Essays

Bitter Fruit

When I learned that my old friend, Greg (I’ll call him), had died from brain cancer, I felt relief at his release. His final weeks had been horrible, his mind gone, his body shrunken and twisted, incontinent, the shell of him writhing in dark pain. We had been friends since our first week in college many years ago, his infectious enthusiasm enduring through his success as a management consultant and his hobby of lead roles in amateur musical productions. Even at the end, when he had lost the power of coherent speech, he revived to sing snatches of show tunes, lyrics still embedded in his diseased brain when all else was lost.

 

Walter Cummins has published seven short story collections—Witness, Where We Live, Local Music, The End of the Circle, The Lost Ones, Habitat: stories of bent realism, Telling Stories: Old and New. He also has a collection of essays and reviews called Knowing Writers. More than one hundred of his stories, as well as memoirs, essays, and reviews, have appeared in magazines such as New Letters, Kansas Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Under the Sun, Arts & Letters, Confrontation, Bellevue Literary Review, Connecticut Review, in book collections, and on the Web. With Thomas E. Kennedy, he was founding co-publisher of Serving House Books, an outlet for novels, memoirs, and story, poetry, and essay collections. For more than twenty years, he was editor of The Literary Review.

Tracking Down Bear

It was around midnight. My buddies and I were running up a deep dark canyon in the Sierra Nevada, trying like hell to keep up with the hounds. They were hot on the scent of something. Finally, we could tell from the sound, the hounds were at bay. Whatever it was they were chasing was treed. Now the chatter amongst us circled around whether it would be a bear, or a lion, or a measly ol’ coon. But Jimmy knew. They were his dogs, “It’s a goddamn bear. My dogs don’t chase nothing else.” With that, the excitement of the chase became much more intense. We’d been busting through three miles of bitch-ass brush, on our hands and knees at times, but now all the cuts, scratches, and bruises were brushed aside. It was now time for the mortal end of some large carnivore.

David Tarvin grew up in a little cabin, at the end of the road, in the big woods around Mariposa, California. He graduated from Mariposa High on June 14, 1971, he turned 18 on June 21, he enlisted in the Army on June 28. Served two years in Germany. Back home, he embarked on being a carpenter. As an apprentice, that work was hit and miss so he learned how to cut firewood, trap coyote, fox, and bobcat, and prospect for gold. In his pickup he carried carpenter tools, a gold pan, a chain saw, and a .22. Life as a jack-of-all-trades ended abruptly in 1984 when he shot a man who was coming at him. He’s now at San Quentin State Prison, without many trees around.

Everything’s in Color

I’m just six, wearing a tee and baggy shorts, hand-me-downs from my older brother. He’s smart and funny and eight inches taller than me. My hair is cut short, no frills, and a year from now, I’ll come home crying because someone at school called me a boy. When I look back at pictures from that time, I can’t imagine how anyone could think that pixie with a toothy grin and sparkling blue eyes was anything but a girl. Though I haven’t dressed up, I know this night is special. My brother and I are going to a big party with Dad. People fill the house. Kids are packed together on the floor and couches, clustered around a TV set, with the grownups standing in all the space that’s left on the first floor. It’s a special night, worthy of a party, because the Wizard of Oz is going to be shown on TV for its annual broadcast. I’ve seen the Wizard before, but this is the first time I’ll watch it in someone else’s living room with so many other people.

Formerly a writing professor, Gayla Mills has published in the Little Patuxent Review, the Doctor T.J. Ecklenburg Review, Spry, and more. Her essay collection Finite won the RED OCHRE LiT Chapbook contest. Her book Making Music After 40: A Guide to Playing for Life will be published by Dover in 2019.

Unusual Objects

Jacksonville was a man’s world, the whole damn place a bachelor pad. The main road leading to Camp Lejeune wasn’t much more than asphalt and spindly pines. The rest was car lots, strip clubs, and tattoo parlors, chain restaurants, and a sad excuse for a mall. Young men with matching crew cuts roamed in packs on the sides of roads. Colorful hot rods purchased with deployment money revved up at red lights. And during rush hour, on the median of Western Boulevard, the Jacksonville Ninja, an anonymous man who seemed as natural to the place as the pines, practiced his finest karate moves with a boombox on his shoulder. Background noise was artillery rounds and low-flying aircraft, both so loud they often set off car alarms. Few people were local, nearly all its residents transplants somehow connected to the Marine Corps. It wasn’t the kind of place a woman chose.

 

Karie Fugett holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Oregon State University. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Deep South Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Currently, she is writing a memoir about how the Iraq war and opioid crisis left her widowed at the age of 24. Find her on Twitter @KarieWrites.

Guadagnino’s Ivory Tower: Setting, Intellectualism, and Desire in Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name could have easily drowned in its own pretension.

Italy. Lombardy. Summer. The 1980s. Bright bathing suits and plenty of Italian Europop. Luca Guadagnino’s film takes up residence in an idle northern Italian 17th-century villa and tells the story of Elio Perlman, a precocious seventeen-year-old who spends his days transposing music, reading, and hanging out with other young summer residents. His primary responsibilities include partaking in the social engagements that his highly-educated parents ask him to attend and occasionally entertaining guests with his killer piano abilities. The family employs a cook and maid, Mafalda, and a groundskeeper, Anchise. Oliver, “the usurper,” enters their isolated, ethereal world. He is a 24-year-old graduate student spending the summer as Mr. Perlman’s live-in assistant. Together, Oliver and Elio read endlessly, engage in hyperintellectual banter near various bodies of water (they dredge up an ancient statue from one of them), and eat plenty of fresh fruit. They lead lives of leisure far-removed from the vast majority of modern audiences.

Michael Colbert has researched the romanticization of Italy; his stories and essays have appeared in magazines such as Germinal, Change, and Fictional Cafe.

Natalie loves a good cup of coffee and a good cat. She sees every movie that comes to theaters—sometimes three in one day! Natalie is an active citizen and will talk at length about local and national politics. She will probably cite one of the 20+ podcasts she listens to. Natalie took film studies courses while studying at Bowdoin College, completed a film production program in Prague, and has worked in NYC and Chicago.

Everywhere Are Dirt Roads

Gaborone, Botswana, HIV clinic. Everywhere are dirt roads. Even when there is a concrete road, dirt invades the edges and blows across like leaves. Dust flies into your eyes and cloaks your ankles and is a bitch to get off even with thick soap and the toughest washcloth. Cattle moo and moan in the backdrop as people walk by and school kids chatter and a man sleeps in a car’s front seat under a tree.

Brittany Raffa is a pediatrician in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Originally from Florida, she has lived in Hanover, NH, Nashville, TN and Ithaca, NY and has spent time in Italy, Kosovo, Vietnam, the U.K and Botswana. Many of her writings are based on conversations and encounters from these places, inspired by William Carlos Williams and by a desire to reflect on the mix of cynicism and playful joy that comes with her work, and simply being human.

Charlotte Sometimes

As a teenager, my favorite band was the Cure. This was pre-Radiohead, pre-Editors, before bands—even alternative bands—tended to be literary. Yet the Cure turned out songs like “Killing an Arab,” based on The Stranger by Albert Camus, and “How Beautiful You Are,” an echo of Charles Baudelaire’s essay “The Eyes of the Poor” (both facts that I discovered, in those dark ages before Google, when I fortuitously—serendipitously?—stumbled upon the originals… one in a borrowed book that I came this close to not taking home with me). In that arid early-90s musical landscape, the Cure was an exception in more ways than one (the Smiths were another, but Morrissey has gone so far off the deep end with his white nationalism these days that I find it hard to listen to his music). I remember, during those years, several vivid dreams featuring the band’s teased-haired, heavily made-up vocalist Robert Smith, including one in which he appeared at my Shelby, North Carolina home to take me away with him.

 

April Vázquez is the winner of the William Van Dyke Short Story Prize and a Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Orison Anthology award nominee. Her favorite line from a novel is, “Jane had occasionally tried to develop her own hidden depths, but she never could decide what to hide and how far down.”

Clutter

The drawer on the right side of my desk is similar to the drawer my mother kept under the counter, next to the refrigerator in my childhood home. One I opened daily in search for something, but never finding what I needed inside. Hers held

old pens with the names of realtors and contractors;

mini-calculators, mostly broken;

half-eaten Snickers bars and bags of M&Ms.

Mine with old ticket stubs,

ash from cashed pot pipes,

candy wrappers and

antidepressants spilled from the broken, child-

proof lid, lost somewhere beneath the chaos.

 

Andrew Walker is the co-founder of Howl With Us, an arts collective aimed at spreading accessible art around the country. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry is published or upcoming in New Pop Lit, Literary Juice, paperplates, Crack the Spine, and others. He is a graduate of Colorado State University and is currently writing in Denver, Colorado.

What’s Fair and Unfair

It was past 9:00 pm when our family scuttled out of customs with oversized wheeled suitcases, handheld computers, lunch bags, stuffed animals, and an address. August 2013: we’d just arrived to begin a nine-month stay in Oaxaca, Mexico. I’d received a Fulbright to research American adults studying Spanish abroad. In the main airport terminal, a group of Oaxacans, waiting for their own loved ones, beamed at the sight of my daughter, reaching to touch her and cooing endearments.

“!Muñeca!” [doll!]

“¡Es una angel!” [she’s an angel!]

“¡Mira sus ojos tan azules!” [look at her blue eyes!]

“¡Qué preciosa!” [how precious!]

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia, is the author of Imperfect Tense (poems), and three scholarly books in education. Winner of NEA “Big Read” Grants, the Beckman award for “Professors Who Inspire,” and a Fulbright for nine-month study of adult Spanish language acquisition in Oaxaca Mexico, she is also the poetry editor for Anthropology & Humanism and judges ethnographic poetry competition. Her work has appeared in Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Women’s Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Barrow Street, and many other literary and scholarly homes. She posts at her blog http://teachersactup.com.

Fear of Heights

The magnificent tree that we had admired for our more than twenty years in this house is now a stump after a week-long process of devastation, men with chain saws dangling from ropes in the upper reaches, the heavy thuds of dropping branches. It had been our favorite tree in the neighborhood, possibly the whole town, much taller than the others, perhaps one hundred and fifty feet high, and symmetrically ideal—an archetypal tree. Although we didn’t want to watch, we couldn’t help being aware of the pace of denuding, looking out to see lushness hewn, long leafless shafts. Why would anyone want to destroy such a beautiful thing?

Walter Cummins has published seven short story collections—Witness, Where We Live, Local Music, The End of the Circle, The Lost Ones, Habitat: stories of bent realism, Telling Stories: Old and New. He also has a collection of essays and reviews called Knowing Writers. More than one hundred of his stories, as well as memoirs, essays, and reviews, have appeared in magazines such as New Letters, Kansas Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Under the Sun, Arts & Letters, Confrontation, Bellevue Literary Review, Connecticut Review; in book collections; and on the Web. With Thomas E. Kennedy, he was founding co-publisher of Serving House Books, an outlet for novels, memoirs, and story, poetry, and essay collections. He teaches in the graduate creative writing programs at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Essay and Other Nonfiction Workshops at Eckleburg

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We accept polished creative nonfiction/essays up to 8,000 words year round, unless announced otherwise. Preferences veer toward shorter works under 1500 words with an arts and culture focus. If you wish to include a bio, keep it short, under 200 words. Submit your nonfiction.

Essay Collections and Memoir Manuscripts

We publish short works at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. At this time, we do not publish novel, long memoir, essay collections, story collections or poetry collections at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. We do offer manuscript workshops at The Eckleburg Workshops. If you are looking to place a manuscript, we can suggest several excellent small and large presses whose excellent books are promoted through our Eckleburg Book Club — i.e., Random House, Graywolf Press, Coffeehouse, Tinhouse, St. Martins Press and more.