Showing posts from December, 2014

Short Story #365: Red Bonnet by Lindsay Patterson

Title:  Red BonnetAuthor:  Lindsay PattersonSummary
The neighborhood is shocked when Granma Jo gets up and walks one day.  The narrator witnesses this and so do others but Granma Jo's daughter and her husband find the story completely unlikely.  Despite the narrator's insistence, the daughter disregards and is angered by the suggestion.  More people witness this and bring this to the daughter but since she never sees it, she continues to insist that everyone is lying.  After trying to get her to walk in front of the daughter, people soon give up and things go back to normal for a while.  One day in August, the narrator finds Granma Jo is up and moving about, ready to go to town.  The narrator walks with her through the heat and they perform some tasks in town.  When it is time to go, they get onto a bus and then Granma Jo's give out on her and she tries to sit in the front row.  The bus driver throws them off when they refuse to move to the back.  They catch a ride home wit…

My New Book: 10 Classic Tales of Horror

So I could mark this down as a goal achieved already for 2015, but I most likely won't.  I did want to share with people this book that I published.  It is an anthology of horror stories:  10 Classic Tales of Horror to be precise that I pulled together with introductions to make and publish.  My purpose in doing so wasn't to just put it out there and make a quick buck; my purpose was to see how easily and cheaply it can be done.  

One project that I am involved in at work is an Open Textbook Initiative as part of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement.  To that end, we have been looking at ways of making learning materials available for students for free or a reasonable price.  Questions arise about OER with regards to how students can access them, particularly in print form.  Some OER resources provide physical copies for purchase that are significantly cheaper than their commercial counterparts.  However, I wanted to think about the idea of an instructor pulling togeth…

Short Story #364: The Death of Tommy Grimes by R. J. Meaddough III

Title:  The Death of Tommy GrimesAuthor:  R. J. Meaddough IIISummary
Tommy has been instructed by his father to lie still and wait.  He flashes back to earlier in his life when Tommy had trouble shooting at things and his father chastised him for this and then spent endless hours training Tommy to shoot.  One evening, his Pa mentions that he and his friends are going hunting for some bucks and Tommy asks if he can go too.  His father warns that it could be dangerous but Tommy insists on going.  The father explains that they need to put down an animal that is doing damage and just needs to be killed.  Tommy accepts that and asks about something his father had said before about dying.  Pa explains that a bit of person dies when he kills something and that it will keep happening until the person is dead inside.  Tommy awaits the buck as the day continues.  Finally, there is movement and he shoots.  He is excited and calls for his Pa but when his Pa doesn't initially answer, he thinks …

Short Story #363: A New Day by Charles Wright

Title:   A New DayAuthor:  Charles WrightSummary
Lee takes a new job that he hopes has a better return on his time and investment than his current job.  He is concerned about whether it will come through in all the ways that he hopes, but he decides to go out for the position.  The job is with Mrs. Davies, someone the family used to work for in the south, which has Lee a bit hesitant as he anticipates some of the same issues to follow that plagued the south.  He goes to the hotel where Mrs. Davies will be staying and knocks on her door.  She lets him in and introduces himself.  She gives him some orders and they go for a drive before he prepares her meal.  Slowly, Lee learns her preferences and idiosyncrasies.  He is dismissed to go have his lunch.  While there, he hears her scream out the N word.  In the midst of his meal, Lee tries to process what's going on.  He tries to ignore it and continue his meal when she yells it again.  Lee is challenged by the sound and filled with both…

Another Round of Changing Lives Through Literature

Choking back tears of joy tempered by endured pain, the participant relates how the Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) has profoundly affected her in ten short weeks. Meeting on Thursday evenings in Salem throughout October was challenging, but the participants are all smiles and eloquent as they discuss how the program has touched them.  It’s powerful to witness and as facilitator, there is no greater joy. 
CLTL is a program for people on probation where there are probation officers and court officials to support the program.  Participants meet weekly and discuss an assigned reading by a volunteer facilitator.  The power of communing around literature creates rich and diverse conversations.   The program allows participants to reflect and share; ultimately, an opportunity to consider their own lives.  There’s growing research that the program has a positive influence on recidivism rates.  Another body of research connects reading literature with increased empathy, which could e…

Short Story #362: The Day The World Almost Came to an End by Pearl Crayton

Title:  The Day The World Almost Came to an EndAuthor:  Pearl CraytonSummary The narrator explains that when she was twelve years old, she was committed to being a sinner.  However, she lived with a family and community whose lives revolved around the Church. One day, her cousin Rena insists that the world is coming to an end because she heard her mom and another woman discussing it and that it would happen with the eclipse that's occurring in two days.  Rena insists but the narrator finds fault with her claims.  However, when a woman comes by affirms what Rena is saying, the narrator becomes lost in thinking about what that could mean for her.  Later when her dad comes home, she asks him if the world is going to end and explains why she is concerned.  He says that it's nothing to worry about and that the world is going to end when it's going to end.  This only convinces the narrator that it will end sooner rather than later.  Unable to be calmed, she stays up all night wor…

Short Story #361: Junkie-Joe Had Some Money by Ronald Milner

Title:  Junkie-Joe Had Some MoneyAuthor:  Ronald MilnerSummary
The narrator insists that Junkie-Joe had some money, even though most thought he was just a poor junk man.  The narrator explains that he knew but no one would believe him on account of him being twelve years old.  Even the boy notes that as a twelve-year-old, he can discuss the simple right and wrong things but there are greater goods and evils that are harder to articulate.  Because of this, he was inclined like others his age to go along to get along.  Thus, he too regularly teased Junkie-Joe.  One time, when he was walking about he saw Junkie-Joe's place and what appeared to be smoke and fire.  He goes into Joe's place to warn him and encounters two men that he doesn't know.  They ask what he's doing there and the boy explains.  The two men bicker about what to do with the boy and murder is certainly an option.  Finally, they warn him to keep his mouth shut or they will come after him and send him back o…

Short Story #360: To Hell With Dying by Alice Walker

Title:  To Hell With Dying Author:  Alice WalkerSummary Mr. Sweet is an old man suffering from diabetes and alcoholism.  Though he had dreams as a child, he eventually settled with a wife who had a child that she spoiled and the boy did not amount to much.  In his later years, Mr. Sweet is befriended by the narrator's family who seem to be essential in keeping him alive at times.  Whenever it seemed that Mr. Sweet was on the brink of death, the narrator's family would be called upon to visit.  They would circle around the bed and the youngest child (the narrator), would kiss Mr. Sweet's face all over and tickle him until he had recovered.  Mr. Sweet is a regular part of the narrator's life growing up.  He plays with the children and is well liked by many.  The narrator recalls him playing his guitar and being quite kind to her growing up.  She recalls the first time that she got to participate in the ritual as the kisser/tickler.  She remembers visiting with the family …

Short Story #359: The Burglar by Lebert Bethune

Title:  The Burglar Author:  Lebert BethuneSummary Mary steps into her car and begins to sob.  Her friend, Carol comforts her and says that it will only be a short while that her husband will be away.  Mary is consoled enough to drive.  However, it is explained later that Mary was crying with relief, not with sadness.  Since their moving to Dar es Salaam, she found it hard to love her husband except when he was absent.  While driving, they almost hit a hyena that is crossing the street.  They get to Carol's house and Carol has insists that Mary call her as soon as Mary gets home.  She contemplates her marriage as she drives home.  She arrives home and realizes that her windows had been left open and parts of the house got wet because it is pouring rain.  She changes clothes when she gets to her bedroom.  She takes note of her body as she changes clothes.  She begins to contemplate what she would look like if she were African.  This also leads her to think about the strange differen…

Short Story #358: Miss Luhester Gives a Party by Ronald Fair

Title:  Miss Luhester Gives a PartyAuthor:  Ronald FairSummary Luhester is quite the phenomenon in her neighborhood.  She owns a house, has five children by presumably five different fathers, and has never married.  But she is absolutely adored by everyone who meets her and therefore she is well looked after by everyone around.  The narrator explains that everybody did their part to help her and would regularly go out of their way to do so.  This included helping her clean up and fix up her house.  In her gratitude, she decides to throw a party for everyone that has helped.  The oldest daughter is sent out to invite people and as she does, places shut down and people leave to get ready.  Not everyone is invited.  It's known that her parties are filled with alcohol, food, sex, and fighting.  This party quickly descends at one point to which people are passed out while others are breaking and stealing stuff.  It's on this note that the narrator remarks (as he's stealing recor…

Short Story #357: Mother To Son by Conrad Kent Rivers

Title:  Mother To SonAuthor:  Conrad Kent RiversSummary The story begins with an officer escorting Minnie Peoples into a room.  She is clearly distressed and the reader soon discovers that she's been called in to identify a body that might be her son.  The officers are hoping that this will be an easy identification and they can go home as their shift is ending.  However, Minnie insists that it isn't her son.  The officers try to verify this and she insists that it isn't.  In fact, she continues to insist this after they have relented.  She also remarks that one of the officers was the first African American officer on the police for and he is a "credit to your race."  The officers ask why the boy had a picture of her on him and she explained that there were many photos of her made when she was running for a competition in a newspaper. Finally, the officers order the morgue to move the body into the section for unidentified bodies.

ReflectionThe story hints at much…

Short Story #356: Singing Dinah's Song by Frank London Brown

Title:  Singing Dinah's SongAuthor:  Frank London BrownSummary The narrator remarks that a gypsy woman told him to beware of songs that will not leave him and this leads him to talk about his friend Daddy-O whom he worked with at Electronic Masters, Inc.  It's a pretty monotonous chop of repetitive motions and the narrator does his best to recall music (particular Dinah Washington) in order to pass the time.  His friend however started to sing such songs aloud while working at the machines.  Some time later, the narrator is working in the morning when his friend walks in.  The narrator was already exhausted from work and was finding himself also starting to slip into the rhythm of the music in order to complete this tasks.  Daddy-O walks into work dressed up rather fancy.  He walks straight to his machine, skipping the punch-in clock and the narrator mentions this but Daddy-O doesn't respond.  He eventually lights a cigarette and goes to the boss's office and the narrat…

Short Story #355: Son in the Afternoon by John A. Williams

Title:  Son in the AfternoonAuthor:  John A. WilliamsSummary The narrator, Wendell, explains that the summer sun is doing a number on him.  He is an African American writer who checks Hollywood scripts to make sure there is nothing offensive in the script to alienate the population.  He is going over to Santa Monica to pick up his mother who works as a nanny to a rich family, the Couchmans.  He remarks about how strange it is that the folk who hire help know so little about the help and yet the help learns many of the intimate details of the rich people's lives.  He enters begrudgingly by way of the kitchen to find his mother.  She invites him to relax as she is tending to Couchman's child who is sick and she is uncertain where or when the mother will be back as she likes to go off tanning during the sunny days.  The boy at one point yells and orders around the Wendell's mother and Wendell barks at him in retort.  The mother comforts Couchman's child and Wendell reflect…

Short Story #354: The Checkerboard by Alston Anderson

Title:  The CheckerboardAuthor:  Alston AndersonSummary The narrator sits playing checkers with his father when the mother begins to berate the father about chopping wood and getting corn.  The boy contemplates his moves against his father who is a skillful player.  While the father is away, the boy tries to cheat but it backfires when his father returns and makes a strong counter move.  The mother continues to nag and sends the father off to chop wood.  At dinner, the mother continues to critique the father, the brother, and the narrator on a variety of topics.  Every time the father retorts to the mother, she becomes defensive and tells him not to yell at her.  When the brothers jokingly whack at one another, the mother grows angry and the father yells at her to just leave people alone.  The mother breaks down crying and saying how little she is respected in the house.  Brother and father leave the table while the narrator stays by and tries to console his mother, all the while tryin…

Short Story #353: Santa Claus Is A White Man by John Henrik Clarke

Title:  Santa Claus Is A White ManAuthor:  John Henrik ClarkeSummary After Randall is given a quarter by his mother, he is instructed to go downtown and buy nice presents for the family for Christmas.  Randall is excited to be able to give to his family and so heads downtown with excitement.  As he gets to the shopping area, he encounters a sad-looking Santa who he knows is not the real Santa but just one of his affiliates.  This part of town is filled with poor white folks and Randall recognizes a group of white kids that are clearly hoodlums.  He tries to avoid them but they hone in on him and begin to bully him.  Santa even joins in on the teasing.  They eventually decide to lynch him and one boy goes to find a rope.  When they realize he has a quarter, they take it from him.  The boy returns with rope for lynching but the Santa figure changes his mind about that.  The boy is disappointed but it is assuaged when Santa gives him the quarter taken from Randall.  The crowd is pleased w…

Short Story #352: The Pocketbook Game by Alice Childress

Title:  The Pocketbook GameAuthor:  Alice ChildressSummary Mildred appears to be on the telephone with Marge.  She explains that working as a house cleaner at different houses is a learning experience rather than just one because one witnesses many different things.  She explains that one of her clients, Mrs. E. has some strange ways about her.  In particular, whenever she is around, she holds tight to her big pocketbook as if Mildred would steal it.  After months of this, Mildred decides to call her on it but not directly.  Mrs. E. asks her to get the superintendent of the building.  She leaves but comes back into the room and says that she left her pocketbook.  She leaves and gets the superintendent.  Later, Mrs. E. says that she hopes Mildred doesn't think Mrs. E. distrusts her.  Mildred retorts that she would be suspect too of Mildred given how little Mrs. E. pays her.  
ReflectionIt's a short and quick story but so easily captures the tension that comes with being a minorit…

Short Story #351: The Stick Up by John Oliver Killens

Title:  The Stick UpAuthor:  John Oliver KillensSummary The narrator is enjoying himself while taking a walk through the park.  He observes the different sites and people enjoying the day as well.  When walking back home near the park exit, a large white man blocks his way and tells him it's a stick up.  The man then says he's only joking but hopes the man can give him some change.  The narrator says he doesn't have change to offer and continues to walk.  The man persists, putting his arm around the narrator and insists that he's not like other bums.  The narrator grows frustrated at the man's insistence but the man pulls out a picture of his family.  The narrator continues to give cues that he needs to go but the man isn't listening.  He makes a plea about them being together and fighting against the North Vietnam.  Finally, the narrator insists he must go and walks to the corner.  The white man makes a derogatory comment about the narrator and with that, the n…