Fugitives and Futurists were kind enough to share my story, “Misoprostol.” The pic above is the image the editors of the site chose to accompany the story. It’s a very short piece of near-future science fiction that imagines how prohibition of reproductive rights will manifest similarly to drug prohibition. As someone who grew up around religion-based opposition to reproductive rights, particularly women’s reproductive rights, I see religion-appeasing prohibition as irrational policy and an ideological poison in our society.
My story, “If the Odds Don’t Change” is in the Winter/Spring 2021 issue of Euphony. The story follows Simon and Mickey, two high school teacher colleagues, on a frustrating ride home from a bar.
“If the Odds Don’t Change” was inspired by conversations I had many years ago with my friend, Bill Sweeney. Bill was the librarian for the Worcester Public Library in Worcester, Massachusetts and the librarian at Uxbridge High School when I was a student there in the 1990s. He was still the librarian at UHS when I taught there from 2003-2007. Bill and I both lived in Worcester and commuted back and forth to Uxbridge. When one of our vehicles was in the shop, we’d carpool.
Bill tended to keep to himself quite a bit at the school, which I understand. From his private nature arose rumors – some true, some not true. On our commutes together, I got to know Bill quite a bit better and quickly learned he was brilliant, a terrific storyteller, an astute reader, hilarious, and, above all, kind. Bill tolerated people that others often struggled to tolerate. In fact, he more than tolerated them – he treated them with kindness. Whether the person was a psychologically challenged student or a homeless person living on the streets of Worcester, Bill always saw the individual and quietly, without seeking attention, he nurtured them with support and respect. Never loud, never flashy, always helpful. Always brilliant. He’d taken many college classes as a non-degree seeking student because he loved learning. I learned from Bill every time we spoke, and from observing him with students.
I’d been in Arizona for nearly a decade when Bill was in the accident that took his life. I hadn’t spoken to Bill since I moved west, but my friends who still worked with him let me know he’d been seriously injured right away. They knew he meant a lot to me. I wonder if he knew, too.
If you’re from UHS and you read this story, you will recognize Bill as Simon. You may also recognize Mickey. Please know that Mickey was constructed from my experiences with and feelings about the person he’s modeled after, not Bill’s. Bill was kind and accepting of everyone. I’m still struggling to get there.
I will update this post when Euphony puts the Winter/Spring 2021 issue online. If you’re a present or past UHS teacher or alum, send me a message and I’ll send you a .pdf of the story.
So, this story is in memory of Bill Sweeney. 1945-2016.
My review for Tex Gresham’s Heck, Texas is on Heavy Feather Review. You can read this book in a couple hours and it will leave you with years worth of far-out quotes. If you’re a fan of Harmony Korine’s film “Gummo” then this book is for you. Gresham is a keen observer, especially for people communicate in rural communities. Writing on walls, gossip, overheard snippets, Craigslist missed connections, and more a collaged into a hilarious, dirty too-real-yet-surreal portrait of a rural Texas. I highly recommend it.
I’m very excited that my story, “A Heliograph to Kin Kletso,” is in the newest issue of Weber: The Contemporary West.
My birthday falls mid-December and so several years ago, Erin arranged for us to visit Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwestern New Mexico to observe the winter solstice. Chaco Canyon features several large, brick structures built by pre-Colombian, ancestral Puebloan people. If you’ve never been to Chaco or Mesa Verde in southern Colorado, you may persist in believing that pre-Colombian people in the continental United States never developed complex, multi-story, permanent architecture. One visit to either place will disabuse you of that misconception. Chaco’s kiva’s and houses were every bit as brick as a New England mill.
Native people from the area, like Pueblo and Diné people, recognize Chaco as an ancestral site. Academics consider the residents of Chaco a mysterious lost culture. The National Parks Service hosts a solstice event that allows early-risers to observe the sunrise from the ruins and see firsthand how the structures align with the sun. Of course, it was cancelled in 2020 because of Covid-19, but hopefully we can watch it again in the near future.
I wrote “A Heliograph to Kin Kletso” after visiting the solstice sunrise. The way time and light converge at Chaco fascinates me. I know Weber eventually posts their issues online, so I will share the link to the story when it’s available. For now, you can get a physical copy here. There are some great poems in this issue and the other short story was terrific, too.
I hate to end this post this way, but, of course, Chaco Canyon and the area surrounding it are threatened by mining and fracking. High Country News has been following the story. Unfortunately, efforts to protect Chaco have been terribly complicated by the pandemic. Actually, the federal government is using the pandemic as an opportunity to push through drilling plans in Chaco while Diné and other native people are fighting Covid. The Navajo Nation has, at times, had the highest Covid rate in the country. The pandemic has totally devastated native people. While community leaders are trying to save lives, federal authorities are scheduling hearings on drilling and mining. It reminds me of how early Europeans used small pox to take land from Algonquin and other peoples.
I wrote a story set at Chaco Canyon, but the story of Chaco Canyon and culture is not mine. It’s ongoing, and it’s not going well. You can give to the official Navajo Covid-19 Relief Fund here.