds from the moment I begin to load the truck. It is almost as if I can hear the bike in my thoughts. Almost like a lover, she whispers of the delights to come. The drive to any riding spot is torturously slow and yet oddly peaceful. It is the emotional equivalent of watching a Texas thunderhead roll in on a spring night—tranquil beauty that belies the display of violent power to come.
As I unload and gear up, the queasy feeling in my stomach shows up. I welcome the butterflies as an old friend, my constant riding companion. Once I’ve put on all my protective gear, I kick my bike to life. Her throaty growl urges me to hurry up. There are fears to conquer, and adventures to be experienced. The first few miles are simply foreplay, an opportunity for us to warm up together, and to meld ourselves into a single unit. As I get more comfortable, she asks me for more. Like a horse wanting its head to run, my bike is restless below me, knowing that she has so much more to give than I could ever use. The ground gets rougher, two foot deep sand whoops from one corner to the next. I have to click another gear, shift my weight back and hold on. With the front tire just off the ground, and the rear only hitting the tops of the mounds, my body is jarred from each of the impacts as though I’m opening a fifty horsepower jackhammer. I have nothing to do but trust my girl to take me safely to the next corner. On the brakes hard until just before the entrance, I throw the bike on her side until the bars are almost touching the ground and I dump the clutch. The berm explodes in flying sand and earsplitting noise, and I am rocketing down the next straight towards a jump. As I hit the face, the suspension compresses, much like a cat preparing to pounce on an unwary mouse. Then the earth falls away below me, and I am flying. I’m looking down at the trees as they streak by in a blur. It’s like being a pilot for a few seconds—making minute corrections to bring myself down safely, exactly where I want.
I would equate riding to ballet if it were not for the sheer danger and violence involved. Every muscle must work in perfect synchronization with a machine. The clutch, throttle, shifter, and back and front brakes all independent, yet they must work in perfect harmony in order to achieve the beauty we chase. When the melding of man and machine is achieved, even for a moment, riding is absolute bliss. There is no conscious thought involved. It is almost as if my mind is connected to the controls and it is impossible to fail.
When it is over, the exhaustion of mind and body is complete, but I have forgotten all the pedestrian worries of the day-to-day. For a short time, living is condensed down in to its barest essence—managing to not get myself killed. For that small moment in time, I have truly lived. I can’t wait to live again.
Last updated by tndejesus -- Jul/03/08