It Was All Set

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The door swings open. Your roommate pumps his fist and plops on the bed. “Winter break, here I come. Hey, wanna go skiing.” He’s always after you to relax.

You want to go, but you count every penny since your dad went bust in real estate. “La Jolla’s warmer. Mom would love to meet you.”

He agrees. Mom agrees. Everything is set. You’ve registered for classes next term, it’s dead week and you’re confident about finals. Then you get e-mail from the bursar. The autopay from your bank failed. Calling Mom, you hope your Dad hasn’t hacked the account again.

Bittersweet

Her mother texted Aimee : “Your Grandfather left you everything.”

After mixing peanut butter into vanilla cookie dough, Aimee replied, “No way.”

She was stumped. He’d barely spoken to her the last time she visited. Aimee had hidden her resentment, watching how his care exhausted her mother, knowing her mother loved him.

Traveling to the funeral, she’d worked it out. Of his four children, only her mother had fulfilled his wishes, giving him a grandchild and care at life’s end. It fell into place. While Aimee stood in for her mother, her aunts would feel the sting of his venom one last time.

Stubborn Testing

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After the fever, Marla’s bones ached like the marrow was seeping out. She wasn’t a malingerer. She refused medical treatment. Her father encouraged her to carry the pain while it piled up like a bank of snow against her body’s unyielding house. She’d been raised a positive thinker.

Though her steps slowed and she took more frequent rests, Marla, an ecologist, worked outside destroying invasive plants and replacing them with native species. She outpaced her co-workers, cheering them, finally collapsing under a tree.

Diagnosed with Lyme disease, she took a desk job. One of the lucky ones, she got better.

Corduroy Memories

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The chair, a lucky garage sale find, tucked itself under the desk after Anne’s husband died. She thought to never change it. Her sister thought otherwise and upholstered it in maroon brocade.

“Much better,” Marla said, deploying a tack to the seat’s bottom.

“Like Burgundy, his favorite wine.”

The new fabric smelled different. She sat in the chair, holding the original brown corduroy. After a year, she gathered her husband’s belongings: the chair, his books, his desk, etcetera and sold them from the driveway. Neighbors shared memories with Anne, bought remembrances. She stowed the proceeds in her brown corduroy purse.

You are What You Eat

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“Snow symbolizes death,” a Kenyan English major told me as we walked across campus to our shift at the greenhouse. Both of us clutching our coats closed against the cold, I suppressed thinking about ashy flecked flakes falling as early as July.

By May, the ground thaws so we can harvest root vegetables for winter stews. The short warm season discourages growing anything but leafy greens outside. Broccoli, artichokes, melons, tomatoes and tree fruits need shelter and warmth. Apples are a tropical fruit now, shipped on boats to reduce carbon footprints.

You are what you eat. We do our best.

Quick, Do Something

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I join other runners crouching into line. The starting gun sounds. A tennis ball stuck at the bottom of my pocket bumps against my thigh, interfering with the rhythm of running.

Then something amazing happens. A Golden Retriever blocks the inside lane. Several people veer to the right, miraculously avoiding collisions. A few scream, one stops. I whistle.

Clutching the ball, I throw overhand into the grassy oval at the center of the track. Cheers go up as the dog bullets away. He’s caught using a doggie treat and we reassemble. The morning headline reads, “Quick thinking saves the race.”

More To It

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Women liked Anton as a friend. Some reminded him of his mother. They had the same sense of humor and quick efficiency. But he felt nothing of the easy affection that characterized the relationship his parents had.

He hadn’t paid much attention to dating. Too busy busting for A’s. By college, he’d started to wonder whether he was different from his father, though he’d always thought they were the same.

A night of drinking and philosophical discussion with his college roommate changed everything. In the morning, he felt confused. And inspired. And in love with someone who loved him back.