Johanna Lane

To the Man Who Was to Be My Gardening Companion for Fifty Years You used to love that I see the fierce beauty in a little chaos. I first cleared that web of woodiness cautiously. I pruned instead of hacked the curious entanglement of Greenbrier and Wisteria. The roots seemed to reach as deep as our own. Coiled arms weaved …

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KFC

‘Time to count it out,” said Tommy the gay black manager. I always liked Tommy, he was not stupid, he was good to us and not needy or demanding. The black girls started counting out the chicken pieces and talking shit as usual, I listened in because they were blunt and funny. Some of them didn’t mind pocketing money from …

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New Brunswick, By Way of Oakland City Center Bart

27 February 2013. She said: Gentlemen, excuse me, gentlemen. Gentlemen. You’re such nice looking gentlemen. Gentlemen. I don’t mean to bother. All I have to give you [rustle of a plastic bag] is this flashlight. Gentlemen. I’m a pastor. I’m Pastor Patricia Smith. This is a high crime area. I was just beat down the other day. I’m the victim …

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How to Steal a Storm

In the beginning the air was cold and sweet like a backwards mausoleum. Cameron said this was the kind of sky you could drink, and then the wind picked up soft-armed and rolling. Listen: the rain rhythmic bent and streaming. The rain forming a film. I talked about half-truths and we couldn’t count how many clouds were in the sky …

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Soap Scum

My father bought rounds of shaving soap wrapped in crinkled pastel paper and stored them in the bathroom drawer. When I was small enough to perch on the counter, I’d watch him wet a caramel-colored brush, swirl the bristles around a mug of soap, and paint his face with the froth. I loved the squelch of the bristles, the hollow …

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To The Mountains

Driving up a curvy incline, all that mattered was the beautiful sunshine which illuminated my rough, grey booster seat. Out the window I saw endless hues of forest green and muted browns that looked like my aged dinner table. Everything in the woods; the trees and faint noises of birds emanated a deep ingrained feeling of my own belonging. As …

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July

The brightest star in the constellation Cancer is beta Cancri, or as it is commonly referred to, Al Tarf.  The biggest bruise was just above my collar bone on the left side.           The second brightest star is Arkushanangarushashutu, the longest name of all stars in the galaxy.  It means, “the southeast star in the crab.”  It is sometimes referred …

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Grandma Scott’s Funeral

Everybody called her Grandma Scott, but Eliza Scott (nee Lingstad) was nobody's grandmother. The Scotts didn't have children. Eliza was the eldest of three sisters, and she treated her younger siblings' offspring with grandmotherly affection. My mother fondly recalled spending several weeks each year at the Scott farm helping to tend and feed the animals and taking baskets of food and water to the fields for the threshing crews at harvest time. She and her older sister Nora helped Grandma Scott make the sandwiches for the noon meal for the workers. And every morning she and Nora were dispatched to the barn to search for eggs deposited in secret places by the Scott's brood of laying hens. My mother said there was nothing like having fresh eggs for breakfast. Eliza's sugar cookies, as big as dinner plates, were a special treat as well.

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The Skylight

When the weather was nice, sometimes the boys in the art department would eat their lunches on the roof of the building. It was pleasant to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine after being cooped up in the cubicles all morning. For a time, the roof was the place to be from twelve o'clock until one, especially after Shuffle discovered the hole in the skylight over the fourth-floor women's powder room. Shuffle was a big, happy-go-lucky Jewish kid from New York. He never ran when he could walk and seldom walked when he could sit still. When he did move, it was very slowly.

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Miracles

My barber, Frank, is the world's most talkative human being. He is a tall, skinny man with straight blonde hair, big ears, almost no chin, and the bluest eyes you'll ever see.

Frank is smart, forthright with opinions on an endless variety of subjects, and unburdened by the handicap of a formal education. When you sit down in a chair in his shop, you never know what else you are going to get in addition to a haircut. Last week it was a lecture on Intelligent Design.

"I get a kick out of these religious folks," Frank offered after he had draped me with an apron and wet and combed my hair. "Trying to sneak God into the schools by the back door."

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The Garden of Earthly Delights

Stew and Gus were discussing the forces of good and evil. The two men had been friends for years. They lived many miles apart, but they corresponded almost daily by e-mail.

Stew believed in heaven and hell, and Gus professed not to believe in anything. Gus would be the first to admit, however, that he was familiar with the dark side.

"I believe in gods, devils, demons--the whole shebang," Stew wrote. "It's the only thing that explains suffering. Good and Evil exist side by side, and you can't blame Evil on God. Or use it as evidence that there is no God. He does what he can."

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Waiting for War

Stewart couldn't decide how he felt about the war in Iraq. He went back and forth. One day he was for it, the next day against. Meanwhile he monitored the news from the Middle East with a growing impatience. Was war a fait accompli, or was the buildup merely a bluff?

Stewart did not like to wait, and he did not like uncertainty. What bothered him most about the affair in the Middle East was that he couldn't make up his mind about the proper course of action. He liked being right, and he could live with being wrong, but not knowing what to do or think was driving him crazy.

His friends were no help. Monday Stew had sent an e-mail to several dozen of his friends and relatives asking for their views. Wednesday morning he was more uncertain and confused than ever.

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