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The pandemic forces us to wear masks, to hide our God-given mouths and blemishes. And it forces me to text my sister, describing the smell of my mask breath when it smells uniquely horrible:

  • Friday 8:33 PM — “Current mask breath: the General Mills corn snack ‘Bugles.’ I haven’t eaten Bugles in years.”
  • Tuesday 10:50 AM — “Current mask breath: rotten hay.”
  • Saturday 4:21 PM — “Current mask breath: MANURE. I mean it. What the hell?”

Why do I send my sister breath updates? Like soldiers on the battlefield writing poetry for the first time, I do it because I…


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I worked on a hay farm in high school. My boss, I’ll call him Adam, was a towering man from out west, a man whose silence about the west gave you the impression that he didn’t just leave it, he fled.

You could find his old life lying quietly in one of his farm buildings. There, you discovered woodworking tools, ornately-carved bedposts and cabinet doors, and the arms and legs of antique tables and chairs. That had been his business: old and beautiful furniture. …


A personal history of missed opportunities

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Illustrations by the author

In my high school gym class, they taught us how to dance. This was bad of them, having gym. Why is there gym?

If you immediately have an answer for this, you’re part of the problem.

I hated changing in the locker room. Before high school, I’d heard reports that they forced students to shower after gym. My fear lingered. I kept expecting the gym teacher to step into the room or unfold himself out of a locker and say, “Strip.” Those who remained clothed would be undressed violently by the nude and then dragged into the communal shower.

Only…


This Is Us

All my life I’ve wanted someone to notice me

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At the landscaping company where I worked for two summers, they called me “Danimal.” They gave me this name because I didn’t landscape. I attacked.

I filled my wheelbarrows so full of earth, sand, and rock that the handles creaked and groaned. It took all my might to wheel the barrow without tipping it over. A coworker once asked, “Why do you do that?”

And I, like a wild Danimal, said, “I don’t know.” But what I meant was, Why does the bear roar? Why does the tiger also roar? Why does the lion’s hair look effortlessly amazing?

What choice…


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When I was growing up, my grandparents lived in a huge and beautiful farmhouse. There were many rooms, and most of them were frightening if you found yourself in them alone. It was heaven.

The rooms were scary because my grandmother loves Victorian paintings of doomed children.

I can still see them…

A little girl stands alone in an abandoned barn. She strangles wildflowers in a death grip while staring at something outside the frame of the painting. Obviously, the Devil.

In another painting, a child helps her fisherman father row a boat. He smiles down at her. She stares…


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The first time the ocean tried to kill me, it went back in time and targeted my great-grandfather William Williams.

When he was a boy, William and his mother were in England. They made their way down to the Southampton docks. Yes, they were there to board the ship responsible for allowing me to see the realistic upper nakedness of a woman for the first time:

Titanic.

1997 was the year. James Cameron was my teacher. He gave me a wise saying and taught me what it means.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

The Titanic sunk. The reason? Iceberg. Another…


I want excitement and magic in my life. So I pick up hitchhikers.

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Hitchhikers make me feel like I’m having an adventure. Anything could happen. These mysterious walkabout souls might teach me how to locate hobbits. Or they might start a knife fight that results in a cool scar. Or maybe they’ll tell me a wonderful story, and I will write it and become rich and mighty, then spend the rest of my life searching for the hitchhiker, so I can gratefully give him the chance to tell me another story.

What I want is for one of my passengers…


This Is Us

Imagine the power of an older brother. He wields the Truth. How can he control himself?

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I don’t remember what Brian Dimmit did to me on the playground, but I remember saying, “I hate you.” He must have done something bad. He was capable of bad things. Like this:

I went to his house one time, and we sat at the computer, watching him play a game.

“Can I play?” I said.

“In a minute,” he said. “Watch this.”

I watched it. I watched it for 10 more minutes.

“Can I play now?”

“Hold up,” he said, “I just want to do one more thing.”

He did 24 more things.

“Can I play?”

“Yeah, when I…


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Photo by Francisco Ghisletti on Unsplash

While driving on the highway recently, I realized I was rolling along within a polite stampede of mid-sized SUVs. They were everywhere. They dominated the road like abandoned goldfish dominate ponds, destroying ecosystems and giving birth to Chaos.

I saw a blue one, a red one, a white one, a green one. Buick, Chevy, Ford, Kia, etc. And every one of these vehicles had the same shape. I call it “soft cube.” It looks like this: imagine a vehicle that has been designed by someone who cares about design. It’s got cool angles: sharp here, curvy there. It stands alone…


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This year, because English 101 students are insane with youth, I gifted my students with morsels of sane advice on the last day of class. These were morsels I desperately needed back when it was my turn to suffer the wonderful brain fever of youth.

Daniel Williams

A poverty-stricken, soft Batman. Here are some drawings: arkories.tumblr.com. And here’s a blog: danwilliamsbayou.wordpress.com

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