Friday, October 26, 2012


by Colleen Sutherland

Portia. Constance. Bianca. Sydonie. At night, their images waft through my nightmares. By daylight, their scent lingers throughout this apartment. I rush through my morning rituals to leave them behind, but even on the streets of this small town, they are there, mocking me, always a presence.

It was Great Aunt Chloe who introduced me to her flower world. She took me in when my parents threw me out. I was only a teenager but was already trouble. I came to live in her old house, so old and useless that ramshackle was too good a word for it. The rusted old kitchen plumbing, the old light fixtures, the old furniture. It was too dreadful. I never brought friends home.

When I first arrived I thought the many plants growing in Aunt Chloe's windows were an attempt to hide the awfulness of the house, but soon I realized the house existed for the plants, at least in my aunt's mind. They were only there to pass the time until spring.

In mid-March it all began with the first snowdrops pushing up through the spring mud. Aunt Chloe dragged me out of the warm house and through the slush crying “Come see!”

The snowdrops were followed by crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. Each new arrival demanded my presence. I laughed silently as she bent over them, her butt the perfect model for one of those plywood lawn ornaments. I detested the gardens but tolerated her and her damned flowers because while I hated the house, it was a place to hang until I turned eighteen. With all those plants, no one noticed the marijuana I grew in my bedroom. Though Chloe recognized each leaf her garden, she didn't know what weed was.

“Ah, you're catching on,” she said. “You'll be a gardener yet.”

Friday, October 19, 2012


I will say one thing about the sidewalks of Osaka: a man can run barefoot without worry of catching a piece of broken glass, jagged rock, or rusty metal shrapnel. This is good because the only light comes from distantly-spaced streetlamps, the headlights of oncoming cars, and open doorways full of jeering faces. They gleefully shout a phrase my jumbled brain translates as “she's going to kill you.” Only the men shout. An old woman looks up as my frost-numbed feet slap past her doorway. She screws her face, summoning all her wrinkles to aid in giving me a hairy eyeball. I have never met her before, but she is certain of my guilt. That makes one of us.

Sue screams a litany of curses behind me in Japanese, which is wholly unfair. The least she could do is curse in English. Or tell me what I did wrong. Or given me enough warning to put on shoes before chasing me out of our apartment. The only thing I understand for sure is the cleaver in her hand.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Barn Burnin'

Johnny J. Potter is another of my recurring characters. He’s a whiskey-making, skirt-chasing storyteller who lives somewhere in the Appalachians. This is one of his first stories.

By Bettyann Moore

You ever been to a good ol-fashioned barn raisin? Don’t see much o that no more. I recollect one barn raisin in particular … no, now, that ain’t quite right. It weren’t the raisin of that barn I recall so much as the burnin of that barn the day after we done raised it that I recollect.

It were Clarence Peterson’s barn and it burnt down all on account of Lester Garth didn’t want to take no bath that night.