NONFICTION  

 

In a Teacher's Shoes 

By Renata Dolz

              It’s a crisp, bright February day and I can tell I’m getting close to Dora Moore K-8 school off Downing and 9th because I see yellow school buses, some teachers with signs and crossing guards. I’m getting anxious about finding a place to park when I see a very small parking lot on the left, marked ‘staff only’.  Hmmm, are substitute teachers considered staff? The clock says 7:30 so I make an executive decision and snag the second to last spot, but not without some minor qualms.

              I’m entering the imposing, solid brick school from a side pathway that allows me to bypass the teachers picketing directly in front of the school. It’s day 2 of the Denver Public School (DPS) teacher’s strike. I know they can see me and I do my best to avoid eye contact. I wish they could know how much I support their stand AND the student’s needs, many of whom have nowhere else to go.  

               Dora Moore is a Title I school, which means they have a high percentage of students from low-income families. Federal grants provide breakfasts, lunches and additional help for those students struggling with core subjects like math and reading. The Dora Moore students are a reflection of the many neighborhoods feeding into this school, comprised mostly of those with Latin and African roots, mixed in with some Caucasians. Incidentally, a big sticking point in the strike negotiations centers on elusive and opaque incentives designed to entice teachers to Title 1 schools...

Microwaves Aren't Meant to be Cleaned 

By Joe Dinnetz

           Microwaves aren’t meant to be cleaned, though they often should be. Unlike a toilet, which signals its need for a cleaning by inviting guests over, you can tell when the microwave needs cleaning because someone, more often than not a parent, roommate, or lover will ask you to do it. They will make the request by pointing out a bit of food splattered and stuck to the side of the microwave that resembles something you yourself ate a few days or weeks earlier. Besides, it’s probably your turn, or at least it will be declared as such. There is no use in disputing the splatters or whose turn it is. The important thing to remember is that microwaves aren’t meant to be cleaned.

 

          Your first instinct might be to avoid picking at the bits of food with your fingernails, so you will choose to spray the inside with a cleaner, hoping the moisture in combination with a rag, sponge, or paper towel will remove the bits. That is folly. By design, the bits of food will cling to the walls and work their way into the corners or lodge themselves in the circular vents with each scrubbing motion, requiring your fingernail to extract them anyway. Picking at the food with your fingernail will cause bits to fall underneath the rotating dish. After removing the dish and wheels, you will discover that without a corner or vent to hide in, the bits of food just move around in a circular motion with your rag, sponge, or paper towel. Thus, to avoid using your fingers again, you will need to flick the rag, sponge, or paper towel to successfully remove the bits of food from the microwave. They will likely get on your shirt...

 

Jackets From Grandpa 

By Alejandro Lucero 

            I still have the jacket I bought 6 years ago from Fabian. A black zip-up hoodie. The one with a Jumpman logo over the left breast. The one I bought with dissolving graduation money. It is cloaked over a plastic hanger, behind long-sleeved henleys and jeans, in the closet I share with my wife. Fabian sold it to for me for sixty dollars. Money he used to buy a batch of coke for the group.

             “Call Emile. Ask her if she has friends to bring over,” Fab’ would say. “Tell her we’re going to play in the snow.”

The high school graduation money deposited into my Wells Fargo bank account by my generous grandparents was dwindling.

             I wore that hoodie the last time I went to visit my grandfather; the vanilla scent of Emile’s lotion or perfume already sunken into its fibers, its DNA. There were plastic tubes connected to my grandfather's nose. His eyes were closed. The white hairs of his light scruffy beard blanketed a hollow mouth and high pointed cheek-bones. I pulled the black sleeves over my hands and squeezed the cotton as tight as I could while my eyes fixated on his face. His mouth looked dry as if his throat was squeezing the moisture from his tongue, as if they weren’t bothering to feed or water him anymore. Dad and I stood aside. My father's hands, almost black from years of sun, gripped the plastic bed rail. The only sounds were the beeping of expensive equipment afforded by insurance and the sniffles I tried to make sound natural, or as if they were accompanied with tears; I didn’t know at the time that was goodbye...

 

Daddy's Girl 

By Alicia Alcantara-Narrea

            The day following Alicia’s birthday or a holiday was the worst. Or maybe the whole week after. Maybe he’d wait until ten days had gone by, leaving her to think if he’d still come or not. Maybe in those ten days he wanted to be better, thunk it hard enough. But it was never true. Just four days after her seventh birthday and there was Daddy, again, in the kitchen looking weak and asking for money. Money he knew his daughter had.

            Alicia learned the full value in fabricating a lie. She searched inside her bedroom for the perfect hiding place. Canceling out any crevice that seemed too auspicious or any corner with congenital light. Under her bed was too obvious. Under her pillow even more. But there was a hutch closet with a broken floorboard and under that just dirt and dark and now her money. Sixty-seven dollars and a handful of pennies. And a five dollar bill folded twice and tucked to the side—the money to the money when the first money runs out. And every time she would go to check, to count that all was there, she would be one conversation closer to spilling her secret...

 

Suitemates

By Bob Chikos

            The night my son Martin was born, I had the emotions most new fathers likely have, but few will admit: 1% joy and 99% sheer panic.

   I remember my thoughts:

   I don’t know anything about this person and he’s going to live with us for a loooong time.

   What if I accidentally break him?

   How can I possibly pay for college on my salary?

   What if he ends up hating the name I gave him, and then hates me for giving it to him?

   What have I gotten myself into?

   We had put on a Lou Rawls CD during the birthing process. After Martin was born, the first music he heard was,

   Well if I don’t love you, baby,

   Grits ain’t groc’ries

   Eggs ain’t poultry

   And Mona Lisa was a man.

   While the nurse tended to the screaming Martin, cleaned him and suctioned goo out of his mouth, I called my mom.

“Hello?” my mom answered...

 

Amidst Horses

By Pat Deebel 

At work not long ago, I sat in a three-hour meeting in which the usual know-it-alls and those with un-holstered egos expounded on a system I had helped build. In one moment I was pissed that they were misstating so much and in the next realized that they were getting bogged down in details that only served to let the rest of us know just how much the speaker knew. I was pissed, too, that the only way to be heard was to rudely interrupt the one who was talking and talk louder until they quieted. That new voice, then in control of the conversation, would careen out of verbal control until someone else interrupted them in the same manner. It was conversational mayhem and I hadn’t the desire or stamina to be heard. In the last hour, I simply pulled back into myself and thought of things far and gone from large mainframes, their systems and the egos that manage them.

            While I nodded and appeared to be paying close attention to those in attendance, I was really drifting back in time and place to my world 50 years past...a lifetime ago. I was conjuring up a moment in my youth that was lonely, desperate, romantic and mine.

            I was probably sixteen at the time with all the usual maladies that a sixteen-year-old is afflicted with. I was troubled by much, frustrated by much and little listened to by nearly everyone. What sixteen-year-old isn’t?

 

The Problem with Burying Mom

By Kera Morris

If we had been an average family, I imagine we would be dressed in blacks and navy blues, standing by a lectern holding a book for people to sign in to—like when high school ended each summer and students passed around our yearbooks to sign and remind each other to stay cool.

We would thank people for coming, tell them how much Mom would have appreciated it, and sniffle with decorum into tissues laced with aloe to keep delicate skin from chafing; funeral directors honestly think of everything.

It was like that for our father, and I’d seen it at the funerals of friends. At 18, when a boy I’d loved with the intensity only available to teenagers died, I peered at his final book with something bordering on hysteria. If I wrote something, I don’t recall it.

But we weren’t a normal family, and I wager the only reason my father had had a visitor’s log several years prior was due to his surviving siblings all being Southern pastors who were comfortable with the pageantry of death. So comfortable that they were perfectly at ease worrying at us about funeral costs and the damnation of souls—his, to be precise—while standing beside my still-living, occasionally-conscious father’s hospice bed.

I told them to get out. My sister admonished me for it. I’ve never taken these people as well as she can...