by William R. Soldan
by Nancy Stohlman
by Tyler Barton
by CL Bledsoe
by Ashton Kamburoff
by Erin Lyndal Martin
What is a strange/interesting/humorous story you have from childhood?Meg Tuite
My Size Dancing Barbie
It was 1996, and there was a box that didn’t fit under the tree. About as tall as me, it was three feet high, wore a blue dress, and clumsily rolled around the carpet on wheels. I opened it, and we danced and danced and danced, twirling about the living room floor for weeks.
One evening in my childhood bedroom, out of the corner of my eye I saw something at the door. It was Barbie with her frozen smile. Her head turned slowly, dead eyes meeting mine. I screamed. I shrieked. My mother ran down the hall, and all I heard was my dad laughing, urging that it was just a joke.
It went on for months. Slowly Barbie acquired a high-pitched and girlish voice. She’d say my name. I couldn’t look at her anymore. They shoved her in my closet, but even that was too much for me. I wouldn’t get dressed alone anymore. I lived in perpetual fear.
My parents moved Barbie to their closet. Every time they would open that closet door, I’d catch a glimpse of her in the corner, lodged between luggages. I felt her wrath. I stopped going in their room altogether.Jade Quinn
A Common Everyday Thing, Something You Find Around the House
In 1970-something, the ant-sized suburb of New York where I grew up hosted one murder. It happened in the kitchen of the house next door.
We hung out on the street, an ambulance and a cruiser invading our kickball space, trading news in a Chinese telephone sort of a way: He killed her. Hit her with a frying pan. Smashed her brains in. Heavy shit for a pack of nine-year-olds.
Here’s what I remember: a covered gurney being wheeled down the driveway, a man I never spoke to staring out of the back window of a police car, two toddlers—twin boys who spent their days in sodden diapers on the lawn—crying when a fat lady picked them up.
We used to laugh at those kids, call them trash, point fingers at their naked chests and yellow Pampers. They’d be in their forties now, maybe married, maybe fathers, and I still wonder what they think of when they pick up something as ordinary as a frying pan.Christina Dalcher
After two years of wriggling anticipation–typing out notes about internal organs on my mother’s typewriter my favourite teacher unveiled the cow’s eye. Our whole class of fidgety nine-year olds crowded around.
The eye stared from its plate. As Miss Holdcroft made the first incision, I instinctively closed my lids. Then I prayed to Our Lady that no-one had noticed my failure. The bitter spit of disappointment told me that I was never going to be a surgeon after all. Just another grossed-out girl.
The final cut would reveal the treasure. My desperate arm stretched up to volunteer. The teacher chose me. My future was intact! I made the incision and pulled out the lens. Holding the convex cloudy jelly was the best and worst point of primary school: I wasn’t sure what to look forward to after that.
An opaque imperfect lens is the most I can hope for. It is better than looking away. I became a different kind of doctor, investigating the mind’s eye. But whatever I achieve in life, I find I am still waiting. I am unsure what for.
Perhaps I am scared that I may close my eyes and miss the most crucial part.Stephanie Hutton
When I was a toddler, my parents bought me a shirt with Bert on it. (Bert was and will always be my favorite character from Sesame Street.) After my mother put it on for the first time, I never wanted to take it off. Every time she tried to take it off, I would scream, so it stayed on for days and days, accumulating a lot of food stains in the meantime. Not to mention I needed a bath. Finally, no longer caring that my lung power was going to rattle her thin, delicate body, my mother bravely pulled off the shirt. I cried and cried, unhappy in the replacement shirt devoid of the cranky, yellow, cone-shaped Muppet. But although things appeared to be bleak, it wasn’t long before I was reunited with my favorite article of clothing.Christopher Iacono
Altar candles flickered, as pious nuns hunched over stacks of newspapers, scissors opening and closing, snip-snip, click-clack.
An Allied bomb hit Schloss Nymphenburg in 1944 and destroyed the royal chapel, converted by the Nazis to a hospital. Mater Sekundilla perished, as did a patient who’d survived the Eastern Front.
I was warned to never play in the verboten ruin that separated the palace from the reinstated convent school, because Lucifer would snatch me by my plaits, and drag me through the rubble, straight to hell.
The school lavatory was an unlit purgatory with permanently wet floors; no soap, no towels, no toilet roll, only wooden boxes filled with squares of inky newsprint, reminders of the trivial deprivations of the war.
Evenings after Vespers, my wimpled teachers worked their rusty shears, while Jesus glared from a crucifix on the wall, begrudging His forgiveness, tallying each snip-snip, click-clack.Genia Blum
I was four, maybe five. We were visiting relatives. They were childless so my parents brought along jigsaws because their house was boring. My favourite was Little Red Riding Hood. There were pieces for her legs, her cape, her hood, her basket, her dress, her face and hair. The smallest piece was her neck—it was flesh-coloured, rectangular. She walked along a path in the woods, smiling. In the background was Granny’s house. In the mid-ground, the wolf waited in the bushes. The pieces were wooden, sturdy.
Everyone was in the sitting room, but I wandered into the kitchen. In my hand I held her neck. I stopped in front of the bin. I don’t know why. It had a flip lid. As I stood there, a hand came out of the bin, snatched the piece from my hand and disappeared back down the bin. The only sound was the flapping of the lid. I decided not to disturb the hand. It might want more than a neck. I returned to the sitting room, saying nothing.
Later, Mom asked me about the missing piece. I told her. They searched the bin, but the piece was never found. Or the hand.Sherry Morris
Fuck It, Daddy
The handbrake in the old car had never worked. My father often left my pregnant mother at home and took me ‘down home’ as he always called it, to his parents’ farm. The road was bumpy–not yet tarred, although it would be some day after arguments–with large stones that made negotiation difficult. It climbed a steep hill where we had to pause before almost doubling back sharply into the lane to the old house. This was why, years later when teaching me to drive, my father first taught me to control a car using only the gears, not the handbrake: for this is how he dealt with the car every time we came to the awkward stop at the top of the little hill, before turning for the house. Each time the gears groaned, and each time he said, from the heart, “Fuck it.”
The day my mother and the new baby were with us for the first time, I stood beside him as he strained at the gears. I waited for him to say the magic words. But they never came – for he and I were on our best behaviour.
“Fuck it, Daddy?” I asked, puzzled.Mary Byrne
She was a lovely fusion of style and substance. Mrs. Tuite and my mom sipping their early evening martinis (always after 5 pm), discussing books they’d read, news stories they had seen and of course, their children. One night I joined them with my Coke in a martini glass. I mentioned a book I had read and mispronounced the name of a character. I was embarrassed but Mrs. Tuite said, “Don’t worry, I think it is wonderful that you even read this book at your age.” I loved her for that.
Another time at the “guitar mass” the priest was talking about couples living together before marriage. I was nine at the time and in the dark about sex. I couldn’t understand why people were against it. I stood up and said I thought it was a good idea because couples could get to know each and see if they really were meant to get married. There was a lot of nervous laughter and the priest told my parents “You are going to have trouble with that one.” Later, Mrs. Tuite came up to me and said, “I think you are right.” I loved her even more.Anne Kavanagh