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The Words We Say, the Words We Write

"England and Scotland slid past the litter of the king of the Shadows. ...The sea was not frozen; for all the stars shone as clear out of the deeps below as they shone out of the deeps above; and as the bearers slid along the blue-gray surface, with never a furrow in their track, so pure was the water beneath, that the king saw neither surface, bottom, nor substance to it, and seemed to be gliding only through the blue sphere of heaven, with the stars above him, and the stars below him, and between the stars and him nothing but an emptiness, where, for the first time in his life, his soul felt that it had room enough." -- from "The Shadows," by George MacDonald
For now it's enough to see his shaking hand as he writes. Do you see it? Just above the paper, hovering: The pen scratches out words, stops. How the hand trembles! If you watched long enough, you'd see how the flicker of his oil lamp keeps time for him. The pen, the hand, the flame -- when he writes …

A Fairy Tail

"Are there fairies in the desert?"

Now, this question, which is not for the faint of heart, skipped off the lips of my boy at a late hour -- so you'll have to forgive me for my answer: "You know fairies aren't really real, right?"

"Dad," he said, rolling away from me in his bed sheets and then back, a teddy in tow. His tone said it all before he continued. "I know -- but are there?"

This is a perilous situation. When the moon is out, the bedtime story has already been read, and sleep is yet to advance upon the throne of the young child's brow, well, dangerous words spill forth. You understand, I'm sure. Those dangerous words are generally ushered in with a sigh, and then something like, "Oh, I don't know."

The look in his eye alerted me fully to my mistake. As is already obvious, the chief problem is not the answer in itself, but the origin of said answer: Such words are conceived not when the question is too diffic…

El Dorado

El Dorado Avenue. When Mrs. George thought about it, that name fit only if your eyes were right; the street was not paved with gold, nor did it lead to a golden city. But it did lead somewhere, somewhere she'd been, somewhere she tired to show others who happened by her place. Beginning at the western edge of Kittle Park, perpendicular to First Street, El Dorado snaked away to the west, narrowed, and ended in a tangle of weeds and tall grass; the river passed on close by. Houses had not been planned but seemed to spring up here and there out of the very ground; most of them predated Mrs. George, and she'd been there from time immemorial. The only house that could be seen from First Street, and the only house worth looking at, was hers, and it sat like a lighthouse on the corner. Its front faced the park and First, and the southern side reached down into El Dorado.

Made of wispy willow branches, Mrs. George's chair comforted her; from the corner of her wrap-around porch she…

The Final Testament of the Sun

Ice taps my helmet and overlarge goggles, and the sting upon my neck is clear and biting; it is here -- in the snow, the ration truck's lights trailing away, disappearing -- here I decide this is my final portion. Without permission (for who gives permission now?), I remove my protection, my gloves, my headgear, my coat. Snow and sleet fall as before, as they have, as they will, and in the midst of the cold I burn. This I do to make ready. Slowly, my boots shuffle of their own accord through the frozen slush to the shelter and the fire within that must never go out. It is signal; it is life. And yet the wood-gathering hours are few. We are few. Sitting now in front of the fire, the strong heat of its flames on my face, I'm reminded of a time from long ago. The flickering shadows on the hearth, they replay an image for me: It was summer, a morning in July, and the sunlight filtered onto our living room floor through the leaves of a large flowering pear tree that grew just outsi…

Corn Tassels

Mason Bloom shook off all his doubts about leaving -- about seeking a way to leave -- and decided to purchase a new home in the Singing Creek housing community. The realtor had a long list of prospective places for him, but the idea of a creek running nearby had been enough for Mason. Of course, it was only an idea -- the small creek had been mostly diverted long ago as more houses were built.

Mike, his aspiring realtor, said, "You know there's no actual creek."

But Mason stepped into the back yard without answering. He knew.

The yard he walked through that day consisted of a patch of dry lawn and weeds poking from mounds of topsoil. He grew a new garden in his mind -- "Don't you want to see the bedrooms?" Mike had asked from the deck. Mason hadn't answered that question either -- he let the dirt crunch under his rubber soled shoes, and at one point closed his eyes to better feel the sun on his neck.

Later, standing next to Mike, Mason said, "My co…

Matthew H. Glen-Shaw

On the northernmost edge of the south side stood a Pelican Burger -- "Proudly serving the city's biggest burger since 1978" -- and its sign loomed over 56th street so that the head of a massive pelican cast a deep shadow, westward during early morning hours, then to the east asthe day waned. The bird's plastic head could be seen as far away as 52nd, and the running joke of those who lived nearby was if you saw the feathered head even that far off, you were caught -- or just as well you were -- by the large beak of the pelican: your next meal awaited you, no matter the hour.

Dr. Mary Glen-Shaw's mind clenched like a fist as she stood under the creaking Pelican Burger sign. From where she stood she could hear the commotion of customers inside, and she saw her son, Matthew, standing along the wall. The muscles in her neck tightened; she gritted her teeth. Deep in the recesses of her thoughts she remembered telling him he could be anything he wanted to be. This corro…