That summer started really boring. I was a shy kid, and spent my time alone with my baseball glove on, pitching a ball at a wall for hours each day.
One day, the handyman that maintained and repaired the rental beach homes, in his broken English said to me- “ehhh, you want to be infielder or peecher (pitcher)?” I told him I wanted be a pitcher. He laughed and told me that I was doing it wrong.
All summer this gracious saint would come over to the house after work, and would spend hours teaching me how to pitch correctly, as my parents watched happily each day and cooked him up dinner outside on the grills.
The summer went by fast, we never got to say goodbye to Alejandro, as he left a week before we did because of a sick family member on the other side of the island. There he was again, giving back to someone, helping them, helping a family member. I think he viewed everyone as his family.
Several years later, those pitching lessons landed me at UM, and landed me in many other amazing places.
I think about Alejandro a lot these days, every time I look at my 8 figure account balance, a result of 1990’s contracts. To find him and give him half, would make me feel better. Someone giving something back to him for once. I wonder if he’s still around…
Story by Joe M.
I remember I had a huge crush on her, but she never knew I existed. She was dating my best friend Mathew at the time, and the moment I met her I was captivated by her smile. She had one of those intoxicating grins; the ones that fill up your whole face and set the room aglow.
It was the summer of my sophomore year of college—the forth of July I believe. Yeah, it was: I remember fireworks and how they lit up her eyes.
Mathew and I went down to the beach to celebrate, brought some beers and sodas and set up right by the water. Suddenly she’s there, running up to Mathew in a bathing suit with a yellow shawl trailing behind her. Mathew introduced us, and she was so excited to me meet me that she hugged me tight in her arms. I can still remember her perfume: something floral and sweet. We drank beers and laughed as we waited for the sun to go down; it was so hot that I wrapped a shirt around my head. It was getting close to dusk when Lily suddenly stood, giggling from beer and begging Mathew to go in the water with her. He said no, so she started dancing, holding her yellow shawl above her head so it caught the wind. She was such a good dancer. She was beautiful.
But yeah, I haven’t thought of Lily in a long time.
Story by Sydney Druckman
I sit on the bunk bed in my unflattering puff sleeve top and high waisted pants, cheeks flushed, chin pimpled, thumb and fingers loosely gripping the exposed Polaroid for fear of perspiration, lips drawn back to form an imperfectly braced smile. Around me the plush animals, dogs mostly, seem perturbed and a little lost, like their names if they ever had them, which I suppose they must have done, same as I suppose that bland pink wall behind me must once have engrossed us with a texture. On the daisy patterned bedspread lie the other Polaroids – fogged, fading – and the other camera.
We got the cameras for our birthday. I remember using up all ten shots in the cartridge, then switching to those exciting flat boxes of spares that were our second presents and would double as places to hide secrets – click-clicking and whirring at everything that came to hand, one another, of course, the abalone and the amethyst, and other childhood keepsakes, the mobile of ceramic doves and, bizarrely, other photographs, of bands, and foreign lands, and boys, even Dylan, even then, with that breaking wave of blond-tipped hair and the latest incidence of bad skin on his sucked-in cheeks, framed forever on the daisy bedspread, or for as long as such cut-price alchemy can last.
Here it is beside me now, fading still: Dylan; Dylan’s bad skin and retro zoot jacket with the sleeves rolled over like a dozen times; Dylan’s car.
And there you sit on the lower bunk bed, in your unflattering puff sleeve top and high waisted pants, cheeks flushed, chin pimpled, thumb and fingers loosely gripping the exposed Polaroid in hope of miracles, lips drawn back to form an imperfectly braced smile.
Story by Paul Phillips
The day I brought home a pack of freesia bulbs, I immediately scooped you up from the crib and plopped you on the earth as I dug a plot in our barren yard. The freesias seemed like a nice starter plant for our new home. They reminded me of watercolors and were easy enough to maintain. I carefully transferred the bulbs to their new earthy home while simultaneously watching you to make sure that your wobbly legs didn’t lead you astray. But you were good. And you never left my sight. Instead, you were observing the enormous world that engulfed you.
I secured the bulbs and patted down a layer of fresh, wet soil. I was about to call your name but I noticed you in a state of awe. I followed the direction of your gaze and saw two snails heading towards my freesias, my babies. I grabbed a salt shaker from the kitchen and sprinkled it over the snails and they fizzled like a freshly opened can of soda pop. The wonder in your eyes melted into sadness. I picked you up and we danced in our new garden.
I miss you every day, even though you’re resting beneath the center of the garden that I grew just for you. Your father stays inside and watches westerns until he dozes off, laying so still on the couch that I’m too scared to check for his breath. I stare at his immobile body, silently commanding a knee jerk or an undignified snore. I know that he’s still with me, at least for today. I’ll turn off the television for him and quietly return to you. I’ll see a few snails here and there. I watch them crawl and leave slime on the leaves. Let them live. For you.
Story by Andie Park
She always smiled, sayin’ “Daddy, I missed you! Mamma always cried at home lookin’ at dat pichure you guys took in fron’ of da house before you left. Now she can be happy with you again!”
I always reply with, “I love you, too, sweetheart. Now go run after your mamma so we can talk about dinner.”
One time when I got home, she, my wife, wasn’t there. It turns out that she didn’t love me no more. She just went away for longer than I was on the road, which was about 15 years at that point. But Clara then said, “Daddy, I missed you, and I still love you. Wanna talk about dinner with me later?”
This is when I took that picture, because that uplifted me higher than the clouds in the sky. My little girl loved me! So I rounded up the truck, having her stand on it and smile her beautiful little grin.
That night we ate out.
The food was good, for a diner. A few of my buds went through, laughing and joking around. Every once in a while they looked at me and talked to me. But tonight, my daughter was the center of attention for me, regardless of how much beer my coworkers drank.
We then drove home.
I took the work truck, because she, my now exwife, stole my car. I remember how the fog covered the unpaved road home through the woods. Barely any cars took this road. I was in a hurry because Clara’s curfew was 9:00, and we were pushing it. After all, I didn’t want to argue in frona her again, as her mom was pickin’ her up. Then, I realized that Clara wasn’t wearin’ her seatbelt.
Shruggin’ it off, because of the distance to the house, I stopped the truck at the intersection before my road. Then, my best friend, Alfred, rammed behind me with the truck. It was so sudden.
The truck went forward into the intersection where a semi hit the bed, spinnin’ us off of the road, hittin’ a tree.
Clara was launched from the cabin, and she flew out into the darkness of the woods. That’s the last time I’d seen her before I blacked out.
I ain’t never goin’ to forget that night. This photo, I always look at it with the grief and sadness I felt since that day, where my everything was taken from me.
Story by Caleb Syler
“How to tell them?” I wonder. I haven’t even been sitting on this couch for an hour, and I’ve already smoked three cigarettes. Jack is in the other room, and I’m afraid I’ve made him angry because he acts like the whole thing is a joke.
At twenty-one, I’m not a baby by any means, but since I’m her youngest child my mama thinks I am. And right now I feel like one. I just want to curl up with the plush frog Karen made me, close my eyes, and be someone new, someone younger. Or maybe just someone smarter.
Jack enters the room, fiddling with his camera.
“So just tell them,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be a big deal. You’re an adult. You can make your own decisions.”
Yes, I’m legally an adult, but I’m still in college. And I’m also in his apartment instead of my dorm. I try to do the math in my head, trying to figure out if there is some way to still graduate, but I know it’s impossible. It’s still only January.
“We can go to the courthouse this weekend. Tell them after; I don’t care.” Jack raises his camera to his face. “Come on, smile. This should be a happy day.”
My mother got married young—at a mere nineteen years of age—but it was not what I had envisioned for myself. I was going to get a degree and then join the Peace Corps. I was going to travel, then get a teaching job, then get married and have children.
But it was too late for that now.
“Come on, Lizzie. Show me a smile.”
I can’t find one. I still don’t know how I’m going to tell my parents.
Story by Christin Peter