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Mumps, Challah, Slavery & Modesty Skirts

            My brother and I were dressed up as cowboys, as in the song The Streets of Laredo. We had matching red bandanas that covered our lips and neck, and wore broad brimmed hats to shade our eyes. We both had belts with a star for a buckle, and boots that smacked at the ground, like a judge’s gavel, when we walked. Our holsters had cap guns, one on each side, as if we were ambidextrous. It was the same holster I wore years earlier, when Peetie Weber knocked on the door to share his Popsicle—except this time I had clothes on.images

             Every day Peetie’s mom gave him a dime for the ice cream truck, and every time he bought an orange Popsicle with two sticks and a crease in the middle for splitting in half. Every day I’d ask Peetie to share, and every day he didn’t. Until once, when my parents thought it adorable that I wore my holster and hat everywhere, even to the bath, that they decided to take pictures. I had on exactly two things, the holster and the hat, when Peetie finally broke down and knocked on our front door to share.  ~Excerpt from “Mumps”, a short-story-in-progress by Mark Radoff.

images-1The bakery was packed with people and smelled like sugar and bread. My stomach rumbled as I squirmed my way through the crowd of bored boys and girls around my age. I had to avoid the round belly of a pregnant woman in a long dress as I pressed closer to the glass. The servers, all Jewish women with their hair in kerchiefs or hats, were doing a brisk exchange over the barrier, their plump arms jiggling as they gave bread and cakes and took back change. A few young women stood to the side waiting their turn and I was careful not to bump into an older man in a black robe and hat. Rabbis were wary of being touched by women, even miniature ones. ~Excerpt from short-story-in-progress by Dalia Astalos

DSC01613Across town, a woman of prodigious proportions stood in the cluttered bedroom of her carefree Victorian, perplexed. She needed an appropriate outfit, but the exact ensemble proved elusive. Why people–women especially–obsessed over clothes, she couldn’t fathom. They’re bulky, hot, they cost money, and they have to be washed. Who has time for that? She had long ago given up the enslavement of the material class in favor of the outfit she presently wore, a one-piece navy blue bathing suit with white piping and modesty skirt. She found this lightweight, expansive suit practical and expedient, and when paired with her white cat eye sunglasses and white flip flops purchased from the local Smart-Aid, the attire became her signature fashion statement. On any given day she could be seen about town in her bathing suit and cat eye glasses, perusing the latest tabloids at the Sunshine Valley Grocery Mart, attacking a mega-stack of banana coconut pecan pancakes at the Flying Elbows Café, or discussing the latest news of the day with the surprised strangers she encountered at the Isaiah Dumont Park and Playground near her hodge-podge of a house. She enjoyed the active life. ~Excerpt from The San Joaquin Suicide Hotline, a novel-in-progress by James Albert

slave-sale-postingRuth notices oddities in the dynamics between the few colored people in her life—Lizzie, the washwoman Viola, and Mrs. Whiting, the woman who lives not under the hill or in the Bottom but on the same country road—and her family and other white people. She sees children, especially a tall older boy, get on a school bus in front of Mrs. Whiting’s house to take them to a segregated school and she realizes she never noticed that they weren’t in her school. On a field trip she sees ruins of slave cabins and in a flash of insight understands that the colored people in her town must have been descended from slaves. She wonders if her own ancestors might have owned slaves since they founded the town in the past century. She tries to ask her mother, who is evasive, but Ruth decides the question needs answering. ~Excerpt from the synopsis of The Level and the Square, a novel-in-progress by Ruth Roberts

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