Green Vase

Up at five. I rise before she does. I begin cleaning by six. It takes seven hours. It never ceases to humiliate: cleaning another woman’s home. Take a break to wake Mrs. Pattershall, serve her tea, and provide a hand to help her out of bed. After dressing, she gets under my feet. I think […]

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Woman

I. Twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I saw them. Oiled, buttered up, ready for consumption. And though black writers hate to describe skin color in terms of food, it’s true: their bodies were all the shades of brown you’d see on a Thanksgiving dinner table. That’s not the important thing. This is. Heads […]

Tales of Corruption

MY FIRST TIME. Wouldn’t it be great if I remembered the first bribe I ever gave? I’d love to shine a light on its romantic aspect, the shameful complicity between the briber and the bribed, the shy smiles exchanged. Maybe I’d write something like, It was a first kiss: loss of innocence paired with the […]

Freight

Just about the time that you really want to talk, you can’t say a word. The train talks for you; machinery rumbling beneath you, wheels turning faster than sound, faster than vision. You look down and it’s a blur: green, brown, green. That night we curled up in the grain car, trying to compact our […]

Wince: George and Trayvon

I want to see Trayvon Martin cutting class and making B’s and C’s and getting the lecture about applying himself and the lecture about setting goals and the one about potential and the other one about priorities. I want to see Trayvon Martin blow off his parents because old people don’t know anything.

Sucker

—1— Twenty minutes after I picked up my mother at the El Plumerillo airport in Mendoza, Argentina, we heard a popping sound near the back of our rental car. When the Chevy Corsica began to drag, I slowed down. A man of about thirty, with curly black hair, a pale face, and wide, excited eyes […]

Anything but Oatmeal

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Alien

Hours before the spaceship burst from the mountain, the four of us broke camp in snow just below tree line. Right away I fell behind, panting, leaning into the slope and a wind so warm you’d think it had cooked all night in Shasta’s summit crater before streaming down on us.