Just submitted “Love in the Time of Corona” to The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest. I originally wrote this as a memoir for my independent study at university and decided to convert it into a short story (not that my life isn’t awesome, but I wanted to use a little creative license). Each section is separated with a little poem; here is the first:
A wife, a widow, & a divorcee walk into a bar, or, more likely, a restaurant, because the wife isn’t looking, the widow isn’t interested, & the divorcee isn’t impressed.
Like the Fifties, marriage was the answer to an unexpected pregnancy, even as adoption was the only answer to an unwelcome one. A nonmember marrying his pregnant lover was considered taking responsibility, but Tony saw adoption as his way of shirking that responsibility. He would give up a piece of himself— a piece of his future— to preserve the elevated status he held in the eyes of his parents. He could give his child to LDS parents, only for them to fall out with the Church, & go another way, & for the Mormons, any other way would never be as good as their way.
If his mother ever discovered that Tony had broken the law of chastity, it would dash her world of crystal palaces & marble temples to pieces. I prayed it wouldn’t get out that I was seen walking with Tony or I’d become a pariah in the Church. Kath was only given a pass for liking him because she was the only black person in the ward & they didn’t want to alienate her, for the Mormons collected minorities like others collected dolls.
As Moses’s mother had placed her son in a basket to protect him, with the faith that whoever found him would raise him well, Tony would let his child go off into the Deseret sunset. He raised his head then, not looking at me but out there, as if the answer were written on the wind. And then he murmured: “Just as a man rejects his calling to serve a mission, and is responsible for all the souls he could have saved had he gone, I will be responsible for all those I bring into the world.” I wanted to tell him that he was doing the right thing, although I knew that would be no comfort to him, for it would be known that he had done the wrong thing for which he would now have to do the right thing. In the eyes of the Church, the act of fornication would never be made right, regardless of the result, however precious that result might be.
An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.
As a mother of a child with autism, I have realized how broad the spectrum is. I was in elementary school the first time I heard of autism. I was reading The Baby-Sitter’s Club series (back in the eighties), where one of the girls babysat an autistic girl—a piano prodigy. Though some autistic children have special abilities, keeping in mind that not all do (nor should they have to, as if they need to justify their autism) is vital to not only accept them but appreciate them.
Ultimately, autistic children are just children who want to be loved, have fun, and may know more than they can communicate.
As a homeschooling mom, I’ve learned that part of teaching is not to make my daughter learn how I learned or teach how I was taught but to learn how she learns and then teach accordingly. I’ve learned that autistic children often express themselves differently, even from other autistic children. My daughter may not always tell me she loves me (at least without prompting), but I have recognized that when she asks for a hug, that, to me, is her way of telling me she loves me. I’ve learned to be more precise when asking questions. For example, when we were studying Galileo, and I asked her what Jupiter had four of, instead of moons, she said, “Consonants.” (She might have outsmarted me there!) I’ve learned that I need to understand that she sometimes has reasons for doing what she does. For example, as soon as we entered the accessible stall in a library bathroom, she tried to elope by crawling under the door; it took some strength to keep her with me. At the time, I just thought she was being disobedient. It wasn’t until weeks later, when we visited another public bathroom, that I figured out the hand dryer terrified her due to her sensory issues.
When you have a child with autism, you learn to be more intuitive and know when to extend that extra grace. We learn from them as much as they learn from us.
Learning about autism (and the terminology surrounding it) is ongoing. Some children don’t want to be labeled autistic, while others see their autism as making them unique, but one thing is for certain: We don’t need to fix autistic children because they are not broken.
When Sydney Cahill’s father died & left a hole, she went through that hole, discovering a door to another dimension— where she could revisit her childhood: when her father had written the Wacky Wildlife series that had delighted his “little women,” before her mother, the illustrator, had lost the gift of capturing those characters in earthy & metallic hues, before her hometown had become a ghost town. Like a backdoor poet, she crossed over that threshold— not as an observer, but as a participant. When the memories of her childhood during those moments began to disappear, replaced with her adult memories of them, she realized that she had to leave her past, for she was stealing the memories from the little girl she had once been.
Evan Trotter’s Alma Mater
He had been known as the Big Mac on Campus, always quoting himself & speaking of himself in the third person, impersonating professors of literature & philosophy, & being both a public & private nuisance, without nuance. But when he met the humble scholar who didn’t give him the time of day— unless it was a.m. or p.m.— he saw, in her shiny little clock face, his sizeable width & lack of depth, his attitude that had been one of latitude (longitude unknown), & the tiny town he had thought would someday be his that could not be found on any map, treasure or otherwise. It was then that he knew that the little magna cum laude with the mechanical pencil piercing her messy bun— whose I.Q. equaled her E.I.— was not the woman he wanted but the woman he wished had wanted him.
The little stranger who lived with her, who spoke not her mind but to it, the little stranger who lived inside her, whose name was predestined to be Evan or Emma, & the tallish, lightish, & unconventionally handsome stranger who lay beside her, comprised the strangeness that had become her life. She stared at the shiny face in the fogged-up bathroom mirror, whose gray-dawn hair smelled of strawberry shampoo. Through the mist, she saw the face of the person she was now but who would be a stranger ten years from now. It was like looking into the past from the future, for this woman who stared strangely back at her would be gone then; every cell in her body would be different. When she looked at pictures from ten years ago— before the two little strangers & the stranger who had given them to her— she saw, in herself, a stranger.
I created these BINGO cards to teach my daughter coordinates (in the context of columns and rows rather than x and y axes). Unlike Geography BINGO, where we use coins to combine money math with state “geometry,” for Coordinates BINGO, we use Bananagrams. Whenever I call a “coordinate” (C#, R#), she places a Bananagram tile facedown. Once she gets a BINGO, we flip all the tiles over, which she uses to create as many words as possible. (I usually let her get BINGO at the 11th or 12th tile). Canva is an excellent homeschooling graphic design program for those who prefer (and need) to create their child’s curriculum. My daughter loves emojis, so she enjoyed helping me create these cards.
When nearly all the world had become infertile from the measures taken to prevent overpopulation, children became more precious than saffron, rarer than the Sumatran rhino & Darwin’s fox, for what did it mean to save the planet when there would be no one left to inhabit it?
For the postmodern world began to suppose that mothers & fathers were interchangeable. Yet it was proven that one person could never be both father & mother, but rather, the best parent for what has always been a 2-parent family. For to lose a mom was not to lose a dad or vice versa. In marriage, their flesh had become one, but in the eyes of their children, Mom & Dad were separate entities that had merged their sacred powers of procreation to create flesh of their flesh, & to imbue that flesh with the spirit they would send out into the world– not to seek their fortune, but to make the world more fortunate for them having been in it.
For the world became such a place, that only the experts could speak on certain subjects. One had to be an artist to talk about art, an activist to discuss politics, a chef to critique food. Such was The State’s way of controlling the flow of misinformation, & so any talk of morality was the first to go.
Just received another addition to my daughter’s time capsule: a collection of nursery rhymes I wrote after bringing her home from the hospital. When I put together a PowerPoint presentation on Transcendentalism incorporating the pastoral, the picturesque, and the sublime, I used this close-up of my daughter smelling a daisy (my favorite flower) to epitomize the childlike wonder of discovery. @mixbook does such a beautiful job. Unlike another service, my em dashes (and all other punctuation) are preserved in transferring text from Word to the app. As a grammarian, this feature is essential.