Yes, life is so interesting.



Who’s Afraid?
G. Slonaker


Blue Eye
S. Miller

Three days after the boy’s third birthday, they took out his eye. After they took out his eye, he was supposed to wear a black eye patch, but he refused to wear it. A few weeks later, he was ordered to wear a smooth white piece of plastic, a prosthetic that filled his butchered eye socket. They gave him glasses to protect the prosthetic. A day later, he fell at preschool. The glasses broke and cut his face. The prosthetic fell out. His parents bought safety goggles that worked better than the glasses and were more suitable for an active lifestyle. “Superhero scientist,” he said with approval as he regarded himself in the mirror.

He painted a very large picture at preschool, almost as large as a birthday banner. He used a thick brush. The painting depicted four stick figures: his mommy, his daddy, himself, and his baby sister. At the end of the stick-arms on each stick figure, he made handprints by submerging his own hands into red paint. The feet sported red toes. Extra toes (for good luck) were yellow. Three stick figures had one blue eye, filling the black circle containing it. The fourth stick figure, his own, had two blue eyes.

A year went by. He turned four.

Close one eye. What can you no longer see?

Now pretend you are four with chunky shoes that light up when you run. You speak in complete gramatically-correct sentences, two years earlier than your peers. Your mind is a steel trap. What happened to you is crystal clear. You remember exactly how it felt when you were just three, a year ago. You remember exactly what the world was like when you had two eyes. You know what is missing.

The boy returned to the eye clinic every six months. Each time, he was put under general anesthesia, so that the doctor could examine the surviving eye. If the cancer showed up in the other eye, it would kill him quickly. Each time, he cried and protested. He was strong-willed and often took a stance of Not Submitting, which was effective in most situations. But in this case, he had no choice at all.

In between eye clinic visits, his playtime was methodical and thorough. He made seat belts for the kiddie car. He pruned the trees with his plastic power saw. He raked the leaves—which were not actually raked, but saying so, made it so.

The pediatrician suggested to the boy’s parents that they should consult a geneticist about his pathology. At Children's Hospital, before the geneticist began to talk, his father left the room to throw up. After he returned, the geneticist drew pictures explaining the difference between hereditary retina blastoma, which meant the cause of the cancer might have been due to genetics, and sporadic retina blastoma, which means that there was no known cause.

The geneticist’s stick figures were similar to the picture the boy drew of his family. The stick figures had two X's for eyes, except for one stick figure, which had an X for one eye, and a round circle for the other.

The geneticist drew other symbols and diagrams. He noted statistical information. The parents found it confusing and mysterious. The geneticist explained that the pathology was unclear.

Close one eye. What can you no longer see?

Now pretend you are four. You explain to your friend that the kiddie car has broken down and you need to call roadside service. You go inside, and are supremely annoyed because your mother is using the phone.

Finally she gets off the phone. You call roadside service about the broken-down kiddie car, not actually dialing the real number, because obviously you’re just playing. Then you go back outside and command your friend to climb the mountain and help you bring up supplies with a pulley system that you invented with a phone cord and a pink ribbon.

Later, as the day draws to a close, you will get tired and more petulant and more dictatorial. After dinner, you will be ruthlessly insistent on receiving a third dessert. Later still, you will snuggle between your mother and father in their bed. On the wall opposite the bed, your parents have hung your blue eyed, red-toed painting of the family, but you will ignore it, because you’re planning how you’ll convert the porch into a balloon factory tomorrow. You don’t get far in your planning. You fall asleep almost immediately, the result of living large all day, staying up later than advisable, and that third dessert.

You will survive.


Imagined Worlds (Detail)
I. Volykhine



the glow

the flowers

sweet colorful bows

petals flow

in the tender breeze

among the dainty green leaves

lavender attracts bees

following the wind, landing

feel the sun’s warm heart

hugging our spirits

keeping us alive

quiet meadow

in the cool shade

blueberries are sweet

just like the day

Mom came home to stay.


Imagined Worlds (Detail)
I. Volykhine


Bird Mirror
J. Angell Grant

A bird is trying to fly into

one of the garden mirrors.

He wants to visit his doppelganger.

It’s a mystery.

He has been making this crossover attempt

for several days;

arriving in the afternoon,

and spending three or four minutes

flapping at the mirror,

trying to get through.

Now sitting on a camelia branch,

inches from the mirror,

he looks again at his friend,

this time quietly,

and cocks his head.

He is enjoying this new acquaintance.

Yes, life is so interesting.

Without realizing it,

our bird has wandered into the world

of his own imagination.


R. Turner, age 11


Cheesy Rice
K. Nielsen

This dish so forgiving of substitutions that what follows can barely be called a recipe. I've listed the type of rice, cheese, greens, onions, herbs that I use, but whatever you have on hand that’s similar will probably work.

4 C cooked rice (I like to use TJ's frozen organic brown rice because it is easy and because I like the texture.)1 medium to large onion, any color, smallish diceOlive oilSaltRed pepper flakes2-5 garlic cloves, depending on size and your preference, minced or pressed1 T fresh thyme, roughly chopped2 bunches of chard, washed and stemmed. If you want to use the chard stems, dice them and and saute with the onion—see below. (I've  also used spinach and various kale varieties but chard has the right balance of tenderness and sturdiness.)3 ounces GruyereParmesan

Instructions0. Preheat oven to 350°F

1. Prepare rice and put in large mixing bowl.

2. Warm olive oil in a saute pan and saute onion and chard stems, if using, with salt and pepper flakes for a few minutes, then add the garlic and thyme. Continue cooking until the onions are just soft—you want them to have a bit of texture.

3. Add onions to rice and mix.

4. Wipe pan and add more olive oil. Saute chard, working in batches if necessary. (I never batch.)

5. Grate Gruyere while chard cools; stir Gruyere into rice/onion mixture.

6. Chop chard; add to cheese/rice/onion mixture.

7. Stir Gruyere into chard/rice/onion mixture.

8. Grease baking dish. Evenly distribute cheese/chard/rice/onion mixture in dish.

9. Cover everything with a thin layer of grated Parmesan.

10. Cover dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

11. Increase heat to 375°F, uncover, and bake for another 15 minutes or so, until the cheese browns.

12. Eat. Goes well with salads of many stripes.

A street scene in Lefkada, Greece, by T. Bull.

Audio description: Birdsong. A greeting. A band rehearses “Jesus Christ Superstar.” 

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