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Posts from the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

The Chair

by Bettye W. Harwell

She sat most days in that chair on the porch. Like everything around, it never really seemed old. It must have been put there on that porch, in the same place by Grancy. Neither she nor the chair would have been young at the time.

It is placed to catch just enough sun and shade. Sitting there, you never get too hot to stopping shelling peas nor too cold to go inside. Each woman of the house shaped that chair. You could feel the tiny form of Grancy. Each generation a bit larger made its own form, blurring the harder edges under them. It took years to mold the seat to fit each larger bottom.

Sitting in the chair, you can, must look up to see the interstate. Its wall dead-ends the street so everybody who passes by speaks. Some come to the steps to look toward the chair. These are the gossipers, salesmen, mostly men with eager eyes. Not so often now, when they learn the girls are grown, living on their own.

The chair stays on the porch. It is smooth and dark, as are the women who sit there. Enough happens in front of them that the newsboy never stops. All the stories are shared more with chair than either lady. It’s like it has been in the same exact spot for over 100 years. One woman sits there as if she has become royalty and the chair is her throne. It will be hers as long as she is able to get up in the morning. 

And the chair now is occupied with the great-granddaughter. She stares over the railing of the porch. A few brown and near-brown children play in the hot, dusty street. It is summer and they come out early. Their parents are asleep. Most count on someone in the chair keeping them quiet. 

A few sharply dressed women head for the dead end which traps all on this street. A path through one unfenced yard is the only escape to the bus stop. Their stride, more plodding than teetering. Their good heels, carefully wrapped in tissue, lie next to their umbrella in oversize handbags. A few have only a shopping bag. These women work as house cleaners, child and health care workers. The factories closed years ago.

The only real sounds are from the flowing rush hour cars above the wall. It is mid-morning before the gawking-eyed men come to the steps with gossip. Who is sleeping with whom? Why the eighteen year old boy at the corner hasn’t been seen? He was in jail for a week before he died. Who is making, selling or using drugs? 

Nothing ruffles the mood in the chair. The rhythm of shelling peas never stops. The stories are always the same. But yesterday was different. Sirens, banging and speed on top of the wall just as sunlight faded. It changed everything. 

For once, the chair was empty for something other than chores or church. No one took her place. The siren and flashing lights lit up the air. A huge SUV tumbled side over side, front over back, end over end down the wall into the dead-end street. 

You could just see the top of a long truck. And parts of cars on top seemed caught in the concrete as the car descended the wall. It drew a crowd because no one ever knew what went right or wrong on top where cars raced at rush hour. In the crowd were the children. A few on bikes. A few mothers with toddlers quickly left the bloody scene. “Bedtime,” they said, gathering them close.

As always the gawking men had started the evening with a few drinks. They ran back and forth as a telegraph service. Women were coming back from work. At first, no one knew what to do. A man, the driver, got out easily. He seemed uneasy facing the crowd and hearing the sirens of police, fire and ambulance. This was going to be a new story.

“Get the chair,” she ordered one of the larger boys. The chair! It had never moved off its spot on the porch for over a hundred years.

Some one was needed to settle the man. Some one to decide what was needed. Others in the car had to be checked until an ambulance could come. It was amazing anyone survived. Then she said to a crowd, “Let us pray.” And they did. 

Suddenly the driver got up out of the chair, confessing his sins to her, sharing how it happened he found himself falling in a large SUV over a wall into their very laps. The police came first. The wrecker cleared most of the SUV except what remained on the wall. An ambulance arrived last. It got lost because ever since the interstate came, the street was an alley. All the people in the car rode out in the ambulance.

She took her chair. She put in its place on the porch as near as she could remember. Then she sat down, as someone always did. She was royalty and the chair was her throne.
Bettye W. Harwell, a 91 year old professional artist, writes when she cannot paint. Online, as “leartisteboots“, she shares her thoughts and poetry. Bettye is the great-niece of Yeoman (F) 3/C Carol Washington (Jetter), US Navy. Carol, one of the “Golden Fourteen”—the first fourteen African American women to serve officially in the armed forces in uniform—enlisted in 1918 and spent the remainder of World War I as a personnel clerk in the Navy Muster Office.

Who Am I?

by Aaron Auld

Do you ever look at yourself? Sure, you see yourself in the mirror a handful of times a day when you go to the bathroom to take a leak and all that, but usually I find that when I look into the mirror I’m looking at all of the things that aren’t me. Is there something on my face? Lately, however, I don’t really know why, but I have been making a concentrated effort to look myself in the eyes when I find myself facing a mirror. Sometimes I can hold a gaze longer than others.

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Fire Away: A Veteran’s Journey From War To College

By Timothy Schumacher

“An Army veteran uses two different weapons to combat the struggles of adjusting to college life after war.”

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The Chaplain’s Call

by Harvey Ranard

It was a beautiful day at sea aboard the USS Caloosahatchee, AO-98. We were in a part of the Caribbean where the water was a mile deep and as crystal clear below us as the endless royal, sun-drenched sky above us. I was just a year or so into my twenty-three-year service as a Navy chaplain, so every experience was crisp and salty. From my view on the bridge, I watched our ship cut gracefully through waters that sparkled with the beauty of a diamond, the sort of moment travel agencies advertise. Maybe more people would join the Navy if they could see what I saw that day.

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Trimmer, No More Need Be Said

by Phillip Parotti

In the time of Camelot, long before I took up teaching as a career, I answered John F. Kennedy’s call by doing my bit as a naval officer. As a result, on a warm day in August 1963, I made my way to San Diego, where I reported aboard a new destroyer. As “George,” the junior Ensign aboard, I didn’t have immense responsibilities as the Assistant Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. In fact, I was a gopher for the ASW Officer, a Lieutenant who had risen through the ranks. “Mustangs,” men formerly enlisted, were some of the most knowledgeable people in the Navy, and while I might have been the ship’s “George,” I wasn’t thoroughly green. Four years at Annapolis had taught me that Mustangs knew the ropes and that to prosper, I would be wise to listen to them. My training started at once.

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In the Post Office

by Joshua Calloway

I stand in line, a thousand people in front of me. We serpentine around counters and shelves stacked full of boxes, envelopes, card stock, watermarked stationery, and collector edition stamps adorned with Christmas bells, Dreidels, antique cars, movie scenes, and influential women throughout history. We shuffle on, one foot at a time, prisoners in a chain gang. I came here directly after work in an attempt to save some time. I immediately regret this decision, as I can feel the eyes of all the other customers fall upon me, sizing me up in my uniform, from head to toe. Some look at me with disgust and turn away, oddly this doesn’t bother me. Others shoot me a quick smile or nod and with this I feel myself starting to have a mini panic attack. I wish I had a fucking Valium! I inhale deeply through my nostrils and pinch the bridge of my nose with the thumb and index finger of my left hand.

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Bully

by Julia Pritt

Running was a big part of my elementary experience—usually in the form of races from the lunchroom to the blue ladder. In my kindergarten eyes, it was a large and stable thing to behold, whether looking from a distance basking in its glory, or being at its top breathing in fresh air. On many instances, my journey to this coveted spot was interrupted by an array of classmates who took it upon themselves to enlighten me. One boy in particular decided it would be fun to berate me with gags about my mom. Ranging from fat jokes to ones based on her so-called lack of intelligence, which I supposedly inherited. Thankfully, he added an extra level of class by saying “Yo’ Mama…” before each dig.

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We Are Not at War

by Emily Yates

“Fall in!” came the command from the front of the Sitting Bull College auditorium Saturday night, and as hundreds of my fellow veterans and I took our places in formation, I fervently hoped that we weren’t about to witness the end of a peaceful movement.

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It Happened in October

by Maggie DeMay

It’s October again.

Fall is in the air. My birthday’s coming up.

So are the memories…

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The Fraternity of Death

by Dean Ray

My heart was pounding as the orders came through my helmet’s headset. I knew the blast earlier was a rocket propelled grenade, and not a signal flare like I had considered. Leaning out of the left side of the helicopter, my bulky, bulletproof flight vest banged clumsily on my massive black chainsaw of a machine gun. I tried to get a closer look at who just tried to blow us out of the sky, while simultaneously listening to the frantic transmissions coming through the radio.

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