I know what my most interesting story is.
It’s the one where I lose my mother and grandfather in a horrific car accident on a bluebird day in September of 2016. The car they were driving was a roadster that the whole family had helped to build. That isn’t the end, my childhood dog died on December 24, 2016. She had a tumor in her stomach and started acting strange while we were all opening presents and drinking craft beer around the Christmas tree. Then my father died in September of 2017. He died of cirrhosis of the liver, having spent the majority of the last decade drinking himself into deep anger and paranoia…
Love You Forever - A Letter
I push the key in the knob and it turns, the familiar click of the mechanism inside works and the door opens easily. It is dark and damp in there. I feel my soul pick up the weight of the place. It picks up the weight and wraps it in thick wool blankets and nestles it deep in my chest cavity. I barely breathe, just shallow little tugs at the air. The kind of breaths you take in a library or when you are playing hide and seek, worried your wretched body will give you up.
A letter to the grieving.
1. I want people to move here and to stay here. I want those same people to be motivated and vibrant and breathe life back into each and every little town speckled across our rolling hills.
2. I want the people of my state to be thoughtful, educated, and prosperous.
3. I want everyone to take 5 minutes out of their day to learn something new about the world around them.
4. I want the people who live here to be healthy and happy. I want them not to feel so hopeless and helpless that they turn to whatever vice they lean on. Gambling. Opiates. A particularly nice bottle of bourbon. A not-so-nice bottle of vodka.
Lately I’ve had a lot of reasons to bring up my upbringing. A lot of my justification for my life, my choices, my ambition, the things I decide to care about, come from having been raised by a single mom. Sometimes I worry that my mom shows up too often in my writing. I worry that she has become some strange crutch for me to lean on, but the truth is, she is a lot of who I am.
G U N S
I learned most of my driving social principles in the bar where my mom worked. I was young, too young for a bar really, 15 16 17. It was a small place you couldn’t get lost in, at least I never did. I drank sodas and soaked in what I saw.
LOVE YOU MORE
I’m 7 years old. My dad is standing behind me. His big arms are wrapped all the way around my tiny body helping me support the weight of the pistol in my hands. I can smell the ivory soap he used in the shower hours earlier. “Ready?” he says to me. I nod my head yes, but I am never ready for the boom. I feel his sturdy finger press mine into the trigger and my small arms do nothing to fight the recoil. “Getting better,” he says, “Just need more practice. Any daughter of mine is gonna know how to protect herself.”
I’ll make this about my mom too. My dad knew everything was about her, she deserved it. Even his death felt somehow in response to or in spite of hers.
Paint it Indigo
The women of my childhood and of Appalachia seemed to me to unabashedly handle their shit. They may not have read as many books as you but by God they would pay their bills and go get some beers at the bar and take their kids to the river and be at work bright and early on Monday morning or Saturday night or whatever their start time happened to be at whatever job they happened to have.
When I was 13 or 14 or 15, Mom asked me to paint some of their lyrics over an old sign for her, Shine my life like a light was the line, from the song “Let It Be Me.” When I got the sign done, mom put it up on the back deck, she hung it proudly. A small reminder of the important things. A reminder to shine her life and she did. She shined it upon everyone and everything she encountered. That sign hung on her back porch until she died.
I wake up with my car door hanging wide open. The air is cold against my bare arms. I sit up from the back of my seat and my vision swirls around for a moment. My head throbs as I start to get my bearings. It feels heavy on my shoulders as I lean forward. I look in front of me and there are pretty lamp posts and one of those old street clocks. Behind that is a strange amphitheater and then shimmery water. Ruby McQuain Park. I am down by the Westover Bridge.
God is Love
I eat. I EAT. I have steaks and pizza and burgers for weeks. I break up with my boyfriend. I get back with my boyfriend. My boyfriend finds out the truth and we really break up. He thinks we can work it out and I know we can’t. I know I can’t. I am ugly now. It will never be what it was. Whatever it was. It won’t be clean ever again.
Middle Finger to the World
I was drug out of the deepest darkness I have ever known by love. I thought I would always feel the sustained intensity of that loss. I thought I would wake every day and feel alone and misplaced without her. I thought I would dedicate every single day of my life to the memory of her. I thought a lot of things that aren’t true. I became callous for a time. I did not feel the pain and experiences of others were worthy. I thought, “How could you complain about that to me? Why does that even upset you?” I traveled a lot. I hustled. I worked and focused and did what needed done.
The Earth on the Other Side
The people with innovative ideas here are turkey-whispering hunters and guys who drive old Toyota pick-ups and girls who work on their own cars and people who take the education they are given and do the very best they can with it. Whether that is from their great grand-dad or a super cool unicorn of a teacher they had their sophomore year of high school. You better believe some of the very smartest and most worldly people I know are from deep up some hollow. Don’t fuck with me on that.
Sam Sang Just Like David Byrne
I relinquished my rental car keys and a little bit of my freedom and found a place that sold beer. Sitting at the bar I read my book and watched the winter Olympics play on the tv. The bartender flirted with a man from the kitchen in Spanish. They both giggled.
The History of Autumn Olive
Sam sang just like David Byrne. He made the same weird faces and did the same odd dance moves and my mom watched him and waited for him to do something great. We were all waiting for him to do something great.
Ida L. Reed
For prevention and control of the shrub, "Do not plant autumn olive."
She called her hymns “heartcries to God.”