Art by Mark Evan Walker
by Vicki Weisfeld
Wednesday night at the Rattler’s Den I perched on a barstool watching the Astros lose to the White Sox on three TVs and waiting for my “date.” So far that evening my male companionship was limited to the good ol’ boys at the scarred tables who looked like they’d occupied those same chairs since the Alamo. Most likely they’d made some snap judgments about me too, all of them wrong. As a young Asian-American, not quite five feet tall, I find these people have their opinions about me.
The bartender sidled up and took my order for another Pacífico. “Visiting?” he asked. “Call me Pete.”
Though I’d lived in Sweetwater, Texas, almost six months, I’d never been in this bar before. “I work in town.” I stuck out my hand. “Brianna Yamato. Reporter for the Sweetwater Register.”
My impressive media connections must have scared Pete away, because a long swipe of his bar rag took him down to the other end. I was waiting for a guy my roommate fixed me up with. It was only our second real date, and he’d suggested this place.
An hour later, when I declared Chip Woodley MIA, I ordered a chicken-fried steak dinner. Might as well treat myself. Chip was a wind-turbine technician, doing installation and repairs. He’d intrigued me by describing his work, which was the kind of oddball thing you just don’t think about. He said every time he works on a turbine, he has to climb up twenty-five or thirty stories carrying nearly a hundred pounds of tools and gear. I admit when he told me that, I made a plan to check out his muscles. He said you have to like to sweat. The ladder’s on the inside of the shaft. It’s hot and noisy in there, and the workspace up top is cramped.
I kept checking my phone while I ate, but still no word from Chip. One of the Astros hit a homer, and I waited until the noise died down to ask the bartender for my check.
This night was a double bust. Chip was good company, but I also wanted information for a story I planned to propose to my editors, who ignored me as much as possible. Wind power in Nolan County had grown so big so fast, I thought it might be time for a good recap. The way I envisioned it, the story could cover the history of wind power in West Texas, the different companies involved. Controversies. Sure as shooting, there’d be some.
As I drove home, I ran through a list of the players, the big local companies. I had good connections at Lone Star NRG, where Chip and my roommate worked. I’d have to find someone to talk to at Grainger Power, an aggressive up-and-comer. It might be harder to track down a spokesperson at the two or three smaller companies in the area. For sure, I’d talk to Effie Price, librarian at the County-City Library. She knew everybody and all the politics.
That night about two a.m., my roommate Ruth woke me up. “Robert’s here.” She meant Robert Torres, husband of her best friend and a Sweetwater police officer. READ MORE
Art by Laurie Harden
by Brendan DuBois
I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat of my sister’s black Volvo XC40 SUV, and Corinne is glaring at me as I smoke my Marlboro Lights cigaret and flick the ash out of the top of the partially rolled down window. It’s a spring Saturday at Walker Lake in the middle of New Hampshire, and Corinne and I are set for a day of tossing out trash and memories.
The road is dirt and narrow, and branches whip at the side as Corinne drives us along, and she gives me another glare and says, “You know you shouldn’t smoke, Taylor.”
“Yep,” I say, flicking out a bit more ash.
“You know women are always at a greater risk of getting cancer from smoking.”
“That’s what I’ve read.”
“So why do you keep on doing it?”
Like I often do, I lose my temper and say, “Maybe I like pissing people off,” and that shuts up Corinne for another half-mile, and my anger at my older sister slides into the old familiar guilt. I shouldn’t snap back at her, especially since, in her own clumsy way, she’s trying to help me, but three decades plus of habit is hard to break.
She sets her chin and continues driving, keeping quiet.
Corinne is two years older than me, heavier and curvier, thick black hair cut short, with a contractor husband, Derek, whom she adores, and a son and a daughter, Rick and Kim. She’s worked for years as an ER nurse at a hospital north of Boston, saving people’s lives—some undeserving, no doubt—and due to her work, she walks with a pronounced limp and with both of her shoulders paining her.
I take another deep drag, dig up a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup from our day’s drive that has some cold liquid at the bottom, and drop the butt in, hearing it sizzle for a second.
“Okay, I’m done for the day,” I say.
Corinne doesn’t reply, but I hope she sees it as a peace offering.
I have a feeling there are going to be lots of peace offerings being made today.
We get closer to the lake and I feel antsy, not having been here in years, and side roads appear, with handmade painted signs nailed to tree trunks, announcing who was living where: dumont, gallagher, brookes, balatnic.
Then this one appears:
Corrine says, “Okay, here we are,” and we make a right-hand turn, go down another stretch of dirt road, and up ahead is the cottage that no longer belongs to Mom, Dad, or any member of the Monahan family.
I wonder how long before Corinne blames me for this happening.
I’m sure it won’t be long.
There’s a wide dirt turnaround in front of the cottage, and Corinne stops and turns off the engine.
“Here we are,” she says.
We both step out and Corinne stretches, grimacing at the pain I know is shooting through her hips and shoulders. She has on regular mom jeans and a Patriots sweatshirt. I, on the other hand, am wearing white Capri pants and a dark blue blouse that could probably pay for Corinne’s weekly grocery tab.
I give the gray cottage a good hard look. It has a wide front porch, and is made of a mismatched first story and upper story. The paint is peeling, the clapboards have pulled away, and the chimney is leaning like a brick Tower of Pisa. The lawn is scraggly and there are old juniper bushes in front of the porch. READ MORE