Favorite CNF, Second Quarter

Here we are in July, sliding quickly into the deep summer of trickling sweat, singing cicadas, and days at the beach with a nice, long TBR list. What? You don’t read on the beach?! Well, I invite you to stick a toe into these short but compelling essays while you’re sipping your beers and keeping one eye on the kids. You’ll thank me for expanding your reading horizons.


Self-Portrait at Six by Steve Edwards in Medium.

It’s not easy to find childhood nostalgia stories that aren’t full of cliches and when I do, I’m super excited to read them. Steve Edwards’ story is very close to poetry which is very close to my heart so I really loved this. His choice of images to share is brilliantly executed.

I have a story — and sometimes I don’t have a story but am just riding my bike in circles, or holding a still-warm blue racer snake my father chopped the head off with a hoe, or noticing that the house is suddenly quiet and I am alone in it with motes of swirling dust.

Whenever Men Think I’m Smiling by Megan Pillow Davis in Brevity.

This story of sneaky touching is one I think most women have experienced. Megan tells the story perfectly, in all its disgusting, sneaky grossness.

My backpack is pressing into the elevator wall. There are men all around me. There are all men and me. So I stare straight ahead. I drink my coffee. I let him touch me, because it could be worse, it could be worse, it could always be worse and then in the middle of the next sip of scalding coffee that I bring to my lips come the memories, descending on me like a flock of birds…”

The Way Home by Jane Ratcliff in The Sun.

Ok, I’m going to admit it. I cried reading this story. It’s about illness, and dogs, and unconditional love. Knowing it’s a true story makes it all the more poignant and Jane does wonderful things in the telling. This is a favorite of all time piece, for me.

“With Ortiz by my side, I continue to get better. I visit the farmers’ market, venture down streets I’ve avoided, and run errands that previously seemed impossible. Ortiz tugs me into stores and makes friends: the women at the barbershop who give Ortiz his daily treat; the shoe salesman with the easy laugh who gives him his other daily treat; the gray-haired husband and wife who let Ortiz romp with their dog along the winding brick paths of their English garden.

The Color of Heartache by Ann Kathryn Kelly in The Coachella Review.

As I tweeted when this story came out, I read a lot of CNF about illness and Ann is a master. Her skill is amazing with a subject that’s hard to write effectively. I first read some of her story when I selected her CNF for publication in Barren Magazine (link) and this essay in Coachella expands her story a bit more with an added Anthony Bourdain-related storyline. Yep, I teared up on this one, too.

As I recovered in a rehabilitation hospital, learning to walk, swallow, and grasp objects again, Jane Ann planted rows of tulip bulbs along my driveway before she left for her winter in Florida. When spring came around and I was again living independently in my house, my driveway erupted into a palette of pastel splendor. I had a Monet watercolor outside my door. 

She’d never mentioned to me she had planted them the previous autumn. 

“I wanted you to see a rainbow when you got settled in your house again,” she later said.

The Sadness Scale, As Measured by Stars and Whales by Paul Crenshaw in Qu Literary Magazine.

Omg, I can not even tell you the beauty, sadness, and optimism of this essay. Paul is one of the most gifted contemporary writers in the world today. I’m a huge, huge fan so, yeah, I strongly encourage reading this essay and anything else of his you can get your hands on, including his book This One Will Hurt You which I’m currently reading. You know how you feel when you discover a new-to-you writer and you just can’t get enough? That’s how I feel.

“I’m trying to see stars the same as when I was a child, wondering not what’s out there for me, but just what’s out there. I’m trying not to imagine dead solar systems but that light still leaks from them long after they are gone. I want to smell the air after the rain and be thankful for that moment, no matter how long we have to wait for it. For every injustice in the world there is a spider crawling up a waterspout. For every anger, an echo. For every wrong, a right now.”

Boar’s Head Bold Marbleu Marbled Blue Monterey Jack Cheese by Amy Barnes in McSweeney’s.

And then we have this little gem for comic relief. Amy paced this story perfectly, throwing out bits of sparkle along the way that made me smile to the end.

And then it happened. She appeared. Mrs. Maisel time traveled into the Publix deli wearing a carefully-ironed Anthropologie dress and macrame wedge shoes with a more-expensive-than-my-car purse. She breezed past me and the rest of the line as if we were invisible on her bakery-to-deli counter journey. I wondered if all time travelers were rude.

Happy reading, y’all!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s