San Antonio Review

Volume V
Summer 2021

International literary, arts and ideas journal since 2017

Edited by the SAR Editorial Collective:

Ash Lange, Prose Editor, Cumbernauld, Scotland, U.K.
Gianna Sannipoli, Poetry Editor, Seguin, Texas, U.S.A. & Belfast, Northern Ireland, U.K.
Peter Berard, Ph.D., Book Review Editor, Watertown, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
William O. Pate II, Founding Editor & Publisher, Austin, Texas, U.S.A.



Always read free at
2028 E. Ben White Boulevard
Austin, Texas  78741
United States of America



“. . . [H]ow not to be governed like that, in the name of those principles, with such and such an objective in mind and by means of such procedures, not like that, not for that . . .”

“. . . [A]s both partner and adversary to the arts of governing, as an act of defiance, as a way of limiting these arts of governing and sizing them up, transforming them, of finding a way to escape from them or a way to displace them, with a basic distrust, a kind of general cultural form, both a political and moral attitude, a way of thinking, etc. which I would very simply call the art of not being governed or better, the art of not being governed like that and at that cost. I would therefore propose, as a very first definition of critique, this general characterization: the art of not being governed quite so much.”

Michel Foucault
“What is Critique?”
The Politics of Truth
Semiotexte, 2005



Editors' Notes

“Most of the historians who wrote about the colonies were white, and even colonists. They went into the tiniest details about production, climate, the rural economy, but they always made sure not to unveil the crimes of their accomplices.”

—Pompee Valentin Vastey, 1814

as quoted in
Jean Casimir
The Haitians: A Decolonial History
University of North Carolina Press, 2020

Note from the Prose Editor

Ash Lange

A greeting from the meeting of the waters to the meeting of the minds. Cumbernauld — Comar nan Allt — the place I have called home since shortly before the start of our lockdown here in Scotland, is named after the confluence of the two rivers that once occurred here. No one quite knows what rivers or streams they were now or where they have gone. There has been a settlement here since at least Roman times and will likely continue to be one until we disappear into fire or ice or flood or drought or the ineptitude of the people that we choose to lead us. 

San Antonio Review, too, is a meeting of ways, places and things — Men and women, right and left, American and International, fiction and non-fiction. All of it, we hope, coalesces into a kind of a whole that is greater than the bare sum of its parts.

It had been a pleasure to be part of SAR for two issues now. And while the future is always an uncertain one for everyone and everything, we can rely on that fact that there is always something new and unexpected that will spring forth whenever and wherever things meet. 


Note from the Poetry Editor

Gianna Sannipoli

Timeline of Irresponsibility

William Pate

In consideration of length, footnotes providing source information have been removed from the print version. Please visit the websites provided at the end to find comprehensive reference information. —William O. Pate II, August 2021, Austin, Texas, U.S.A.

January 2020

January 21, 2020: First novel coronavirus case detected in the United States of America.

March 2020

March 4, 2020: First coronavirus case in Texas.

March 11, 2020: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 pandemic.

March 13, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declares a state of disaster (enabling federal funds to flow to the state) and halts elective surgeries (including abortions).

March 16, 2020: First COVID-19 death in Texas.

March 19, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues first coronavirus-related executive order shutting down government and businesses and banning gatherings.

March 23, 2020: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offers to sacrifice Texas seniors to coronavirus in order to reopen the Texas economy.

April 2020

April 14, 2020: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, under indictment for nearly six years, issues a letter to Texas House of Representatives Elections Committee Chair Rep. Stephanie Klick stating his “unofficial opinion” that “fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Election Code for purposes of receiving a ballot by mail.”

April 15, 2020: U.S. District Court Judge Tim Sulak rules in favor of allowing all Texans to vote by mail during coronavirus pandemic.

April 17, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive order announcing the establishment of the 45-member Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas and the beginning of the first phased reopening of Texas businesses.

April 23, 2020: U.S. President Donald J. Trump suggests people infected with coronavirus get an “injection” of disinfectant as a deterrent to the virus during his daily briefing.

Cover image of The Governor’s Report to Open Texas
Cover image of The Governor’s Report to Open Texas

April 24, 2020: Austin police officers shoot and kill unarmed Mike Ramos.

April 27, 2020: Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas releases The Governor’s Report to Open Texas: Texans Helping Texans with health and safety guidelines for individuals, employers, employees, the business sector and low-COVID counties along with celebratory biographies of the business leaders on the strike force and self-congratulatory reprisals of Gov. Abbott’s (non-)response so far.

May 2020

May 1, 2020: Texas begins Phase I of reopening.

Excerpt from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s letter to county election officials.

May 5, 2020: Audio leaked of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledging reopening will increase transmission of COVID-19

May 18, 2020: Texas begins Phase II of reopening.

“Our goal is to find ways to coexist with COVID-19 as safely as possible.”

— Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

May 19, 2020: U.S. District Judge Fred Biery rules that all state voters regardless of age qualify for a mail-in ballot during the coronavirus pandemic.

May 25, 2020: George Floyd murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. No arrests are made.

May 27, 2020: Texas Supreme Court opines in official ruling that most Texans won’t get coronavirus.

Excerpt from Texas Supreme Court opinion.

May 29, 2020: Derek Chauvin finally arrested after worldwide protests.

May 29-31, 2020: Anti-racist protests continue in response to George Floyd’s murder and the failure of public officials to arrest the police officers involved.

May 31, 2020: Gov. Greg Abbott declares the entire state of Texas a disaster in response to protests in some cities, allowing him to designate federal law enforcement officers to perform the duties of peace officers in Texas.

June 2020

June 1, 2020:  President Donald Trump threatens to send the U.S. military into American cities to suppress protests.

“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

—President Donald J. Trump

June 3, 2020: Texas begins Phase III of reopening. Charges finally filed against the police officers who watched and prevented standbyers from preventing the murder of George Floyd. The three officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — were charged with aiding and abetting the killing.

June 25, 2020: Elective surgeries (including abortions) suspended in Texas metros due to coronavirus overloading hospitals.

June 26, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reverses reopening state after a tremendous increase in coronavirus cases and deaths.

July 2020

July 2, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott finally issues statewide mask order for counties with over 20 cases of COVID-19.

August 2020

August 17, 2020: 10,000th Texan dies of COVID-19.

September 2020

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quietly disbands his Strike Force to Open Texas.

September 17, 2020: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott begins reopening Texas businesses again.

October 2020

October 14, 2020: Texas bars allowed to reopen.

November 2020

November 3, 2020: President Trump fails to win reelection as president but refuses to concede. Texas voter turnout best in nearly three decades. Thus explaining Republican attempts to pass voter-suppression legislation in 2021.

November 16, 2020: Texas becomes first state to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases.

January 2021

January 6, 2021: Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol after a pro-Trump rally, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton attended.

January 28, 2021: President Joe Biden revives U.S. funding for World Health Organization.

February 2021

February 10, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office informed of looming natural gas shortages by Public Utility Commission of Texas Chair DeAnne Walker.

February 11, 2021: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announces plan to penalize environmentally sensitive investors.

February 13-17, 2021: Winter Storm Uri strikes Texas causing cascading failures of energy and public health infrastructure (gas, electric, water). Death toll: at least 210 people. (State’s initial count was 111.) A tally by the Houston Chronicle finds almost double the number of deaths. A BuzzFeed News data analysis estimates 700 deaths from the storm

February 16, 2021: The Texas Public Utility Commission orders that wholesale electricity prices in the state should be set at $9,000 per megawatt-hour.

That’s exactly what happened: energy prices skyrocketed. Now, as the dust is settling and the Texas Legislature has adjourned after passing several bills that aimed to fix the state’s fragile electric grid, three truths have become clear: the state’s policymakers have not done enough to ensure the resilience and reliability of the grid, the February 16 PUC order kept electricity prices far too high for far too long, and Texas ratepayers will ultimately be saddled with about $37.7 billion in excess energy costs.

—Bryce, Robert. “Texas Ratepayers Are Being Saddled With Nearly $38 Billion In Excess Energy Costs From Winter Storm Uri.” Forbes.

Cost of Texas’ 2021 Deep Freeze Justifies Weatherization. Dallas Fed.

February 17, 2021: Gov. Greg Abbott falsely blames renewable energy for power outages in Texas. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, flies to Cancun, Mexico to escape freezing weather, leaving his constituents (and pet dog) behind. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in Salt Lake City, Utah. Republican Texas state Rep. Gary Gates abandons constituents via private jet to Orlando, Florida.

“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.”

— Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

February 17-18, 2021:  ERCOT’s visitor logs show Ryland Ramos, Gov. Greg Abbott’s top energy policy adviser, and Abbott-appointed Public Utility Commission chair DeAnn Walker — along with top regulatory officials from Centerpoint Energy, Oncor, AEP and Texas-New Mexico Power Company — signed in at the agency’s operations center in Taylor, where ERCOT’s high-tech control room handling the flow of power to most Texans, is located at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, and stayed there until 8:49 a.m. the next day.

The timeline in the visitor logs means the Abbott aide was on the scene when ERCOT decided — just before midnight Wednesday — to quit ordering rolling power outages and then, in the wee hours of Thursday, to leave the maximum prices for electricity in place.

—Root, Jay. “Exclusive: All-Night ERCOT Meeting Raises Questions about Abbott’s Role in Power Pricing Debacle.” Houston Chronicle, 23 Apr. 2021.

February 18, 2021: At least 3.4 million Texans without power.

February 19, 2021: 13.5 million Texans experience water disruption.

March 2021

March 2, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate and “reopens Texas 100 percent.”

March 9, 2021: Texas Public Utility Commission Chairman Arthur D’Andrea, who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, tells investors on a Bank of America Securities-hosted call to expect little improvement to the Texas energy grid and that he would attempt to protect their windfall profits from Winter Storm Uri. The call was closed to the public and news media and later leaked to Texas Monthly.

Image of excerpt from letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to Austin and Travis County leaders.
Excerpt of letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to Austin and Travis County leaders.

March 10, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatens to sue the city of Austin and Travis County if they don’t lift requirements for mask-wearing inside local businesses.

March 11, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues to block Austin and Travis County pandemic orders requiring employees and customers to wear a face-covering in local businesses.

March 12, 2021: State District Judge Lora Livingston declines Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to block Austin mask mandates until a full hearing.

March 25, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton refuses to release emails and text messages he sent during the rally in Washington, D.C. that resulted in the January 6th Capitol insurrection. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, refuses to wear mask during press conference.

Image of an excerpt from Houston Chronicle editorial, March 30, 2021
Excerpt from a Houston Chronicle editorial from March 30, 2021

March 26, 2021: State District Judge Lora Livingston rules against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and in favor of allowing Austin’s mask mandate to continue.

March 29, 2021: President Joe Biden urges states to reinstate and/or continue mask mandates.

April 2021

April 1, 2021: Republicans in the Texas Senate pass voter-suppression legislation. Senate Bill 7 would:

May 2021

May 17, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott prematurely ends the state’s participation in the federally funded pandemic-related unemployment programs effective June 26th. Texas will stop participating in ARPA programs, including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation Program (MEUC). This includes the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the FPUC. U.S. Federal Reserve issues results of latest Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020, revealing a quarter of American adults worse off at the end of 2020 than at the same time in 2019. Over a third of Americans reported not being able to afford to cover a $400 emergency with on-hand cash or its equivalent.

Image from Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, 2013-2020. Accessed 19 May 2021.
Image from Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, 2013-2020. Accessed 28 May 2021.
Image from Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, 2013-2020.
Screenshot of Email from Texas Workforce Commission announcing Gov. Abbott’s termination of enhanced unemployment benefits for coronavirus-affected workers.
Screenshot of Email from Texas Workforce Commission announcing Gov. Abbott’s termination of enhanced unemployment benefits for coronavirus-affected workers. / William O. Pate II, May 19, 2021

May 18, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive order barring state and local government entities (including counties, cities, school districts and public health authorities) and officials from requiring people to wear masks. Failure to comply can result in a $1,000 fine, he notes in the executive order. Mask ban becomes effective on May 22, 2021. School districts can require them until June 5.

May 27, 2021: Texas Legislature ends 87th Legislative Session without meaningfully addressing health or energy crises facing the state.

Even as officials and statisticians continued to tally the dead from the February blackouts, legislators rushed forward with promises that they would make certain the grid never failed again. But the House and Senate could not agree on what measures to pursue. And both bodies were hamstrung by their deference to energy executives and investors, and especially natural gas producers. A slate of bills languished until the final Sunday of the session. The ones that passed would overhaul the state’s Public Utility Commission and require weatherization of power plants, transmission lines, and the natural gas facilities that provide the fuel to generate power—but they do not specify how to pay for it. Nor do they address how to pay for the financial losses power companies faced in the storm—losses that Texas households and businesses will likely be footing for years to come.

—Ratcliffe, R. G. “Texas Lawmakers Had Two Crises to Address. They Ignored Them in Favor of Sideshows.” Texas Monthly, 1 June 2021.

May 28, 2021: U.S. Senate Republicans block the creation of a commission to investigate January 6th insurrection at U.S. Capitol after Republican U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asks “a personal favor” of fellow Republicans to vote against it.

May 31, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott threatens via Twitter to veto funding for legislative staff in revenge for Democrats breaking quorum to kill voter-suppression legislation under consideration by the Texas House of Representatives.

June 2021

Of nearly 10,000 bills and resolutions filed this session, about 3,800 were passed. The governor vetoed 21 pieces of legislation this session. In each of the last two regular sessions, he vetoed about 50.

— Allie Morris, “From backing the blue to the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’: Bill that are becoming law in Texas,” Dallas Morning News, 21 June 2021

June 1, 2021: U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, calls concerns about climate change “a cult” at the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Energy Summit. Gov. Greg Abbott signs House Bill 1900, which financially penalizes cities that cut or reallocate their police budgets; Senate Bill 23, which forces counties with populations of 1 million or more to receive voter approval before decreasing their law enforcement budgets; and House Bill 2366, which increases penalties for interfering with or harming law enforcement. Senate Bill 68, which would have required peace officers to intervene and report when a fellow officer uses excessive force was left unsigned. Significantly, Abbott’s signature on HB 1900 law restores funds, personnel and authority for tasks earlier removed from Austin Police Department by the city council.

Under that law – which takes effect Sept. 1, after the City Council adopts the budget in August but before FY 22 begins Oct. 1 – APD’s budget this year has to be at least $432 million; otherwise, the state can siphon off Austin’s sales tax revenue and prevent it from increasing property taxes or utility rates. The statute would also not only prevent Austin from annexing any territory until it made APD whole, but would require the city to hold disannexation elections in each area annexed in the last 30 years.

Sanders, Austin. “Austin Police Funding Restored; Is It Too Much, or Not Enough?”The Austin Chronicle, 30 July 2021.

June 2, 2021: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tells Steve Bannon that former President Donald Trump would have lost in Texas in the 2020 election if his office had not successfully blocked counties from mailing out applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

Notably, the Texas attorney general conflated mail-in ballots with applications for mail-in ballots in his remarks to Bannon. Harris County did not attempt to mail actual ballots to registered voters—just applications to request them if the individual voter wanted one.

—Lemon, Jason. “Texas AG Says Trump Would’ve ‘Lost’ State If It Hadn’t Blocked Mail-in Ballots Applications Being Sent Out.”Newsweek, 5 June 2021.

June 8, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declares that legislation passed during the session “fixes all of the flaws” of the Texas energy grid.

“Bottom line is that everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”

—Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

June 14, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs Senate Bill 6, which shields companies from lawsuits for pandemic-related injuries or deaths and makes it more difficult to sue health care providers or businesses for exposures to illnesses arising from COVID-19 or future pandemics.

June 15, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs House Bill 1925, which is a statewide camping ban, making it a Class C misdemeanor to camp in unapproved public spaces.

June 17, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs Senate Bill 1111, prohibiting Texans from registering to vote using a commercial post office box (as many homeless do).

June 18, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoes funding for the legislative branch in revenge for Texas House Democrats who broke quorum to prevent Senate Bill 7 from reaching the floor.

June 22, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues call for first special legislative session to begin on July 8, 2021, with legislative priorities to be added later.

July 2021

July 4, 2021: 50 percent of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated, according to The Dallas Morning News’ data.

July 7, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues agenda for first called special session that focuses on restricting voting rights, blocking refugees from seeking asylum at the border and limiting the topics taught in public schools. (Not included in the call are public health or energy infrastructure.)

COVID-19 Risk-Based Chart – Vaccine Edition from Austin Public Health,, accessed 23 July 2021.

July 23, 2021: After hospitalizations increase with the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, Austin reenters Stage 4 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interpretive summary for the week states:

The United States is once again seeing a rise in COVID-19 caseshospitalizations, and deaths. As of July 22, 35% of U.S. counties are experiencing high levels of community transmission. COVID-19 cases are on the rise in nearly

90% of U.S. jurisdictions, and we are seeing outbreaks in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage. These worrisome trends are due, in part, to the rapid spread of the highly transmissible B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources and could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.

Estimated Proportions of SARS-CoV-2 Lineages for Health and Human Services Region 6, which includes Texas. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed 23 July 2021.


An increase in COVID-19 cases also creates more opportunities for the virus to mutate, which could lead to the emergence of new variants. Variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are now responsible for all cases in the United States. The original strain is no longer detected among variants circulating throughout the country. The B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant is now the predominant variant in the United States, making up an estimated 83.2% of recent U.S. cases. The best way to slow the emergence of new variants is to reduce the spread of infection by taking measures to protect yourself, including getting a vaccine when it’s available to you.

COVID-19 is now a preventable disease. The COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States are safe and are effective against B.1.617.2 and other variants. If you receive a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you will need 2 shots to get the most protection. You should get your second shot even if you have side effects after the first shot, unless a vaccination provider or your doctor tells you not to get it. If you are only partially vaccinated, you are more likely to get infected, get sick, and spread the virus to other people. When you are fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

Note to readers: To find a vaccine provider near you, visit or your state or local public health department website. You can also text your zip code to 438829 to get 3 locations near you with vaccines in stock. If you prefer your information in Spanish, text your zip code to 822862. You can also call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages. It also has a TTY line to support access by hearing impaired callers. If you or someone you know is hesitant about COVID-19 vaccination, CDC has information and answers to frequently asked questions to help inform the decision.

July 29, 2021: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issues Executive Order 38 banning governmental entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccination or proof of vaccination to receive benefits or services (“vaccine passports”) and overriding any locally issued COVID-19-related restrictions, including operating restrictions on businesses and requirements to wear masks. (Note schools cannot require masks to be worn but jails can.) He also removes the ability of local governments to jail those who violate public health orders.

July 30, 2021: 900th COVID-19 death in Austin-Travis County.

August 2021

August 2, 2021: State of Texas denies requests from hospitals for additional staffing as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge across the state.

August 4, 2021: Analysis shows Texas Republican leaders received significantly larger campaign donations from energy companies after the legislative session in what “looks like a reward for not passing more stringent regulations and raises questions about whether lawmakers let the oil, gas and the broader energy industry off easy for its massive failures.”

August 9, 2021: Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court declines to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s veto that wiped out funding for the Legislature for the next two years.

August 10, 2021: Austin and surrounding area down to two intensive care unit (ICU) beds. Texas reaches lowest number of available ICU beds during the state has had entire pandemic. “Region O — which is made up of 2.3 million people in 11 counties: Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Lee, Llano and San Saba — had only two staffed ICU beds. . . . According to data, among the total hospitalized patients more than 80% are not vaccinated. Fully and partially vaccinated residents have been hospitalized but at 15.5% and 3.7% respectively.”  School districts and cities actively defy Gov. Abbott’s orders by requiring masks be worn in schools and public buildings. State District Judge Antonia “Toni” Arteaga issues a temporary restraining order blocking Gov. Abbott’s order, clearing the way for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District to require students and employees in public and private schools to wear masks and to quarantines in cases where unvaccinated students were exposed to people found to have COVID-19. Judge Tonya Parker rules that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order on mask mandates is “not [a] necessary action to combat the pandemic”, and agreed to a temporary restraining order that will allow Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to require face coverings.

August 11, 2021: Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton file their first court action to strike down mask mandates enacted by local officials in defiance of Abbott’s ban on them.

August 19, 2021: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick falsely blames the most recent resurgence of COVID-19 patients on Black Americans.

“Democrats like to blame Republicans on (low vaccination rates). Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90% of them vote for Democrats.”

—Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick




Despart, Zach. “New Chart Reveals Sobering Look at COVID’s Impact on Texas Deaths.” Houston Chronicle, 28 June 2021,

53,296— Total Texas deaths from COVID-19 as of 8:53 AM CT on August 2, 2021.

“Timeline of Irresponsibility” including footnotes and bibliography available at and



Supplying a stunningly blatant example of his necropolitical beliefs, aims and practices. Mija Sanders offers an easy-to-grasp definition: "'Necro,' referring to death, and 'politics,' referring to the politics surrounding death, commonly define Achille Mbembe's term as the politics of letting certain groups die under otherwise preventable conditions (including intentional deaths by the state which are framed as 'accidents')." See Mija Sanders, "Death on the Aegean Borderland," Mashriq & Mahjar 8(2), 2021.

Note from the Founding Editor & Publisher

William Pate

A Timeline of Irresponsibility: A Narrative

A timeline recounts nothing, writes scholar Byung-Chul Han in Psychopolitics. “It simply enumerates and adds up events or information.”

Let me begin by adding one narrative my own to the preceding “Timeline of Irresponsibility” before more specifically addressing its creation and purpose.


Prepandemic, when we were still mainly concerned with the Democratic presidential primaries, I was sitting on the porch at Epoch Coffee on North Loop in Austin, as I normally do, when I overheard Wilson, a rotund, gray-haired lawyer who walks with a cane and frequented the shop to play chess and express his Trump support to whomever he was opposing (often silent college-age guys who nodded and focused on the game while Wilson ranted), tell the woman sitting across from him (sans chessboard) that he didn’t want to hear moral reasons for universal health care.

I was incredulous, to say the least. I thought, What else would he like to base it on? Efficiency? I mean, okay, we could do that — it is demonstrably more efficient and effective to have single-payer universal health care: it’s cheaper per capita and provides absolutely everyone with the care they need. But, somehow, I’m rather certain Wilson wouldn’t be interested in those arguments either usually, opposition to policies based on personal opinions tend to be justified by reference to “cost” despite being less expensive, I’ve often found.

So, I started to think about what might convince him. Say I were to one day actually engage in conversation with him — an event that would undoubtedly devolve into an argument — how could I persuade him (assuming he’s reasonable and, thus, persuadable) that, if we agree we’re all equal (which is sorta a foundation upon which liberal legal doctrine is based), we should all have equal access to the necessary medical treatments. To be clear, I don’t intend to ever actually have this conversation with him.

Then, of course, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, washed onto U.S. shores and unprepared hospitals began to be flooded with the fatally ill, which gave even greater impetus to my search.

I started pondering what quality it is we all — abso-fucking-lutely every single being — have in common that I might base that assumption of fundamental equality on for Wilson. I understand the danger and limits of seeking a universal on which to base my argument. It can easily become the ground on which lines are drawn excluding those not found inside it or holding enough of it. But I’m hoping maybe we’ve reached a time when precarity is once again widespread enough for the “robust” (neo)liberal conception of the modern subject to be reconsidered by more than just leftist academics.

Because beyond my lockdown-aided imagined conversation, I was also already in search of an alternative to the existing, widespread neoliberal perspective based on the Cold War-era methamphetamine- and testosterone-induced belief in the fictitious rational autonomous chooser, homo economicus, I want to go farther than just posit human equality. I want to be open to the possibility of an equality recognizing and respecting all beings. The best thing I could come up with is vulnerability.

I came to this conclusion after pondering the various obvious commonalities among beings. I started by thinking about birth and the complete dependency of babies on others. I also considered the other end of life: old age. I’ve suggested elsewhere that the dependency needs of older people may once again become center of public attention (similar to the years prior to the establishment of Social Security) as Baby Boomers finally acknowledge their mortality. But dependency — despite being imbued with negative connotations by many on the right — is an effect. What causes us to be dependent is our inherent vulnerability.

My other method of investigation, as it has always been, was reading. Maggie Nelson puts it beautifully in The Argonauts (quoting Luce Irigay), “have a fling with the philosophers.”

My reasoning being similar to that Ursula K. Le Guin expressed at a conference resulting in the excellent Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet collection,

Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tend to involve knowing our kindship as animals with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to nonliving beings—our fellowship as creatures with out creatures, things with other things.

. . .

Descartes and the behaviorists willfully saw dogs as machines, without feeling. Is seeing plants as without feeling a similar arrogance?

It is just this slow expansion of recognition/discovery/acknowledgment of the seemingly ever-enlarging sphere of what we consider worth conserving and respecting that makes me pause when I start to think I have a grasp on what is what. It’s also part of lived experience. It’s difficult to love a domesticated pet without entertaining questions about just how solid the line separating humans and other beings truly is. This becomes even more complicated when one acknowledges that, historically, the non-human has often included many who are clearly human. It’s partly what Elizabeth Grosz is up to in Becoming Undone:

The animal is a necessary reminder of the limits of the human, its historical and ontological contingency; of the precariousness of the human as a state of being, a condition of sovereignty, or an ideal of self-regulation. The animal is that from which the human tentatively and precariously emerges; the animal is that inhuman destination to which the
human always tends. The animal surrounds the human at both ends: it is the origin and the end of humanity.

There is an intangible and elusive line that has divided the animal from the human since ancient Greece, if not long before, by creating a boundary, an oppositional structure, that denies to the animal what it grants to the human as a power or ability: whether it is reason, language, thought, consciousness, or the ability to dress, to bury, to mourn, to invent, to control fire, or one of the many other qualities that has divided man from animal. This division constitutive of the humanities as they developed from the nineteenth century onward has cast man on the other side of the animals. Philosophy has attributed to man a power that animals lack (and often that women, children, slaves, foreigners, and others also lack: the alignment of the most abjected others with animals is ubiquitous). What makes man human is the power of reason, of speech, of response, of shame, and so on that animals lack. Man must be understood as fundamentally different from and thus as other to the animal; an animal perhaps, but one with at least one added category a rational animal, an upright animal, an embarrassed animal that lifts it out of the categories of all other living beings and marks man’s separateness, his distance, his movement beyond the animal. As traditionally conceived, philosophy, from the time of Plato to that of Rene Desca1tes, affirmed man’s place as a rational animal, a speaking animal, a conscious animal, an animal perhaps in body but a being other and separated from animals through mind. These Greek and Cartesian roots have largely structured the ways in which contemporary philosophy functions through the relegation of the animal to man’s utter other, an other bereft of humanity. (Derrida aftirms the continuity that links the Greeks and Descartes to the work of phenomenological and psychoanalytic theory running through the texts of Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Lacan.) This more or less continuous tradition is sorely challenged and deeply compromised by the eruption of Darwinism in the second half of the nineteenth century. Philosophy has yet to recover from this eruption, has yet to recompose its concepts of man, reason, and consciousness to accommodate the Darwinian explosion that, according to Sigmund Freud, produced one of the three major assaults that science provided as antidote to man’s narcissism. The first, the Copernican revolution, demonstrated that the ea1th circulates the sun, and the third, the Freudian revolution, demonstrated that consciousness is not master of itself. But the second of these assaults, the Darwinian revolution, demonstrated that man descended from animals and remains still animal, and was perhaps a more profound insult to mankind’s sense of self than the other two. Derrida understands that Darwin’s is perhaps the greatest affront, the one that has been least accommodated in contemporary thought.

. . .

I want to explore Darwin’s place in the humanities and the implications his work has for the ways in which the human is conceived. It is his conception of animals and plants, the world of the living-which equally inco1porates the animal, the vegetal, and the human alongside protowa, bacteria, and viruses-that has yet to fully impact the humanities, though it has, highly selectively and often problematically, dominated the biological sciences. It is perhaps more than appropriate today to reevaluate Darwin’s conception of the descent of man and to explore what it means for philosophies of man and oflife that might develop in Darwin’s wake. What would a humanities, a knowledge of and for the human, look like if it placed the animal in its rightful place, not only before the human but also within and after the human? What is the trajectory of a newly considered humanities, one that seeks to know itself not in opposition to its others, the “others” of the human, but in continuity with them? What would a humanities look like that does not rely on an opposition between self and other, in which the other is always in some way associated with animality or the nonhuman? What kind of intellectual revolution would be required to make man, and the various forms of man, one among many living things, and one force among many, rather than the aim and destination of all knowledges, not only the traditional disciplines within the humanities, but also the newer forms of interdisciplinarity?


My goal throughout this work is to illumine the ways in which the black aesthetic tradition provides us with the tools needed to conceive of interspecies relationships anew and ultimately to abolish the forms of antiblack thought that have maintained the fissure between human and animal. For this too is what W.E.B. Du Bois might have us think of as the gift of black culture, the git of blackness: the great chain of being come undone, life itself unfettered and moving in all directions, a windows iunti the world that thrive at the underside of modernity. What does the Animal promise? Nothing short of anther cosmos. A radically different set of relations is possible. As Douglass and others demonstrate, such an order is already here, already in the works, already waiting for us in the wild.

Joshua Bennett, Being Property Once Myself, page 4


Now, a little over a year later, I find that Martha Fineman and others have done much of my work for me.


The timeline, initially published on March 18, 2021, and updated throughout the months of March, April, May, June, July and August of 2021, is meant to serve as a contemporary source for those interested in learning about and further researching the conjuncture of events occurring in the particular time-space of the city of Austin and its environs in the state of Texas in the United States of America over the period roughly analogous to the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic through the first weeks of the first special called session. This encompassed the entirety of the Texas Legislature’s 87th Regular Session, which provided the first opportunity for legislative response in the state. The period offers a perhaps unique convergence of foreseeable disasters combined with inadequate and late (when not totally absent) responses by the leaders responsible for “promot[ing] the general Welfare,” “establish[ing] Justice,” “insur[ing] domestic Tranquility,” “provid[ing] for the common defense,” and otherwise “secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

A few thoughts stemming from the compiling of the timeline:

  1. The developers of our MIT Media Lab-born digital publishing platform, PubPub, noted in late May that the timeline had over 40 updates since its initial publication in March. The version included in our print edition is the 59th. While some were slight corrections to typos, most added new information that came to light after the events. I found myself updating the timeline not only with officials’ (lack of) responses to events but also to better detail the effects and consequences of the events themselves. It’s useful to be reminded that the aftermaths of disasters are much longer than the clean-up of debris. Oftentimes, we don’t even know the extent of the damage until much later, and that’s only if enough people are willing to pressure those with power to actually examine the events with a mind toward fixing and/or preventing them from reoccurring.
  2. Goddamn, Republicans and their allies are shameless. But really no less so than mainstream Democrats or their progressive neoliberal allies. While this timeline largely charts the inaction of Republican officials in Texas, we shouldn’t forget Democrats’ failures in New York and elsewhere.

Undoubtedly, others would highlight other events during this time period to make a similar point. I ultimately forgot to include dates and information focusing on the civil and city response to continued police violence last year like the shift of funding and personnel from Austin Police Department oversight to departments not dedicated to achieving compliance through punitive measures. To be clear, that isn’t the “irresponsible” part. That instead falls on the Republican-led state legislature’s response, which requiring shifting all that back to APD this year.


On Having No Idea What You’re Doing

I’ll admit I have no idea what I’m doing.

I started San Antonio Review with no history in publishing or journalism. I began by simply putting my personal experiences publishing my own writing on the Internet since the late 1990s to work providing a platform for others’ work. One would think that would be simple enough. Like many things, it’s more complex than a glance reveals.

If anything has failed U.S. Americans during the novel coronavirus pandemic, broadcast television is most certainly at top of the list. Given the vast libraries of the media conglomerates to whom we’ve handed over the public airwaves, that those surfing via television antenna during lockdown were subjected to professional basketball games from 1994 and the already-barren routine of daytime reruns and nonsense instead of free access to halfway-decent viewing materials is just another demonstration of how little attention is paid and productive use made of our enclosed commons. Corporations fight tooth and nail to keep alternative media sources from accessing the airwaves while they pump out mindless, slightly altered gameshow formats imported from Europe until a buzzer or dinging is the only sound flowing from broadcast TV stations day and night.

Similarly, I’m not an academic. Though I may still be paying graduate school student loans, I never earned anything beyond a bachelor of arts.

A Call for Texas Critical Theory

Traditional philosophy — or “theory” — is concerned with understanding the world. Critical theory, on the other hand, is concerned with changing the world in the direction of liberation, emancipation and lessening oppression for all. That is the basic definition of critical theory offered by one of its founders, Max Horkheimer.

Much critical theory — at least that which I read — is concerned with providing context to what we think we already know. It’s also little use to discuss “critical theory” outside its Frankfurt School origins unless you include its application across disciplines. For instance, a few of the fields that most interest me are critical military studies, critical disability studies and critical geography.


Taking a critical view of things is many times just taking a second look and seeing what you missed at first glance.

I’m an advocate for reading critical theory for the very reason that it can destabilize one’s oft-unreflected-upon approach to a subject or concept or issue or idea. To argue there’s nothing to be learned from these discussions is just another method of shutting down conversation and the questions they always hold. It’s the same thing Ratio Christi attempts to do in their takedown of critical theory by limiting the definition of “oppression.” Which is no different than the voice you can hear screaming between the lines in the AGs’ comment, That’s not traditional American history! And they demand the right to define what that tradition will be at any particular time and place.

Excerpt from state attorneys general letter to U.S. Department of Education, Re: Comments on Proposed Priorities – American History and Civics Education Docket ID ED-20210OESE-0033, 19 May 2021.

It’s like their parenthetical — because it isn’t clear, clearly — that the U.S. was founded upon equality, despite Black people being reduced to less-than-human in the texts of our founding documents. Only an elected lawyer could split those hairs to mean the former. Maybe they all adhere to the same legal methodology as Chip Roy.

The right’s statements opposing and legislation banning the critical study of areas, beyond being just a continuation of their work at the State Board of Education and elsewhere to ensure public school textbooks perpetuate whitewashed and one-sided narratives, demands we who disagree with them continue to communicate all sides of our shared histories.

We are not an intelligent species. Our hubris fills too often supplies the confidence any real attention would reveal to be founded mainly upon limited personal experiences, little-considered rules of thumb and incredibly short memories.

So, as I discuss in my review of the Refusing to Forget project’s latest collection from the University of Texas Press, taking the opportunities to better understand our world via the perspectives afforded by critically attending to them — by returning to them and looking again to see what we may have missed or was covered up by those before us who looked — and respecting what we find even if it doesn’t completely jibe with the way we’ve always considered things to be, it’s possible we may discover or recover new ways of being.

Much of the right’s argument with critical race theory, if we take their arguments on their face, is that it imputes an inherent racism to individuals, which I’ve not found to be true. This can be clearly seen in the inclusion of “hard work” and “meritocracy” as concepts exempt from questioning in Texas classrooms in House Bill 3979 (87R). The bill, which Gov. Abbott simultaneously signed and indicated did too little to move the needle on ensuring a Christian nationalist indoctrination of Texas students, outlaws the teaching of the following concepts in Texas public schools:

  1. one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
  2. an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
  3. an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race or sex;
  4. an individual’s moral character, standing, or worth is necessarily determined by the individual’s race or sex;
  5. an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
  6. an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex;
  7. meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race;
  8. the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or
  9. with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality; and
  10. the 1619 Project.

Skipping the slight toward The New York Times, it’s probably noteworthy that ensuring the positive light on “meritocracy” and “hard work” are included across the various bills filed to ban the teaching of accurate U.S. and Texas history courses throughout this year’s regular and special legislative sessions.  It may also be notable to some — certainly not Texas Republican legislators — that to teach the history of the concept of “meritocracy,” one would have to inform students:

Michael Young coined the term ‘meritocracy’ in a satirical tale called The Rise of Meritocracy 1870-2033. This satire was intended to inspire reflection upon the folly of meritocratic life.

Granted, learning that would require a politician or staffer to perform a Google search and I hesitate to insist on such difficult background research, but it isn’t unexpected these are the people who accidentally decriminalized cannabis across the state in the 86th session. In fact, slightly relatedly, upon reading Senate Bill 3, filed during the just-ended special session to finish the job poorly done by HB 3979 (remember: it included all those positive things the Democrats successfully amended onto it that Gov. Abbott couldn’t abide), included its own ill-thought-out section reading:

a school district, open-enrollment charter school, or teacher may not require, make part of a course, or award a grade or course credit, including extra credit, for a student’s:

(A) work for, affiliation with, or service learning in association with any organization engaged in:
(i) lobbying for legislation at the federal, state, or local level; or
(ii) social policy advocacy or public policy advocacy;
(B) political activism, lobbying, or efforts to persuade members of the legislative or executive branch at the federal, state, or local level to take specific actions by direct communication; or
(C) participation in any internship, practicum, or similar activity involving social policy advocacy or public policy advocacy;

I do wonder about the effects on internships at corporations engaging in lobbying activities, though, should such language ever become law. Senate Bill 3 failed because Texas Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. to avoid arrest and a forced vote on voter-suppression legislation. Outnumbered in both chambers, the Democrats’ only option to halt the process is, well, halting the process. 


If there are concepts the right is worried about being taught because they might undermine support for their policies, it’s more basic ones like “human” and “not human” or “rational” and “not rational” or “autonomous” and “dependent” and “interdependent” they should fear. “Meritocracy” and “hard work” are based on more fundamental understandings of what is considered normal and rational behavior — historically, defined by a White male default — and thus human. Those categorized as inhuman (a category that, for most of human history, included women, Black and Brown and Indigenous people and often seems to still include unassimilated foreigners and immigrants and, of course, all not-human beings) had no inherent merit nor were they considered to have property rights to whatever merit they may have been incidentally afforded.

But their refusal to admit to even the possibility of “structural racism” that might mold and determine, to some degree, the attitudes and actions of individuals is tantamount to denying that any negative discrimination against non-White people possibly currently exists. If people aren’t inherently racist and the various structures and institutions that were set up (often during times of slavery and colonization) and still administer our lives to a large degree can’t be racist, then, clearly, those who are racist can only be . . . what? Crazy? Mistaken? Stupid? And this goes as much for the White incel feeling dispossessed of his supposed privilege as it does for any other traditionally Othered individual. These are some of the illogical cognitive somersaults involved in modern-day White supremacy.


Similarly, among the founding documents of the right’s war on critical theory, the pseudo-scholarly Ratio Christi essay by essentially comes down to a definitional argument. As oppressors are wont to do, they demand to be the ones allowed to define “oppression.”


Han, Byung-Chul. Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power. Verso, 2017.
For instance, those who support the death penalty because they imagine it to be cheaper than imprisoning someone for life don't tend to change their stance on capital punishment when they are enlightened as to its much greater (and more acute) financial burden.
Though I don't mean shouting match. More along the lines of: “In the Critique of Judgement, Kant writes: ‘The moral argument is not meant to provide any objective argument for the existence of God nor meant to prove to the doubter that there is a God; rather it is meant to prove that if his moral thinking is to be consistent, he must include the assumption of this proposition among the maxims of his practical reason.” As quoted in Assiter, A. (2013). "Kierkegaard and vulnerability." In A. Grear, & M. Fineman (Eds.), Vulnerability: Reflections on a New Ethical Foundation for Law and Politics, 29-40. Ashgate. Indeed, it was just such a "proposition" I was seeking.
As he is a lawyer, I hazard assuming he's somewhat reasonable and would agree that, as Shami Chakrabarti writes in the foreword to Leading Works in Law and Social Justice, "[T]he law is not an inanimate rule book for some inherently fair or meritocratic game of individual chance, skill, or even ‘justice’. It can be a powerful engine for the progressive advancement of some or all people or the means of their repression. It is made by humans and so is never completely neutral. It has moral content and values, not only in its substance but in its linguistic framing, form, process, and priorities." As for equality being a core legal value, see the recent claims made by a number of the states' attorneys general discussed below.
We could refer to this entire thought experiment and research project as an attempt to answer the meme: "I don't know how to explain to you that you should care about other people." Of course, I also didn't expect to confront the question of why I should continue post-vaccination to make an active effort — by masking up, limiting my movements and interactions and whatever else — to protect those unwilling to protect themselves or others by wearing a mask, getting vaccinated or staying home. They claim to care about "the economy," but it's their inaction and childish notions of "individual freedom" that force any business owner with a conscience and feel for customer service to sacrifice.
Daugherty, Tracy. Leaving the Gay Place: Billy Lee Brammer and the Great Society. United States, University of Texas Press.
Shields, Charles J. The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, Stoner, and the Writing Life. United States, University of Texas Press, 2018.
I'm writing "beings" here to leave an opening for the inclusion of everything currently accepted as "human" and "living" and the pick-your-own-terminology "nonhuman," "post-human," "inhuman," "animal," "nature," "plant," etc.
"Deep in Admiration," Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene. United States, University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Grosz, Elizabeth. Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art. United Kingdom, Duke University Press, 2011.
See Martha A. Fineman, The Vulnerable Subject: Anchoring Equality in the Human Condition, 20 Yale J.L. & Feminism (2008). Available at: Vulnerability and the Human Condition (Emory University) Leading Works in Law and Social Justice. United Kingdom, Taylor & Francis, 2021. Fineman, Martha Albertson Gordon-Bouvier, Ellen. Relational Vulnerability: Theory, Law and the Private Family. Gordon-Bouvier, Ellen (2019). "Relational Vulnerability: The Legal Status of Cohabiting Carers." Feminist Legal Studies 27 (2):163-187.
Let me emphasize the voluntary aspect of this responsibility. The elected and appointed officials mentioned in the timeline chose to run for office to assume these responsibilities, which are included in their oaths of office.
“The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.” National Archives, 4 Nov. 2015, 
See also my review of Reverberations of Racial Violence in this issue.
And many things have failed us, let’s admit.
Horkheimer, Max. Critical Theory: Selected Essays. Continuum Pub. Corp, 1982. 
Allen, Ansgar. “Michael Young’s The Rise of the Meritocracy : A Philosophical Critique.” British Journal of Educational Studies, vol. 59, no. 4, Dec. 2011, pp. 367–82. (Crossref), 
It also marks the second time this has happened since I became involved in Texas politics in 2002. Previously, it was an attempt to halt the disgraced, likely criminal Tom DeLay's demand to gerrymander Democrats out of office. See
The New York Times. “Chronology: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay - New York Times.” The New York Times, Accessed 12 Aug. 2021.



16th century woodcut of monster by Aldronvandi
Monstrum triceps capite Vulpis, Draconis, & Aquilae


cho bà nội (for my grandmother)

Julia Vu

newton said that energy is neither

created nor destroyed. in her favorite

restaurant, i can still hear my grandmother

gossiping with the waitresses 一 she used to

come so often, they fed her free of charge 一

electricity sparking in her eyes; in her old

apartment, i can hear her slippers

shuffling to the kitchen 一 my mother bit her

lip to refrain from scolding her 一 and the

tapping of finger pads against ceramic mugs; in

the hospital, i hear her rustling in her paper

gown 一 even in her prolonged exhaustion, she

never cared for the hospital robes much 一 and

scoffing at the forest of needles embedded in her

forearm. when i listen to the wind, i can still hear the

symphonies of a thousand years playing her to sleep.

You Always Demand Rain, But Only Supply Ruin

Jake Sheff



My hunger is no method actor; love,

In the beginning, laid my hunger down

On mossy music. Days unworthy of

Her gaze are days no more. It all had grown

Around her: every step a grape, to drown

In wine that went with every kind of food;

Compared to non-existence, it was good.


Milk, honey, coffee, spices; all was in

Her custody. I saw, in living bronze,

The Dying Gaul stand up. If fall was in

The air, it failed. “She breathes, the moon responds,”

I noted; moonlight tasted of pecans

Back then. My health was none of love’s concern.

She taught a lesson no one wants to learn.




The snow is too loud for my eyes, too hot

For hearts today. Her final breath was strange,

Was sweetly strange: (I wish that tongues forgot);

You’d swear that Doctor Lister kissed her. Change

Gets paid in salt, and that’s too bad: this range

Of possibilities is doggerel;

My memory spits it out, and says, “I’m full.”


These candles make the coldness only seem

Forgotten. Wisdom stands by Terminus

To worship God, while hunger forms a team

With The Night Watch. Imagine nothing is,

Then look again, and nothing doesn’t blaze!

A fork! A fork! My birthright just to spoon!

Let Typhoid Mary undercook the moon.




Tomorrow love will feed the ocean; rain

And tears and nations always fall. The time

Will serve me empathy before a grain

Of self-awareness grows. Love’s paradigm

Will split in half to be my lemon-lime

Refreshment. She will slice what’s never old,

Turn every nugget in distress to gold.


Love’s light will still be very vertical.

Starvation is her lifeblood; I will fast

Until what’s never too available –

Her last forbidden fact – is my repast.

She’ll decorate the sky and flabbergast

The moon with darkling globes. Trifoliate

And pure, her rhythms will be trees of light.

Heat Mirage

Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton

“Mi amor es paso, tránsito, larga muerte gustada”

-Federico García Lorca


Sun spotlights the measured pass of hours:

slow wilt of alcohol and tobacco

in the bare oven of a box house

in sub-tropical Texas.


Rhythm of detergent paint-dripped

across enamel basket, sough of rumpled cloth,

door bang and pump, the soiled weight

under salt-stained sun.

Water flows and wash

cycles time through wobbly sprints of forenoon work.


Over worn sink, traced delicate in calcium,

last blast of morning catches me

full in the face as it escapes

above the garage and beyond

the rented house.


Here, buzzed present

stills the consequence of choice—

its chain of command,

seductive past,

loosening cocaine grips,

blinding nights;

pyrrhic freedoms fade softly

into heat of noon sweat.


The compost can leaks rich,

heavy dankness

out into backyard—

the trowel churns dirt

as peels, rinds, and eggshells

tumble into the loamy

brown mouth. For a second,

dripping, I see a mirage:

all my broken parts swallowed

into cool, dirty wholeness.

After Reading “State of Relax” by Eileen Myles

Patrick Reardon

“Cows kissing goats”

— Bible-immersed —

I see lions bedding with lambs.


Calliope of poem,

lustful, subtle —

nation un-uniting itself

and sighing,



Nebraska as

“the loosest kook of all and

animals walk naked in your past.”


All the naked animals,

all the naked flowers,

all the naked stones and water bodies.

My nakedness.


My mother constantly enlists me,

oldest of many acolytes,

to rearrange her furniture,

empty of life now 25 years.


Bas Jan Ader,

70s performance artist, performing

in small boat on rough water,

“his toes leaning

over the edges of Provincetown”

and disappearing.  Here, and

appearing/disappearing in

Linda Nochlin’s Bathers,

Bodies, Beauty with

Courbet’s Origin of

the World and

Alice Neel by Alice

Neel and The Escape of

Rochefort by Manet and Sam

Taylor-Wood’s Fuck, Suck, Spank,



Myles ran 30 years ago for president,

openly female.

They might just as well have tried

openly human.


Just a thought.


And Myles was poemed

by Zoe Leonard: “I want a president,”

which starts:

“I want a dyke for president.”


And a president

who didn’t have air conditioning,

who’d eaten hospital food,

who’d had an abortion,


and Leonard

didn’t know why

the nation’s chief executive

had to be “always

a john and never

a hooker.”


My crowded childhood,

shorn of odd angles

and wearing an asylum jacket,

like the other many altar servers.


The cavorting states and commonwealths

— a state of play —

of the messy, slippery, punch-drunk,

grit-scratched Myles fever-dream

of the Un-united States

— Oregon sleeping in the arms of Washington —

are the baby me,

the one who dodged

the blanket of imperative,

the collar of big boy,

the bassinette constraint

— “Georgia on an eating binge” —

not me, not the one here.



bones ache to flee.



skin is electric lust for aloneness.

Call it crowdliness.


Told ugly, I stride,

grabbed as I am

by hands on

knee, elbow, nose, ear, cock, buttocks.


Joan of Arc died in flames, and, 30

years ago, Myles poemed her listening to

legends, hearing voices in

bells, and leading Charles VII to

throne, and, at 19, while still

living, she was burned at the

stake and, dying, “a dove leaped

right out of her mouth.”


Right out.


Things Myles failed to note:

(a) Charles VII abandoned Joan.

(b) Susanna’s Elders stood close by to

watch the blaze strip the girl to her

skin so they could be sure she was

a girl.


Openly human.


Never had a period.


I yearn the consolation of Washington.

I itch to be a loose kook.


But relaxation is death.

Always furniture to move.

Note:  The three poems referenced here are “State of Relax” by Eileen Myles, which appeared November 3, 2020, in Art Agenda, “I want a president” by Zoe Leonard, written in 1992 and available at LTTR, and “Joan” by Myles, published in 1982 and available in an audio version at

Marlene Dietrich Played The Saw

D.B. Fishman


Marlene Dietrich
Played the saw
For the troops
At the USO


Marlene Dietrich
German femme fatale star of the silver screen
Naturalised glamorous American since 1939
Left Hollywood for
Mere miles from German line
And with hands that studied violin
Played the saw


Marlene Dietrich who
The Nazi Party could not bring back
With money nor the Führer’s love
Crossed the Atlantic
With a 3 month supply of cosmetics,
Labelled in huge nailpolish letters to be
Read by torchlight,
2 glittering gowns and
In a black leather case
Her singing saw
To play for the troops


Marlene Dietrich
Maria Magdalene Dietrich
Said “It was the decent thing to do”;
Followed her recorded voice, with special soap,
Back to where she helped birth the talkies
And with frozen hands in the Ardennes
Played her saw for the troops
In the USO revue


Marlene Dietrich played
On an arc of bending bladed metal, bowed
A mercurial formless freely moving sound
A mournful, pitched howl of something
Without a mouth; an eerily haunting
Unembodied unearthly mutation of Hawaii
A lonesome limbo call predicting
A searchlight swinging over a future
1950s Nevada B-movie highway
A tremulous oscillation, a clean vibration, free sound
That almost bypasses your ears
For something deeper


Photos: Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Marlene Dietrich” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 

at fault

RC deWinter and Andrea Muñoz Martínez

when i fall
sure as an arrow
into the deep waters
of love
it doesn’t matter
that it’s black as the pit
my eyes are faulty
but my heart is sure

yet navigating by the heart
is a tricky business
akin to being a privateer
marauding the open ocean
for a prize

there is none warranted
to issue an act of grace
hence we
with no protection
are held accountable
for all we do

and in the court of love
albeit made by arbiters
with scant and often flawed
is not only swift
but final

no point in reappearing
in the ragged threadbare cloak
of the appellant
no point in moving for mistrial
for once the sentence
is pronounced
it is immutable
and graven in the record
for all time

The Life-Tree

Emily Bilman

After Leonora Carrington’s painting

Can I survive the very light I created
Irradiating from the godhead
Surrounded by protective angels?

The divine quintessence in human form
even wanes the crescent moon
while it lights the stars and nebulae
from within, as in a poem,
whereas two philosophers
wearing tawny cloaks, with winged
beasts lying below their feet,
argue about the essence of truth.

Is truth enlightenment from within
like a crystal lamp lit on a grief-veined
night, a darkness wherein roam hybrid
hyenas, lions or ligers, their passions
neutralized on paper and the canvas?



16th century woodcut of monster by Aldronvandi
Monstrum tetrachiron alatum capite humano aurito

Forgetting Mariam

Maxim Matusevich

“Did it hurt?” He made an effort to sound tender. They were spooning after sex and she took his question for pillow talk.

“Hurt? You silly. I’m just noisy. It didn’t hurt at all. It was nice.” Playfully, she pressed her buttocks into his groin — a lighthearted sign of no regrets harbored. “It was really nice. Did you know that by touching a man with her bare butt, a woman signals trust?”

She was full of such little wisdoms. He couldn’t see her face but knew that she was smiling, a sly and contented smile of a woman flattered by her lover’s concern. Her lover, her man… well, that was an overstatement. To say the least. But at the moment, at that early morning moment it did feel like they belonged to each other. One-night stands can be like that — deceptively intimate, out-of-thin-air immediate. “Instant coffee, one-day mayflies, or, if you prefer a cliché (which I know you always do), a flash in a pan,” that’s how his ex, Lisa, talked about her own past casual hook-ups.

Lisa’s sarcasm drove him mad and eventually drove him away. At least, that was the convenient explanation he came up with and then perfected in the course of numerous faux-therapy, post-break up sessions with his friends and occasional lovers. She drove him away, which really meant that he was a coward and a weakling — an unpleasant, but easily provable fact that Lisa never failed to bring up in their increasingly rare phone conversations. It was an amicable divorce and as such a source of some pride for both of them. “What could be more civilized,” Lisa quipped, “than parting ways like true adults?” He agreed, but a divorce is still a divorce and once in a while a thought of Lisa made him wince — as if someone pricked at a tender spot with a tiny safety pin. And presently he promptly felt that quick pinprick, but it only lasted for a second, half-a-second to be precise, and the discomfort was gone before he’d been able to process it.

Not now — now was different, now he was lying in bed next to Mariam, her trusting butt pushed up against his wooly lower stomach, his right arm over her side, slipped through under the warm armpit (Lisa’s voice again: “Remember how back in childhood they would stick a thermometer under your arm? Remember how you were desperate for the mercury to hit the magic 37 degrees and then move just above the fateful red dot? You got a fever, sweetie, no school tomorrow. Oh, the joy, the happiness of having a fever!”), his hand cupping the fullness of her breast, its nipple flattened innocently against his palm. He was hugging her so closely that his lips touched the small of her neck, he felt his nose tickled by a coarse wayward curl that had broken out of her black frizz, also tickled by a barely perceptible and still unfamiliar odor of her post-love sweat.

Mariam laughed: “Hurt?! Oh my, it’s like you’re not Russian anymore. They must’ve added something to your water in America. Or what is it you drink over there? Coke? Budweiser? Whatever it is — you have stopped being a Russian man. You even made love like a polite foreigner. Next thing I know you’ll start speaking Italian with me. I once had a fling with an Italian guy. On Cyprus. Just as sweet before sex as after. Not Russians though, oh no, sir, not Russians. Our guys, they just come and go… if you know what I mean.”

“What about Armenians?”

“How would I know? I never slept with an Armenian. My daughter’s father, by the way, was Jewish — just like you. You know what my grandma used to say about Jews and Armenians? No? Get this: we, Armenians, should always take care of the Jews. You know why? No? Because if there are no Jews left the world will notice that we’re next on the list. Funny, don’t you think? My grandma was a riot!”

Tenderness — effortless now. But how real? He was old enough to know that about himself — that instant attachment to the immediate, the fleeting intimacy with a stranger, a ‘perfect stranger’ as they said in the movies. Only in this case the cliché didn’t work. Mariam laid no claims to perfection and she was hardly a stranger. Not exactly a stranger — they probably said that in the movies too. Mariam shifted, adjusting more snugly to the shape of his body, and once again he sensed her smile:

“Look at you. Getting hard again, my little childhood friend?”

No, not a friend, not really. Neither a stranger nor a friend. Their shared childhood was a myth — to a point, of course, as there is a kernel of truth to any myth. That obsessive German, Heinrich Schliemann, found his Troy precisely because he trusted a myth, was guided by it, in fact. Schliemann quite literally unearthed Homer’s Troy (or what he took for Homer’s Troy, anyway), but HE — he had not been looking for Mariam, having little interest in artefacts of memory. He had managed to lead a life free of such pursuits, and fairly successfully so… to a point. Lisa used to fault him for this lack of curiosity. “Painfully unimaginative,” he overheard her once describing him over the phone to a girlfriend in Belgium. At least he assumed she was describing him. At the time he thought she was being unfair, but, grudgingly, he had to admit to himself that Lisa’s disdain for him was not entirely baseless. Unfair and cruel — yes, but hardly baseless. And now again, with his lips touching Mariam’s round shoulder, his hands cradling her breasts, he felt far removed from the original myth of their relationship — he cared about it as little as he did about the hulk of that lost ark, resting forlornly on the gradient of an Armenian mountain. He was no Heinrich Schliemann, and he didn’t discover her on a mountain slope — the day before, he ran into her on Nevsky prospect. You always run into someone on Nevsky — it’s one of its well-publicized and much-written-about oddities.

She recognized him first and having assessed quickly his state of incomprehension, proceeded to tease him affably:

“No, I’m not your college girlfriend. Actually, not an ex at all, so you can relax. Breathe in and out. Think harder. I can’t believe you don’t recognize me! This chance encounter should live in infamy.”

She laughed and he instantly liked the sound of her voice, even though he still had no idea who this cheerful woman was. He liked her cheerfulness too — it communicated good humor and friendly intentions but somehow managed not to slip into grotesque. He couldn’t help but appreciate the masterful balancing act (eccentricity, so common and even cultivated among his old St. Petersburg acquaintances, was not his thing). And still, he couldn’t remember her.

“Alright, alright,” she patted him on the shoulder in a mockingly condescending gesture. “I’ll help you out. Look, here,” she tapped the bridge of her nose with an immaculately manicured index finger. “I used to have a unibrow — right here. You see? Like that Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. Did you see the movie? No? You should, it’s quite good!”

It was time for him to fake recognition but he couldn’t, somehow he knew that this handsome, dark-haired woman (two perfectly trimmed black eyebrows belied the unibrow reference) would immediately call his bluff. She studied his face for a few seconds and sighed, now slightly annoyed:

“Come on, how many lives have you lived? Think: your junior high class, a new girl, transferred from Baku…”

And suddenly he remembered, more than remembered — he felt transported by some gentle but powerful force into that classroom, with a view on the canal. The classroom walls were painted an indistinct beige and displayed half-a-dozen portraits of the classics of literature; a Mayakovsky quote was plastered above the blackboard: “I would learn Russian simply because it was Lenin’s language.” It all came back to him now — the wet granite embankment outside the classroom window, the endless rainy afternoons, the rush of exhilaration, the sense of common purpose, the excitement, the feeling of disgust. Yes, he remembered now:

“Wait a minute . . . . Are you . . . are you . . . Mariam?”

She made a quick show of demonstrating her relief: “Phew, finally! Of course, I am Mariam. The last name has changed — I lost it to my first husband, along with my virginity, you know . . . the usual. But the first name has sort of stuck with me.” She smiled at him warmly, apparently they had moved past the teasing stage and towards a genuine reunion.

To his surprise, Mariam was aware of the general outlines of his post-high school life trajectory: the army, the first marriage, then emigration to Israel, then another move — to New York. She even knew that he had kept his apartment in the city and visited regularly from the States. How in the world did she know all of this?

“Ah,” she shrugged, “St. Petersburg pretends to be a major metropolis, but we all know that it’s really but a small provincial town, where every bit of news travels fast and rumors — even faster.”

No wonder he had some difficulty recognizing her. Somewhere along a twenty-year-long stretch of the road she had shed more than the Kahlo-like unibrow and her Armenian last name. No trace of a cornered little ferret, scowling fretfully at her relentless pursuers. Her joviality seemed natural, he saw no signs of playacting: she appeared to be genuinely pleased — with a balmy June morning, with their chance encounter right outside the metro station, with her own ability to attract and command attention.

Momentarily, he shook off the interfering vision of a stuffy classroom in mid-afternoon and saw her as she was — an attractive brunette, assured of her powers. And she could read him too.

“An ugly duckling, my late grandma used to call me.”

“Well, not anymore,” he smiled.

“Nope,” she shook her head, “Not anymore — the ugly duckling has grown and matured into an OK duck.”

She was a doctor, a pediatrician, to be exact — with her own practice. In a city where after the Soviet collapse rank and status had come to define (and often ruin) personal relationships, she clearly passed the success test. Her daughter was . . . she was the same age as Mariam when they first met. Even more strangely, the daughter attended the same high school, which, as Mariam quickly explained to him, was now considered among the most prestigious in the city and catered mostly to the elite:

“The place is corrupt to the core. You wouldn’t believe the bribes I had to dish out to get my daughter in. But the teachers are excellent. There are even a couple of holdovers from ‘our time’.”

To him, that ‘our time’ struck a discordant note: she claimed a shared history that, in fact, covered less than a year. Did she forget? Her harried mother had to withdraw her after that spring quarter. Did she forget? He couldn’t tell. But he could tell that Mariam had a gift, and he wondered if it had anything to do with her professional occupation. The gift was a skill — a particular knack for initiating the stranger (sort of a stranger, in this case) into her world. Within a few minutes of the conversation he had developed a strange sense of familiarity that he experienced almost as a sense of déjà vu: their common past didn’t have to be a fiction, their fluke late-morning encounter on Nevsky didn’t have to be accidental.

That evening he was throwing a going away party that was intended to double as a real farewell — it was time to sell the apartment and finally put some distance between the corporeality of New York and this exhausted St. Petersburg fantasy. Would she care to stop by? She sounded delighted with the invitation, but she probably often sounded like that. Yes, she would, absolutely. How nice and spontaneous of him. Would it be appropriate to bring along her ‘guy’? But of course, the more the merrier. He gave her the address — just a few blocks away, around the corner from the Catholic Church. The invitation made it easy to say good-byes — as usual, he had intuited a way to evade permanence. Indecisiveness — that’s how Lisa identified that feature of his. Lisa was a definitions expert. Lisa was decisive. Lisa was many things . . . . A quick pinprick, a momentary dimming of the morning light — just for a second, a split second, to be precise. He looked up — the tiniest of cumulus clouds had brushed by the edge of the sun disc but, as if burned by this proximity, instantly separated itself from the brightness and floated on — towards the gulf.

On his walk back to the apartment, he was compiling a mental list of items to buy for the party. He also thought of Mariam and how, for a few minutes, he experienced her life as his own. Those thoughts though didn’t stay with him; the lazy morning was about to become much busier and he had other things to worry about: that shopping list, and the packing, and a phone call to the realtor. But Mariam . . . . One runs into people on Nevsky — the prospect, he read somewhere, was likely designed specifically for such happenstance. Running into her was not surprising. The surprising part was Mariam herself. Mariam has fared well and that simple thought filled him with relief. She has fared really well. Who would’ve thought . . . . That ugly duckling, that cornered hissing ferret… Will she come to the party? He considered the odds, weighed them carefully, and decided that she probably won’t.

But she did. She came in late and alone. Of course, at the peak of the White Nights, the notion of late was relative to one’s personal conception of time, and his tended to follow the never-setting northern sun. In case of Mariam, the notion ‘alone’ similarly assumed certain relative quality. He was mixing drinks in the kitchen and didn’t hear her ring, and by the time he spotted her in the living room, Mariam had already established herself as the heart and soul of the party. Being the center of attention came naturally to her.

Someone had placed a drink in her hand and now she was perched on the edge of a coffee-table, gyrating slowly to the music, laughing at something one of his guests, the fashionable conceptual poet Yegor, was eagerly whispering in her ear. Yegor was on his highest conquest alert but only the most alpha of the several other men, who like purposeful sharks circled the coffee table. She waved at him and made big eyes, indicating the hilariousness of this almost comical encirclement and mouthing a mock appeal for help: “SOS, I am completely surrounded!” He could see that she was in her element. She didn’t need his help.


He remembered the very first impression, mostly because it captured an intense feeling that was at odds with his upbringing and previous life experiences. Their elderly physical education teacher, a wounded World War II vet, often referred to him (and others) as ‘sheltered’. The teacher, a true man of the soil, resented his young urban charges, who had had the audacity to grow up in peacetime. “You don’t know shit, you don’t even know how to hate,” he sometimes faulted them. For the veteran, the field of life was a field of battle, and all those devoid of martial instincts elicited his contempt. He enthusiastically cheered the invasion of Afghanistan, but not for any patriotic or geopolitical reasons. After the Soviet tanks rolled into Kabul he (correctly) concluded that now the ‘soft asses’ would finally learn what ‘killing and getting killed’ was like — somehow he believed that to be an essential educational experience. Sadly, his prediction would prove to be only too true for a number of his students . . . . But before Afghanistan had a chance to test some of them, most of them would be tested by Mariam, who was transferred to their high school at the beginning of the freshman year.

Years later, on those rare occasions when alcohol or a particularly poignant literary association prompted him to travel down memory lane, he wondered about the sources of that all-encompassing and eviscerating hatred that he felt towards a disheveled, black-haired girl with a unibrow. Her manner was both obsequious and unfriendly, servile and hostile at the same time. She transferred from a school in Azerbaijan and the rumor had it that her transfer had been the result of a near-death experience in a school yard, where Mariam, one of very few Armenians at her Baku school, was set upon by a bunch of local boys. Hearing that was hardly a surprise — being Jewish, even at this early age, he understood clearly the limitations of the vaunted ‘friendship of the peoples’. Yet the harrowing story of Mariam’s Baku ordeal somehow failed to make her a sympathetic character – on the contrary, it simply served to confirm her instant pariah status.

His best friend Dimka thought she looked feral: “What a savage creature she is, just look at her — hideous, vicious, s-o-o-o ugly!”

And indeed, he couldn’t stop looking at her: her beat-up woolen slippers, her brown stockings of rough cotton—full of unpatched holes and perpetually loose at the knees—her stained uniform blouse with an apron strip slipped down to the elbow, revealing the contours of an overdeveloped breast. The sight of that breast, unusual on a girl her age, made him anxious and fueled the desire to . . . . To do what exactly? He was not quite sure but eventually came to believe that it was a desire to hurt, to inflict pain, to see this wild-eyed girl, her mouth distorted in a mad grin (a scream?), writhe in agony. The novelty, the intensity of these emotions overwhelmed him, but also made school infinitely more exciting. And he couldn’t fail to notice that most of his friends, boys and girls, had a very similar response to Mariam. All of a sudden, the cliques, the insignificant rivalries and minor snubs were all but forgotten. Their shared hatred of the new Armenian girl unified them and there was sweetness in that unity. The war-loving phys-ed teacher had nothing to worry about after all.

The taunting ensued within days, if not hours, of Mariam’s appearance in their classroom. They mocked her ‘southern’ accent and made fun of her angular gait. One day most girls in class came to school sporting massive unibrows penciled in black. On their daily walks home from school, strolling up and down the tree-lined boulevard, Dimka and he concocted elaborate plans to better humiliate Mariam. All their creativity and the pulsating teenage energy went into this scheming. During that school year, they lived the most fulfilling, the most horrifyingly exciting months of their youth. Through trial and error, they learned to pace their attacks, they learned how to escalate, how to withdraw quickly only to return when they were least expected, how to besiege and wear out the besieged. Both of them hailed from bookish Jewish families and their familiarity with literature and artistic precedent came in especially handy. As the ringleaders of an ongoing assault they gained in popularity, a reversal of fortunes for which they were thankful. Never before had he felt so close to his peers, and he cherished the joy of being accepted on his own terms. Or so he thought.

Their harassment of Mariam grew progressively more physical in nature. This progression had its inevitable logic to it, and he recognized it as necessary, akin to the laws of physics they were learning during that Fall quarter. The first tentative kick in the hallway during recess proved to be tremendously satisfying. After school they spent hours on the boulevard, discussing the experience and analyzing its most minute details. Mariam’s response to mistreatment was puzzling, but its very strangeness inspired them to further mischief. She defied expectations and, by acting unpredictably, greatly enhanced the entertainment value of the torment to which they subjected her daily.

It was a truly remarkable show, marked by surprising plot twists, punctuated by seemingly spontaneous flare-ups and dramatic lulls in action. Mariam vacillated between displays of extreme distress and over-the-top merriment. One moment she would be wailing hysterically — all red, her face smeared with tears and beads of sweat (tears?) clinging to the unkempt unibrow. But within minutes a bizarre transformation somewhere deep inside her would generate a bout of laughter. She would lash out against her tormentors, aiming to kick them in the groin, reaching out to scratch them, to gouge out their eyes with her dirty, gnawed nails. But just as they grew seriously worried (some sweetness in that fear too) about the ferocity of her response she would retreat into a hallway corner, covering her face with unwashed hands, whimpering pitifully, pleading for mercy.

All of this was exceptionally disorienting and . . . extraordinarily exciting: the unpredictability, the depths of her humiliation, the exquisite cruelty of their assault, the implicit danger of going too far. Mariam’s flair for the dramatic added to the intensity of those several months. On one particular occasion, Dimka, relentless in his ingenuity, dropped a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes (their standard school cafeteria fare) into Mariam’s lap. The whole cafeteria went silent, students flocked around expecting a scene. And Mariam didn’t disappoint. Scowling at the nervously expecting mob she scooped up a handful of the steaming mess from her lap and proceeded to methodically smear it all over her uniform, especially over the bulging breasts, and then all over her red and sweaty face. She sneered, seemingly uncontrollably. The mob was stunned, watching in disbelief this act of extreme self-abasement. How do you really confront someone who is willing to drink the chalice of humiliation to its dregs-covered rough bottom? His hatred of this strange, large-breasted Armenian girl couldn’t be any more visceral, and at that moment he knew they would have to up their ante.


As so often happens at such parties the host had far less fun than the guests. He didn’t mind, not really, but at some point it did register with him that he had barely left the kitchen. He walked down the corridor — most of the remaining guests (the crowd had thinned out considerably) hung out in the living room. He passed around the drinks and headed back into the kitchen. The guests protested and he promised to be back shortly. The door to the study was slightly ajar, he peeked in and saw Mariam reclined on the daybed next to the conceptual poet — they were energetically making out. The faded midnight light fell through the muslin drapes and rendered the scene an artificial and even borderline comical quality; he smiled to himself, and quietly closed the door. Over the years he has observed or participated in quite a few such scenes; for him, they were part of the White Nights canon — along with the echo-filled courtyard and the pallid sunlight penetrating through the parted drapes at midnight, along with the boozy companions, conceptual poets all, even those who were not. It was time to close that chapter and to make a decisive break (don’t say a word, Lisa) with this chimera, which really was nothing but his past masquerading as an elusive and uncertain present. But first, he would have to wrap up the party and embrace his friends one last time, before locking up behind them and heading back to the kitchen to do the dishes. Before… heading back to New York.

Mariam leaned against the door frame, eyeing him with apparent amusement. He wondered how long she had been standing there. Doing dishes could be therapeutic for him — a perfect time to be lost in thought, or whatever passed for a thought at 2 am in late June, just before the restless sun would begin its morning ascent. She found the sight of him entertaining:

“How cute — doing dishes all alone. I can’t tell you how touching this is to observe.”

He gave her a wan smile: “Where is the poet? I thought you were into him, no?”

She touched the glass kitchen door with her forehead: “Oh, nice, feels so cool… The poet, you say? Yeah, I was… for a few minutes, but then he recited a couple of his poems and the spell was broken. It’s a common St. Petersburg misconception that reciting poetry leads to a fuck. I mean, it may… occasionally, but then he should’ve done better than that.” She stepped inside the kitchen and picked up a dish towel: “Here, let me help you, I’ll dry the dishes.” For a few minutes they remained silent, working in tandem. Her motions were quick and expert. Then she paused: “Do you think I’m promiscuous? You can be honest.”

He looked at her confused: “Promiscuous? Why? Of course not. You’re a grown up person and you do whatever you want to do. Who is to judge you?”

She considered his response for a few seconds and shrugged her shoulders — his open-mindedness failed to satisfy her: “It’s a nice thing to say but quite meaningless. It’s an American thing to say too.”

He objected: “Now you’re sounding accusatory. And I’m not really an American, not exactly.”

“True, not exactly, but close enough… You know I had this teenage fantasy of sleeping with an American guy. I guess many of us did at the time. But it never happened. A German happened, a couple of Italians, even one Swede (which was a mistake), but not an American.”

He made an effort to understand her, to follow her train of thought, but decided that he could do no better than reiterate his original response: “No, seriously, I don’t find you promiscuous. Not at all. You’re vivacious. My ex would’ve accused me now of using a cliché but . . . you know . . . your presence lights up the room. Zest for life as they say. Don’t laugh, I actually mean it.”

But she did laugh: “You’re funny and . . . sweet. My grandma always said that I had a magnetic personality. Be careful, she would say, with that personal magnetism of yours.” She rounded her eyes and changed her voice to an affected croak that brought to mind a Lord of the Rings movie: “I’m dangerous, young man, very dangerous.”

Who was she? This being St. Petersburg she was likely a literary character or else pretending to be one. He rummaged his memory of their high school curriculum for an appropriate reference. One of those phantasmagorical tales by Gogol (They did run into each other on Nevsky prospect, didn’t they?)? A Dostoyevskian feverish dream (The White Nights reigned indisputably just outside the kitchen window, did they not?)? But none of the references fit — Mariam’s southern vitality, her ‘zest for life’ defied the rain-soaked St. Petersburg literary standard. She was in a league of her own — a woman apart.

Together they finished up drying the dishes. She placed the wet towel on the checkered oilcloth covering the kitchen table and looked at him expectantly:

“So what’s next, my childhood friend?” Was she teasing him again? Challenging to come back with a joke?

He checked the wall clock — it was almost three in the morning and the short-lived night outside had already receded into memory. “I can call in a cab,” he suggested cautiously, not quite knowing what was expected from him.

“You could,” she agreed… most unhelpfully. With her manicured finger (the same one with which she had pointed out an absent unibrow) she drew an invisible whimsical pattern on the oilcloth. “Would it freak you out if I told you that I like you?”

“I like you too…”

His good manners seemed to annoy her and she dismissed them with a casual flip of hand: “Listen, you don’t have to be so polite — I’m not used to it and, frankly, it gets old quick.” But almost immediately she relented: “Ok, sorry, I didn’t mean to be brusque. It just sounded so… I don’t know… so fake, I guess… I love you, honey — I love you too.” She uttered the last line in a heavily-accented English, lampooning an imaginary American couple. And yet she came across serious enough but also somehow bewildered — as if caught off guard by her own frankness.

“I hate these nights without darkness,” she continued after a short pause that he failed to fill. “I’ve lived in this city for most of my life now. You may not remember but my Russian used to be accented. I dropped that darn accent, those fucking soft consonants — the curse of the Caucuses — decades ago. I’ve never been back to Baku, certainly not back there — what sane Armenian would ever go back to that bloody oil rig? I’m not suicidal, you know . . . . So, that’s it — a southern beauty coming into bloom under the gray skies of your precious Northern Venice. And, would you believe it, I still don’t feel at home here, especially during this time of year, when the cursed city denies me even the most natural and easily obtainable thing in the world — a few hours of solid darkness. Just give me eight pitch dark hours — to rest, to make love with a stranger and afterwards pretend that nothing happened. It’s easier to pretend in the dark, it’s more expedient for forgetting . . . .”

He thought that it was exactly the opposite for him and then wondered if Mariam had not inadvertently stumbled onto a new fault line between the north and the south. For a second, it felt like a momentous insight on his part — a luminous flash of new understanding. But to keep up with Mariam one had to forgo the luxury of such theoretical detours.

“It’ll probably feel incestuous,” she said.

“What exactly?” he pretended not to understand.

She let out a tired sigh: “Oh, stop it. Can we not play these games now? You understood me perfectly well.”

He fidgeted and busied himself with the folded kitchen towel. Why in the world did he fold it? It was still wet, and he must’ve spent a full minute looking for a perfect drying spot in an almost empty kitchen, before finally deciding to spread it across the radiator.

All along he felt Mariam’s presence and knew that as soon as the towel conundrum has been solved he’d have an even more complicated one on his hands. “I’ll call you the cab,” he offered again, trying to sound as matter-of-factly as possible. She smiled condescendingly and he immediately became embarrassed of his own insincerity, he wished for an easy way out. You run into all sorts of people on Nevsky, and some of them, the dark-haired Caspian beauties, for example — the fully grown ducks of transplanted pedigree, are liable to offset your recently (and barely) restored life’s balance.

“Don’t be so tense,” Mariam was standing right behind him now. Quietly she leaned into him, letting him appreciate the generosity of her body, its willingness to be available to him. On her own terms, she was giving him a way out. “You don’t really have to call the cab,” she whispered into his shoulder.


Following the outrage in the cafeteria, the school remained abuzz for weeks. Conflicting and often grotesquely exaggerated accounts of Mariam’s awesome and horrifying performance spread through all the grades. After classes, he and Dimka spent hours on the boulevard — strategizing for an appropriate and appropriately fearsome response. Raising the ante indeed: the months of hounding of Mariam were set to culminate in an awe-inspiring grand finale — a meticulously choreographed coup de grâce, staged with a nod to their cinematic and literary influences of the moment. The school was gripped by anticipation and again he found himself at the center of attention — by a general consent it would fall to him to administer the final judgment. Vox Populi, Vox Dei — the people have spoken and, by popular acclamation, appointed two thirteen-year-old Jewish boys their honorary ambassadors and . . . executioners. They were humbled and overwhelmed by the honor, but as befits the true stoics they embraced the challenge. Mariam’s pain and symbolic destruction would be the price of their popularity.

The spring stirred late that year but once it did the telltale signs were everywhere. That spring had come off the pages of the Russian Literature textbook they were reading in class: the blackened patches of muddy snow, crusted into permanence around the rusted pole of the bus stop sign; the innocent rivulets, streaming down the boulevard, carrying with them the pathetic remnants of winter that had survived until April buried inside the snowbanks — the sundry little branches and twigs, the cigarette butts, the darkened dead leaves. The renewal was in the air, but first the city had to purge itself of its dead and dirty wintry secrets. Hence the rivulets of melting snow, transporting the ragged debris towards the sewage drains, hidden under the heavy manhole covers, or down the slope towards the canal. One evening his mother came back home from work in a particularly light-hearted mood, she was carrying a tiny bouquet of yellow mimosas, she was humming a lovely tune — the spring, she declared with her usual theatricality, had finally arrived.

Their school days on Fridays were bookended by a Chemistry class — a stale affair, taught by a perpetually bored-looking young woman, whose lack of enthusiasm for her subject rivaled that exhibited by her pupils. Under ordinary circumstances, the end-of-class bell occasioned a virtual stampede by students, desperate to put some distance between their physical bodies and the glossy Periodic table, mounted on the classroom wall. But that Friday proved to be different — there was no crush for the exit. The students left the classroom in an orderly fashion and once outside almost immediately reassembled in a neat formation. A casual observer would’ve puzzled at such seemingly spontaneous expression of social cohesion. But the mob, as mobs sometimes do, had a purpose, it adhered to a script, which was intuited, not rehearsed. So many years later he could still remember the excitement of that assembly, he could see his friends’ faces — open, eager and glowing with anticipation. What can be friendlier than a jubilant crowd at a public execution? The condemned is lavished with warmth and appreciation, her body in its coming agony will provide unprecedented entertainment to the masses, who will draw on the pending spectacle to affirm their own claim on living. They fully embrace this connection between another person’s destruction and their own survival. They acknowledge and celebrate it.

It was clear to him that Mariam knew what was coming. Trapped inside the formation she acted with an uncharacteristic restraint. Some of his favorite books contained famous execution scenes and, strangely, they often captured a sense of serene resignation on the part of the doomed. When finally facing the executioner’s ax, the nefarious and irresistible Milady de Winter of The Three Musketeers accepted the inevitable and bent a proud head to her pursuers’ will. In Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler’s Rubashov embraced his own execution as historically necessary — a fit of dialectical reasoning worthy of an old Bolshevik. Mariam was hardly familiar with these literary precedents, but she fell right into a well-trodden pattern. She walked silently (a dead woman walking), her feet in those oversized soiled slippers shuffling on the hardwood floor of the main hallway. She walked (was led) past the stinking gym, past the foul-smelling cafeteria, past the indifferent-looking Lenin statue — a tribute to another great dialectician, someone who had no trouble recognizing historical necessity.

The procession left the school building and marched on towards the soccer field in the back. And that’s where Mariam’s demeanor suddenly changed, or rather reverted to its usual ferocity. She was hissing, and spitting, and swearing at the spectators. With piercing howls she threw herself at her oppressors — again and again. But the phalanx didn’t budge; he had never observed such a determination in the ordinarily immature faces of his school friends, those ‘soft asses’ par excellence. Like silent Spartan warriors, like wordless Zulu fighters, step by slow step, they reached the middle of the field, and only then their ranks broke, allowing them to retreat to the field’s fenced edge. Mariam was left behind — spinning, and pacing, and hissing, and glowering, and cursing them in the foulest language. But he contemplated her without the usual disgust. He didn’t hate her anymore.

A strange calm descended upon him — a great calm that came, he realized, with a great sense of responsibility. Just the two of them remained in the middle of that field, united in a script that, each one of them knew, could not be altered. Mariam’s behavior underwent yet another change — her frenzy subsided and what was left of it had transformed into heavy panting. She looked disoriented, as if she were an actor who suddenly forgot her lines.

“What now?” she asked him, her voice rasping, annoyed. She was asking for guidance . . . .

“What a strange girl,” he thought. “What a weirdly strange girl . . . .” He explained to her what needed to be done (get down on your knees, lower down your head, don’t move) and to his surprise she complied. He didn’t feel entirely present at the scene but rather floated above it, overhearing someone who looked and sounded like him issuing orders to a red-faced, dark-haired girl with a unibrow.

That scene would come back to haunt him again. Not because it became a defining memory, but simply because he once saw it re-enacted on television. He was holed up at a conference hotel in Toronto, flipping through channels, and generally feeling depressed about the predictability of his life and career choices. CNN was running a special about the horrors of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan: the bearded morality police, riding armored-plated ‘tacticals’ with machine guns mounted on them — check, the destruction of the Buddahs of Bamiyan — check, the jolly crowds assembling in a soccer stadium… He sat up in bed, fearing to guess what was coming next. But it was all too obvious: a ‘tactical’ drove onto the soccer field and two bearded guards helped a third figure — a woman in a full blue burka—climb down the truck bed. The camera swept across the crowd, capturing the happy and expectant faces of men — young and old — and the children of both genders. The woman’s pain will be their joy, her impending destruction will give them reason to live, her spilled blood will course through their veins and animate their bodies. The guards led the woman to a penalty kick spot and said something to her. She lowered herself on the ground — so compliant, so dutiful, so willing to oblige. Who was she? Someone that submissive… what had she done to deserve this? This penalty kick with a piece of lead? This rapt attention of a captive audience? The guards took a few steps back and cocked their AK-47s . . . . And that’s when he heard himself scream. Desperately he fumbled for the remote, picked it up, dropped it, picked it up again, and finally managed to turn off the fucking CNN just as the guards pulled the trigger.

Respectful of the script, Mariam did as told. One couldn’t wish for a better acting partner. Without so much as trying she exhibited a keen and natural flair for dramatic stagings. Her wild fluctuations — from timid acceptance to rage to bashful supplication — served to entertain. Even facing certain harm she continued to work for the audience, she insisted on working with it. Now safely stationary, folded in a prayer pose, Mariam kept herself close to the ground. He couldn’t see her face but imagined it distorted by a frantic grin. Such a grin would’ve been appropriate for the occasion. So he thought as he embarked on a ceremonial jog along the field’s perimeter. He held his fists high up in the air — in a Mohammad Ali style, so popular with them at the time. The crowd chanted its support. He felt the warmth of the April sun on his cheeks; he took in the sight of the fluttering sparrows — hovering over the canal, celebrating the arrival of spring. The crowd chanted its love — for him, for the late and much-anticipated spring, even for Mariam, who remained motionless in the middle of the pitch. He completed the circle of honor and positioned himself at a distance of some twenty meters from the folded heap that was his classmate. The time for action had arrived, it arrived along with the seasonal warmth and the happy sparrows ducking in and out of the lilac bushes along the canal. He would administer justice, he would administer a penalty kick for the ages. He was rumbling in the jungle, he was Mohammad Ali dispatching George Foreman, he was the mysterious and honor-bound Count de la Fère of The Three Musketeers fame, condemning his beloved to death.

The time held still as he sprinted across the dusty patch towards Mariam. Not a great athlete he had never run before as fast or (Dimka would assure him afterwards) as gracefully. It was important not to slow down, not to ruin the carefully choreographed ritual by a last-minute slip-up or stumble. He kicked. The exact moment of the impact didn’t register with him but, in slow motion, he observed Mariam jerk forward and roll sideways – her arms and legs flailing. The consummate performer to the very end, she kept on rolling, and rolling, and rolling, until coming to an abrupt rest against the rusty goal post. He finally saw her face again — flushed and sweaty as always, its features distorted by a primordial scream. What a triumph! He notched this one up for his friends, for their love and acceptance on this radiant April afternoon. He notched this one up for their sense of togetherness and purpose. Mariam may have failed to appreciate it at the moment — understandably so. Wringing in pain and humiliation, wiping off her tears, inspecting the torn sleeve of her tattered school uniform, tapping tentatively at the raw gash on her elbow, Mariam was in no position to recognize the value of his sacrifice. He notched this one up for her too. He thought that maybe in a week or two, in a month — he would be able to explain all this complexity to her. He would have to make sure that she remains calm and doesn’t succumb to one of her frightening fits of fury. He’ll explain to her the historical necessity of his act, its ultimate logic. The law of physics. She will understand. She should be able to understand . . . .

Only they didn’t have another chance to talk. A few days after the historic ‘penalty kick’ Mariam’s mother withdrew her daughter from school. The head teacher explained to class that Mariam was never a ‘good fit’. The students agreed.


She kicked off the crumpled sheet and having thus liberated her body stretched with obvious pleasure. “Oh, Mariam,” she yawned. “Oh, Mariam, you slut. You did it again. And with a childhood friend no less. What would your grandma say? Your black kerchief-wearing and Catholicos-worshipping grandma?” “Shameless, so utterly shameless,” she parodied her imaginary grandma’s heavily-accented croak.

Mariam got out of bed and walked over to the window, only to pause momentarily in front of the window sill before, with a dramatic jerk, drawing open the curtains. He couldn’t help but notice how comfortable she was with her own nakedness. For a couple of minutes she studied the courtyard down below, then issued a diagnosis: “Your typical St. Petersburg courtyard — pretty dreary-looking, if you ask me, even during this time of year.” She turned around and eyed him quizzically: “I just had this weird vision, right now. A moment ago I saw you crossing the courtyard. A sickly Leningrad boy… You know, you all looked like goldfish to me, very vulnerable, worthy of my pity. In your silly blue uniform, your stupid school attaché case in hand. Remember, those used to be all the rage back then. They looked like bricks bound in leather. Probably just as heavy. What did you call them? Diplomats! That’s it — diplomats! And carrying it you certainly looked like one. An important diplomat on his way to school. Bus no. 6, right?” He nodded, mesmerized by her performance, but also by her silhouette against the light that had flooded in through the parted curtains.

“You are shameless,” he said quietly. It was a compliment and she received it as such.

It was almost eleven now. Mariam came out of the shower and dressed quickly. She asked him to walk her to the metro station. No, forget about the cab. Apparently you’ve never heard about the latest natural phenomenon at this degree of northern latitude — it’s called St. Petersburg traffic. She had to be in the office by noon, no cab would be able to cross the town in under an hour. Forget about it. Let’s walk . . . . And they did. They crossed the courtyard and he put up a little show for her sake — swinging in front of her an imaginary diplomat, adjusting an invisible school uniform. They walked out onto the street, which was choked with traffic but somehow still felt desolate. They passed the old bus stop — no. 6 had stopped running years ago but the authorities never bothered to remove the dilapidated yellow sign. They pretended they were waiting for a bus, the no. 6 bus to carry them to school.

“What a pity it’s not coming,” she smiled.

“It must’ve broken down, never left the depot,” he joked. She shrugged. She smiled. She took his hand when they were crossing the street but once on the other side forgot to let it go. They kept on walking holding hands, and that added intimacy felt appropriate to the occasion.

“Your hand is soft,” she informed him.

For a second he was taken aback and protested: “Why soft? It shouldn’t be soft. How can it be soft? After all the hours in the gym?”

She pecked him on the cheek: “No need to get all worked up about it. It’s just a comment. And don’t you worry — I’ve noticed your body, actually gave you a quick professional examination while you were asleep. I am a doctor after all. It’s pretty hot. ALL of it. You have nothing to worry about. And your hands . . . . They are not rough, not calloused. They are like a reflection of your inner self — gentle is the word. You’re a gentle man, my childhood friend — a little goldfish that jumped out of the fish tank.”

He noticed that they had reached the very spot where she first approached him the previous day. Mariam laughed:

“My, my, my… how symbolic indeed. It’s like we’ve closed a full circle within… she checked her watch… almost exactly twenty-four hours. Do you believe in numerology? I don’t.” Yes, just twenty-four hours. Or twenty years. Or choose your own number and imbue it with meaning, turn it into an artefact. “Will you write to me?” She sounded matter-of-factly, not anxious at all. Nothing heavy about her touch — it was a light touch indeed.

“But of course!” he came across too eager to please and she instantly caught on to it.

“Oh, come on… Just say yes — like in ‘yes, I will write to you’. Drop the ‘of course’ — no one was asking for it.”

“Yes, I will write to you…”

“You see, that’s much better, more natural, no peer pressure as they say.”

By the station entrance, she spent some time kissing his face, avoiding his lips but compensating for this oversight by planting numerous quick kisses on his cheeks, his forehead, his neck, his eyes, even the smooth earlobe.

“I’m kissing you into oblivion,” she explained somewhat mysteriously.

Not much of an explanation really, he would have to consider it later. But not now. Now they needed to say good-byes. He detested the ritual. Another late start to another day, one of his last in this exhausting city that refuses to let him go, that keeps him tethered to his own shadow. Goodbye, Mariam. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have run into you. You made my day and you most certainly made my night. I just hope it was good for you, I hope it was worth it . . . I hope . . . . She looked at him with a hesitant curiosity, she brought his hand up to her face and pressed it against his palm, she kissed it tenderly.

“It was worth it,” she said. “It was wonderful. And you know what the best part was?” She was being playful again — she had to be before separating herself from him for good. One is expected to cut her earthly connections before descending deep into the metro. And that’s what she did — with a tease, with a wink, with an impish retort to her own rhetorical question: “It didn’t hurt, my darling, not at all.”

Lobey Dosser

A.S. Robertson

When she holds the tin up to her ear, she could swear that she hears a voice. Not enough to recognise. It is, without doubt, one of the boys there for the season. One of the new friends her brother recruits every summer. Never the same — they seem to outgrow him, all of his games, from one year to the next. And then, buzzing resolves itself. The words are clear.

​ “Come in, Dan Dare, come in.”

Pa has already hauled Euan away to have the skin off him for wasting the twine on his tin phone. For wasting time. For doing something, anything at all.

Rhona puts the tin to her mouth. Pulls the string as taut as she can.

​ “Mayday, Digby. Mayday.”

The twine goes slack. The voice doesn’t return. She hears the dull thudding of shoes across the turf as he runs away.

Even in the dark, Euan’s eyes are very blue. Not like some that go grey on a dark day. They are bright, even from beneath his bed.

​“Come on, come with me,” she says. She can always talk him out from under. “There are all sorts of nasty things under there. Mice. Beasties.”

He holds on to the bed slats. If she pulls him, those slats would be wrenched out of the frame before he would let go. She doesn’t have the heart or the strength to do that.

“Did you see the frogspawn by the gate?”

There is a silent nod and she tries to think of other things that boys might like. The big barn cat and her latest litter of kittens, he likes them. And there is the chance that the shop might have the latest copy of The Dandy or The Beano. He shakes his head: No, they do not. Some other boy has already been and reported.

In the end, she lies on her side on the floor and he slowly creeps toward her. She holds him and feels his little boy heart pounding under her hand. They both listen for the door.

When does he stop telling her everything? The year he comes home from university at Christmas with a green scarf instead of the red one that she had packed him off with, the one that she had bought. Rhona tells him that green is a fairy colour and that the fairies will steal him away from her. Just a wind up, the kind he gives her.

But in the summer, it isn’t him that comes home. He doesn’t speak any more. Not the way he had. She goes to his room, sits on the bed, and asks him if he remembers when the men used to come for work. Travelers, he says to call them. Not what their father did. There was the woman with the sad, sad songs, the man with the sea shanties. Even Pa would get out his whistle and play. Euan ran every morning to walk to school with the other boys and she envied the girls’ ponies.

And one morning, when the work was over, he would run out and the barn would be empty. All the children gone. There were some bright boys and girls there, she had thought, boys and girls who would have been something if they’d gotten more school. The teacher had said as much.

​“You’d stand and cry. You’d cry for days. Do you remember that? Crying for all your little ti — Traveler — friends that had gone away.”

​“Because they hadn’t taken me with.”

He was the only child for miles who couldn’t be frightened by the idea of someone taking him away in the night. Of being stolen. Peter Pan was an escape manual to him, the plan for the way things could be done. Kidnapped was a recipe for the kind of wild life he wanted to live. It would have just been off and away to adventure for him. No thought of what would be left behind.

Euan pulls her through the crowd as it streams away from Murrayfield. This is half a lifetime ago; she is only thirty-five and he is barely twenty. No, he is older than that, he must be, but she always makes him more the baby than he is. He says something about the rugby but, between the rain and it being about the rugby, she can’t get a word of it. She would be lost without him. She could listen to him forever.

​“You’ve got longer legs. Slow down.”

​ “If we stop, we won’t make the train.”

And she runs beside him until she has a stitch in her side so sharp that she can barely breathe. They make it the mile to Haymarket in time to see the train pull away.

​‘“We’ll say it was my fault. I couldn’t keep up. You can tell me what you were saying about the French side again —“

The shutter has come down, though, with a snap. There isn’t going to be any more. He watches the train recede. There is rain dripping from his nose, from his hair. It’s another losing year, another year of coming out on the very bottom.

​ Pa doesn’t come down hard, not really. Not for missing a train. Any fool can miss a train, he says, and he’s right. Anyone can be just the tiniest bit too late for something. Euan would stay up all night, waiting for enough light to go out to the barn for his friends. But somehow he had always missed saying goodbye. Fallen asleep just a few moments before,

​“You two can do what you like, after all. Best that you’re happy. Follow your whims until you’re in the ground.”

And he is right again, they can do as they like, her and her brother, like he never could. They can come and go. It has been different for him, he has had the land and the farm and the children to look after.  She mustn’t forget that they owe him that.

In July, he rings to give her his news, sounding like he might as well be calling her on a tin can and a piece of twine.

“At my age, she says, I’ll die with cancer. Not from it.”

But what sort of age is it? It’s no age at all.

“Rhona?” He shouts down the line. “For God’s sake, Rhona, I’m paying for this time.”

Euan stands in the hall. Just after Hogmanay. He’ll be away again in the morning, gone back to school with his strange green scarf. More a stranger now than he ever was before. He comes through when Pa gets Rhona by the hair. It’s only caution — he saw his own granny catch fire at a paraffin stove and die.

​“You tie this up. I don’t want to be eating it for my tea.”

​“Yes, Pa.”

Euan’s back in Aberdeen, back at University, already. She can see the miles back there ticking away in his eyes, taking him further and further. He isn’t here, not with her and Pa. It makes it hard to look at him for long, so she looks away.

 ​ When he gets himself thrown out on his ear, he doesn’t dare come home. It isn’t Pa he’s afraid of, he writes. Rhona knows it is her. He’s out there with his cardboard suitcase because he has made himself too much of a stranger to know where to go.

​ “You can come back,” She says to him when she rings from the post office phone. “You can come home to me.”

He is quiet for a long time, until they are almost cut off. But she puts in more coins.

Rhona hears someone walking up the stair. Somewhere in Glasgow, using a phone set out in a hall. She knows that it is cold there. Bitter. She can hear his teeth rattling. She asks if he has enough for a room or if he is dossing in hallways, in lobbies, any place he can find.

​“Tell me how much money you have. If you don’t have any, I’ll send some. I’ll send you a ticket. Tell me where you’re staying.”

‘“That Christmas,” he says at last. “When he let me go back to Uni after Christmas. How?”

“It doesn’t matter. Not now.”

“What did you do, Rhona?”

His voice is so small and so very sad that she has to put the phone down. She hangs up the receiver. Then she picks it up again, expecting to hear him again, but there is nothing. There is someone else waiting for the phone. It’s past time for her to be home with the shopping.

Pa couldn’t last forever, but Euan doesn’t come home for that. It’s funny how it happens: Pa is riding along in the tractor, a big yellow thing, and picking up more and more speed. It must be funny, because she laughs. He crests the hill, just as he always does, and begins to come down it. But something is changed now. The tyre strikes a rock, sinks into a burrow. The angle and speed are all wrong. She looks out the windows, even comes to the door. And in that moment, as it rears up, she knows that if she screams she can stop time, hang the tractor there forever. She laughs. One short bark, but a laugh all the same. And the tractor rolls. It rolls and rolls.

  It is the neighbours who come and make the tea and who do the washing up. They carry the coffin. They do not ask Rhona if she doesn’t have a brother somewhere that could be doing these things for her. Are you all right alone, the neighbours ask her. But she isn’t alone. Euan has been there. She knows that he has been — for a few moments, anyway, while she was at the kirk. He has left things changed to let her know. The cup of coffee that she had forgotten has been tidied away. The tea towel hanging from the drawer pull is damp. He must have been there. She has only just missed him. He is already up and running ahead again.

The voice on the phone asks where she is. It’s breathy and nasal. American. Or Canadian. It doesn’t have that hollowness that transatlantic calls used to have. That sound of all the miles being crossed, of being in the past.

​ “Grantully. In Scotland. Grantully, Scotland.”

​ “Are you at home?”

Yes, she is at home. She is in her bed, making a very early night of it. She has a book that she will never finish and hot water bottle that will be cold before she puts her feet under.

​“Is there anyone with you? Maybe you can get someone.”

She holds the phone away from her ear and only hears bits of what they are saying. Nothing that she understands. It’s a long way for someone to call to have a joke. She asks who it is, and they tell her again. They ask again if she wouldn’t like to get someone.

She sets the phone down on the kitchen counter and goes round to the neighbours in her slippers. The wife comes back with her. She does well not to stare too much at Rhona’s dressing gown, her baffies, not to ask questions as to why she has been fetched away from her television. They speak to her and then she speaks to Rhona. Whatever they have told her to say, not a word of it makes any sense at all. A game of Chinese whispers, though she mustn’t call it that any more.

​“Do you want me to stay with you?”

It’s very kind of her, but Rhona can’t see any reason why she should. She sends her back to her family.

The train to Edinburgh is delayed at Perth, then it is cancelled. There is a replacement bus service, instead. When she arrives, she collects her forms that entitle her to a refund of the difference in price. All to be posted off at a later date, but no more than thirty days past the date of travel marked on the ticket. There is no sense in paying the price of a train journey for riding on a bus.

​ She leaves her bag at the bus station and walks up to Prince’s Street, past Jenners. Never the sort of place she’d shop, no, because it would be a terrible waste of money. Those clothes on this body.  But there are some very handsome things there; Lovely things, shining under spotlights in the dark windows. The street and pavement are a mess of fences and hoardings from the trams they’ve been promising. They put down the rails, but with no trams to run over them, to keep them in place, they have warped. They need taken out and laid again. Their Pa was right. They’d lived to regret the day they got rid of the old trams, sold them off for scrap.

She would like for Euan to be with her here. His shoulders and elbows would get through the scrums of shoppers and tour groups. Her folding walking stick used to do the job — take it out, and the crowds would part. Now she needs it to keep from being knocked over on the torn-up paving stones. If he were here, she would turn right and walk with him back to Murrayfield, find out what it was he’d wanted to tell her about the French side outside that café. She turns left, down to the parliament.

He hasn’t seen the parliament in person, only on her postcards. She’s told him time and again that he’d like it, even if he couldn’t tell what it was meant to be. If only he’d come to see it himself. It’s a beautiful place, the low grey concrete entryway lifting up, giving way to steel, oak and glass. It’s like coming out of the darkness, out of the past, she says. Like being born. She isn’t sure if she’s read that somewhere or thought of it herself. It is the only time he sends the same postcard back, with her words scored out.

​ “Over budget. Behind schedule. Ugly, ugly, ugly,” he writes.

He apologises later and asks for another card. She sends him a new one, one with the puffins on Orkney. She sends the rugby scores, too. He can’t complain about puffins. Instead, he complains about getting the wooden spoon again. Another losing year, one bleeding into the next.

She tells Euan that the building is meant to look like boats. Like hulls and bows and sails. A fishing fleet. Like the fleet has only been pulled in for the night and is ready to set off again in the morning. When the design was first announced she’d told him that. She can’t remember the year. The last year that Scotland won the Calcutta Cup, maybe. That makes sense to her, he would have had more important things to remember then. Trys and conversions. The names of captains. How many points they had beaten England by.

She runs her fingers through the words carved into stones on the Canongate side of the building, into the outlines of the old town pressed into the concrete. A wodge of green gum is packed into a corner. The guide she has says that this is the view of Edinburgh that the architect had from his hotel window. She thinks about him, the architect. He never saw it finished. Not in stone. Cancer.

Here are the swans, just as always. And Euan goes charging up toward Arthur’s Seat, storming up it, trying to find the place where they found those strange little dolls from the museum. Burke and Hare’s bodies, some people say. Witching, maybe, or guilt. Or are they meant to be the sailors that never had a grave, that never came home? Half of them are gone to dust now.

He leaps and skips and their mother is calling for him to slow down. He’s part mountain goat, she says. He must be. Such wee legs, but so strong. So fast.

A car slows down for directions. They put down their window and she goes over to them, ready to tell them she’s only a tourist herself. The egg arcs over her shoulder, but the flour strikes home. They speed away. Now that she looks, she sees the explosions of white powder all up and down the path.

“What’s happened to you, dear?” says the woman behind the desk of her hotel.

“There were some lads —”

“Oh, you’ve been lucky. Sometimes it’s bottles of wee.”

  The flour comes out of her coat. Enough of it, anyway, that she doesn’t feel ashamed to wear it back out. It’s her only good coat. The rest have been eaten to pieces in the cupboards.

When she heads back out, the woman at the desk calls to her that she should keep away from the dark places, the gardens and the parks. There’s no respect in them bairns these days. No one teaches them any anymore.

Euan’s voice is on the answerphone. This is an apology, too, like the one for the postcard. He knows she doesn’t pick up, not unless she knows who is meant to be calling. There are sales calls at all hours now, and the only thing she has found to stop them is not picking up at all.

​‘“I’m sorry to have missed you.”

She would phone him back, only it is easier, he tells her, to wait for him. Then he can ring from places that have good lines. His calls have that sound to them, the sound that they are coming from someplace unreachable. A metallic echo. She presses the button again. And again. This voice from six hours and seventy years go.

​“I’m sorry to have missed you,” he says again. His words rattle around. Buzz in the speaker.

When she finds a place to sit inside, she can’t decide off the menu. Rhona asks the boy what he would pick. Fish pie, he says, but that’s something she can make at home for herself. If you only get out now and then, it’s better to have something you’d never make at home. She asks about something that calls itself Chicken Rob Roy and he shrugs. It’s not a thing she would dream of making for herself, so she orders that. She gets a pint of beer, too, because she won’t be driving anywhere. How long has it been since she’s had a pint? A very long time. People talk when an old woman drinks alone.

Two young things come in to the ladies’ after her, a couple of classy lassies by the sound. They go in the stall together, one to hold the drinks for the other. When it’s empty again, when they have gone away laughing, Rhona comes out to splash her face with cold water. She passes her hands over her face and pulls the skin taut. She doesn’t open her eyes.

If she were to see herself now, see herself as she was, as Euan knows her —she drops her hands and blinks at the mirror. There is the ghostly spot of flour, glowing over her heart in the blue light. She can’t turn the tap off and there are grey lumps of toilet roll blocking the drain. She leaves before the water crests the side of the basin.

She should protect him more from Pa, she knows this. He’s like a dog that can scent an outsider and Euan is the poor little stranger. He smiles at the world and she has tried to show him the world smiling back. It isn’t the fault of either of them that she’s been left to play Mother. She will drive him back to the train, get him back to school. And Pa, if she takes enough care today, tonight, he won’t stop them. She knows how to speak to him, sometimes, make him see. What to do to ask him for what she wants.

In the corner of the pub, it’s snug and warm. There’s a fine mist of rain coming down and no better place to be than inside. It’s early yet. The lights are on, the music is still low, and the fruit machine is vacant. She watches it go through its routine — first dark, then a green glow for the start of play. The lights build, moving from green to gold to orange. Winner, the top light flashes in bright red. Winner, winner, winner. It goes dark and starts again. She feels its excitement. A night out in the city, a trip to America and no one to answer to, not even the postman.

​There was a postcard from Euan, not so long ago. New enough that it is still in the kitchen, still by the door, where she sees it first thing when she comes in.

​“There is a girl,” he writes.

That takes up almost the whole card. He doesn’t have a sense of waste. Takes as much space as he likes. The second line is smeared, almost beyond legibility — he’s dragged his hand through the ink before it has dried. They had tried to make him right-handed at school, like they did for her, but it never took.

​“A beautiful girl.”

The word ‘very’ floats between the two lines, anchored by nothing at all.

There is a picture of a home on the front. A hogan, the card says in small print, traditional dwelling place of the Navajo. The kind of card she would have picked. This is home, he says, my home, with a beautiful girl and a hogan. She minds that old comic, the one with the wee cowboy, that was meant to be in Arizona but was still, somehow, in Glasgow. The name is on the tip of her tongue.

He is her blue-eyed boy, still, and he is happy. With a house and a beautiful wife. He has stopped his running, there in the desert. It’s a lie, it certainly isn’t a truth, but it’s the kind of untruth he knows that she would like to believe. She buys a copy of The Beano. Passes over The Dandy on the racks. There is no Eagle to read, not any more, because all the little boys who loved Dan Dare and his time machine, they’re all old men now.

​When the plane lands in Newark, she tells them where she is going, where she will be staying. Passes them her landing card. There isn’t a house number, she says, not out there. But there have been delays; her flight has landed after the expected time.

When she asks if she is in the right place, the woman tells her that she can’t answer any questions, she must wait in the line. She spends twenty minutes in a queue to be told that she has been waiting in the wrong place the whole time. She should have been passing through security, stripping down for her next search. And now, now there won’t be the time for her to reach flight to Phoenix.

‘You won’t make gate. It’s already closed. They’re taxiing. Now, we’ll get you a voucher to spend the night, and put you on the first flight in the morning.’

​“Help me. My brother —”

​‘“You can call and let anyone expecting you know. Does it really matter when you get there? Six tonight or six tomorrow morning?”

It doesn’t matter, she tells him. Not at all. Euan can’t die again.

Only he does. Over and over. And she opens her mouth. Pushes her fingers in. No sound comes. And then it comes all at once.


Robert McGuill

They’re walking through the country store, arm in arm, when Jason Mattlock remarks offhandedly to his girl, Carrie Carson, that fly-fishing is for fags. He says this under his breath, as they stroll past the display case with its flawless arrangement of hand-tied flies, and when Carrie slaps his arm and asks him where he comes off saying such a horrible thing about the beloved sport of Izaak Walton, Ernest Hemingway and, all right, since he brought the subject up, her father, Charlie, the boy bends his lips to her ear and whispers, Because it’s boring.

They stroll up to the counter, laughing. “Pack of Luckies,” the boy says, turning to the clerk. “And these.” He sets a fruit pie and two bottles of water on the counter. The water comes from a local spring. The artificial fruit pie, from some chemical factory people back east call a bakery.

“That it?” the clerk asks.

“Yeah, that’s it.”

Jason turns and smiles at Carrie.

He claims he isn’t like the rest of the ball-scratching poseurs up here who kick around in flannel shirts and hiking boots, pretending they’re mountain men. He doesn’t need three-day stubble to make some kind of statement about himself. He lets his actions do the talking. He’s a hope-to-die adrenaline junkie who’s high on his own unstoppable luck, and if there’s a sport that’s the least bit dangerous, you know what? He wants in. Because what’s the point of living if you’re not living on the edge? Yeah, yeah. She’s heard it all a zillion times, and sounds like one big crock of shit, the sort of braggadocio crap a guy in an antiperspirant ad would say. But she’s been hanging with Jason long enough to know it’s true. Every word of it. He’s one of those guys who’s going to squander his whole life base-jumping and climbing fourteeners and cave diving in Mexico. One of those puppy-eyed losers a girl like her wakes up to one morning, years from today, and realizes she’s sold her life down the river for a dream that couldn’t hold itself together. Only, she isn’t going to be that girl.

But that’s a conversation for a different time. Today’s today, and tomorrow’s going to come soon enough, and right now the only thing Jason wants to discuss is whitewater. Shooting a class IV rapids in his sport raft, which he’s outfitted stem-to-stern for what he calls “maximum thrill-osity.” An hour from now, he promises Carrie with a wolfish grin, they’ll be chopping through the legendary waters of the Royal Gorge. The Grand Canyon of the Arkansas. A dangerous, wildass run, he assures her with a single raised eyebrow, and one she won’t soon forget. It’s going to be the craziest ride of her life, he says—excluding, of course, those rarified moments she’s spent with him in the sack, doing the nasty.

They met on the slopes last winter, over at Monarch Mountain Resort, where her dad, Charlie, is a ski instructor. Jason cozied up to her on the lodge’s stone balcony, in front of the fire, and, twenty minutes later, they were sneaking upstairs for a quick fuck in his buddy, Ryan Cunningham’s, trashed-out, 50-dollar-a-night, toxic-dump of a hotel room.

Her folks are mostly okay with Jason—her dad is, anyway—but because she’s only a few months away from her freshman year in college and looking at a full ride on an academic scholarship, they’ve been dropping some not-so-subtle hints. What’s the rush? her father says. You’re young, you’ve got a big bright future ahead of you. Why not get through your first semester and see how things play out? If Jason’s the guy you think he is, he’ll still be there, waiting. Her mother, who’s had it in for Jason from the get-go, isn’t so generous. She tells Carrie not to be stupid. Jason’s a party-boy who only wants one thing, she says. He’s got no ambition, no common sense. No future. He’s a great big zero, so do your father and me a favor. Get him out of your system and move on.

Carrie sometimes dreams about getting pregnant just to piss her mother off. Move in with Jason and spend her life as a ski-bum’s loser, do-nothing girlfriend. But, she’s too responsible. Besides, it would break her father’s heart, and she could never ever do anything that would hurt her father.

Her eyes fall on Jason’s arm as he reaches for his wallet and pulls out a sheaf of bills to pay the cashier. God, he has beautiful arms. Long and muscular. But her dad’s right, she needs to put the brakes on. She’ll be heading off to school soon, and with Jason looking for a job as a raft guide or whatever, there isn’t much point in thinking of themselves as a couple anymore.

Jason stops on the front porch, next to the soda machine, and taps the cigarette pack against the back of his hand. She’s going to miss his little rituals. His bad habits.

“You’re gonna get cancer, you know.”

He smiles, tearing the cellophane with his perfectly white teeth. “Not likely, baby girl. Not likely.”

“Yeah? Says who?”

“Says me. I don’t figure to live long enough.”

She frowns at this.

“Besides,” he says, pointing to the Hostess pie in her hand, “You’re one to talk.”


Carrie looks down at the river as Jason eases the van under a stand of pine trees and snuffs the engine. His flashy blue paddle raft is lashed to the top of the vehicle, which itself is a sorry-looking throwback to the days of Ken Kesey. Jason bought the van off his Uncle Nick a couple of years ago for popcorn money, but its upkeep has him just this side of broke. When Carrie’s dad, Charlie, saw the van the first time, all he could say was, Good God, son. That’s one butt-ugly bucket of bolts. Her mother went a step further, pronouncing it a death trap.

Never was one to make my personal statements by way of a vehicle, the boy had told them in a rugged, self-assured, snot-nosed way while giving a “so-what?” glance to Charlie’s shiny new Range Rover parked in the gravel drive. I’m more the type to let my actions talk. You know?

Yes, her father knew. So did her mother.

Jason unlashes the tie-downs and carries the boat down the hill to the water’s edge. He is busy stowing gear when Carrie appears from the van with the picnic basket and water bottles. He looks up, does a double-take, and allows an appreciative smile to cross his face. She’s wearing black shorts and a snug-fitting wetsuit top with a tunic collar, and she knows from the way the fellas at Doc’s Sporting Goods treated her when she stepped out of the dressing room, trying it on — catcalls and a couple of well-timed wolf whistles — how good she looks in it.

Jason straightens. Calls up the hill to her, “Jesus, Carrie. You look like summer.”

She laughs.

“I’m serious.”

Of course he is. The guy’s throttle is always humming, needle stuck true north, and like most guys his age he’s full of—okay, she wants to be generous here—bad poetry. She dismisses the compliment out of hand and goes to set out their lunch, but when Jason stands and rests the paddle on his shoulder, muscles rippling, her smile fades and she bites her bottom lip.

“What?” he says, innocently, walking up the hill toward her.


She needs to catch her breath. She’s thinking about doing it with him one last time, despite the promise she’s made to herself. A kind of goodbye thing. But then, no. She stops herself. It isn’t going to happen. Because what would be the point? Her father’s right. She’s going to college, and doesn’t need any messy distractions like a long-distance love affair to complicate her life. But even so, she’s young, too, and her heart is aching with happiness, and she doesn’t want to live her life regretting everything the way her mother does.

She sets down the picnic basket and looks up at the sky. The sun is smiling, a breeze coming up off the water, the drowsy scent of juniper.

Jason pulls out the blanket and spreads it under the trees, careful to get the edges right. He anchors his sunglasses to the top of his head and teases her with a grin. “You’re gonna die when you see the water down there in the Gorge, babe. It’s incredible. Best I’ve ever run.”

She smiles, unwrapping the turkey and avocado sandwiches she’s packed for them. They were made fresh this morning with croissants from Smith’s bakery. Her mother almost ruined all the fun she was having while she was making them, but Carrie isn’t going to go into that here. They’re having too good a time.

A shadow crosses one of the plates as she’s arranging the food, and when she looks up the crotch of Jason’s wetsuit is inches from her face.

She lowers her eyes. “We’re not going there, today.”

“Come on.”


“Why not?”

She looks up again, harshly this time, going straight for his needy green eyes. “Here.” She thrusts a sandwich into his outstretched hand. “Have this instead.”

He looks at the sandwich, scowling. Takes it and plops down on the blanket. “This is stupid.”

“What’s stupid?”

“The way you’ve been acting.” He locks onto her eyes and won’t look away. “I don’t get it. What’d I do? Did I say something?”

She shakes her head, and turns her eyes to the river.

“Well, what then? You’ve been standoffish ever since I picked you up this morning. Is it something to do with your mother?”

She tells him it’s complicated.

“Complicated? Complicated how?”

She takes a bite—a small one—and sets the sandwich on the plate. “I’ll be going away to school pretty soon.”


“So, I don’t want it to be any harder than it already is.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I don’t see any point in us being physical anymore.”

He blinks, then laughs. “Then why the hell are we here?”

“You said you wanted to go rafting.”

His face reddens and he flings the sandwich away. It sails over the ledge, drops and splatters on the rocks below. “Christ. You’ve gotta be joking. I can raft on my own. I hang out with you because I love you, not because I need an extra paddle.”

She stares down at the discarded sandwich. Its contents smeared on the stones of the riverbank, the broken crust of the croissant already set upon by squawking magpies. She looks up, hurt. Regards her own sandwich and takes a tentative bite.

“Don’t, Jason.”

“Don’t what?”

“Be that way.”

She sets the sandwich aside, and rises to her knees. Runs one small, soft hand down the side of his face and tries to kiss him. He’ll have none of it. He pulls away, scowling.

“Come on.”

The more she cajoles, the further away he seems to move.

“Come on, Jason,” she says in a husky little whisper. “Can’t we just have fun?”

“You tell me.” He looks at her. “Can’t we?”

Christ. She’s had enough of him and his ridiculous, boyish moods. Sometimes she wishes school started tomorrow, just so she could get rid of him. But the day’s still young and she doesn’t want to see him all pissy and pouting the rest of the way downriver, so, after arguing with herself for a while, she thinks, Fine, have it your way, you sulky little shit. Only don’t expect to see me again after today. Because this is it, Jason Mattlock. The last time.

She snatches her sandwich and flings it out across the stones, the same way he did. It splatters on the rocks, startling the magpies who leap back, then return to feed upon it.

“You’re such a baby,” she says, making a half-hearted motion for him to pull out his cock, or whatever it is he’s going to do, and she lets him know by her sharp body language he’d better make it fast, too, because she’s still majorly pissed, and liable to change her mind if he messes with her.

“Let’s just get it over with,” she says in a voice that’s all business, and when he tries to smooth things out with another dumb-assed declaration of love, she raises a solitary finger and warns him to shut up.

“Shut up,” she says. “Shut up and don’t say another word. Because if you do, I’m stopping. Understand?” He nods. “Not another word,” she says. And then, as if to make things really plain, “And don’t touch my hair.”

The river flickers through the pine boughs. Appears amber from high up. Clear amber, like old film unspooled from a movie projector. Or real amber pried from a tree with a pocketknife. You can see the stones deep below in the current, trapped there a million years. Water tumbling over them. She’s angry with Jason for spoiling everything. She’s going to remember this day for the rest of her life, every moment of it, and she’s going to use it like an instruction manual for what not to look for, ever again, in a guy.

“Let’s go,” she says, her voice sounding as if someone had hung it on a clothesline and beaten the life out of it. “I’m tired.”

Jason tips his sunglasses from the tangles of his blonde hair and settles them over his eyes. “Yeah,” he says, smiling. “Sure.”



They tidy up the picnic site without saying anything, and when the gear is stowed in the raft, Carrie steps into the bow first and picks up her oar. A moment later they push with their paddles and the raft drifts into the current.

A slow force takes hold of them. Pulling them downriver, sideways at first, then backward, until Jason uses his oar as a rudder to straighten the boat’s nose. When they reach midstream, the raft begins to move with a purpose.

Carrie glances back at him. His face is set. His mouth is shut and his lips are taut. There’s an oxbow not far ahead, and as she watches him steer them toward it his eyes seem to widen, inviting it in. Challenging it. Or this is what she imagines, anyway, because his dark glasses hide the real truth from her.

As they drift into the ever-tightening curve, she senses something might be wrong. It’s either the river, or the raft. She isn’t sure. But first they’re broadside in the current and Jason is digging in like their lives depend on it—like he can change the course of the river just by looking cool in his wetsuit and sunglasses—and then, suddenly, they’re backward, swinging wildly over a deep swirling pool whose right side is shouldered by a massive block of red granite that goes up and up and up so high she can’t see the top of it.


She loses her balance and nearly drops her oar.

“Paddle, goddamnit!”

Jason’s voice cuts above the crashing water, and when the words strike her ears, the fear she’s feeling is swallowed up in a flash of anger. A punk desire to smack the shit out of Jason with her paddle.

“Don’t yell at me, you selfish little jerk!” she snaps, stabbing the water with her oar. “You paddle!”

Jason’s oar blade clatters against the granite wall, and he swipes back at the rock as if it’s human and this is somehow personal. And who knows, maybe it is? He’s just young enough and just immature enough to see the thing as some sort of schoolyard rival. So maybe he thinks it’s buying him something, cracking it with his oar. Maybe he thinks he’s tougher than all outdoors—the river, the mountain, the earth itself. Whatever it is, when the craft gives way and begins floating downstream again, he smiles in his naïve little-boy way as if it’s him who made it happen.

“Paddle!” he shouts. “Paddle!”

Carrie dips her oar, though not because Jason’s ordering her to, and not because the effort seems necessary, but because her arms decide to do it on their own. Because something deep down in the current has taken hold of them, pulling them along by an invisible hand, and her paddle, like the rest of her, is under its control.

Something terrible, some god-awful smell is wafting down the canyon on the water’s back, and the deeper they slip downstream, the worse it smells. Carrie sinks her face into her wetsuit, trying to move out of its way, but it gets worse, and when it’s so bad it’s nearly unbearable, she turns her head and tries holding her breath to escape it.

They round the oxbow and sail into a long stretch of deep water, where just ahead of them, hanging dead from the rocks by a shattered leg, is a filthy old Bighorn sheep. Its fleece is brown and scruffy, hind legs smeared with ragged strings of shit, and when Carrie looks harder she can see that one of its curled horns is broken midway from the tip. The carcass is half in the water and half out. The half that isn’t is besieged by a snarl of buzzing flies.

“Paddle!” Jason shouts. “Fucking paddle!”

They slide down the current, through the rocks into deep slow water, and the raft drifts, cautiously, as if it’s holding its breath. There’s no sensation of urgency now. Only the lazy draw of the current, which pulls them toward the next bend, luring them down the stair-stepped rapids that lead to the monstrous, broad-shouldered stone called Toad Rock. A notorious hazard that splits the river in two.

Jason taps her on the back with his oar blade while the water’s still tame, and when she looks over her shoulder at him, he lowers his paddle, grins and, like a strongman at the carnival, flexes his muscles.

She turns away without a word. He’s such a kid. Such a spoiled, self-centered hotdog of a kid. She doesn’t know what to do with him, is what it all comes down to. She’d like to smack him for the way he treated her back there, where they were supposed to be having a romantic picnic lunch, only what good would it do? What difference would it make? He’s too dumb and self-absorbed to even understand why she’s mad. So, she’ll save it for later. Save it for when they’re out of the boat, back on dry land, and he’s trying to suck up to her for being a serious jerk. In particular, for tossing the nice sandwich she’d made for him down onto the rocks.

The current changes without warning, tightening its pull again. Roughing them up as they move into the rapids. They’re both paddling, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference because they’re caught now, trapped in the middle of the river, and the big-shouldered, toad-shaped stone that splits the water in two is coming up on them like a thug in a dark alley.

She hears Jason shout, but the water-locked stone has all of her attention. She doesn’t want to risk glancing away and crashing headlong into a wall of granite, so she ignores him and digs in with her paddle, long hard strokes. She’s not sure how this is going to come out, but she knows, instinctively, from years skiing with her dad, maybe, that you don’t go into a downhill run with a tentative mind. You attack, full-on. Eyes open and alert.

Within seconds, waves are tossing them. Launching them from their knees, in a progression of flips and flops that brings butterflies to her empty stomach, and she can’t help it. She laughs.

Then, something new happens, and, when it does, it unspools inside her head in what feels like slow motion — as if she’s seeing it, frame by frame, in IMAX 3D. The bow of the raft strikes a small round boulder and high-sides, pitching her into the air — high up, where she’s weightless. Like a cloud. Below her, she can see the roiling, foamy waters swirling around the rocks, and, above her, the blue, blue sky. It’s as if she’s suspended there, in a mist of a thousand-million-trillion water droplets, the wild smell of the river flooding her nostrils. Treading air instead of water.

She smashes face-first into the current as the river turns below her, and, the next moment, her lungs are sealed off and she’s underwater, the rapids stealing away with her body, sucking her down, dragging her to the bottom where darkness envelops everything.

The raft, now emptied, flips and bucks across the rocks, lifted here and there by the wind, skating downriver in a spinning, cartwheeling, incoherent tumble. A hundred yards later, at a difficult oxbow, it slides across the current and lodges itself against a fallen log, the lost paddles trailing after it, first one, then the other, bobbing. Bobbing.



Sheriff’s deputy Wolfort is a small, thin man with a thin mustache and brittle gray hair. He has an annoying accent—or maybe it’s just the way he talks, some kind of speech impediment—but his voice, coupled with stupid questions he’s asking, are driving Jason Mattlock out of his skull.

“You’re sure that’s where she fell in?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“You’ve got no doubts at all about it?”

“No, none.”

The deputy looks at him, then out at the rock that looms in the channel. Lowering his eyes, the deputy scribbles into a small black Moleskin notebook he later puts in his shirt pocket. He stalks the riverbank, taking shots with a digital camera, saying little, except to ask Jason the same ridiculous questions over and over and over.

Before they leave to go back to Indian Paintbrush, the deputy rests his hands on the steering wheel and cocks his head. He looks into the rearview and scratches his earlobe. “You’re sure this is where it happened?”

Jason is fed up with the man’s questions. He’s here to help, and the deputy—an overachieving jerk with a bad hat and cheap-looking badge—is treating him as if he were Ted Bundy. The Green River Killer. Some miscreant fugitive from a History Channel documentary.

“Why do you keep asking me that?” he says. “I already told you. Yes, I’m sure. She fell out of the raft. Down there. Just where I said.”

The deputy takes the black Moleskin from his shirt pocket and reviews his notes. Says quietly, a bit antagonistically, “What were you doing when she fell out?”

Jason pauses before answering. “I was trying to hold on.”

“To what?”

“The gunwale rope.”

The deputy leans forward, looking for something on the dash, but sits back against the seat with a sigh when he’s unable to find it. He picks up his pen and looks down at the rushing water. Taps his bottom lip, and says, “You say she was swept around the left side of the rock, and you went around the right?”


“And then you lost sight of her?”


A great black crow swoops over the river. Jason shivers when he sees it and looks toward the cliffs on the other side of the highway.

The deputy clicks his pen and adds a word or two to the notebook.

“Was she a nice girl?”


“How long did you two date?”

“Half a year. A little longer, maybe.”

“You ever raft together before?”


“So this was, what? A special occasion?”

“I told you. We were just hanging out.”

The deputy nods. Rolls his shoulders and scribbles a few more words.

The crow returns, folding back its wings, dipping toward the stones. It scoops at the air, throws its pinions forward, and lands lightly on a smooth white rock where the lapping water spits at its feet. It stands there, head cocked, and looks up at them.

“What’d you two do up there on the rocks.”

“We ate sandwiches.”

“Picnic lunch?”

“Yeah. A picnic lunch.”

The deputy lifts his chin, scratches his ear again, and says in a slow monotone, “If you ate ‘em, how come they’re scattered on the rocks back there?”

Jason looks out the window. Closes his eyes.

“You two have a set-to?”

“Set to?” Jason sighs. “What’s a set-to?”

“A fight. An argument over something.”

Jason lowers his eyes, stares at the current. “She fell in,” he repeats, voice crushed flat as a penny on a railroad track. “The raft high-sided and she fell in.”

The deputy looks at him, eyebrows raised. “Did you try and save her?”

Weeks pass. Nothing. Still no body. The river refuses to release its hold on Carrie Carson, and for a while she remains alive, if only in the prayers of the people who know her and want her back.

You’re sure that’s where she fell in?

Yes, I’m sure.

Then, where is she? Why hasn’t her body appeared?

I don’t know, goddamnit.

A fly fisherman up on the shoals saw the whole thing, Jason. Did you know that? He talked to Sheriff Wilson yesterday.


No. It isn’t good. It only raised more questions.

What questions?

Did you have a fight, Jason? Did Carrie do something to make you angry? Why were the sandwiches she made scattered on the rocks?

Go fuck yourself.

Was she a nice girl?

Go fuck yourself.

Where is she, Jason?

I told you. The raft high-sided and she fell in. She drowned.

Cadaver dogs are driven in from the next county over. An underwater robotic camera employed to scope the channel. The work is slow going, tedious. But the girl’s remains are discovered in an underwater sieve of rock and debris, eleven feet below the river’s surface. Where the raft high-sided. The spot where Jason Mattlock told Deputy Wolfort she’d been pulled under.

The current in the channel is deadly swift near Toad Rock. Treacherous and unpredictable. A diving team is assembled in Colorado Springs, a hundred miles away, but the recovery crew is instructed to wait until a formal plan can be put into place. To ensure the divers’ safety, the water must be diverted with concrete cofferdams. The hitch here is that the installation of the special dams is going to require legal clearances and hearings. Environmental studies. It’s going to be a hazardous, time-consuming operation, beginning to end, and Carrie’s grieving parents will need to be patient in waiting for her return.


Early one Saturday morning, five weeks after her daughter’s drowning, Anne Carson rises, agitated, after a night of terrifying dreams. She’d known Carrie was in over her head — Christ, no, she didn’t mean to put it that way. She never realized how often she thought in ridiculous clichés — the moment she met Jason Mattlock.

It wasn’t that Anne didn’t like Jason, it’s just that she didn’t think he was right for Carrie. She never thought so, from the moment she shook his hand and he’d given hers an extra little squeeze. Oh, she understood the attraction — Jason with all that curly blonde hair, those broad shoulders, the swimming green eyes — she wasn’t blind. But she didn’t want Carrie getting involved with him. She didn’t like the fact the daughter she so carefully raised and groomed and encouraged academically, might throw away her virginity on some party boy who fancied himself the great American sportsman. She knew she couldn’t keep Carrie’s innocence under lock and key forever — she wasn’t naïve — but she had hoped the boy Carrie finally gave her heart to would be, more, what? Deserving? Hormones made people reckless. Rebellious. Stupid. It made Carrie reckless and rebellious, and her recklessness, egged on by Jason’s juvenile bravado, killed her.

She’d had a heart-to-heart with Carrie while Charlie was away at work one day. A good long talk where she laid it all on the table. She spoke what was in her heart (thinking the truth would be the best way to reform her daughter’s behavior), but she feels bad now about the course the conversation took. No, wait. That isn’t exactly true. Yes, she feels bad — in fact, she feels horrible — but not so much over what she said as the way she said it. The reason she feels awful, the reason it tears at her insides, is because she believes she was far too easy on Carrie. She should have been merciless. Insistent. She should have come right out and said, Carrie, watch yourself with that boy. He’s trouble. If she had, Carrie might still be alive.

I suppose you’re sleeping with him.

These were the first words out of her mouth. The opening salvo that started the war between them.



I’m not going to answer that. Even if I were, it’d be no one’s business but mine. I’m an adult, in case you haven’t noticed. I’m eighteen.

You’re living in my house. You’re my daughter. That makes it my business.

Anne Carson didn’t bring up the incident where she came home early from work and caught Jason coming out of the bathroom, pretending he’d been using the john, when what he was really trying to do was put himself back together so she wouldn’t know he and Carrie had been going at it, hot and heavy, on the living room floor.

Honey, she said. Your dad and I can fix a lot of things, but a broken heart isn’t one of them.

I don’t have a broken heart, Mother.

You will if you don’t get this thing under control. You’ll be leaving for college this fall. Jason won’t. Don’t start things that aren’t worth finishing.

What’s that supposed to mean?

It means don’t throw away your future. That’s what it means.

Carrie could be so sweet and innocent and dumb. So maddeningly stubborn. No wonder Jason couldn’t keep his hands off of her. She had everything every boy wants. The whole package. She was beautiful, an absolute knockout, and smart as a whip. What boy doesn’t enjoy a girl who plays hard to get, but who, after all the heavy breathing and slapping away of hands is still willing to put out?

Sometimes — though she’s ashamed to admit it, even to herself — Anne imagines Carrie and Jason in that way. Doing the things she herself longed to do when she was Carrie’s age, but was too embarrassed or afraid to try. She sees their smooth, beautiful skin come together. Their young limbs tangle themselves in knots. She hears the sighs and feels the hot, breathy hunger of desire on the nape of her neck. But it isn’t that she’s jealous, all right? Or that she wants Jason for herself. Or that she remembers that extra squeeze of the hand and wonders if it was some sort of overture, some sort of mother-daughter fantasy the boy had hoped to fulfill one day. It’s that there’s something in the thinking of it that makes her grieve for her own youth. Makes her sad for the things her daughter had, and deserved more of, but will never know again.

At least tell me you’re using protection.

Leave me alone.

I don’t want to see you pregnant.

Why? Because I might have a daughter like me?

Carrie, please.

I can’t believe we’re talking about this.

Anne Carson knows they were doing it on the floor that day, because even though everything looked good and proper, Jason coming out of the bathroom, tossing back that hair of his, looking surprised—as if what an unexpected pleasure, Mrs. Carson!—it didn’t change the fact that the toilet in that downstairs bathroom had been broken for months. One more honey-do repair Charlie’s been promising to take care of but hasn’t yet found the time to fix.

Friends ask Anne whether she thinks there was anything weird or suspicious about the way Carrie died. Whether she thinks maybe Jason Mattlock did have something to do with it. Why else, they ask her, would the guy have been called a “person of interest” by the sheriff’s department? She tells them no. Unequivocally, no. She says that if Jason had been involved in some sort of foul play, the authorities would have uncovered it. It was an accident, plain and simple. Even the fly fisherman who claimed to have seen what happened that day, firsthand, from somewhere up river, insisted there’d been no ill will in the mishap. Yet after saying all of this, Anne never tells her friends what’s really in her heart. That, political correctness aside, yes, fuck yes she blames Jason for her daughter’s death. For her daughter being trapped, even now, in that underwater sieve. But she keeps it to herself. Locks it away in her heart because it’s somehow easier and more comforting to play the sorrowful, enigmatic saint than the heartless she-bitch out for revenge. It feels right, somehow, to make them wonder at her pain.

Do not let that boy get you in trouble, she’d warned Carrie the day of the rafting trip. The morning she found Carrie in the kitchen putting together a romantic little picnic lunch of avocado sandwiches and diced fruit and cookies. Am I making myself clear?

Carrie had turned brusquely, setting her hip. Yes, Mother! Quite clear! Abundantly clear! Transparently clear!

She didn’t realize it for a moment, but when she’d spun round she cut herself with the knife she was holding. Oh! Oh! She’d clutched her hand, tears springing to her eyes.

Anne ran to her, but the damage was nothing. The skin barely broken. She’d folded the poor, sweet girl in her arms, and the knife fell from her fingers and clattered to the floor. Men are weak, she whispered in an iron voice. They’re slaves to their desires.

I don’t want to hear anymore, Mother! It’s a picnic, for God’s sake. Not my honeymoon!

The girl struggled to break free, but Anne would not let go. We’re stronger than they are, Carrie. Tell me you’ll be strong. Tell me you won’t let him break your heart.

She sees now how wrong she was. That it was Jason who was the stronger of the two. Which is why he was the one who was able to swim out of the river that day. The one who was able to come home to his mother and father alive. The one who was able to use her daughter to get what he wanted (she can’t stop thinking about this, or about that bastard fisherman who floozied-up the news with his heartless story about Carrie being involved in some sort of amorous activity) then watch like a spectator as she was sucked under the current.

When she wanders downstairs in this numbing fog of grief, she finds Charlie standing before the fireplace in his pajamas, staring into the cold black andirons like it’s Christmas morning and he’s warming himself before a crackling fire.

“Charlie, honey.”

Charlie doesn’t answer. It’s as if he’s in a coma. As if he’s been in a coma for weeks. Jason Mattlock stopped by yesterday to talk to him, and that’s what made it worse. The boy’s visit unhinged him—as if he wasn’t bad enough already.

Jason had come to apologize in his own narcissistic way, and while Anne was pleased that the drowning had taken its toll on the boy (he looked as bad as Charlie), she refused to allow herself to feel sorry for him. Besides, she didn’t believe in the sincerity of his remorse. Carrie — her Carrie — was dead, her body trapped in the river, and he was alive, standing here in her house — smug, arrogant, as clueless as ever — and, even though he might not have been criminally negligent, she wanted him to know that she wasn’t going to help him feel better by telling him it wasn’t his fault. She didn’t care about his boyish grief, and she came close to saying so. He was a kid, for Christ’s sake. An adolescent in a man’s body. And he’d get over it. A few months from now (when the touch of Carrie’s fingers were so far from his consciousness they’d be nothing but a dream), he was going to use this unlikely story of his, this tragic story of her daughter’s drowning, to endear himself to as many women as he could find. That’s right. He’d be bedding a whole new flock of girls just by tearing up a little, making puppy-dog eyes and telling them his sad story of “the beautiful girl he once loved and lost.” Sympathy fuck, she’d have liked to say to Jason’s face. That’s what you call it, isn’t it? A sympathy fuck?

Charlie didn’t say much to Jason, but he listened, politely, and nodded, and shook the boy’s hand before he left. Shook his hand! Charlie and she were worlds apart in that way. Charlie could forgive anybody for anything. It was one of his weaknesses, one of the things that kept him from getting any further ahead in life, from aspiring to be more than just the head ski instructor at, let’s face it, one of the state’s lamest resorts. When Jason had said goodbye, and Charlie had risen and thanked him, she turned and walked out of the room. She couldn’t make herself watch.


He stands there before the soot-darkened bricks of the fireplace. Motionless. A statue.

“Charlie, you can’t stay like this.”

Charlie’s hair has fallen forward on his face, and, though she can’t see his eyes, she knows what they look like. Black and empty. He’s lost weight, an alarming amount of weight, and it shows in places you’d never think. His hands. His fingers. His wrists. She thinks he needs exercise, and tells him so. She says he’s letting himself go, and that if he isn’t careful, it could cost him his job, which they can’t afford to lose. She doesn’t say you’ll lose me, too, though God help her, she’s thought it because this thing, this terrible weight they’ve been forced to carry, it’s killing them both. When the drowning first happened, they were able to hold one another up. Now, it’s as if their daughter’s memory has turned to lead, dragging them into their own inescapable hell. Suffocating them while they wait for her body’s return.

“Charlie, you need to get out. I can’t bear having you lock yourself up like this anymore. It isn’t good for you. It isn’t good for us. Carrie—” She stops herself. She won’t say it because, like all the other clichés that once rolled off her tongue with no meaning, the words now seem like barbs flung into her heart. She wants to tell him that Carrie would have been heartbroken to see him like this. That she would have told him to stand up, and shake it off. Get on with his life. She would have said, Daddy, I can’t bear to see you like this, not over something I’ve done. I just can’t bear it.

“We’re still here, Charlie,” is the best she can muster. “That’s all I know anymore. Carrie’s gone, and we’re still here. So, we have to make peace with it. We have to go on.”

Charlie has no words for her.

“You should get out,” she says. “Get out and do something that makes you happy. Something you used to do with Carrie. Why not take a hike in mountains? Or go for a bike ride? Dust off your fly rod and go fishing? Carrie loved the water, Charlie. She’d be happy to think you went fishing. She’d be proud of you, knowing you could go back to the river and not be sad on her account.”

His eyes are lost in the soot and stone.

Anne lifts his hand, kisses it.

“I’m going out, Charlie. I’m sorry, but I need to get out. If you don’t want to go out by yourself, you should come along with me. We can go downtown and stroll around. Get some air, some exercise. How about it? I’ll buy you an ice cream cone.”

He shakes his head, no.

“All right, all right. I won’t press.” She gives him back his hand. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you a call, all right? Later? And if you don’t answer, it’ll make me happy. You know why? Because it’ll mean you’re out doing something. Anything. So, don’t answer, okay? Don’t be here when I call. Go for a drive, anything. Just don’t be here when I phone.”

An hour later, she’s wandered through every store downtown and is still going out of her mind. The grip this thing has on them, the way it won’t let go is worse than a ball and chain. It’s a disease. An evil spell that makes her think even if someone were to come along and change everything back the way it was, make it all right again, her heart would still feel the shadow of her daughter’s death. The mark is so deep, the scar so ugly, there will never be any repairing it. Not in this world or the next. She’ll never be able to look into a mirror again without seeing the woman she’s become, a woman she doesn’t recognize anymore.

She stops. Finds herself standing before the marquis of the old Rialto Theatre. A movie poster in the display window catches her eye, and she walks inside, following the impulse that’s been guiding her since she woke up this morning. The first thing she notices is the cool. The dark cool that always meant relief. Not just from the heat or rain, but from the outside world. She gives in. Goes up to the ticket counter, and pays for a pass. Walks up the stairs to the balcony and finds a seat a few places down from a young couple, necking, like it was the old days.

She’s in the movie for half an hour, maybe longer, before she realizes she hasn’t the first notion of what’s taken place on the screen. Or why the actors have suddenly broken into song. Not that it matters. She didn’t come for the movie so much as the chance at finding a moment’s distraction. But the thing that’s bothering her, that’s making her shift uncomfortably in her seat, is that even here, she hasn’t been able to outrun her thoughts. Getting up, she knocks knees with the kissing lovers and side-steps down the row, where she exits into the aisle.

Outside she remembers the promise she made to call Charlie. But goddamnit, she’s left her cell phone back at the house—it’s like she can’t remember anything anymore!—so she’s forced to fumble through her bag for change and slot it into a payphone outside the movie house.

No one answers, and when she hangs up she feels a wave of relief wash through her. He’s done it, she thinks. Thank God. He’s taken her advice. He’s gone out to get some fresh air and a little exercise, and maybe when he gets home he’ll look human again. She can only hope. When she remembers Charlie the way he was, back before this hopeless bag of shit landed in their laps—back when the two of them were ordinary people with ordinary lives—she remembers how she never had any doubts about her love for him. It was always there. Permanent. Like gravity. But now she’s embarrassed to say that there are times when she can barely tolerate his presence. Barely will herself to be in the same room with him, he’s become so pathetic.

She decides to stop at the liquor store on the way home and buy a bottle of wine. With Charlie out of the house for the afternoon, she could draw a bath, pour herself a glass of chardonnay, and light a few candles. Sink into oblivion. The blissful places she used to know when Carrie was alive and all it took to drift into the pure, warm, simple pleasure of the moment was a sip of alcohol and a hot bubble bath.

“Hey, Douglas,” she says, holding up a chilled vintage she’s just pulled from the cooler for the clerk to see. “Is this any good?”

He lowers his head, squints, and speaks to her over the unlit cigarette dangling from his bottom lip. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Have you tried it?”

He rakes his graying mustache with his fingernails. “I don’t drink anymore.”


“Court order.” He shrugs. “Meant to cut back anyway.”

He asks if she needs anything else, and she says no, she’s good. But when she gets behind the wheel of the car, something grips her, and she realizes she isn’t quite as good as she thought she was. It isn’t that she’s sick. It’s nothing like that. It’s just that Charlie has popped into her head again, and while she doesn’t know why, she’s getting this weird vibe. This wifely sort of intuition that’s like radar, and when it bears down on her—going blip, blip, blip in her head — she decides to forget about the bakery where she hoped to pick up a baguette and a slice of coffee cake and head straight home instead.

Every weekend since Carrie fell from that raft, Anne and Charlie have stuck their heads in the sand. Lived like exiles in their own little village. They shut themselves off from everyone, friends and neighbors alike, so they wouldn’t have to answer any more questions. What about the recovery operation? What was holding up its approval? What bureaucrat bastard refuses to return a dead girl’s body to her grieving parents? No. They had no choice but to turn themselves into ghosts. Insulate themselves from the news and the telephone. It was self-preservation is what it was; their only hope of remaining sane until Carrie was home again.

She flicks off the radio, and presses her foot to the accelerator, racing out of town. Their house is way out in the sticks. Anne’s never had a good feel for exactly how long, but today she’s getting a sense of it after having been obliged to count every turn and bump in the road, and curses every RV and horse trailer impeding her otherwise swift advance home.

When she turns into the drive, the back wheels spin in the gravel and send the Range Rover fishtailing. That’s when she finally pulls her foot away from the pedal. Easy, she tells herself. Easy. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t go buying trouble.

The vehicle slows under her braking foot, and rolls the rest of the way up the drive, coming to a stop in front of the garage door. She leaves the engine running for a moment or two while she collects her thoughts, reminding herself she can’t just burst into the house looking hysterical. She needs to be clear, rational. Normal. She needs to remind herself that she loves Charlie, and that she always has, and that this summer has done terrible things to both of them. Worn them down and made them crazy. Hurt them in ways they never deserved. It wasn’t their fault. They would’ve taken their grief and heartache and gone off by themselves and found a way to survive if it had been possible. But it hadn’t worked that way.

She shuts off the engine and gathers her breath. Counts two, three, four, trying to slow her heart through the sheer force of her own will. The garage door opener’s been on the fritz for six months now — about as long as the downstairs toilet Jason Mattlock pretended to be using the day she caught him and Carrie screwing on the living room floor — so, when she gets out of the car, she has to set the bottle of wine down in the gravel in order to raise the door manually (using both hands, at that), because the goddamn thing always jams halfway up.

Charlie’s waders are hanging from the rafters. She sees this as the door rises, and the first thing that goes through her head is—wait, that isn’t right. She takes a step back then. Stunned, her splayed hand comes to rest on her breastbone. She doesn’t have to push the garage door up any further to confirm the mistake in her thinking. Or to know her life has just taken another deep desperate plunge into darkness. But she raises it anyway. Gives it another good yank, feeling it loosen under the slip-and-pull of its own momentum as it rolls up and disappears into the rafters, she takes two steps back, knocking over the wine bottle with her shoe. A long, soul-deadening look at the scene before her confirms what she’s already suspected but has so far refused to believe. What she’ll never really believe, though the truth of it will haunt her until the end of her days.

Shadows separate themselves from the light, and shapes come forward out of the darkness. Among them, resolving itself to the intruding glare, is the twisting form of a man at the end of his rope.

Jason Mattlock is there the day of the recovery operation, looking down through field glasses from the rock ledge where he and Carrie spent their last few hours together arguing over a picnic lunch. He’s come back every week since her drowning, still trying to make sense of what happened. He told himself he owed it to her. To her father, too, who he’d always considered to be a decent if somewhat odd and unknowable man. Her mother? He doesn’t know what to think about that woman, and never has. She left for California after her husband’s suicide, but Jason thinks maybe that’s where she always wanted to be anyway since all she ever seemed to do — at least if you asked Carrie — was bitch about her life up here in the mountains.

He watches as scuba gear and other equipment are ferried across the river on nylon ziplines guided into place by stern-looking men wearing gloves and hardhats. There are teams of rescuers on either bank, east and west. Just downriver, Toad Rock stands tall and mocking.

He stares at the great stone monolith now, the summer all but gone, remembering the fateful day he and Carrie set out in his raft. He can still smell the water. Still feel the sun on the back of his neck. Still imagine the smooth wet stone against the palm of his hand, and the sound of Carrie’s voice before the current swallowed her.

The rescue team gathers around a central figure, the incident commander or whatever they call the man in charge of these sorts of operations. They confer for a long time, several of the men pointing to different sections of the water, nodding and gesticulating. When they finally agree on whatever it was that has their attention, they move away and the first of two divers—a big man with broad shoulders and sturdy thighs—straightens himself and steps forward along the stones. He’s outfitted in a gray and black drysuit with gloves and an oxygen tank. His face is fitted behind a glass mask, and a special tether is rigged to his body harness.

Carrie’s memory comes shimmering back, now, as Jason watches the man wade into the bright chilly water. It’s winter, and she’s wearing a ski jacket. Black tights. A smile as white and dazzling as the powdered snow on the mountains.

You ought to wear sunblock, he says, walking up behind her with a pale ale in his hand. You’re gonna spoil your complexion.

She turns around. She’s just come in from the slopes, and her face is red and windburned except for the white around her eyes where her sunglasses protected her delicate young skin from the sun. She’s been on the slopes all day, but this is the first time she’s noticed him.

They stare at one another. Gawk, really. And when she allows herself to tumble into his beautiful green eyes like a little girl throwing out her arms and falling backward into a patch of wildflowers on a summer afternoon in the mountains, his heart is there to catch her.

Do I know you?

You know my type.

What? She smiles. Strong and silent?

He puts out his hand. Hi. I’m Jason.


They chat. He learns her dad is the resort’s head ski instructor. That her last name is Carson, and that she’s just graduated from high school, with honors, and that she’s going to college in the fall to study biology. Get a degree that will allow her to work in the mountains. She likes skiing, she says. But she loves water, rivers in particular, and she wants to get a job that puts her closer to them. Forever.

He smiles. He’s listening, but he can’t help himself. She’s so hot, so goddamn gorgeous, it’s all he can do to keep from sweeping her into his arms, then and there, and kissing her.

Buy you a beer?

I’m underage.

So am I. Technically.

What does that mean?

It means I’m a man who lives outside the law.

Of course, it does.

Johnny Scofflaw. That’s what they call me.

When they’re not calling you Jason.


She laughs. Blushing.

Here, he says, handing her the bottle.

She looks around. Takes it from him. Downs a quick sip and hands it back, giggling. My dad would kill me if he saw me do that.

Jason brings the bottle to his mouth and drinks. We could go upstairs. Your dad wouldn’t see you there. My buddy, Ryan, has a room on the third floor. And I happen to know there’s a cold six-pack sitting on the windowsill. What do you say?

She hesitates. Tells him she doesn’t think so. But when he holds out his hand and smiles his million-dollar smile, she takes a quick glance over her shoulder and gives back with a million-dollar smile of her own—plus change. I know I shouldn’t, she says. But all right.

They pretend nothing’s up as they exit the lounge. As if they might or might not be leaving together. But everybody in the lodge sees where they’re heading, and it’s so predictable and naïve and dumb, there’s a strange, comic element to it. Comic, yet sweet. Because everybody’s been there at least once in his own life, and it’s understood how that sort of electricity can trip a breaker and short-circuit your judgment.

Jason has to keep his pace in check as they go up the stairs. She doesn’t see it, but he’s hurrying. And that’s not his style. Not at all. When they reach the door to his buddy Ryan Cunningham’s trashed-out, 50-bucks-a-night, toxic-dump of a hotel room, he concentrates on keeping his cool. Keeping the key from shaking in his hand.

She’s so beautiful, this girl. So incredibly good-looking. And, yeah, it only gets better with every shred of clothing she leaves on the floor. Jacket. Tights. Mock turtleneck. The rest. He scoops her in his arms, lays her on the bed. Presses his lips to hers, slowly but hungrily.

The rest is a blur. The flicker of a long-gone memory. Like a picture somebody took with an old SLR after they’d slowed the shutter speed way, way down. The whole thing happened so fast. So very fast. And then it was over.


Nick Young

I was there again and didn’t want to be because I hated the goddamned place. But now that there was a body in the weeds, I had no choice. Not as the duly elected sheriff of Brandon County.

So, with the hour pushing one on a Friday night, having been torn away from my drink at the Eight Ball and the flickering prospect of a one-night romance, there I was standing in a chill rain, shirt soaked through, at the place I loathed. I fished a pack of Winstons out of my pants pocket, cupped a cigarette to shield it from the rain while I flicked my lighter until it caught, and pulled in a lungful. I was at the edge of the gravel access road that ran back between the fields to the blacktop into town. I smoked, watching the raindrops sheet through the headlights of one of the county cruisers. About the worst way I could imagine to start the weekend.

Charlie Blake had his big flashlight up in the air, angled down on the body while the coroner looked it over. He was at the bottom of a ditch about ten feet below the level of the road. Charlie was on the incline which was so steep that he had to stand with his feet far enough apart to brace himself so he didn’t slide. The body was that of a female, her bare brown skin glistening wet and cold in the flashlight beam.

Charlie cast a look back at me. His face was partially shadowed, but I could tell he was bothered, unnerved would be the right word. He was young, a fairly new deputy, and this was his first homicide.

I didn’t know it was murder, not officially. But I was calling it that. Hell, under the circumstances — a naked corpse that by every appearance had been rolled into the ditch — could it be anything else? A good many thoughts ran through my mind as I stood in the rain, but the one thing I never considered was just how out of hand life was about to get.

I’m getting ahead of myself, which is my nature, I guess. Or, so my ex was fond of reminding me, right up until the moment we signed the divorce papers in her lawyer’s office.

“You’ll never learn, Stip,” she had said with a weary shake of her head, as her attorney handed her a cheap, black ballpoint with the firm’s name embossed on it in gold lettering.

“And you’ll never let me forget, Bobbi,” I recall responding, with a good bit of venom. “Among my myriad other sins.”

She just rolled her eyes, put her John Hancock on the dotted line, and we walked out of Bannon, Bannon and Humphries man and ex-wife.

I suppose I’d better lay some necessary groundwork here. I am Steven MacNeil and I am forty-one years old. Everybody knows me by the nickname Stip, which was given to me by my mother when, as she tells the story, I was three and insisted on calling myself “Stippie” instead of “Stevie.” Rather than fight what she foresaw as a losing battle, she opted to go with the flow.

I have lived all my life in the town of Humboldt Junction, Illinois, which is the Brandon County seat. If you look at a map, the county is in the part of the state bordered by the Mississippi that bulges west toward Iowa near Keokuk.

I already mentioned that I am the sheriff, first elected to the job seven years ago, required to face the voters in one more. Law enforcement is all I’ve ever done with my adult life, minus a two-year hitch in the Army just as the Vietnam fiasco was playing out to its sorry fucking conclusion. I started as a town cop, then moved to the sheriff’s department for a few years before one day it hit me like Saul on the road to Damascus that I could run the jailhouse show a helluva lot better than Franklin Pine had been running it. So, when Frank announced his retirement, I decided to make my leap into elective politics.

First time around, I ran against Cory Fettridge, who was nothing more than a dilettante from the west end of the county. Didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground when it came to police work, but he had the family name. His old man owned a big John Deere dealership and a few thousand acres of choice farmland to go with it. He also had plenty of campaign green to splash all over the map. But when election day rolled around, the voters — at least in my view, though I’m sure Corey would dispute it — had the good sense to see things for what they were, and I ended up with the gold badge.

I’ve got three deputies under me, responsible for covering an area of roughly 850 square miles with a population just over 30,000. More than a quarter of those folks live in Humboldt Junction, which is close to the geographic middle of the county; the rest are in the small towns and villages that are scattered like buckshot over the countryside.

Aside from a couple of modest factories and some retail in a fledgling mall on the eastern edge of Humboldt Junction, the name of the game in Brandon County is agriculture — corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. Those are the marquee crops, always have been. Line up a hundred farmers and ninety-nine of them will tell you they’re growing one or the other or some combination of them.

The hundredth farmer? Well, that would be Floyd Ripperton. His money is in peas. Sweet peas. It’s not only his farm, which is big enough. He grows the peas, harvests them and then cans them at a small plant in town. Sells them regionally under the label Pick’d Rite. Nowhere in the same league as Del Monte or Green Giant but big enough so that a few generations of the Ripperton family have done just fine by those little tasteless green balls, if you don’t mind me interjecting my opinion.

Now here’s the thing about Floyd — he’s a self-important asshole. You know the type, I’m sure. He carries on like he owns the town and the county. He’s never shy about reminding anyone within earshot how many people his operation employs, how much he contributes to the tax base and all the juice he claims he’s got with the legislature in Springfield. He’s been divorced twice and is now running around with a flashy little bottle blonde. If you believe the grapevine, old Floyd was at a convention in Kansas City when he met his current beloved — dancing at a gentleman’s club called Kit Kat A Go-Go. She’s less than half his age, which is fifty-one or two. That means she’s not much older than his son, Richie. And he’s another one. Chip off the old block. A seventeen-year-old kid who’s taken after the old man in all the worst ways.

So, I have not much use for the Rippertons, which goes double for their labor practices and the main reason I detested going out to the migrant camp they operated south of town.

Now, as you might surmise, a homicide in Brandon County was a big deal. It goes without saying that I wanted to solve the crime as quickly as I could. I also wanted to make sure I did it right.

But from the get-go, I had problems with Floyd.

Let’s get back to where this story began, the Saturday night in the rain. By the time the coroner had finished up at the scene and the ambulance boys had taken the body to the hospital morgue it was nearly three. An hour later, after a hot shower and a shot of rye, I called it a night. Or tried to. It wasn’t easy putting the image of the victim out of my mind. Not that I hadn’t seen a dead body or two in my time. But this one had hit me differently — young girl, pretty, no more than fifteen or sixteen, I guessed — the look of raw fear fixed in her face and eyes, which had seen everything but could tell us nothing.

I’d just drifted off when, at a quarter-past-five, my phone started ringing. It was Ripperton, and no hour was too early for him to behave like an overbearing prick.

“Stip? Floyd Ripperton.” I rolled onto my back, jabbing a thumb and forefinger into my eyes, trying to rub some life into them.

“Yeah, Floyd . . . what can I do for you?”

“That’s a damned good question, Stip, the goddamned sixty-four thousand dollar question.”

Of course I knew why he was on the phone, but I confess that sometimes I succumb to a wicked passive-aggressive impulse (another quality Bobbi had found endearing). In Floyd’s case, I couldn’t help myself.

“What’s on your mind, Floyd?”

“What’s on my mind, sheriff, is a dead body and what you intend to do about it.

“Well, how do you suppose I’d answer that question, Floyd?”

“Is that supposed to reassure me?”

“I don’t know what it does for you. What do you think grilling me at — what the hell times is it? — five o’clock in the morning does for me?”

“Now, look, Stip, I’m in the middle of harvest season with a bumper crop to bring in and a window of opportunity that’s going to close pretty damned fast, especially with all this rain lately. I shouldn’t have to remind you that as the largest single employer in Brandon County, I’ve got a couple of dozen cannery workers not to mention a hundred illiterate Mexican pickers to deal with. I guaran-goddamn-tee you they’ll start raising hell about this soon enough. So, again, let me ask you — and it’s a simple enough question, sheriff — what are you going to do about it?” I let that hang in the air but only for a moment.

“Well, the first thing I’m going to do is get off the phone with you.” And I hung up on him. Just like that. Ignorant bastard.

Now, Floyd did have a point. All the things he said were true, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of agreeing with him. With sleep now out of the question, I got dispatch at the jail on the horn to alert all the deputies to a six o’clock sit-down at Alma’s.

At the appointed hour, the four of us were gathered around one of Alma’s big round tables up near the front window. Along with Charlie Blake, there were Norm Guthrie and Mike Strund. Alma sauntered our way with order pad in hand.

“If I had any criminal friends, I’d let’em know the cream of county law enforcement ain’t out on patrol but right here at this table.”

“Morning, Alma,” I said. “How are you on this fine Saturday?” She returned a crooked smile.

“The dream is alive, Stip, and I’m livin’ it. A round of coffee to start?” She didn’t need to ask, and she didn’t wait for an answer before turning away. There was a bit of half-hearted banter while we waited for Alma to return with our coffee. No one had that much sleep, and that meant the joviality was rather muted. Once Alma had set the mugs down, she looked around the table. “You boys ready to order?”

“Give us a few, okay?” I asked.

“You may have as many as you want. Just wave me over when you’re ready.” As I watched her walk away, her place slower now, to be sure, it struck me that I had been coming to her cafe since my dad had brought me in for the first time more than than thirty-five years before. It would be impossible to imagine the town without Alma’s and Alma’s without Alma.

“Before you get to distracted by the menu,” I said, turnng to the matter at hand, “let’s do some business.” I took a sip of my coffee, shook out a cigarette and lit it.

“We got any idea who the girl is?” asked Mike Strund.

“We do not, but I expect we’ll know soon enough. After the autopsy, and once we start talking to people at the camp.”

“Bound to be one of theirs,” said Norm Guthrie.

“I suspect,” I said.

“Whose else could it be?” Norm went on. “Them people . . .” I turned my head in Norm’s direction and looked hard at him.

“What’s that mean, ‘them people?'”

“Well, you know . . . .”

“No, I don’t, Norm, that’s why I’m asking.” I knew exactly where he was coming from, but I wanted him on the hook in front of the others. Norm was the oldest of the deputies, a holdover from the Frank Pine days. I was never crazy about the guy, but you learn to work with what you’ve got.

“I mean, them being Mexicans and all.” The other two guys at the table were starting to fidget. I figure, they knew what was brewing.

“And what’s ‘being Mexicans’ got to do with the price of soybeans?”

“C’mon, Stip.” I figure Norm knew what was coming, too. But, having stepped in shit, he wasn’t smart enough to realize that no matter where he put his foot, he was going to leave a mess. “You know, they ain’t like us. They come into town, dirty. Some of them are just about as dark as ni — you know, coloreds. Can’t speak nothin’ but Mexican. They — “

“No, Norm,” I cut him off.

“No? What do you mean, ‘no?'”

“Not ‘Mexican.’ They don’t speak ‘Mexican.'” I wanted to add, you fucking dimwit, but knew it wouldn’t help.

Mike Strund had lit a cigarette and turned away, staring out Alma’s window into the early-morning fog. Charlie, who’d emptied a packet of sweetener into his coffee was stirring it with all the concentration of someone peering into a microscope. Norm’s face began twisting sourly.

“They’re from Mexico, ain’t they? So what else would they be speaking but Mexican?”

“It’s Spanish. They speak Spanish,” I said, trying to keep my tone of voice level. Norm was getting increasingly annoyed at being called out.

“Spanish . . . Mexican — whatever the hell you want to call it, they don’t sound like us. They don’t speak American.” He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms.

“Neither do we,” I said.

Norm leaned forward, staring at me with the look only the profoundly ignorant display without the slightest hint of self-consciousness.

“What are you talking about now?” he demanded.

“We don’t speak ‘American,’ Norm. We speak English.”

“Well, Jesus-my-fucking-Christ, Stip!” he muttered bitterly and sat back in his chair again.

“Now listen up, all three of you. I’m only going to say this once — and I shouldn’t have to say it at all — we are dealing with the killing of a person here . . . a person who happens to be Mexican. And, the last time I checked, Mexicans are part of the human race. So I expect you to treat everyone you deal without at Rippington’s camp with that in mind. Is that clear?”

I got nods all around, Norm’s more grudging than the other two. In one of those cheap paperbacks they sell in the wire rack at the drugstore, this is the part where you’d read something like “tension crackled in the air like a live electric wire.” It wasn’t so melodramatic.

The bells above the door tinkled as a couple of new customers came in, Alma returned to our table, topped off our coffee and took our breakfast orders.

After we finished our meal and I was on my way to the jail, I thought about the stupidity of Norm Guthrie and what it reminded me of all over again. That kind of ignorance is a lot more deep-seated around Brandon County than most would like to admit. Hell, most people would have you believe the county is chock-full from end to end with nothing but kind, Christian folk. And I’m not saying those people don’t exist, but guaranteed they are scarcer than many would let on. So, in my experience growing up and what I’ve seen as sheriff, there’s a sort of benign indifference. Those people — the Mexicans — were around, but like the clouds, they pass through. No one pays them much mind, or maybe they go out of their way to avoid them, choosing to wrap themselves in ignorance about what the migrants’ lives really amounted to, especially when they’re forced to work for Floyd Ripperton.

Most folks around here no doubt wouldn’t agree with me, wouldn’t understand why I even gave it a second thought. Norm had looked at me through his haze of bitterness at being called to accounts in front of the others with bafflement. I could see it, almost hear him saying it to himself — What the fuck?!?

It wasn’t the first time. Swing back for a moment to my ex-wife. During the waning days of our marital idyll, I had an occasion to come to a dispute with some of the locals over the presence of a Black man in a county park. And the reason it became an issue for me is because of how this park is situated. While most of its five square miles lie outside of Humboldt Junction, under an agreement worked out a few generations before my time, a finger of the land extended into the geographic area of the town. I point this out because that bit of the park is not within the town’s jurisdiction but the county’s. And this came to a head one late October weekend when word got around that there was an older Black man who had pitched a small tent in a spot amid a stand of maple trees. Well, apparently that was too close for comfort for some of the good townspeople. They started calling the city police. Some complained of feeling fearful, forcing them to lock their doors. Others fretted that their views of the fall foliage were being spoiled by the presence of a “dirty, old Negro hobo.” You think I’m kidding? I am not.

Under the system that had been in place for years, any law enforcement questions involving that sliver of the park directed at the city police were kicked over to the sheriff”s department. So, I decided I would find out for myself what this grave threat to the local peace amounted to.

It took no time at all to determine that the man, whose name was Bryson Chandler, was harmless. “An itin’rint world traveler,” he called himself. Said he would be moving on in a few days after he rested up a bit and tended to an infected paw on his pet collie, which, he said, made it very hard for her to walk.

“I don’t aim to cause nobody no trouble, sheriff. Me and Annie just need a a little break from the road.”

I saw no harm in it, and true to his word, within four days, Bryson Chandler and Annie were gone. But, let me tell you, during those four days, I caught as much shit over leaving that poor old guy and his dog alone as anything I’ve ever done. And a healthy measure of that grief came from my ex-wife.

She got all wound up, as she usually did, after a couple of gin-and-tonics, her “little g-and-t ohs,” which she insisted on singing à la an oldie by a band called Ronnie and the Daytonas. It annoyed the hell out of me, which I came to see was, apparently, the desired intent.

“Who the hell is this old man to you anyway, Steven?” It was her custom to refer to me by my formal Christian name on these occasions. I had just opened the refrigerator and taken out a fresh can of beer, likely my fourth or fifth, so you can get some idea of how this conversation was shaping up.

“Just another wandering soul on life’s happy highway, Bobbi. Is that a concept you can grasp?”

“You can leave your sarcastic shit out of it. People are talking.” I took a long pull at the beer.

“Are they now?”

“I’m getting stopped on the street, at the store. I was waiting to get checked out at the Kroger this morning when Toni Sanders, who was in line right behind me, started in. What was strong with my husband? Why wasn’t he doing his job? The old man was scaring her kids and ruined their plans for a family marshmallow roast in the park.” That brought me up short.

“Ruined a ‘family marshmallow roast?’ Are you serious?”

“Well, Toni was real serious, I’ll tell you that. And why shouldn’t she be?”

“Look, Bobbi, that man out there isn’t bothering anyone. In a couple of days, he’ll be moving on.” Bobbi, who was mixing herself another “little g-and-t-oh,” paused, her mouth setting into a thin, hard line.

“I guess a lot of people — and I’m one of them — just don’t get it. Why are you more worried about an old Black bum than you are about your friends and neighbors who, I might remind you, are also voters?”

“Well, here’s a word you and all my friends and neighbors — the voters — can try on for size: compassion. That old man out there — he’s no bum — is tired. His dog is hurt. They need a few days’ rest, that’s all.” I tipped the beer can and took a long drink. I wasn’t finished. “And let me tell you something else — nobody would be bitching and moaning if it weren’t for the shade of his skin.” She rolled her eyes and leaned her head back.

“Oh, so now we’re all racists? she said indignantly.

“I’m saying that a lot of people in this town have got feet that shoe would fit. I know it, and so do you, Bobbi.”

“Go straight to hell, Stip.”

No need to recount anymore. I’m sure you get the point. The attitude of my deputy? Don’t for a minute think it’s an isolated case.

Word gets around fast in a small town, and by the middle of the morning, everyone and their uncle had gotten wind of the body. And things started to happen quickly. Doc Ramsay completed the autopsy. His conclusion shocked no one: the girl had been strangled. She’d also been raped. At that point, no one had come forward to identify the girl. That’s when the phone rang. I could have guessed before I picked up.

“Stip, goddammit, you better get on out to the camp,” Floyd Ripperton fairly bellowed. “I’ve got a hundred Mexicans all yammering at once about what’s happened. They’re mad as hell, threatening to stay out of the fields. I can’t have that, Stip. You hear me?”

“Calm down, Floyd. We’re working on the case. We need to identify the victim, first of all. Hasn’t anybody come forward to report a missing child? This girl couldn’t have been more than fifteen, sixteen.”

“There’s a mother and father. Gomez or Gonzales, maybe. I can never keep them straight. They say their daughter’s been missing since early last night. Name of Maria. Anyway, they’re crying and carrying on, stirring the others up. We need to put a lid on this right now, Stip.”

“We’re working on it, Floyd. It’s only been twelve hours. Show a little patience.” Didn’t I say he acted like he owned the county?

I did need to get back out to the camp and see what my deputies had found out — get a handle on the case. But I was going to require some help. Floyd had a foreman who worked the farm. He spoke a little Spanish, enough to boss the workers which is all Floyd really gave a shit about. That didn’t cut it as far as I was concerned, so I called up Dennis Prater, the Spanish teacher at the high school. Good guy. I knew him, felt I could trust him, which was not what my gut told me about Floyd’s man. Dennis agreed to give me a hand , so I picked him up and we drove the three miles out to the camp.

The early-morning fog was gone, but the day remained overcast, promising more rain to come. Fine. It matched my mood, which was only growing darker the closer Dennis and I got to our destination. There was no need to prepare him for what he was going to see at the camp; he knew only too well.

Dennis belonged to a small Unitarian Universalist church in the next town over. I’d heard some of the locals dismiss them scornfully as the “U-U Yo-Yos,” presumably because they looked down on the Unitarians’ theological take on the world, which was pretty laid back by comparison. Love thy neighbor and later with the fire-and-brimstone. All to the good as far as I was concerned. Plus, I was impressed by their charity, and that’s where Dennis came in. Because he could speak the language, he was a key to the church’s efforts every year to help provide for the workers — hygeine basics like soap and shampoo, canned goods and decent used clothing.

When I tell you the place the migrants were forced to live was about one step removed from those concentration camps you’ve seen in the old newsreels, you can take it to the bank. Floyd Ripperton’s idea of accommodations for these poor bastards was two wooden barracks, each holding fifty people, a much smaller building that housed a few crude shower stalls and pair of ancient washing machines. A third building, not much more than a hut really, served as the field office. All the wood siding had been badly abused for many years by Mother Nature. It was way past the time when a paintbrush might have made a difference. The roofs had shingles torn and hanging, with patches where they were gone altogether. And all around was bare dirt which became a nasty muck when it rained. This little cluster of happiness was just steps from the first of the big pea fields. Close to their work. Just the way Floyd wanted it.

When Dennis and I arrived, Norm Guthrie was standing outside the office hut smoking with Jim Bascomb, Ripperton’s foreman. Nearby, a small crowd of workers was milling around muttering amongst themselves, looking confused and stricken.

“Stip . . . Dennis,” Bascomb greeted us in a flat voice that lacked even the lie of friendliness. At five-nine and one-fifty, no one would say he was a physical specimen to strike fear into the heart; but with a face cut like a hawk’s and hazel eyes that veiled meanness, no one doubted Bascomb’s intent when it came to seeing Floyd Ripperton’s will carried out. Though he worked with a crew of people whose skill with English was broken at best, he felt not the slightest inclination to learn any more Spanish than was necessary to see the job through. I didn’t like Jim Bascomb any more than his boss. Less, really. He and my deputy made a fine pair, standing and smoking in the mud. Ignorant peckerheads, no two ways around it. I looked at Guthrie.

“Anything?” The deputy took a last drag from his cigarette and flicked it, arcing, with disdain toward the migrants. He looped his thumbs in the belt of his holster, rocked slightly on his heels and answered with a touch too much self-satisfaction for my taste.

“I think we got our boy.” I looked at Bascomb, expecting nothing. I was rewarded.

“What makes you say that?” I’d shifted my gaze back to Guthrie, but it was Bascomb who picked up.

“Best I can tell from their palaver, Stip, is that the girl is — was — one of the daughters of Esteban Morales and his wife. He says she went missing last night after she left with her girlfriends to go into town. We found out she had a boyfriend. Kid named Hidalgo. Jose Hidalgo.”

“And he’s acting real suspicious, Stip,” Norm Guthrie chimed in. “He’s the one. Bet my badge on it.” That was a wager I was willing to take.

“Dennis, why don’t you go in and talk to the parents?” I said with a nod toward the barracks. “I’ll want to have a sit-down with the boy. You mind if I use your office, Jim?”

“Be my guest. I’ll clear out enough space for us all.”

“No need,” I told him. “It’ll just be the three of us — me, the kid and Dennis.”

“Your call, sheriff.” I had zero desire to look at Bascomb any more than I had to. Ditto for Guthrie.

The inside of the office was just about what you’d expect — dingy whitewashed walls, bare except for a bulletin board. There were a few random thumbtacks pushed into the cork. From one of them dangled a curling, faded sheet of blue paper bearing the heading:



It was very official-looking, and I remembered it from an earlier visit to be a site inspection certificate, complete with a dated, stamped seal of approval at the bottom. I recalled thinking the first time I saw it that if Ripperton’s operation made the cut, how the hell bad did a place have to be to fail?

A beaten gunmetal-grey desk, a battered filling cabinet with a cheap coffeemaker on top and a couple of folding chairs completed the decor. I settled in behind the desk and lit a cigarette. Within a few minutes, Dennis arrived with a very scared-looking teenager. He was dressed in a faded checked workshirt and jeans, clutching a scuffed-up Houston Astros baseball cap. I gave him a smile, tried to put him at ease, and motioned for him to take a seat. When we were settled, Dennis brought me up to speed.

“He knows the girl. They began seeing each other a few weeks ago, but on the sly. He’s eighteen and she had just turned sixteen. Her parents were strict, and they didn’t want their daughter seeing a boy that old, so they had to go behind their backs. But he says he was always very respectful of Maria.” At the mention of her name, Jose’s eyes widened, shooting rapidly between Dennis and me.

No sé nada, señor. No sé nada!” I looked at Dennis for the translation.

“He says he doesn’t know anything about what happened.”

Nada, señor. Nada.” His voice, fraying at the edges, trailed off. Dennis turned to him and patted his arm reassuringly.

Tranquilo, hijo. It’s okay. Tranquilo.”

So the story came down to this: Maria went with a group of girls to catch a movie at seven. At the theater, she met up with Jose and watched the movie with him. It let out just before nine. Jose said the plan was for the girls to hang out for an hour or so while he and Maria slipped away to a spot where they parked and made out. By 10:30, 10:45 at the latest, they would meet up with the girls at the Dairy Queen so Maria could be home by curfew at 11:00. But Jose said that while they were parked under the old creek bridge north of town it started to rain really hard, it got muddy and his pickup got stuck. Before he could get it free, it was already 11:00. They swung by the DQ, but the girls had left, so Jose said they drove straight back to camp. He dropped María off at her family’s barracks, swung around behind the other unit where he lives, parked his truck and went inside.

“That story jibe with what the other girls say? Her parents?”

“Yes — and no,” was Dennis’ reply. “The story matches as far as the girls go. They say they were worried they’d get into trouble if they were out past their curfew, so they waited as long as they could for Maria and then left, went back home.”

“And her mother and father?”

“They say she never came home, that the last time they saw her was when she left to go to the movie. By 11:30 or so, they were getting worried, so they went looking for Maria’s friends.

“And when they started asking questions, the girls had no choice but to fess up,” I broke in. Dennis nodded.

“Her dad was pissed at this point, so he went to find Jose, who told him just what he told me.”

As Dennis was laying it out, I had been keeping a close eye on Jose. Scared shitless, you bet. But I wasn’t seeing a killer. He just didn’t hit me that way. For one thing, what about a motive? Dennis had asked him if he was getting along with Maria, if they’d had a fight, or maybe her parents were pissed at him for some reason. The answer was no.

At that point, I didn’t see any good reason to continue.

“Ya puedes irte, hijo,” Dennis said to José quietly. The boy rose from his chair, nodded nervously, and left.

“What do you think?” I asked Dennis as I lit a fresh cigarette.

“I think he’s one frightened kid.” Dennis paused, ready to continue but stopping himself.

“And — ?”

“Well, I don’t know how far I should trust my gut, Stip, but I think he knows more than he’s saying.”

“Then your gut and mine are on the same wavelength,” I said.

Jose’s fortunes went from bad to worse in a hurry as the afternoon unwound. By that time, the whole county knew what had happened. And a killing never fails to make a good headline, so out-of-town reporters started showing up. Now, I’m all for the First Amendment, but some of those people didn’t show any more regard for a young life that had been taken than if it had been road kill found laying in the weeds. All in a day’s work, I suppose. Defense mechanism against the horrors their fellow men visit on each other. I get that, but Jesus Christ . . . .

Let me sum up here. I’m in my office in between interviews with these newspeople when Norm Guthrie comes in to tell me he’s had a talk with Jason Dillahunt. He’s a senior at the high school, standout jock, a pal of Richie Ripperton. His parents are muckety-mucks at the country club, tight with Richie’s dad. Both the boys run with a bunch of other students who were part of the same clique, the “snob squad” is the way I’d always heard them referred to. Anyway, Jason Dillahunt told Guthrie that he was at the DQ the night before around 11:00 and saw Jose parked in his pickup having a big argument with a girl. Got really heated, said Dillahunt, with the two of them shouting at each other in Spanish, waving their hands around. Then, Jose hauls off and hits the girl across the face — once, twice. And these were no love traps, according to Dillahunt’s telling. After that, he said, they drove away.

“Anybody else see this?” I asked the deputy. He looked at me as if the question was immaterial so why would I be asking.

“Nobody I’ve talked to, but Jason Dillahunt said he seen it. Why would he make it up? Maybe we should have a closer look-see at the Mexican’s pickup.”

For once, I couldn’t fault Norm’s thinking, so we got the warrant and went back out to the camp. Jose hadn’t moved the pickup. And while the boy, his parents and just about everybody else in the camp stood by, Norm flexed his hands into a pair of latex gloves and began checking the inside of the truck. There were a few prints to be lifted from the front of the glove compartment, and an empty Dairy Queen cup and straw for bagging. What I expected. But then there was something else Norm uncovered when he started searching more closely. He had opened the passenger door and was using a small flashlight to go over the floor.

“You better come take a look at this, sheriff.” I moved in behind him and he turned, handing me the flashlight.

“What is it?”

“Under the seat.”

I bent in close and when I shined the light into the darkness beneath the seat I could see what looked like a piece of white cloth with a dark red stain bunched up as if it had been shoved there.

“Get a bag ready and take it out. See what we’ve got,” I said,”and be discreet about it, Norm. I don’t need all these people to see what I think it is.” And it was — a pair of girls cotton panties with what I was sure was blood on them.

“I’d say this ices it, Stip,” Norm said as he zipped the evidence bag closed. I gave him a hard look. He was looking back with than I cared for. But it was plain that what we found didn’t help Jose’s case.

“Bring him in,” I instructed. “We’ll book him on suspicion.”


That night, about 10:00, I had parked myself at the end of the bar in the Eight Ball, wasting no time putting away one whiskey.

“You ready for another one?” I cocked my head and knitted my brows.

“Let me give that a moment’s deep thought, Doreen.” The young barmaid smirked and swept up my empty tumbler.

“As if there was any doubt about the answer.”

In the time it took me to light a cigarette and let my eyes roam around the lounge, Doreen had put a dry cocktail napkin and a fresh bourbon on ice just where I wanted it, an elbow bend away. I raised the glass in a salute of thanks, taking a generous drink.

“You know, Teddy was in here earlier,” Doreen said.

“That right,” I replied blandly.

“She was asking about you.”

“She was, was she?”

“She was.” I drew on my cigarette, turned and once again surveyed the room. Typical crowd — some young bucks in snug jeans putting the hustle on a few women in Levi’s that fit tighter. The rest? People like me, mostly, pushing into middle age, hoping they’ve still got enough mojo left not to have to face another night alone. Now Teddy Blaine ran the gift shop at the Truck World Gas Mart out by the interstate. Apart from divorce papers, we didn’t have a lot in common, but she was an attractive woman in her late thirties. I’d run into her a couple of times at the Eight Ball, but matters had never progressed beyond drinks and bar talk. That didn’t mean they couldn’t or they wouldn’t only that they hadn’t. Maybe that would have been the night, but it wasn’t in the cards.

“She left a little while before you came in,” Doreen said.

“Greener pastures?” I said, turning back to the bar. Doreen winked before being beckoned away to by another customer.

So I sat and nursed my drink and turned the case over in my mind. I couldn’t shake my earlier take on Jose. I didn’t know the kid from Adam, but I just didn’t see him as a killer. The hardness wasn’t there, the set of his eyes, his mouth. Neither was the look of someone sitting on a shitload of pent-up fury just waiting for the right spark to set him off. But, like I said, I didn’t know him, so my instincts could be way out of whack. Probably were, considering the evidence. Maybe it was just as straightforward as it looked — young guy gets pissed at his girlfriend, maybe jealousy over how she looks at another boy or he forces himself on her, she insults him and he loses it. It could be as simple as that.

After another cigarette, I decided to let the case lie for a while. With Terry out of the picture, it was going to be another solitary evening. Just as well. I was dog-tired. So, I slipped a five-spot for Doreen under my empty glass and left.

It was early May and mild. The cloud cover had moved on leaving a dull half-moon hanging in the southeastern sky. I had parked next to a tall light pole, and as I reached the car, I could see a small piece of paper had been tucked under the windshield wiper. It was a cash register receipt from the hardware store. That was one side. On the back was a note scrawled in spidery ballpoint, a nervous hand, hastily written:

It aint the Mexican — its Rippertons kid.

And so I determined it to be.

Case closed then? Wrapped up with a pretty bow? When was the last time life turned out that way for you?

I followed up on the tip, had my boys start nosing around a little more deeply, especially among Richie Ripperton’s friends. I wanted to keep it low-key. That was a fool’s hope in a town the size of Humboldt Junction. In a New York minute, the community’s most self-important citizen was sharing his views on the matter with me.

“Just what the fuck do you think is going on here, Stip?” I was barely three cigarettes and one cup of coffee into my day.

“And a good morning to you, too, Floyd,” I said into the phone.

“You haven’t answered my question,” he demanded.

“Well, Floyd, you’re a smart man. What do you think I’m doing? I’m trying to solve this case.”

“By running around asking a lot of questions, snooping into the lives of all Richie’s friends? How do you suppose that makes their parents look? How do you think it makes me look?”

“Christ, Floyd, calm down. I’m not accusing anybody of anything here, I’m just trying to put the whole picture together.”

“Goddammit, Stip, you’ve got all the picture you need. He’s sitting in your jail, and if you know what’s good for you and for the people in this town, you’ll stick to that. And leave my boy out of it, you hear me?” No need to wait for my response, of course. Just issue the edict and slam the telephone down.

For Floyd, bluster was his typical M.O. Like I said, he felt he had divine right to see things run the way he wanted them run. But there was more edge, more menace in his tone this go-round. He knew that his kid had attracted my attention. And this time, it wasn’t like Richie’s other scrapes with the law. Those were fairly tame — mostly the reckless way he drove around in his jacked-up ’69 Camaro. Once, he got pretty mouthy when we had to bust up a big drinking party at his old man’s weekend lodge. Every time, without fail, daddy was there to back him up, make excuses, pay his fines.

Floyd had good reason to be worried. The more we dug into it, the shakier it looked for Richie. His story matched up pretty well with what Jason Dillahunt had told us, but there was just enough of a crack between them that they didn’t mesh. Not the way they should have if they were telling the truth. I won’t go into it chapter and verse here, but over the following few days, the evidence as I saw it swung away from Jose and straight in the direction of Richie Ripperton and Jason Dillahunt. And that’s why I wanted to get with Sal Lombardi.

“We should be on the same page on this murder case, Sal,” I said as I eased into one of the wine-colored leather chairs in his office. I think lawyers all shop at the same furniture store. Lombardi was late into his first term as the state’s attorney. At forty-one, he was trim, with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair. He had been popular around the county, with a couple of high-profile cases under his belt; and though there had been whispers from time to time about a run for statewide office, Sal had brushed them aside, saying he was quite content serving the people of Brandon County. I suspected otherwise, but be that as it may.

“And why wouldn’t we be, Stip?” Sal comes around his desk and throws a leg over the corner so he could sit. He was jacketless, wearing a powder-blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Collar unbuttoned, rep tie loosened — it was all part of the image be liked to convey: casual, but down-to-business. “We’ve got the Hidalgo kid across the street in the lockup, and I’m ready to move. Open and shut is the way it looks from my side of the desk.”

“We have the wrong guy, Sal.” I could see that what I said did not come as a shock. He folded his arms and looked at me with a little more intensity.

“Well, I don’t know what you think you’ve got, but I can tell you there are a few folks who aren’t pleased that you seem intent on finding some other answer than the one staring you in the face.”

“Don’t make me guess.” He held up his hand to stop me. He knew damn well where I was going.

“Do you blame Floyd for being concerned?”

“He should be. I’ll bet my badge his son is the one responsible for that girl’s death, not that poor Mexican kid.”

“And you’ve got the evidence to make a case?”

“The investigation’s ongoing, so I don’t have everything — yet. But my gut tells me it’s Ripperton, with an assist from Jason Dillahunt.” Lombardi screwed up his face and looked at me as if I were a three-year-old.

“You expect me to go into court based on your gut?”

“I told you, I don’t have — ” Again, Sal raised his hand sharply to silence me.

“Here’s what you do have, Stip, and frankly I’m surprised I have to spell it out for you. You’ve got a suspect already in jail, yet you insist on using a stick to stir up unnecessary shit, and the smell has some important people in this town very upset. I shouldn’t have to remind you that these people pull a lot of political weight and both of us will have to face the voters again in just a few months’ time. I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of losing, so I intend to button this up with the least amount of drama possible.”

“Well, what does that mean, Sal?”

“It means I’ll make my appearance in court, file charges against Jose Hildalgo and then . . . ” His voice trailed off and he glanced away momentarily.

“Then what?”

“Then the calendar becomes our friend, Stip.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I didn’t know just where he was headed, but by this time I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it.

“Look, the harvest season wraps up in a couple of weeks, and the migrants will be moving on . . . cherries, apricots, up north. And when they’re ready to pack up and go, I’ll see that Hidalgo is released. Charges dropped. Lack of evidence. He walks away. Case closed.” At that moment he might as well have been a total stranger. We’d worked together on a lot of cases over the years. I thought I knew him, at least well enough to consider him conscientious, a straight shooter. Never had reason to doubt that judgment.

This was the same man?

“Sal — for Christ’s sake! You’re telling me you’ll just drop the whole case, knowing that the person responsible — knowing who he fucking is — goes free? I don’t believe what I’m hearing here.” He was staring directly at me, a hardness to his face. And something more — accusation, like I was the one who should feel guilty, who didn’t grasp the score.

“Let’s be pragmatic, Stip. Alright? A young girl is dead, and that’s a horrible thing. But she was a migrant, wasn’t she? She and her people will be leaving soon enough. So, out of sight, out of mind because we won’t be leaving. We’ve got to live here. And it seems to me for our own good and for the good of the wider community, we get this unfortunate mess behind us as quickly as we can. It may be a sad fact, Stip, but it’s nonetheless true: in this community, there would be a whole helluva lot more upheaval caused by proceeding down the path you’re suggesting than putting the death of this migrant girl in the past. You think about it. You’ll see that I’m right.”

I gave it some thought, alright. About three bourbons’ worth. And, if you want to know the truth, it didn’t take nearly that. This was the way it was going to be? This was how they wanted their county run? The answers were obvious. Sal was right: The good people of Brandon County would not want to bother scratching too deeply into the rape and murder of a Mexican girl, especially one of the migrants who worked Floyd Ripperton’s farm. Certainly not at the expense of the man himself, a pillar of the community, one who had his name above the entrance of the new family clinic at the hospital, the one who donated cases of his canned peas and wrote a big check to the local food bank at Thanksgiving. Justice blind? Her scales balanced? You tell me.

So all of this brings me back to where I started, back to that lonely farm road at the goddamned place I hated. With the last of the pea harvest done, the migrants had moved on. At the spot where I stood, where Maria’s body was found, they had left a small memorial, wildflowers roughly woven into a cross-shaped wreath and placed at the bottom of the ditch. A strip of yellow cloth crudely lettered with Reza por Maria, Santa Madre had been pinned to the wreath. By this time the flowers were looking pretty tired, even in the moonlight. Soon enough, they’ll be gone, along with the cloth and the message, whatever it means. I’ll be gone, too. There’s nothing here for me anymore. Two days after my meeting with Sal Lombardi, I handed the county executive my letter of resignation. Effective immediately, it said. Unspecified health reasons. Lombardi would know the truth. Maybe one day he’d see the thing he did for what it was. It was more likely be was already past any of that. Life moved on. Deputy Guthrie was appointed to fill out my term. A perfect fit.

I’ll be much better off out in Southern California where my older brother says he can set me up running the security operation at his small company. The climate’s supposed to be real nice in San Diego.

I watched a light breeze breathe past me, stirring the nutsedge and foxtail that crowded the road. The night was mild, quiet, except for the occasional passing car out on the highway back to town.

What did I miss about this place all these years? Had I failed to see it, the truth of it beneath the all-American surface? No. I’m being honest with myself here. I had seen it — sensed it, to be more accurate — gradually, like a person slowly coming out of a deep sleep. The brain fog evaporates, the eyes focus, the realization dawns. Sometimes, if I can play the metaphor out, it takes a splash of ice-cold water to the face to wake up, really wake up. Well, I had gotten that. And when I did, I ran head-first into my limits, the boundaries of compromise, of self-interest, of being able to look at myself in the mirror without the immediate urge to turn away or put my fist into the glass.

In the end, it would be the way it had always been here, maybe most places — the Floyd Rippertons would call the shots, aided and abetted by the likes of Sal Lombardi. I would be the odd man out. Every time.

A scrap of clouds moved across the face of the moon. The night breeze rose and fell. Away to the north, a freight sounded its horn as it lumbered out of town.

I got the message.



Woodcut illustration of “Gallus Indicus auritus tridactylus” from Ulisse Aldrovandi’s History of Monsters


Coyote Shook

Paintings by Andrea Munoz Martinez

Andrea Muñoz Martínez

BDOG, 48″ x 41″, acrylic and gouache on canvas, 2020

For Those On The Margins, 48″ x 42″, acrylic on canvas, 2021

Stay, 24″ x 18″, acrylic and gouache on board, 2021

Cercas/Fences, 20” x 16”, acrylic, gouache and canvas, 2020

Trance, 20” x 16”, acrylic, gouache, canvas, 2020

Borderlandia, 20” x 16” inches, acrylic and gouache on board, 2021

Chispas Amarillos/Yellow Sparks, 29″ x 25″, acrylic on canvas, 2019

Floating Dog Head (Luna), 48” x 41”, acrylic and gouache on canvas, 2020

Floating Dog Head (Papo), 48” x 41”, acrylic and gouache on canvas, 2020

Q&A with Andrea Muñoz Martinez

Andrea Muñoz Martínez and William Pate

1. Let’s start with the basics, tell us about yourself. 

My name is Andrea Muñoz Martínez.  I am a visual and performance artist currently living and working in Austin, Texas. I was born and raised in Uvalde, a rural Texas town 45 minutes from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, where my mother was born.  I grew up in the borderlands of South Texas. Borders, boundaries, and people that live in the borderlands are the subject of my paintings and performance art. After completing my MFA at UC Davis in 2013, I moved back to Texas and continued my series of works on landscapes, dogs, targets, roaches, chispas and caras malas.

2. What media do you mainly work with? 

Acrylic, gouache, canvas, ink, video, and photography.

3. What got you started on your current path? 

I started out by drawing on walls as a kid. Then, my seventh-grade art teacher encouraged my mom to buy me a camera. That’s when I started taking pictures and a documentary on race relations in high school. I took my first painting class as an undergrad at Brown University. Inspired by Oscar Zeta Acosta’s Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and Revolt of the Cockroach People, I began to paint what I was observing in daily life and what was changing in my own self-identity. Acosta was an attorney, politician, and novelist who used animals as a metaphor and wrote about racial conflict, Latino discrimination, and the struggle for equality. That summer, I returned to my hometown of Uvalde and set up a painting studio in my parent’s garage. One day, I found myself looking into the mirror and saw that I had changed and that I had been changing. I began painting the landscape that I was born and raised in. I called this place Borderlandia.

4. How have things (artistically, life, whatever) changed for you over the past year? 

At first, the pandemic changed everything. I had symptoms of depression and my studio practice stopped altogether. I knew that making art would help relieve my symptoms. So, I ordered 10 small canvases and an easel and paints from the art supply, and I slowly started to get back into my practice making one mark at a time using colors that I really enjoy. I learned how to transform my art practice. I learned how to host virtual talks, how to take photographs of my paintings so I could share my work during a pandemic, and also how to interact with people on social media, which I had not had to rely on before to network and stay connected to the artist community.

5. Who to/Where do you look for inspiration? 

I am inspired by the vast landscape of Uvalde, Texas, and the writings of the theorist Gloria Anzaldúa, who described the border as a “1,950 mile-long open wound.”  Anzaldúa wrote the books, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza and Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color.

6. What are your major concerns with the world today? 

The US-Mexico border and the people who live in the borderlands continue to be misrepresented, misunderstood, and targeted with hate. Latinx individuals also continue to be vulnerable to COVID-19. Xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria has caused so much harm. How do we meet the needs of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border and detained all over the United States? We are all witnessing these atrocities and have a responsibility to call for change.

7. How does your artwork connect with your larger purpose? 

My landscape paintings are abstract. Abstract painting can be a way of observing the hope and horror of the borderlands and help us imagine a better future for this land. In my paintings, I am able to express a range of emotions through repetitive mark-making and resonating, vibrant colors. These paintings are based on principles of color theory, including the “Bezold effect,” an optical illusion, named after a German professor of meteorology, Wilhelm von Bezold, who found that a color may appear different depending on its relation to adjacent colors. I use this understanding of colors to create movement and vibration between small marks of colors in my paintings. My tia once encouraged me to make paintings with color, paintings of hope. Her advice guided me to find and create Borderlandia as a vibrant, colorful land. I realize now that colors have healing potential.

8. Advice for beginners (of any age)?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make art. Get a small notebook and a nice pen and draw in it every day.

9. Work/shows we should look for?

My painting “Valentine” can be seen in Brazos Hall at the Center for the Study of the Southwest at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. My painting exhibition, “Dogs Heal in Borderlandia,” can be seen on my website and at Link & Pin Artspace on East Sixth in Austin. Women and Their Work hosts a virtual program called “Fresh from the Studio” which is really great!  And go see, Deborah Roberts’ I’m at the Contemporary Austin.

10. Final comments? Additions? 

People should be supporting and learning from Latina artists and authors. My favorite Austin artist right now is Lydia Garcia. Buy her art. I love the poetry of Kimberly Alidio. Michelle García is my favorite journalist and filmmaker.

Digital Art

Oscar Lopez Lule

Image of artwork by Oscar Lopez Lule
Digital art, 12”x12”, Oscar Lopez Lule

Q&A with Milicent Fambrough

Milicent Fambrough and William Pate

Cut paper artwork postcards, 2020, Milicent Fambrough

Milicent Fambrough is an artist in San Antonio, Texas. Her current work centers on self-examination and expression. Her influences span turn-of-the-century to contemporary and from classic to modern. She loves artwork in all forms. Her favorite genres of art are American modern, contemporary, abstract and pop art. She mostly draws from pop culture and the city she calls home, San Antonio, Texas.

Her days consist of tending her home, networking with performing acts and checking in with good friends. Painting and sketching daily with the odd doodle mixed in defines a routine of sorts. Early mornings, late evenings, lots of interesting outings make up her life. Photography is another passion for her. Mail art has been a passion recently revisited due to the pandemic.

Her pace is a constant flow of new media or art traditions — switching them back and forth to keep the artwork fresh.

Let’s start with the basics, tell us about yourself. 

Well, I am a contemporary artist. Currently based in San Antonio, Texas, my home of 34 years.

What media do you mainly work with? 

At the moment, cut paper has my curiosity. I enjoy this medium very much. It’s simple, cheap to acquire, and travels well.

What got you started on your current path? 

The pandemic, I would say. Due to that, going shopping for art supplies has been hit or miss. This had me exploring the types of materials I could come by easily.

How have things (artistically, life, whatever) changed for you over the past seven months? 

Yes, I do miss going to art functions locally, which happened every weekend here. On a good note, due to the current situation, I have had more opportunities to exhibit my artwork internationally. I feel I have grown more as an artist. The global community has embraced me. I am grateful for that.

Who to/Where do you look for inspiration? 

The architecture here in San Antonio, Texas, has inspired me greatly. Brightly colored buildings in the deco district. I feel we have plenty of American streamlined, modern buildings here, as well. The antique and thrift shops selling furniture in this style also get my attention.

“Blooms,” cut paper artwork, 2020, Milicent Fambrough

What are your major concerns with the world today? 

The pandemic, firstly, because it has affected everything and everyone. I hope we can survive this. Second would be the environment. I would like to see a healthy planet in the future. Thirdly, racism is a concern because it hits so close to home and is a problem affecting everyone in the world. I would like to see that part of society gone.

How does your artwork connect with your larger purpose? 

The purpose of my work as an artist: To create . . . more to the point, to give the world beauty and depth. To be an example to others. Accomplishing great things in the face of opposition. Being female, mixed race, American, I feel a duty to express myself in the art world. To kick open doors that are normally closed. To encourage others to participate in various things.

Advice for beginners (of any age)?

Create, create, create! Don’t stop creating and expressing yourself. It is the most important thing you can do. Especially in turbulent times.

Work/shows we should look for?

The exhibition “my view from home” curated by Jason Brown. The exhibition has had the pleasure of being mentioned in Time magazine. Currently, it is a part of Vanderbilt University Library. Yes, I am a contributor and you may find other contributing artists interesting as well.

Find more of Milicent’s work at


Final comments? Additions? 

Thank you for the opportunity to give your readers my thoughts. It’s been a pleasant experience.

Also available online at



16th century woodcut of monster by Aldronvandi
Monstrum alatum, & cornutum instar Cacodaemonis


Decree of the Holy Office on Several Doubts That Have Been Submitted by the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith

In consequence, all those who, in whatever way, cause the death of slaves and who participate in the unjust slavery of blacks, are commanded to provide restitution. Therefore kings, traders, whether Spanish or French, merchants, buyers and sellers of blacks, all those who transport them, the captains of ships and all those who effectively participate in this commerce, whether they are masters or buyers in the INdies or in Europe, re-sellers, and all those who buy or retain, in any of the forms enumerated, are all obligated to grant the blacks their liberty and the price of their work and reparation for the sufferings and damages they have endured.


March 20, 1686


As quoted in Casimir, Jean. The Haitians: A Decolonial History. United States, University of North Carolina Press, 2020.

A Conversation with My Dead Father about The French Connection

Robert Fromberg

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “New York, NY” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940-1979.

My father, a painter and filmmaker, told me this: Any frame from a good movie should be a good photograph, and any square inch of a good painting should also be a good painting.

I was sitting on the bench seat at the kitchen table. He was at the refrigerator, about to open its door. It was evening, and we had both emerged, as was our habit, from our workplaces — for him, the basement, where he was editing film, and for me, my bedroom, where I was reading — for a snack and conversation.

Dad wasn’t one to pontificate. He was more a listener than a talker. Most evenings when we met in the kitchen, he patiently allowed me (I was the pontificator in the family) to talk about the book I was reading, and he would nod and offer confirming responses. When Dad did make an observation, he did so casually, as though the observation were an idea that had come to him just that moment. For me, his casual tone gave weight and trustworthiness to his rare statements of belief.

That evening in the kitchen, I was 12 years old. Dad was 46 and would be dead in six years.

In his remark, Dad did not mean that when looking at a work of art which succeeds within one set of conventions — say, a those of a novel — that a subset of that work succeeds within another set of conventions — say, those of a short story or poem. What Dad had in mind, I am sure, was something far more liberating: that the same impulses and habits and talents and conventions that send one in pursuit of creating a fine work of art also produce many unintended pieces that succeed on their own terms, a byproduct of, but simultaneously transcending, the forces that shape the intended work.

Were we to meet today, Dad returning to the kitchen table with a fork and a plate covered with cellophane, I would remind him of his statement about a good piece of art and its pieces. But, I would ask him this: what about the pieces of a mediocre work, or even a bad work of art?

He would lift the cellophane, nodding for me to continue.

I would cite as an example The French Connection, the book not the movie. I would tell Dad that I read it when the family visited Brooklyn one year, that I found it on a bookshelf in Grandma and Grandpa’s house on West Street, that I read it before falling asleep at night on the day bed in the front room, the room where we watched Lawrence Welk on TV.

Dad would smile.

I would tell him I loved reading the book while listening to the cars passing outside. I would tell him that I loved the book’s heavy, black cover, the maps of Brooklyn and Manhattan on the endpapers, the squarish, stolid, grownup font.

Dad would nod.

I would tell him that I am reading the book again, and that by any traditional standard, it’s pretty bad. (I would be tempted to complain that the book is not available on Kindle, but Dad would not know anything about Kindle.) I would mention the ham-handed foreshadowing (“The detectives were unaware that they were entering an odyssey of intrigue and conspiracy that would obsess them night and day for the next four-and-a-half months”). I would mention the plodding prose. I would tell Dad that the content is largely a turgid recitation of people walking or driving up one street and down another, and entering and leaving hotel and restaurants.

Dad would swallow a bite of chicken and take a sip of water. No fancy snacks for my dad.

The point, I would tell Dad, is that I love the book — not so much as a book, but for its pieces.

Dad would raise his eyebrows.

I would pick up the book from beside me on the bench seat, set it on the table, riffle the dented, deckle-edged pages, and read the first sentence my eyes land on:

“The Frenchmen walked west on 14th two blocks to Union Square and there, by Klein’s department store, with the frigid wind gusting mercilessly across the broad, deserted square, they turned right on Park Avenue South (Fourth Avenue), and started back uptown.”

Dad would cock his head.

See? I would say. Nothing special, I would say. The merciless wind is hokey, and the insistence on explaining that Park Avenue South was the equivalent of Fourth Avenue silly, if charming. But, unable to explain why, I would insist I would insist on the perfection of this random passage, the joy it gives me. I would push my case further, saying I don’t need typical trappings of drama like a merciless wind or a deserted Union Square. Something else there is the root of my delight.

Dad would take a drink of water.

Again, I would flip pages and read: “At Second Avenue, the blue compact made a sharp right and raced downtown.”

More flipping. “He left his room, going out of the Waldorf at the Lexington Avenue entrance, across the street and down a block to the Summit Hotel.”

More flipping. “Patsy went another block to 81st, where he turned right and walked the block to a modern apartment house on the northeast corner of 81st and East End.”

Dad would rock his head once to the left, once to the right, his version of shrugging.

I would insist on my love for these sentences. These sentences without the context of the larger work.

Dad would smile, his lips not parting.

I would insist to Dad that I would happily read these sentences for the rest of my life.

He would rest his cheek on his palm.

I would, I say to Dad, happily just read the names: Klein’s department store, Lexington Avenue, Summit Hotel, 81st Street, East End Avenue. And just read the simple actions interacting with those names: turn, walk, pass.

Dad would seem to be fading; perhaps he is sleepy.

I would speak even louder. I would tell Dad that this is the ultimate proof of his thesis, of his insistence on the beauty and value of the parts, of their worth outside any need for context or reason.

Dad would be nearing sleep now, his mind full of drifting images of boyhood strolls up MacDonald Avenue and Avenue U and Ocean Parkway.

I would be left at the kitchen table, my ideas half-formed and my joy unresolved.



16th century woodcut of monster by Aldronvandi

Paulette Jiles and the 'Aura' of the News

John Willingham


Long before he was a reader of the news, and decades before he owned a press that printed it, Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a natural runner, carried messages for the army at the age of sixteen, his strong legs and lungs having been seasoned in the north Georgia mountains. He jogged through South Alabama and South Georgia, down to Pensacola and back to Mobile, dodging British patrols and Red Stick Creek warriors. For two years he carried maps and reports for General Jackson, maps that only showed directions but couldn’t feel the ground. It was the running, the fast traveling that he loved. He missed the Battle of New Orleans; it would have been anticlimactic.

“He always recalled those two years with a kind of wonder,” writes Paulette Jiles, of the protagonist in her novel News of the World.

“As when one is granted the life and the task for which one was meant. No matter how odd, no matter how out of the ordinary. When it came to an end he was not surprised. It was too good, too perfect to last.”

Wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, though not so severely as another young man on the field that day, Sam Houston, Kidd returned to Macon when the fighting was over and learned the printing trade. In the 1830s he went to Texas, during the Republic, and settled in San Antonio. “He loved print, felt something right about sending out information into the world. Independent of its content.” It was the work itself, the process, that he relished.

Another decade passed, and another war pulled him in — this time at the age of 48. The Army wanted him to print orders for General Taylor, who was leading American troops in the Mexican War. Using only a small hand press, Kidd not only printed what the general needed but found himself in charge of couriers, sometimes including Texas Rangers and their like, born to ride their fast, rudely tamed horses. Young men, bold, even cruel, they still needed reassurance from a blooded soldier. “They wanted some wisdom, some advice. You can get hit and not know it, he said. So could the man next to you. Take care of one another,” an officer told him.

Sending out information into the world? It was wise counsel he gave directly to the Rangers, earned wisdom. The printing work he did, not the wisdom, brought him to the brevet rank of Captain. And a Captain he remains in the story.

“Afterward, late, when he was alone and the fire of mesquite wood was dying, it came to him that he should take on the task of dispensing these interesting, nay, vital facts gleaned from the intelligence reports and the general press. For instance, the struggles going on at the top levels of the Mexican Army. If people had true knowledge of the world perhaps they would not take up arms and so perhaps he could be an aggregator of information from distant places and then the world would be a more peaceful place. He had been perfectly serious. That illusion had lasted from age forty-nine to age sixty-five. And then he had come to think that what people needed, at bottom, was not only information but tales of the remote, the mysterious, dressed up as hard information. And he, like a runner, immobile in his smeared printing apron bringing it to them. Then the listeners would for a small space of time drift away into a healing place like curative waters.”

And then he had come to think . . . after the Civil War, indescribable in its horror, that he could offer the world some tales, dressed up for their consumption, and somehow curative. And therein Jiles hints that the authentic stories of the world have the potential to be “curative” only if they make their remoteness immediate, and their mystery alive. In them are moving parts far more complex than those of the machines that seek to render them for consumption. These are the stories that Jiles creates, almost in the manner of ancient oral traditions. If there is healing, it is within and of the story, not at a destination.

What Jiles strives for is similar to what the late philosopher Walter Benjamin referred to as the “aura” of the work of art: “the here and now of the work of art — its unique existence in a particular place.”undefined (Jiles first read Benjamin in college; even recently she has mentioned his writing on her website.)

The here and now of the story is not static; rather it arises from a “strange weave of place and time,” based above all on the interplay of people in motion and adapting, or not, to their world. Here and now only appear to be the present, for the “present” is organic and dynamic, a compound of what we think of as past present and place, all in motion, always carrying the cusp of the future. This view of art — and of reality — resembles that of William Faulkner and of many philosophers, with one important difference: Faulkner was keen to present the process as it was experienced internally by his characters, using stream of consciousness, most notably in The Sound and the Fury. Jiles chooses the way of the traditional storyteller, featuring people “on a trip” with “something to tell about,” and that “something” is embedded in the trip itself. Her goal is to place us with them, and them with us, all moving together. For in her created world, that is as close as it gets to authentic existence.


As a young woman Jiles wrote poems, books of poems, some honored with prizes. The poems were mostly narrative, and in them were many vehicles, especially trains, connected front back and middle but moving on from station to station. She wrote many of the poems while living with the Ojibway in the Arctic Circle, a place without trains.

 “Where I was for about ten years was seven hundred miles straight north of Minneapolis,” she wrote in Southwest Review (1993), in a story, real or seemingly so, called “The Spontaneously Created People,” the name the Ojibway gave to themselves.

“They’ve never been pushed anywhere or removed or herded off-world. They are where they have been for eight thousand years, and so the stories are quite sure as to where the nations are, and spots of origins where things are spontaneously created and places where we go when our spontaneity runs out.”Paulette Jiles, “The Spontaneously Created People, “Southwest Review, Vol. 78, No. 2 (Spring 1993), pp. 267-275


But the poems, written years earlier, are testimony to Jiles’s personal journey and not to an isolated people’s enviable and natural ties to the authentic stories of their existence. Of her books Waterloo Express and Celestial Navigation, Canadian critic Francis Mansbridge, writing in 1991, tells us something of Jiles’s interior life: “In Waterloo Express (1973), much of the anguish comes from her relationship with men; in Celestial Navigation (1984), beginning with the poem ‘Time to Myself,’ especially, men have moved toward the periphery of her poetic world — often they seem more a part of the civilized centre of her past.”Francis Mansbridge, “The Voyage That Never Ends: The Poetry of Paulette Jiles,” Essays on Canadian Writing, Spring 91, Issue 43, pp. 153-164


Another Canadian critic, M. Travis Lane, while recognizing the personal elements in Jiles’s poetry, was prescient in her description of Jiles’s development as a writer dedicated to ancient and enduring patterns.M. Travis Lane, in Heart on Fist, Essays and Reviews 1970-2016, “Traveling with St. Theresa: The Poetry of Paulette Jiles,Windsor, Ontario, Palimpsest Press, pp. 118-131


“Jiles’s Waterloo Express is set in the universe of perpetual flight which, from Heraclitus through Pater to Einstein, has increasingly presented itself as reality to the philosophic temperament, if not, as yet, to the common man. The transport images in Jiles’s poetry — train, boat, truck, car, horse — are not merely the means of travel but the traveling world. Movement, present or imminent, is mentioned in every poem: things are in flight, or about to ‘pop,’ about to discover the ‘endless possibilities beyond,’ to climb or to swim, to be thrown away, to be carried off.” [Emphasis added.]

Poetry “seemed to be the only area to which I could move,” Jiles said in an interview with Southwest Review in 1993, her fiftieth year, “because the only thing in the sixties that seemed to be available was the novel of bourgeois, urban, domestic relationships, and I did not come from that kind of urban, educated, upper middle class, white background, and I couldn’t even fake it, although god knows I tried. . . . I’m from the Ozarks. I am from an extended family, a very strong, very marked culture. In university this was unacceptable. People from southern Missouri were rednecks, hillbillies, they were hicks, they were people of no account, and even to mention that I came from there would usually bring stares of derision. . . . So it was either poetry in which I could express my interior life, or the novel. It was one or the other; there was nothing in between.”Elizabeth Mills, “A Manual of Etiquette: An Interview with Paulette Jiles,” Southwest Review, Vol. 78, No. 2, (Spring 1993), pp. 245-266


Growing restless and still yearning to write novels, Jiles found herself back in Missouri in the late eighties. As a lifelong lover of horses, she went to a horse fair at the Jacks Fork River in the Missouri Ozarks. And there she met Jim Johnson. A decorated Army veteran of Vietnam, retired lieutenant colonel turned rancher, Jim Johnson was a man who, Jiles said, “got in the way of big events.” Quickly realizing that she was “in love in bad way,” Jiles also began “to get fed up with my life just being poems.” She was ready to travel the country — with Jim Johnson. Jiles had an idea. She had about a battalion of cousins scattered across the southeastern United States. She sold her agent on a book project: she would find the cousins, listen to their stories, and write them up. She and Jim, in an old Ford pickup pulling a tiny greenhouse trailer that had a pull-down table and an undersized bed, took off together not long after the horse fair at Jakes Fork River. He was leaving his wife and ranch behind, feeling, as Jiles did, that it was time to get moving. He had gotten in the way of another big event.

In her semi-autobiographical book Cousins, published in 1991, the cousins speak out in their colorful way, but the story has two other strands. One is the contest between two strong-willed people as they learn to accept one another within the small confines of their traveling world and despite the intrusions of the world outside it; the other, more relevant to Jiles’s writing, is what we learn of her immediate family, especially her father.

Her father was an alcoholic whose recovery, when it came, was tardy. Jiles writes that “he never paid attention to me unless I made him mad,” a not infrequent occurrence, since it was his habit, as a Navy veteran of World War Two, to holler “all hands on deck” whenever he wanted something done, a command that could hit a smart, strong-willed child only one way. On one occasion, after she and her older brother had disobeyed their father’s orders, “we heard him hollering up there at the house. What had happened was that his rage trigger had gone off, some kind of depth charge, and once he got started he couldn’t stop until it had fired off down a long chain of explosions.”

Of three children, she was the one who stood up to him the most. An insurance salesman most of his life, he was charming and glib to those outside the immediate family, giving her early insights into the layers of human behavior. The family moved six or eight times when she was young, their fortunes highly variable. Her mother seems to have been a kind and loving person and, in defiance of her husband, became a talented and recognized painter later in life. Her mother’s father was a brilliant storyteller; Paulette was his favorite. One thing all the relocations and hollering did was to leave her with no regrets about moving on.

Stormy Weather (2007) is the probably the most autobiographical novel Jiles has written, the first of three novels to be set in her adopted state of Texas. (Parts of Enemy Women (2002) are set closer to her original home in southeastern Missouri.) Young Jeanine and her two siblings live at the mercy of a charismatic and mercurial father, Jack Stoddard. They move from one Texas oilfield to the next during the hard times of the Depression. “Jack Stoddard was like a juggler tossing up jobs and dice and racehorses and ladies of the night. Sometimes he caught them all in order and sometimes he forgot where they were or that he did not have enough hands. . . . Her father made up his mind to move the way birds made up their minds in midflight, wild, startling shifts that sent them spinning away through the vagrant airs to yet another oil field.”

The novel is perhaps the best example of Jiles’s ability to create organic authenticity—a sense of aura—in a scene, combining past, present, hope, despair, and the harmonious or discordant responses of the earth itself.  They had a stubby quarter horse, a winning racehorse, ugly but fast:

“Whatever her father took up it was bound to go wrong. They would move and leave Smoky Joe behind somewhere. They would lose him. He would die of sleeping sickness, he would break one of his legs. It was the same for everybody. The feeling that things were falling apart and that nothing worked. . . . Even the earth itself lifted into the sky of the high plains of Texas and Oklahoma and blew into dust storms as thick as airborne petroleum.”

Many of the paragraphs are like enjambed lines in her poems, breaking off, often signaling the abrupt shift from hope to sadness, or worse. Of a rare snow storm in East Texas:

“The tops of the pine trees disappeared in a foam of descending snow. It fell on the needles and lined them with spines of white and built up on the wires of the fence lot, and burdened all the sounds of the town and the derricks with a deep, submissive hush. It was a swansdown welcome for the new year, a confetti and ticker tape parade. All over the oil fields and through the overcrowded towns, each person had some small reason that the snowfall was for them alone, a sign that their lives were going to get better.

“She watched as the flakes struck the windowpane and traced them with her fingertip down the cold glass as they slid and melted out of their ornate and classical designs. Far away the derrick lights shone into the columns of radiant drift. It was just before the bank failures of 1933, and the rest of the nation paused, dumbfounded, in their party clothes and tinfoil hats, in Chicago and New York and Los Angeles and New Orleans, while money fell like hot ashes out of the bottoms of their pockets.”


Wichita Falls, Texas, Winter 1870
“He had been born in 1798 and the third war of his lifetime had ended five years ago and he hoped never to see another but now the news of the world aged him more than time itself.” Captain Kidd is tired, though fortunate to have a fine horse. He worries that it will be stolen. His beautiful wife, Maria Luisa, of Spanish Betancort lineage, has died. Having gone broke during the Civil War when the Confederacy forced him to buy worthless bonds, he travels to small towns, reading the news in rustic halls from mostly distant papers, listening all too intently to hear dimes drop into an empty paint can at the door. “A slow dullness had seeped into him like coal gas and he did not know what to do about it except seek out quiet and solitude. He was always impatient to get the readings over with now.”

He reads a story to an uneasy crowd about the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave all Americans, regardless of race or color, the right to vote, knowing that “the general population had not settled the matter of free black people in their minds yet. All was in flux. Flux: a soldering aid that promotes the fusion of two surfaces, an unstable substance that catches fire.” As he reads, he hears his audience muttering. “Stop it. I hate muttering.” He has not yet thought of the curative potential of stories, or discovered the means to achieve it.

“Over all the bare heads he saw Britt Johnson and his men, Paint Crawford and Dennis Cureton, at the back wall. They were free black men. Britt was a freighter and the other two were his driving crew. They held their hats in their hands, each with one booted foot cocked up against the wall behind them.” Britt has a fifty-dollar gold piece. “I have a problem in my wagon,” he tells the Captain, when the reading is done.

The problem is a girl, about ten years old, taken from the Kiowa, who took her from her parents after leaving them slaughtered on the prairie near Castroville. Britt has brought her down to Texas from Fort Sill. He does not want the gold piece he has received in payment to take the girl back to her nearest relatives, the Leonbergers, aunt and uncle. Britt knows that “if I’m caught carrying that girl it would be bad trouble. He looked the Captain straight in the eye and said, She’s a white girl. You take her.” Her birth name is Johanna. She thinks, “My name is Cicada. My father’s name is Turning Water. My mother’s name is Three Spotted. I want to go home.” But the Kiowa have sold her at Fort Sill “for fifteen Hudson’s Bay four-stripe blankets and a set of silver dinnerware.”

The Captain buys a wagon, “painted a dark and glossy green and in gold letters on the sides it said Curative Waters East Mineral Springs Texas and he had no idea how the wagon had come all the way from near Houston to this little town on the Red River. The wagon surely had a story all to itself that would now remain forever unknown, untold.” And so only after he meets Johanna does he find a wagon with curative properties and a story all to itself — it will be a vehicle and a presence in a story now set in motion. And Texas, broad, rough, and variable, demands motion at every turn.

That story features Jiles’s brilliant imagining of how a half-wild girl rescued from the Kiowa, and a crusty septuagenarian with a world of wars behind him, learn to communicate — first with gestures and expressions, then in the girl’s attempts at English, expressed with intonations that combine her native German and the complex Kiowa language. (Here Jiles has insights based on her own study of the Ojibway language in Canada.) The result is a generally affecting and often comedic series of exchanges. “Fery well, Cho-henna stomp foot! Cho-henna weff hont! She waved her hand. Kep-dun stend up! He stood up. Kep-dun sit don! He sat down. Kep-dun clepp honts! He wearily clapped his hands. Kep-dun laff! No, he said.”

Their odyssey, of course, has many twists and turns. From the first chapter until a pivotal scene near the middle of the novel, Almay, a character who could inhabit a Cormac McCarthy novel of the West, and his two Caddo collaborators shadow Johanna (Cho-henna) and the Captain. “He had gray eyes and the thick and colorless skin of people from Scandinavia or Russia.”

From the outset the Captain feels their menace; then he discovers their true interest in the blonde Johanna. The Captain and Johanna flee.

Trapped on a red sandstone bluff above the Brazos and armed only with a pistol and shotgun, they seem to have no chance against Almay and the Caddos. What happens next should be read or seen. Let us say that dimes paid by the Captain’s audiences to hear of exotic places now become surprising messengers of the news.

Near Castroville, a German settler gives them directors to the Longberger farm. He knows he is dealing with an Amerikaner, for their conveyance has gold lettering and bullet holes. Will the Longbergers accept Johanna? Abuse her? Will she be rescued yet again? What will become of her, of the Captain?

And now there is a film. Its title is News of the World. The title of a lengthy review, featuring the film’s director, Paul Greengrass, is “1870s Tom Hanks Western Brings Relevance And Hope To Current Pandemic, Brexit, Election & Media Pains.” A hefty burden indeed.

Please permit a brief, final reference to Walter Benjamin. His most studied work is the essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” His ideas have kept art critics and scholars thrumming like a giant hive of bees since the 1930s. His ideas, and theirs, are often complex and obscure. But here’s the gist of the essay, at least as it is often understood. The more remote an original story or work of art is from its origins, the more the work becomes something other than itself. It becomes owned; it becomes merchandise, or even propaganda; it becomes grist for essays and reviews. It remains a story, but the immediacy and mystery of the original story are diminished, as they have, inevitably, been diminished here.

The film is conceived and presented as a message of hope and redemption for an especially troubled time: ours. In it are racists, lying journalists, political zealots, and predators, none of whom prevail. It is clear that the Captain/Kep-dun and Johanna/Cho-henna need and find each other as they journey toward mutual redemption. They bridge gaps of age, culture, language, and gender. The Captain sees people as they are.

In the novel, the Captain regards Britt Johnson, a Black man, as his equal. Britt Johnson existed; he spent months in 1865 trying to rescue his wife, whom the Comanche had captured.Texas State Historical Association | Johnson, Britton.,Creek%20Raid%20of%20October%201864. Accessed 2 Feb. 2021.

"> In the film, this Black man does not appear. In his place, we see a dead Black man, left lynched on the prairie with a note pinned across his chest: “Texas Says No! This is White Man’s Country.” We do not see or hear this man before the Captain discovers him. His hanging body speaks of the horror and cruelty of the time but does not speak for, or about, him as a person. Later in the scene, the Captain chases down a terrified Johanna, who was traveling to Castroville under the man’s protection after being taken from her Kiowa captors.

Even though the scene reminds us of the continuing brutality against Black people in the present day, it deprives us of the man, and character, of Britt Johnson, as well as the excellent opening scenes in the novel that describe how the Captain encountered Johanna through Britt’s intervention. The scene described earlier in this essay conveys the risks that freedmen such as Britt had to navigate, if they could, during Reconstruction. He and the Captain realize that Britt might be killed if he is caught transporting a White girl. The decision to transfer Johanna from Britt’s freight wagon to the Captain hinges on this shared knowledge between two good men, one Black, one White, at a time when hostility between the races was intense. The common humanity they find anticipates the enduring bonds that develop between the Captain and Johanna, initially separated by culture rather than race. Johanna and the Captain are the film; it depends on the bridges they build. There is no bridge to Britt Johnson.

The film turns the Captain into a veteran of the Civil War; and in the film it is the war, not his essential nature, which has made him into a solitary, wandering soul. All of the reviews emphasize his status as a veteran of that war. In the novel, however, he is a printer in San Antonio during the war; the worthless securities the Confederate government compels him to buy has left the elderly Captain bankrupt. In making the Captain a Confederate veteran, the director has enabled many reviewers to describe the film as “True Grit Meets The Searchers,” or as “a cross between True Grit and The Searchers,” since John Wayne’s character in the latter movie had also fought for the Confederacy and his roles in both films featured him as a hard-bitten protector of young women.Debruge, Peter, and Peter Debruge. “‘News of the World’ Review: ‘True Grit’ Meets ‘The Searchers’ in Dry Tom Hanks Western.” Variety, 11 Dec. 2020,

">undefined One can imagine an elevator pitch for the film using the same words the reviewers have chosen.

Of greater importance is that the Captain’s life becomes confined to the Civil War and its aftermath. Gone is the messenger in General Jackson’s army and the Captain who earned his bars in the Mexican War. The long arc of the novel — more than half a century — shrinks to a span of a decade or so, a decade whose impact on our present is obvious but, sadly, makes the Captain less a true messenger than a man forced by chance to become a compassionate wagoneer. Inevitably, the reproduction of Jiles’s novel has become a vehicle for its own messages. Those messages do not ruin the movie; some will find in it the relevance and hope the director envisioned.

The last words here, though, will come from the Captain of the novel, the natural runner: “Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed.”,Creek%20Raid%20of%20October%201864.

Berard Reviews the Next World War

Peter Berard


Book Reviewed:

Image of 2034 book cover

2034: A Novel of the Next World War
Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis
Penguin Press
320 pp

The tradition of war prognostication in novel form that extends back at least as far as H.G. Wells and Sax Rohmer is long — can it be called honorable? I suppose it depends on whether you think the two genres from which it most heavily draws — pornography and advertisement — are honorable. That might sound like a snide dig, but as far as I am concerned, it is an open question. People like masturbating; people like to know what products are available to buy. Who’s to say helping them out with those tasks isn’t honorable? It’s usually the unswerving devotion to getting off that tangles up the pornographer or the advertiser. The disregard for truth, cultural sensitivities and the like in pursuit of their goals gets them in trouble in the short term. In the long term, they encounter the troubled waters of critical reception and market segmentation — tough waters for anyone, especially someone just trying to make a buck. That’s art for you.

The pornographic element of novels predicting and playing out near-future wars existed in the likes of Rohmer’s race-war fantasies but came into its current form during the Cold War. Nuclear strategist Herman Kahn referred to the world-ending nuclear war predicted by many as the “wargasm.” He meant it as a derisive term, part of his effort to undermine the paradigm of mutually assured destruction in favor of his concept of “winnable” nuclear war, but the word has truth to it. The Cold War constituted a long, long build up, especially for westerners eager to fight. Fantasies of the nuclear “wargasm” and its aftermath were one popular way to cope with the tension, but ultimately it was too nihilistic for people who really wanted a good old fashioned war, not a sudden blow-up followed by all kinds of pesky, tedious rebuilding.

The “wargasm” fantasy wasn’t good advertising for anybody, either. Fantasies of a more-or-less conventional Soviets vs NATO war both delivered a more refined appeal to militaristic bloodlust and an advertising platform for various Cold War strategies and their attendant expensive toys. By the time the  1980s and Reagan’s “second Cold War” was in full swing, the genre produced its two standout hits: John Hackett’s The Third World War and Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising. Hackett was a British general with a long service record, Clancy was an American insurance man with no military service. Perhaps due to these differences, Hackett’s work is darker and feels more realistic, whereas Clancy throws in a lot of American derring-do saving the day. But both works actively promoted the idea that the U.S. and NATO were seriously vulnerable to the Soviet Union and needed to invest more in defense spending and “forward defense,” and helped sell the concept by showing off all the cool stuff the NATO militaries can and should have (“boys and toys” was Clancy’s real speciality).

They got everything wrong, except, perhaps, for the central fact that Soviet armored columns could probably have punched a good-sized hole in Western European defenses had they been so inclined to a last joy-ride for organized warfare before the superpowers blasted the world back to the Stone Age. The Soviets were a decaying, scared power with a leadership class overwhelmingly invested in dying in bed before their system collapsed. But what does that matter? Defense contractors and hawkish politicians got their ad time. “Serious” people and open “war nerds” both could read and enjoy the pornographic element of release these books provided under the guise of edification. No one loses!

With the end of the Cold War, the genre entered a remission period but never went away. Dreams are funny that way. As conventional interstate armed conflicts became less and less relevant after the “End of History,” two equal and opposite strains of near-future war fantasy cropped up. Call the American far-right “participant observers” in the crackup of consensus sensibilities and “tribalizing” of the period — they dreamed of internal war within the United States, a funhouse mirror version of the insurgency/“unconventional” wars that dominate the military news of our time. From The Turner Diaries to Ben Shapiro’s attempts at thriller fiction, this fantasy has become more mainstream as have the tribal hates of white America.

The other strain warned us, in the crackpot-realist mode of American centrism, that conventional battle, the big Fulda Gap blowup, was going to come back — the Russians were going to bum-rush the Czech Republic! We’d need to occupy Mexico because . . . drugs! And, always, an effort to put China in the villain spot Russia once held. Internal war fantasists usually throw in some foreign intervention, just to make the treason charges sizzle, but for real foreign war action you need the centrists. At first, this was a bipartisan affair, with Republican Tom Clancy trying his hand at China stuff in the aughts, but as right-wing attention turns inward, Democrats and what could broadly be called “liberals” now own this space.

Exhibit A: the new novel, 2034, by Marine veteran and novelist Elliot Ackerman and a former head of his alma mater, the Fletcher School of Foreign Affairs at Tufts, retired four-star U.S. Navy admiral (now working for Carlyle Group) James Stavridis. These aren’t your father’s militarists: they’re sensitive, worldly, learned (or highly educated anyway) meritocrats, equally at home on the bridge of a carrier or on The Colbert Show. Think about the profile David Petraeus cut before he exploded his career and you’re not far off. These are the writers who are going to explain the dangers of the coming decades to the reading public.

Emphasis on “dangers.” Clancy, Hackett, Wells, Rohmer — there was joy there, a sense of fun. There’s no fun to be had in war between China and the U.S. in 2034. The Obamican audience Penguin has lobbed this book at doesn’t permit itself to publicly enjoy bloodshed, restricting that particular human drive to furtively streamed UFC fights and video games. What do these people let themselves enjoy publicly? Fusion cuisine? Self-satisfaction? Who knows?

John Hackett, the smartest and most entertaining of the Cold War war-what-if novelists, was smart enough to restrict most of his action to the European theater, where you could get a good look at everyone duking it out with all the cool toys. He threw a few bones to naval war fans and Third World revolt paranoiacs (he had Nigeria trying it on with apartheid South Africa in open battle, a pretty big laugh) but knew where the action was. Clancy mostly followed suit in Red Storm Rising. The Soviets in the Cold War novels typically had some dumb crisis (fair enough, their nod to the Soviet system’s decrepitude) that was little more than an inciting incident, a rationale for the fight everyone was there for. In 2034, China has a Plan. Ackerman and Stavridis take almost the entirety of Eurasia and the Pacific Ocean as their canvas. This means geopolitics, grand strategy, and there, you might have the answer to where the joy is supposed to be.

Our action begins in the South China Sea and the Persian Gulf, simultaneously. The two protagonists we meet in these respective locations also represent two different strains of the Best America Has To Offer. In the South China Sea we have Commander Sarah Hunt, meritocrat, would-be SEAL, an all-around “girlboss” and one mission away from retirement, to boot. In the Gulf, we’ve got Wedge Mitchell, fourth-generation Marine pilot, representative of the “safe” Red America, our hereditary military Kshatriya caste.<span id=”n9pja8163dc” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

Kshatriya: a member of the second of the four great Hindu castes, the military caste. The traditional function of the Kshatriyas is to protect society by fighting in wartime and governing in peacetime.

” class=”footnote”>1 Hunt is sailing her small flotilla on a “freedom of navigation” patrol when she runs into a fishing trawler on fire. It’s not her mission to help out stranded craft — she’s supposed to radio them in — but she senses something is wrong and so goes in. Lo and behold, it’s a spy ship! Wedge, for his part, is testing out the stealth capacity on his F-35 (guess they got past the “boondoggle death trap” stage of development on that particular turkey) in Iranian airspace when all of a sudden mean Iranian hackers are flying his plane for him! At the same time!

Sino-Iranian mischief is afoot, but if there was any criticism of the way the characters blithely walked into the traps set for them through disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries and sheer foolishness (Hunt’s intuition is never vindicated), it flew over this reviewer’s head. Moreover, the plan on the part of the Chinese isn’t clear, either. They propose to trade the F-35 for their spy boat, but they know the U.S. will reject the deal, so . . . they’ll sink the American ships? Or something? The Chinese and their Iranian and Russian pals are depicted as strategic masterminds one minute and incompetent blunderers the next.

None of the plans hold water. That’d be ok if 2034 delivered any other genre goods. It doesn’t and, while failing to do so, produces the grim spectacle of establishment types slowly and painfully questioning certain aspects of establishment logic while still not quite “getting it.” To wit: the toys. Hackett and Clancy amuse us with the many toys NATO and, to a lesser extent, the Warsaw Pact came up with to do each other in. They’re fun, in a G.I. Joe-meets-Italian-futurism sense. To their credit, Ackerman and Stavridis get that many of these toys are basically extraordinarily expensive paperweights (though they weirdly whiff on the essential badness of the F-35, which even non-war-nerds know is garbage). This lesson has been taught by experience — the two decades of counterinsurgency war where we have a difficult time bringing low-tech opponents to heel — and by tests like the notorious Millennium Challenge, a wargame where a Marine general playing as Iran sank a whole U.S. carrier fleet in a matter of minutes with swarms of cheap missiles. But there’s too much money to turn away from our high-tech white elephants like aircraft carriers now.

Ackerman and Stavridis might get it about tech, but to use a term from a guy they’d probably find sympathetic, Robert Heinlein, they do not “grok” it. To wit, the U.S. Navy (this is a very Navy-centric book — the Army and Air Force barely enter into it) isn’t beaten by low-tech. It’s beaten by anti-tech- “offensive cyberwar” capacities unlike anything the world has ever seen. The Chinese and Iranians prove themselves capable of hacking literally anything digital. They can black out whole swaths of the seas from U.S. surveillance, hack an F-35 to fly without its pilot, so on and so on. This is an interesting concept, but the authors fail to make it work dramatically. The first time the Chinese do it in the South China Sea, it’s a decent “oh, shit” moment. But then different players keep doing it. And the authors don’t dramatize it. Dramatizing hacking is a notorious challenge in Hollywood, where the visual realities of boring computer work interfere, but surely Ackerman, who has written espionage novels, could have come up with something. Instead, “cyber” is just a magic wand those devious Asiatics wave around to mess with our weapon systems and then kick us while we’re down.

So, there are no toys and no blood. Millions die, but the authors make the (probably correct) choice not to dwell on the gory details. So, what is there to enjoy? To say the characters are “cardboard cutouts” — well, that wouldn’t be a problem in a genre that’s half-porn and half-ad, would it? But these aren’t really colorful cardboard cutouts even. The U.S. American characters represent various aspects of the liberal meritocracy (just to really seal the message, one of the American submarines involved is the USS Michelle Obama): the girlboss skipper, the manly-but-with-it Marine and the Indian-American policy wonk. There’s an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general who goes from brutal and escalatory to sympathetic and deescalatory as the plot demands. There’s a Chinese naval attaché who winds up in various convenient positions until he doesn’t anymore. The authors do not succeed in raising the genre to “literary” merit through character work.

As best I can tell, the only pleasure on offer in 2034 is whatever pleasure can be found in “grand strategy.” Out of the universe of high-flown nonsense our ruling class foists upon us in the guise of ideas, grand strategy might have the highest albedo. The grandiloquence of its pronouncements reflect off the rankness of its bullshit and thinness of its intellectual grounds like a summer moon in the country night sky. When an empire starts taking “grand strategy” seriously, as opposed to economic advantage or some other relatively sensible hermeneutics, that’s a good sign said empire is on its way down. Ackerman and Stavridis mostly spare us the portentous remarks on human nature and the pseudo-erudite references to Xenophon, Grotius, et al. that usually pepper works of grand strategy. But the reduction of the world to power blocs (that roughly line up with “civilizations” a la Samuel Huntington) wrestling for “supremacy” as understood by upper-class nerds who associate lines on the map with reality . . . well, that’s all there.

Grand strategy also provides a way out of the narrative impasse the authors write themselves into. They need China to seriously threaten the U.S., both to have a novel and likely to further some “new Cold War” bullshit line they hold. They need the U.S. to hit back. Otherwise, there’s no conflict. They also need to avoid all-out nuclear war — this isn’t some anti-war screed, for all its squeamishness. It’d also be good to work in that other big rising power into the mix (though they feel fine completely ignoring Western Europe and Latin America), and so, India comes to the rescue. India waves its magic-cyber-wand, positions its submarines just so, and tells China and the U.S. to knock it off, three nuked cities is enough. Shanghai gets nuked anyway — fog of war/ironic sacrifice for Wedge the American Man — but in the end, the war stops, and India becomes the big power. India — and the authors make clear this is an India made puissant by Modi — makes the decisive play on the big Risk board and that’s all she wrote. We don’t even get to see any fun diplomacy making it happen: the Indian-American wonk has family in high places in Modi’s India and they fix it. The end.

A materialist reading of military history — one not restricted to “materialism” as in “let’s control the trade routes,” even grand strategists get that, I mean “materialist” as in understanding class society — shows that strategy and tactics often tail politics. Armored chivalry dominated the battlefields of Europe well after it made any sense because you couldn’t tell the nobles that their preferred mode of fighting couldn’t predominate. In our own time, interests made decreasingly relevant by technology, like the surface navy and manned combat aircraft, remain central to the U.S. arsenal due to money and institutional inertia.

More to the point of class, the ways in which the U.S. American bourgeoisie can make itself feel relevant in the world of war bifurcate, like so many things today do, along reactionary versus liberal lines. One way is to intensively exercise both body and latent sociopathy and become a special forces operator. Halfway sensible empires — the Romans, the Mongols, the British — typically hired out tasks like assassination, paying off local warlords, and long-range scouting to locals in whichever imperial locale because they’re cheap and have local knowledge. We go the long way around the barn and expensively train Americans to do the same stuff, only to have them become celebrities or politicians a la Kyle/Luttrell/Greitens/Crenshaw, who go on to denounce things like participation trophies. On the liberal side, you can go to many years of school, get good grades, demonstrate “cultural competency” (take a semester abroad and really vibe with the international students on your dorm floor) and the command of buzzwords, maybe do a stint in the service to get extra cred, and then you get to play the “grand strategy” game. Your fatuous notions — three-quarters stereotype and one-quarter regurgitated theory mama-birded to you by some half-awake TA — get to take on civilizational importance on the big Risk board.

Anyone who’s ever played Risk knows there are two ways to play: You can pile up pieces in Australia, or throw the stupid game away and play damn near anything else. The questionable historicism of Axis and Allies, the gleeful sociopathy of Diplomacy — hell, Super Smash Brothers at least has an interesting culture attached to it — anything (with the possible exception of Monopoly) is preferable. 2034 manages to be both horrifying and boring. The authors make much of China blinding the U.S. Navy with its magic cyber wand, but the U.S. it portrays is already blind — blinded by the idiocy of an elite that smells something afoot with those devious Chinese and knows something needs to be done. Something always needs to be done, in the flaggingly masculine imagination of the U.S. security elite. Have they ever considered that maybe, sometimes, doing nothing works?

That this book came out during a time of record-high attacks on Asians and Asian-Americans in the U.S., impelled by COVID-inspired racism and “new Cold War” bullshit, gives a real-life glimmer of evil to a book already characterized by wrongness. Typically, the authors allude to anti-Chinese racism as wrong, and show the characters eating at a (empty) Chinese restaurant, but if we stumbled into a war with China, let alone one where they fight us to a draw and we lose millions to nuclear attacks and India has to bail us out (threatening us in the process), empty restaurants would be the least of our worries. Pogroms and detainment would be in the cards. In that situation, fleeing to Australia wouldn’t be enough. We’d have to flip over the Risk board and tell these people we’re not playing their games anymore. The sooner we make clear they don’t get to play with our lives this way, the better.

Peter Berard, Ph.D., a writer, historian and organizer in Watertown, Mass., is San Antonio Review’s book review editor. Read more of his work at Melendy Ave. Review.

Semiotic Love

Ash Lange

Book Reviewed:

Semiotic Love [Stories]
Brian Phillip Whalen
Awst Press, 2021
128 pages

Semiotic Love, published by Austin’s Awst Press, is a collection of flash and micro-fiction that ranges over a wide variety of human relationships — specifically, love in its myriad forms.

The recurrent theme, at least among the larger pieces, seems to be that of communication within these relationships. The middle section of the book, which gives the collection its name, is the most prolonged and the most “scientific” of these analyses, drawing on the Greimas Square of semiotics which illuminates the relationships between opposing concepts — here, male-female — and charts the unraveling of a relationship.

One could, if one was so inclined, draw this same semiotics square over the collection itself, with the short pieces titled ‘Men’ and ‘Women’, falling in the first and third sections, respectively. Here lives are sketched in miniature, in opposition to each other, the women viewed only through their relationship to an unnamed man.

There are small, regular intervals where the reader is presented with telegraphed phrases and anecdotes perhaps slightly reminiscent of Gertrude Stein. For instance, there is related in a single sentence that ‘Popa’ came to be when he misspelled ‘Poppa’ on a Christmas card. And while they are occasionally amusing or pithy, and do fit the theme of communications and miscommunications, they do not, on the whole, provide any great depth to the larger explorations.

The micro-fictions fall somewhere in between these little gathered phrases and incidents and the longer pieces in the collection. Parents are lost to disease and the inexorable march of time onwards, a visiting writer bends physical balance into a mental/spiritual balance and a promise to never kill an animal is not really one.

Where this collection does take off is in its longer stories and more sustained inquiries into love and loss. “Una Vida Mejor” is a deft exploration of the relationship between brother and sister, as is “Broadcast” which closes with a sad and stunning image of a promised land.

The real standout of this collection is also its longest. “Brothers” is a study in absence with its supposed celebration of a marital union in Prague undercut with missed moments, missing words and, finally, hauntingly, missing brothers.

Further information about the Greimas Square and Semiotics in general, may be found at:

Short Book Reviews

William Pate and Ash Lange

Nancy Tucker, The First Day of Spring: A well-crafted debut novel that puts us inside the mind of a young single mother. Who happens to have murdered another child when she was eight. Puts the reader in mind of several famous cases, but deftly sidesteps any comparisons to exploitative, lurid, ripped-from-the-headlines pulp.

Daniel Kehlmann, Tyll: translated fluidly from the German, Kehlmann’s novel will soon be getting its own series by the people behind Netflix’s Dark. Read it before then, and enjoy the intricately reconstructed world of Tyll Eulenspiegel, medieval German folk anti-hero.

Etgar Keret, The Girl on the Fridge: Keret doing when Keret does best. Short, stinging, and occasionally absurd. But even at his most outlandish, there is always something undeniable human and humane in each of his stories. Equally to be recommended is his collection Fly Already.

Herman Hesse, Knulp: For that friend of yours that can never quite settle down. You know the one.

Hilary Mantel, Giving Up The Ghost: perhaps to be read in tandem with Elinor Cleghorn’s recent Unwell Women, as the most striking passages in this book deal with physical health and the mental toll caused by the disbelief in the illness and pain suffered by women.

Max Porter, The Death of Francis Bacon: Abstract, disjointed, and moving in its depiction of ultimate loneliness.

Adania Shibli, A Minor Detail: An important — and timely — book from last summer, made all the more relevant by this spring’s violence in Israel and Palestine. One foot in the past and one foot in the present.

—Ash Lange

Kim Stanley Robinson doesn’t quite prove the famous Fredric Jameson quote used as Ministry for the Future’s epigraph incorrect but he does offer a readable speculative future centered around contemporary struggles. I fear the happy ending comes all too easily (it is science fiction) even if one were to calculate the total death toll imagined in the book from heatwaves and other climate change-induced natural catastrophes. It’s certainly a book parents should read if they need a fictionalized account of the current trajectory their offspring are on. Tip: Learn what “wet bulb” temperatures mean for human survival before you begin reading the book.“Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT): This is an environmental temperature arrived at by measuring dry air temperature, humidity, and radiant energy (i.e., usually direct sunlight being absorbed by clothing), used to calculate a thermal load on the person.” NIOSH [2016]. NIOSH criteria for a recommended standard: occupational exposure to heat and hot environments. By Jacklitsch B, Williams WJ, Musolin K, Coca A, Kim J-H, Turner N. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 2016-106.


Margaret Randall has led an extraordinary life. Fortunately, she continues to chronicle it for us. A New Mexico-based (after a mid-life spent on the other side of the Iron Curtain’s Latin American fronts) poet and writer with 200+ books to her name, she’s published at least four of them since I learned of her upon the release of her latest memoir, I Never Left Home: Poet, Feminist, Revolutionary (Duke Univ. Press, 2019), last year. Her prose corpus alone provides me with a continuing source of thought-provoking, compassionate writing that provides a significant counterpoint to that produced by so many of her contemporaries, especially male writers. Smug self-satisfied certainty they’d summited the peak of human existence and knowledge (and, indeed, they may have but only because they laid the conditions for the impossibility of humanity’s continued existence and development much beyond their own deaths) is the opposite of Randall’s evolving perspective on our world. I can also recommend her My Life in 100 Objects (New Village Press, 2020), Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression (Duke Univ. Press, 2015), To Change the World: My Years in Cuba (Rutgers Univ. Press, 2009) and Exporting Revolution: Cuba’s Global Solidarity.

On the Nature of Ecological Paradox (Springer, 2021) is a good pairing with the overly optimistic Ministry for the Future and a reminder of humans’ striking and continued ignorance — a lack often filled with baseless hubris rather than investigation or education.

Mitchell Dean and Daniel Zamora offer a reading of the later works of Michel Foucault finding agreements among his “turn to the ethical” and neoliberal political economy and values in The Last Man Takes LSD (Verso, 2021).

Dominique Eddé makes one hope he or she might think things worth someone pondering at book-length after our deaths when she writes about Edward Said (Verso, 2021).

William O. Pate II


Alternative History Lessons

“Spain is different.”

Slogan chosen for Spanish tourism under Franco regime.

A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793: And a Refutation of Some Censures, Thrown upon them in some late Publications.

Alternative History Lesson

PDFs located at go here.


William Pate

Slavery didn’t end in the United States on January 1, 1863, with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. As the National Archives notes, the proclamation

applied only to states that had seceded from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy (the Southern secessionist states) that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union (United States) military victory.<span id=”njqya8ov33i” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

“The Emancipation Proclamation.”&nbsp;National Archives, 6 Oct. 2015, Accessed 15 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>1

<figure id=”ngeu42g9rrg” data-node-type=”image” data-size=”69″ data-align=”center” data-url=”” data-caption=”

Page three of “The Emancipation Proclamation” specifies the states to which it applies. Source:&nbsp;National Archives, 6 Oct. 2015,

“>Image of third page of Emancipation Proclamation.

Page three of “The Emancipation Proclamation” specifies the states to which it applies. Source: National Archives, 6 Oct. 2015,

In fact, it wasn’t until the summer of 1865 — two and a half years after the proclamation — that slaves in Texas were informed of their freedom.

On June 19, 1865, Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston. It stated:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

<figure id=”nc5nafz65k9″ data-node-type=”image” data-size=”48″ data-align=”left” data-url=”” data-caption=”

Original version of General Order No. 3 from General Gordon Granger. Courtesy of the United States National Archives.


Original version of General Order No. 3 from General Gordon Granger. Courtesy of the United States National Archives.

<figure id=”nxjaog2ipvc” data-node-type=”image” data-size=”43″ data-align=”right” data-url=”” data-caption=”

General Orders, No. 3. U.S. House, 54th Congress, 1st Session (H. Doc. 369, Part 2). “General Order Number 3,” 1896. U.S. Documents Collection. Y 1.1/2: SERIAL 3437


General Orders, No. 3. U.S. House, 54th Congress, 1st Session (H. Doc. 369, Part 2). “General Order Number 3,” 1896. U.S. Documents Collection. Y 1.1/2: SERIAL 3437

Juneteenth, celebrating this announcement of abolition over two years after the proclamation, is the name given to Emancipation Day by African Americans in Texas.<span id=”nf946d0e1m8″ data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

“Juneteenth | TSLAC.”&nbsp;Juneteenth, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 10 June 2021, Accessed 15 June 2021. See also Teresa Palomo Acosta, “Juneteenth,”&nbsp;Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 15, 2021, Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

” class=”footnote”>2 Similar celebrations are also called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day.<span id=”nsoas5vknkc” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

Erin M. Smith.&nbsp;Juneteenth. Factsheet, R44865, Congressional Research Service, 7 June 2021, p. 7, Accessed 16 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>3

The practice of slavery didn’t end in the United States didn’t end on Juneteenth either, though.

As the Congressional Research Service remarks in its factsheet for elected officials,

Even after the general order, some slave masters withheld the information from their enslaved people, holding them enslaved through one more harvest season.<span id=”nul6ed67mml” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”


” class=”footnote”>4

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed January 31, 1865, but wasn’t ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states until December 6, 1865, and proclaimed on December 18, 1865:

13th Amendment/Amendment XIII

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.<span id=”nllx790oasi” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

“13th Amendment.”&nbsp;LII / Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School, Accessed 16 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>5

This ended slavery in the Union border states of Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky.

Yet still officially sanctioned slavery survived in the United States.

For a few months more, Native American tribes on “Indian territory” were allowed to continue to hold slaves, as explained by J. Gordon Hylton:

By Indian Territory, I refer to that part of the unorganized portion of the American public domain that was set apart for the Native American tribes. More specifically, I use the term to refer to those lands located in modern day Oklahoma that was set aside for the relocation of the so-call “Civilized Tribes” of the Southeastern United States: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.

These tribes were the only Native American groups to formally recognize the institution of African-slavery. As Southerners, the Civilized Tribes had accepted the institution of African-slavery, and at the outset of the Civil War, African-American slaves made up 14% of the population of Indian Territory occupied by the civilized tribes.

As it turns out, neither document applied to Indian Territory, and consequently, slavery survived in that part of the United States for several months after it was abolished everywhere else with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December, 1865.<span id=”n8hgwr4dgr3″ data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

J. Gordon Hylton. “When Did Slavery Really End in the United States?”&nbsp;Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog, 15 Jan. 2013, Accessed 18 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>6

Slavery didn’t officially end in the United States until treaties with each of the Civilized Tribes were entered into in mid-1866, more than three years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

. . . in each of the 1866 treaties the tribal signatory acknowledged that slavery would no longer be recognized as a legal institution by the tribe.

If we simply go by the dates on which the Tribes ratified these treaties, slavery in the continental United States came to an end as a legal institution on June 14, 1866, when the Creek Tribe agreed to abandon African-American slavery. The was, somewhat ironically, the day after Congress approved the Fourteenth Amendment.<span id=”nmcqekhl2cp” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”


” class=”footnote”>7

<figure id=”nhfoad6bjki” data-node-type=”image” data-size=”31″ data-align=”right” data-url=”” data-caption=”

Art by Camila Rosa / Courtesy: Amplifier


Art by Camila Rosa / Courtesy: Amplifier

Slavery’s end in the United States has a long, delayed, long-delayed and staggered history. Official recognition of Juneteenth celebrations traversed a similar path until the summer of 2021.

Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas and spread to other parts of the country as Black people migrated over the years. It was declared an official state holiday by Texas in 1980.<span id=”nfuh8v2zypn” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

Erin M. Smith.&nbsp;Juneteenth. Factsheet, R44865, Congressional Research Service, 7 June 2021, p. 7, Accessed 16 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>8

On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent Senate Bill 475, declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday.<span id=”n8jxxqwnur8″ data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

Markey, Edward J.&nbsp;All Info – S.475 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. 16 June 2021, Accessed 17 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>9

On June 16, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 475.<span id=”n2swww9yzse” data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

Congressional Record. Accessed 17 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>10

<figure id=”nc65alpjkj7″ data-node-type=”image” data-size=”50″ data-align=”center” data-url=”” data-caption=”

Image of Congressional Record — Daily Digest of June 16, 2021. Available at


Image of Congressional Record — Daily Digest of June 16, 2021. Available at

The following representatives voted against recognition:

  • Rep. Chip Roy of Texas

  • Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas

  • Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona

  • Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama

  • Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia

  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee

  • Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona

  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California

  • Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky

  • Rep. Tom McClintock of California

  • Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina

  • Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama

  • Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana

  • Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin

President Joe Biden signed the legislation on the afternoon of June 17, 2021.<span id=”nugaddjzu32″ data-node-type=”footnote” data-value=”

“Bill Signed: S. 475.”&nbsp;The White House, 17 June 2021, Accessed 18 June 2021.

” class=”footnote”>11

<figure id=”n381z8vfbwv” data-node-type=”image” data-size=”83″ data-align=”center” data-url=”” data-caption=”

Image from


Image from

William O. Pate II is the founding editor and publisher of San Antonio Review.

Excerpt from Volume 3 of the 1919 Texas Rangers Investigation Report

William Pate

The following work-in-progress excerpt is published for the first time outside its official printing resulting from the 1919 Texas House of Representatives Committee investigation into racial violence committed by the Texas Rangers along the U.S. border with Mexico during the 1910s. The three-volume report was sealed from public view for 50 years upon publication and has not, to my knowledge, been made widely available beyond the posting of facsimile copies in PDF format on the Internet. I’ve taken it upon myself to convert the available facsimile documents into machine-readable and publishable format in hopes wider availability will increase knowledge and interest. This is only a small portion of the entire report. —William O. Pate II, August 2021, Austin, Texas, USA


– – – – – – – –


– – – – – – – –

The Joint Committee of the Senate and House to investigate the charges against the State Ranger Force reconvened at 1. 30 o’clock P. M.

– – – – – – – –

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Gentlemen, let’s have order. Now, Judge, at this time could the Adjutant General’s Department and his associates indicate what time it will take for the presentation of their side?

MR. KNIGHT: I declare to you, Gentlemen, I wish I knew. (Laughter) I can only tell you that we are going to rush the thing with all possible speed and facilitate it in every way we can. Now, I said Saturday night that we thought it would not take long. Two days and nights have gone, and we have just gotten at it.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: We have no disposition to hurry you.

MR. KNIGHT: I understand.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: But we have some other matters we are trying to arrange. Is there any reason why we could not reasonably expect to conclude the evidence by Friday noon?

MR. KNIGHT: I think not, Your Honor.

MR. MOSES: By Friday noon?

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Yes, sir. This is Tuesday.

MR. KNIGHT: That will give us three full days.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: We will run all night if you want to.

MR. MOSES: I think we can unquestionably get through before that time.

MR. KNIGHT: I think so. We will do our very best.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: We have no disposition to hurry you, but we have so many people here that are wanting to get away.

MR. KNIGHT: I understand that. You have our complete sympathy and co-operation.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Gentlemen, I am not going to undertake to control your order of procedure, but in so far as the witnesses are from the more remote sections dispose of them as early as possible.

MR. KNIGHT: Yes, sir.

(Thereupon Mr. Tidwell of the Committee swore Charles E. Pickle to act as one of the Official Shorthand Reporters of the Investigation.)

MR KNIGHT: The Adjutant General will read his pleading at this time.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Some additional pleadings?

GENERAL HARLEY: It raises no additional issues, but it defines our position and the issues in this case at this time.


Thereupon Adjutant General Harley read the pleading above mentioned, which reads as follows:

Austin, Texas,
February 10, 1919.

To the Hon. W. H. Bledsoe, Chairman, and the Members of the Joint Committee of the House and Senate to investigate the Charges against the State Ranger Force.


The Adjutant General further representing to the Committee presents that heretofore towit on the 26th day of January, 1919, he issued a communication to the Legislature requesting the appointment of a Committee to investigate all alleged charges against the Ranger Force, and to determine the causes of complaint and the motives of those making said complaints. The purpose of the Adjutant General in making this request to the Investigation Committee appointed by the Legislature was that a fair and impartial tribunal might be constituted which would summon witnesses and go thoroughly into matters with witnesses before them testifying under the sanction of an oath; that said Committee could elicit testimony before said Committee which the Adjutant General’s Department could never procure by non-judicial investigation. He further represents that he realized that such a Committee as is now constituted and here sitting could understand the vicissitudes and dangers that beset the Texas Rangers, and the difficulties under which the Adjutant General’s Department labored in endeavoring to keep a high standard personnel on starvation wages. “Every laborer is worthy of his hire” and no man is going to render higher service than the standard you fix for him by his remuneration, save in a few exceptional cases, and in this the Adjutant General asks the judgment of this Committee relative to the proper remuneration.

The Adjutant General further states that his appearance before this Committee is not for the purpose of hiding or defending any acts of misconduct by Rangers, but that he may be of assistance to this Committee by helping to develop both sides of every controversy. That he has never condoned or approved of misconduct, nor has his agent and inspector, W. M. Hanson, ever done so, but on the contrary has always and continuously endeavored to eliminate the bad element from the force which is evidenced by the fact that he has discharged approximately 108 men during his tenure of office which is 100% of the actual number of men now on the force; that acting under the Governor’s direction, he has tried to maintain a high standard of conduct for Rangers, and has always investigated causes of complaint whenever made by well meaning and reliable citizens; that he represents that many matters of misconduct developed before this Committee constituted acts which were committed prior to his induction into the office of the Adjutant General of the State and matters over which he had no control, and which happened a long time prior to his term, and of which he had no means of knowing, and of these matters he asks the judgment of the Committee that they so state in their report.

The Adjutant General further represents that this investigation having taken a wide scope which covers a number of years of ranger activities, especially on the border where alleged acts have been complained of before this Committee which anti-dates the encumbency of the present administration, requests the Committee to differentiate between acts committed prior to and subsequent to the present regime, in order that the public may know that all the misconduct complained of is not attributable to the present personnel of the force and of this the Adjutant General asks judgment of this Committee. The Adjutant General further represents that the low salary, and the heavy taxing· of our manpower by the National Government made it practically impossible to keep any character of men on the force, much less high-class men at all times as evidenced by the fact that a number equal to the present force have been discharged, and about 95% have resigned during my tenure of office.

Further representing to the Committee the Adjutant General says that the many hundreds of citizens of this State who have so splendidly rallied to the support of the Ranger and who know and live in the portions of Texas where the Texas Ranger is the only safeguard for the lives of their loved ones and their property have had no mercenary or biased motive in appearing here, but only to assist this Committee and see that the Ranger service that their forefathers organized was not destroyed by the enemies of good government.

Further representing to this Committee, the Adjutant General says a living evidence of the necessity for continuing the force is the fact that the Governor of the State, the loyal members of the force, and all good citizens, and specially those who live in the border section, are anxious that the Ranger Force be purged of undesirables (if there are any) and that the force be composed only of good, law-abiding, clean men, who at all times will observe the law and conduct themselves as officers should.

The Adjutant General, acting for the Governor, has endeavored to rid the service of the lawless element, and will continue to do so with the assistance of the Legislature, if given the proper agency with which to carry out such reforms as are necessary which he now asks of this Corrnnittee and prays judgment thereof.

The Adjutant General further represents that if the Legislature acting upon the sound judgment of this Committee will place a sufficient salary for Rangers at the disposal of the Adjutant General and make such other recommendations as can be easily carried out by the Legislature in placing within the complete control of the Adjutant General the state Rangers subject only to the Governor’s call to duty, the Adjutant General can and will eliminate from the Force and make of it an organization that will be the pride and protection of the State and its best citizens.

Further presenting this matter to the Committee, the Adjutant General represents that it is his belief that the Ranger Force as now constituted is composed of men, some of whom are of excellent character, and whose conduct as Rangers has been second to that of no other peace officer of the State, and that the general aspersions cast during this investigation upon the character of such men, should not go unchallenged, to their humiliation because perchance some acts were committed by a few others, most of which occurred in 1915 and 1916 long prior to the term of service of these men and the Adjutant General and unknown to them, although uncomplained of and known to their calumniators, and of this he asks judgment of this Committee.

The Adjutant General further represents as heretofore stated that when asking for the appointment of an Investigation Committee, he welcomed a healthful and through investigation as given by the committee in justice to the people and the Rangers, that they may know the real facts, and of the wrongs committed, and help correct them. Notwithstanding the effort on the part of the Adjutant General to assist in dispelling the mists of misunderstanding, it is sincerely to be regretted that sinister forces, grown venomous, by political rancor, against the Chief Executive, should seek by an abuse of legislative privileges to drag from its high purpose the efforts of this Committee and require you Gentlemen to grope through the mists of personal aspersions and to weigh without evidence the cowardly thrusts that real American manhood would not tolerate in the open; aspersions cast under the protection of sacred privileges, sadly abused, and in this the Adjutant General respectfully submits to the wisdom of this committee the justice and fairness of the actuating motives that impelled them, and asks for such action as this Committee deems advisable.

In conclusion the Adjutant General respectfully submits all matters before this Committee with full confidence in the combined wisdom of their action and asks that they recommend such action and changes in the Ranger system, its personnel, and its future operations. believing that this Committee will serve the purpose for which the Adjutant General asked for it, if it will give the public and the Legislature the benefit of what has been developed herein, and which he knows will be done to the benefit of the Ranger Service in the future, and the honor of our State.


The Adjutant General,
State of Texas.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Gentlemen, before you begin, Captain Vann was to refresh his memory with reference to the personnel of the force who were with Captain Ransom at that train wreck, and he is fixing to leave town. With your permission, I would like to ask him one question.

MR. KNIGHT: All right.


recalled to the witness-stand, testified as follows:


Q Captain Vann, when you were on the stand the other day you were asked by some member of the Committee if Captain Anders, now on the Force, was a member of Captain Ransom’s party at the time of the train wreck. Have you refreshed your memory in any way about it?

A Yes, sir; he was on the Force, but I would not absolutely swear he was there; I am almost sure he was. I wired down there and the party wired back that he was there, but I can not remember absolutely that he was there; I would not swear that he was there; I can’t remember seeing him there. There were other Rangers there. I think all of Captain Ransom’s bunch were there the next morning, but I can’t pick him out and say absolutely he was there.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: All right. Is there anything else desired from him before he leaves?


Q You spoke of Captain Ransom taking those men some distance down the river. Can you recall who the men were that were acting under the orders of Captain Ransom at that time?

A No, sir. I remember that Luke Engelking was a Ranger at that time.

Q Who else? I want to get those who participated in that execution.

A Well, they were Captain Ransom’s men. I know he was there because he made them talk to me.

Q Now, Engelking. Do you remember any other?

MR. KNIGHT: Is Ransom is dead?

A Yes, sir. I know that Engelking and the Captain both belonged to his Ranger company. I remember Captain Ransom being there absolutely, but I can’t say about the others.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: You think Captain Anders was there?

A Yes, sir.

MR. MOSES: Can you recall the name of any other Ranger who was there at that time?

A No, I don’t, Judge. I don’t remember just who all was in his company; it has been two or three years ago, and I don’t remember just who composed his company of Rangers at that time.

MR. CANALES: Was Ewing Baker among them?

A I don’t know whether he was at that time or not, but Baker has been on the Force with Ransom a good deal. Ransom didn’t keep men very long; sometimes they stayed thirty days or sixty days. There was a new bunch all the time.

MR. TIDWELL: Now, there is one other question. You say he could not keep men. Was that due to his inefficiency or the inefficiency of the men?

A It was due to his inefficiency. He was very overbearing and couldn’t get along with them.

MR. TIDWELL: Do you remember the date of his death?

A Yes, sir; it was last year some time; it was during our District Court; it came out and I read it in the paper; it was at Sweetwater.

MR. TIDWELL: Was he still a Ranger at that time?

A I understood so. He was a Captain.

MR. TIDWELL: That’s all.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: That’s all. Gentlemen, pardon me for the interruption.

MR. CANALES: Mr. Chairman, I want to get clear on the proposition. A pleading has been read by the Adjutant General. I want to get it clear as to the real issues raised. I do not understand that he pleads a general denial. I understand it is in the nature of a confession and avoidance. I want to get the nature of the plea so I can find out what issues are raised here. I heard it read very patiently, and it struck me as what the law perhaps may term in the nature of a confession and avoidance, rather than a general denial of the charges made. I want to get that clear in the record.

MR. MOSES: We are not responsible for the lack of understanding of the counsel who filed these charges. That pleading speaks for itself; it is in plain United States, and if counsel is not able to understand what it means, that is no fault of the Adjutant General; and since he has made that statement in the presence–I will not say for the benefit, but in the presence of the multitude, we desire to say it is not any confession and avoidance at all, but speaks for itself.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Gentlemen, the fact about the business is, it is not necessary to name it. The Adjutant General has filed a written statement or pleading, or whatever you are pleased to call it. The issues before the Committee will not depend upon any pleadings filed, but by the scope of the resolution under which we are operating. MR. CANALES: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: We are not confined to any pleadings raised by counsel. Proceed, Gentlemen.

C.E. JESSUP, having been duly sworn, testified as follows:-


2 Mr. Jessup, where do you live?

A Brownsville.

Q How long have you lived on the Border?

A A little more than ten years.

Q What is your business at the present time?

A I am Manager for a portion of the Brown Estate at Brownsville.

Q What is the name of that plantation under your jurisdiction down there?

A The Brown estate had four corporations they asked me to look after; one is the Piper Plantation Company, the Buena Vista Gattle Company, the Piper Mercantile Company, and Brownsville Creamery & Dairy Company.

Q Now, have you ever taken part in political matters in the Valley?

A No, sir—no, sir.

Q Where did you locate when you first went to the Valley?

A At Brownsville.

2 At Brownsville. What were conditions there then as to peace and order and law-abiding condition of affairs?

A Brownsville at the time I moved there was one of the most orderly, quiet, peaceful cities of its size that I have ever known; even at this time, I may say, so far as the administration of city affairs is concerned, I don’t think there is a town in the United States of its size that is more orderly than Brownsville is today.

0 Are you connected at this time in any way with the city government of Brownsville?

A Well, I am a member of the Board of City Development there, which is an appointive position, associated with the City Commissioners of the City.

Q Yes, sir. What line of work have you been engaged in since you went to the Valley?

A The first three years I was in the Valley I was manager for a canal system there; then for three or four years I was in the mercantile business, in charge of a hardware, implement and farm machinery business located at San Benito; the past two years I have been residing again in Brownsville, associated with the Browns.

Q Yes, sir. What has been your relation, if any, in regard to the operation of the Rangers on the border?

A In March of last year stealing just below Brownsville and East of Brownsville along the river became so wholesale that I took the matter up first with Sheriff Vann and asked him what we should do, and he said: “Mr. Jessup, my department is powerless, absolutely helpless to help you ranchmen and farmers out; I haven’t the force to do it with,” and I think he was correct. Talking matters over he advised that we seek help in the person of the Rangers.

2 Yes.

A Our Chamber of Commerce, our City Development, in Brownsville called a meeting of the members to discuss this situation and I was selected acommitteeman to come to Austin to ask for help, interview Governor Hobby and General Harley in reference to the matter, and they immediately gave us some Rangers there.

I might state in this connection that just prior to my trip to Austin we had lost thirty-seven head of fine Jersey cows from the Piper Plantation, the Starks adjoining us had lost six cows, and Mr. Cooper, adjoining on the Hast, a small farmer, had lost two work mules, a driving horse and two cows. This all occurred within four weeks’ time.

2 That was prior to the time you came to Austin?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, one moment. How far is the Piper Plantation and the other places from the river?

A The Piper place abuts on the river; Mr. Stark’s abuts on the river; the Cooper farm is about one mile from the river.

2 Well, go ahead and state what you had to do with the operation of the Rangers.

A Well, just before leaving Brownsville to come to Austin I ‘phoned Captain Stevens, who was at Mercedes. We had had no Rangers in our immediate vicinity for a long time. While I was in Austin, Captain Stevens sent two or three of his men down and they made some investigations and arrested some suspects before I got back home. Captain Hanson came right on back to the Valley, arriving there–he stopped off at San Antonio and followed me on the next train then coming on down to Brownsville, and I think Captain Stevens met him there in a day or two. We talked matters over and some of Captain Stevens’ men, three men, were immediately stationed on the Piper Plantation. Now, from that time–

Q What was the result, now, of the work of the Rangers there?

A From that time until about four weeks ago, when Captain Taylor’s men were removed from there, so far as I know–and I investigated carefully–there was not a solitary instance of any theft in all that community the entire time. Captain Taylor’s men were taken off the force about a month ago and the Rangers came out of our locality.

2 Been any stealing?

A Since then we have had two disk harrows right from the plantation carried away.

d Mr. Jessup, give the Committee the benefit of your opinion as to the absolute necessity of Rangers on the border to protect life.

MR. CANALES: I understood the ruling of the Chairman was that this Committee had already heard sufficient testimony, Mr. Chairman, and I made no issue on that point at the very time.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I understand, but still that is not the exact question.

MR. CANALES: All right.

A Please repeat the question.

2 Give the Committee the benefit of your opinion as to the absolute necessity or not for the presence of Rangers in the Valley and along the border to protect and conserve property and the lives of citizens?

A If we are denied the protection that we have had of this character we will be compelled to change our methods of farming and stock-raising—simply can’t operate under conditions as they were.

2 What have been your facilities, Mr. Jessup, for getting in touch and knowing and ascertaining the mind of the people in that vicinity in regard to matters of public interest and particularly the work of Rangers in that section of the country?

A Well, my acquaintance in the county is pretty thorough. As I stated, I was for three years in the mercantile business and we operated the only store of any real pretensions in the farm implement and machinery line in the county and our customers extended from one end of the county to the other. While I was living in San Benito I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce there, as I have been in Brownsville. I attend a great many of the farmers’ meetings, and also I am frequently present at the meetings of the newcomers who come into the country.

I was on the local Exemption Board there during most of the War, and two or three different times I have been chosen by the farmers and citizens of the country to make special trips for them to adjoining States and to Washington, and- I think I am thoroughly familiar with the minds of the farming people as well as the citizens of the cities.

2 Now, from your experience and contact with them, does the sentiment existing there coincide with those you have expressed in regard to the Rangers?

A It is my belief that perhaps more than ninety percent-

SENATOR WILLIFORD: You understand he can state what he knows about it.

MR. KNIGHT: I mean from actual contact with the people.

A I don’t want to transgress the rule, but my opportunities have afforded me a chance to talk with scores–more than scores of the people of our county, and I know it to be—-

Q Yes.

A –the opinion of the people generally just as I stated, that we could not be deprived of the help we have had without suffering material loss.

SENATOR WILLIFORD: Judge, I think we are losing a good deal of time on something the Committee has no question about.

MR. KNIGHT: Yes, sir. I am going to hurry on.

Q Mr. Jessup, do you make it a habit to attend public meetings in Brownsville and take an interest in matters of neighborhood concern and public interest?

A Yes, sir.

Q Have you ever heard—state whether or not you have known of Mr. Canales’ having participated in any of those public meetings in which he either endorsed or condemned the Ranger force?

A Well, at the time we were discussing the matter of Captain Stevens’ removal from the county and the coming of another force to take their place, our city there had a meeting, at which Mr. Canales was present and made an address in which he endorsed the action and presence of the Rangers. Mr. Canales accompanied myself, Gaptain Hanson and Captain Taylor down to the Piper Plantation one Saturday evening when I was paying off and delivered an address to the people there which was a very effective one, trying to reason with the people that it was not necessary for them to cross the border on account of the operation of the Selective Draft law. Then on the following day, which was Sunday, Mr. Canales went with Mr. James A. Brown and myself down to another Brown estate known as the San Rafael and one of the other Brown ranches and talked with the people in a very effective way and manner in regard to what they might expect as regards the operation of the draft law and the presence of the Rangers there—did good, effective work.

2 Now, when was that, Mr. Jessup?

A That was just prior to the second registration. That was–

A That was early in September, was it not?

2 of 1917?

A It was the latter part of August–

2 1918?

A 1918, or the first of September.

2 All right. Now, was there anything in Mr. Canales’ addresses or in his conversation with you and Captain Hanson to indicate he thought that the exodus was due to the presence of Rangers, or to the draft law?

A Not that I know of, no, sir; we were discussing the draft situation.

Q Nothing said about the Rangers?

A We were discussing Captain Taylor and his men, which was a new Ranger organization coming into the Valley, and Mr. Canales explained to the Mexican population that they were gentlemen coming there to protect law and order and would protect all citizens.

Q And in whom the Mexican citizens could rely and place confidence?

A Yes, sir.

2 Now, then, do you know anything about the conditions with reference to thieving up the river about San Benito?

A Yes, sir.

Q Just tell the Committee what you know about that.

A The vicinity up the river above Brownsville twelve or fifteen miles in the neighborhood of where Mr. Cunningham was killed some months ago is being troubled continuously with loss of stock and one or two murders committed right in that locality. There are no Rangers stationed near that point, as I understand it.

MR. CANALES: I want to ask you, is that true?

A How?

MR. CANALES: That there are no Rangers stationed there?

A As far as I understand it, there are no Rangers there.

Q All right. Is the condition worse up there than in your neighborhood while you had Rangers?

A We had none in our neighborhood while we had Rangers.

Q Now, during all the years you have lived there is the criticism and alleged misconduct and misdemeanors of Rangers worse in the last year or two than it was when you first went there?

A I don’t think so, no, sir.

2 Mr. Canales is your Representative, isn’t he?

A Yes, sir.

2 He served in previous–served that district in previous sessions of the Legislature?

A Yes, sir.

Q When was your attention first called to the fact that Mr. Canales was taking a very active and prominent part in his attack upon the Rangers?

A I found out the latter part of August that he was taking a prominent part in securing the removal of Captain Stevens and his men from the Valley. Further than that, I had never known of his making any attack–if such it might be called–on the Ranger force until he came to Austin this time.

Q Now, then, Mr. Jessup, have you studied–read and studied what is known as the Canales Bill?

A Yes, sir, I have read it over.

2 What, if any, objections–specific objections have you to that bill that you desire to communicate to the Committee?

A There are two features of the Canales bill as it was introduced—I don’t know in just what state it may be now in the hands of the committee, but as introduced there are two features of the bill that I believe would be very detrimental to the effective operation of the Rangers. In the first place, the feature of the bill which provided for making the Ranger force amenable and answerable to the county officials in the county I think would absolutely destroy, possibly, the effectiveness of Rangers in our county, and the feature of bonding the Rangers I also think would destroy the effectiveness of the force.

Q Your idea is that if either of those features should become a law you might as well disband the Rangers?

A Yes, sir. The feature of increasing the pay, I agree with Mr. Canales; I think it should be increased.

2 Yes, sir.

A And, further, I want to agree with Mr. Canales, that I don’t hesitate to say that there have been mistakes made by Rangers, and I would like to see the force improved, but we don’t want it crippled or removed.

Q Now, tell the Committee what are the peculiar conditions in that section of country down there that imperatively require the presence of Rangers?

A Well, the peculiar condition of our border there as regards the boundary line is one that necessitates the presence of Rangers. As the crow flies, from Brownsville to the mouth of the river it is twenty miles; following the meanderings of the river it is more than a hundred miles. The river is lined on both sides with heavy thickets and undergrowth.

SENATOR WILLIFORD: Mr. Knight, the Committee has heard many times as to the condition of the river, and they have agreed to cut that out.

MR. KNIGHT: All right. I am satisfied with that if the Committee is.

Q Now, the bandit troubles were greatly improved and practically brought to an end some time ago. Now, what part, in your judgment, did the Rangers display and what did they do that brought the bandit trouble to a better state of affairs and condition?

A The bandit trouble was brought to an end in our country by the co-operation of the Rangers, the citizens and the United States all working in harmony, working together, and the bandit troubles ceased there when those agencies made it unpopular to propagate raids.

Q Did the Rangers give full co-operation and assistance to the local authorities and the people down there in cleaning up that country of its banditti?

A So far as I know; I heard no complaint.

2 Now, when did General Nafarette leave Matamoras with reference to the time the bandit trouble closed–before or after?

A My recollection is that Nafarette did not leave Matamoras until some time after things had gotten clear on the American side–some three or four or five months, is my recollection.

2 He was still there when the Rangers arrived, wasn’t he?

A Yes, sir.

2 And stayed there some time afterwards?

A Yes, sir.

2 And the trouble ceased soon after the Rangers’ arrival, is your recollection?

A Well, we had trouble there in 1915 and also in 1916.

2 Yes. Now, you have been in the room and heard testimony regarding the exodus of Mexicans from this side to the other side. You have stated your facilities for knowing the sentiment there generally of those who left as well as those who remained. Tell the Committee whether that was due to the presence of Rangers or to the registration laws–military laws?

A The exodus of 1915 and of 1916 was brought about by the state of war that existed on the American side of the border on account of the bandit raids and was participated in by, as I have already stated, United States soldiers, citizens of that country, and the Rangers. Some of the people who crossed the border were no doubt afraid, possibly, of Rangers, but I think I know that a very small—the Rangers played a very small factor in running them across the river in 1916 and 1917—in 1915 and 1916. The exodus of 1917 and 1918, so far as I was ever able to find out–and I made strenuous efforts to find out, because our labor was constantly leaving us, was brought about by two agencies-

C Yes, sir.

A –first, the spreading of German propaganda, and, second, the operation of the Selective Service law.

& Yes, sir.

A The Rangers played no part in the exodus of those two years.

2 Now, just give the Committee your opinion of the real state of the public mind there during those raids?

A Well, during those raids it was simply a state of war; every home almost was an arsenal.

2 Were the people in terror–in a state of terror and apprehension?

A They were in a state of terror. If I am not transgressing, I will illustrate by an incident that happened in San Benito in in the bandit raid in 1916.

& Yes, sir.

Q Out of the conditions that existed misunderstandings were growing, and the Mexican population of San Benito is nearly all of it on one side of the river while the American is on the other; the town is divided, and they call one “Mexico” and the other the American part of town.

2 Yes, sir.

A Things grew so strenuous for two or three days it looked like we would have a race war in our town; those who had been our best friends on the Mexican side didn’t know who to trust or who to believe. I pleaded for two days with some of my friends to go across the river with me and call a meeting and address them. My best friends laughed at me and called me a fool.

2 Why?

A They said, “Your life is in danger if you cross over there.” I said, “I can reason with them.” I succeeded in getting the Mayor to call a meeting over there, but he would not attend. At the last hour two or three men who had agreed to go backed down. I said, “I am going if I have to go by myself.”

SENATOR WILLIFORD: Is this on any particular question, Judge Knight?

MR. KNIGHT: Yes, sir–showing the tension there between the two races. I think it is very important.


A Finally two of my fellow townsmen agreed to go with me. I think there must have been a thousand Mexicans waiting to meet us, and I spoke to them through an interpreter for half an hour, explained to them that our interests in the country were mutual, we were their friends and wanted to regard them as our friends, and law-abiding Mexicans should be protected just as much as the American people, and it absolutely allayed the strain in San Benito and the next day everything was free and easy.

& The tension was eased?

A Yes, sir.

2 Now, a good deal has been said about the regalia or garb or dress of the Rangers. Is there anything peculiar about it as compared with that of river guards and cowboys in that country?

A No, sir, I don’t think so; I have always regarded the Ranger dressed as needed to perform his work,–nothing sensational that I have discovered.

Q Is there anything different in it from time immemorial?

A It is just as I have been in the habit of seeing it.

Q Now, Mr. Jessup, there has been a good deal of testimony lugged into the record regarding the disappearance of one Florencio Garcia. Did you know Florencio Garcia?

A Yes, sir.

Q Was he an employee of your Piper Plantation at the time he was apprehended?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, subsequently a lot of scattered bones were discovered, and an attempt has been made to identify those as constituting the skeleton of Florencio Garcia. Now, I will ask you to begin at the beginning and give the Committee the full history of that case and why he was apprehended and the whole thing as you now recall it–first, was he on the plantation when you went there?

A Yes, sir, he was on the plantation when I went there.

2 All right.

A About three or four months before we lost our cattle I was informed by a ranchman from Mexico that Florencio Garcia and his brother-in-law, who was also working on the plantation, had been run out of Mexico because they were cattle thieves.

MR. CANALES: Who is that ranchman? please name him.

A Mr. Reeder, from Mexico.

Q He was a ranchman in the Republic of Mexico?

A Yes, sir. He brought the information to me that those two men ought to be watched. I discussed it with Mr. James

A. Brown and asked him whether we should discharge them or not, and decided not to discharge them, but to leave them where they were.

2 He was one of the owners of the plantation?

A Yes, sir. So they remained in the service. Mr. Garcia was herdsman of what we called the dry herd of cattle, left with them all the time, and had instructions to count them every day and if one was missing to report it immediately.

When we lost our large bunch of cattle we found-

Q That’s the thirty-seven head?

A Yes, sir—found out that the cattle had been gone some four or five days before it was reported to us.

MR. McMILLIN: How did you find it out?

A Found out how they crossed the river and the place they crossed and so on; and so I said to my superintendent of the plantation, “It looks very suspicious to me that the cattle should be gone this length of time and we not hear of it before.”

He said it did look strange. The Rangers came on down there, as I have already reported, and probably a week or nearly a week after they came into that vicinity the Rangers went to the plantation one day at the noon hour and took Mr. Garcia away with them.

2 Were you there?

A No, sir.

& Did you know that the Rangers were going there at that time?

A No, sir, I didn’t.

2 Now, when you were making the examination in an effort to detect what became of those cattle, in what way they were driven and when, were there any horse tracks or other things that connected Florencio Garcia with their crossing the river?

A Yes, sir. Garcia rode a horse shod in front-

MR. CANALES: Do you know that of your own knowledge?

A How?

MR. CANALES: Do you know that of your own knowledge?

A Yes, sir, I know it.

MR. CANALES: Did you follow the tracks?

A I went down there.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Mr. Canales, don’t interrupt the witness. You can ask that on cross-examination.

Q Go ahead.

A He rode a horse shod in front, the only one shod in that character on the plantation. The shoe was rather a peculiarly shaped shoe, a large, smooth shoe, rather round. The tracks at the riverbank revealed the fact that that kind of a horse had been prancing around there in the sand close to the river bank at the same time evidently cattle tracks were made there.

0 Were the cattle tracks plainly visible too?

A Yes, sir.

Q How many cattle were in that dry herd that were under the immediate supervision of Florencio Garcia?

A In that particular herd at that time probably about two hundred and fifty head.

2 Yes, sir.

A We had 850 head on the place.

2 Yes, sir. Now, then, the Rangers came about noon and got him?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, just go ahead and tell all you know about it.

A All I know about it is absolutely hearsay; I know by reason of just knowing as it came to me in an absolutely direct way that they went with this man to Point Isabel, stayed overnight there-

SENATOR WILLIFORD: Well, that is hearsay; we don’t want it.

A Well, it is hearsay; I don’t know a thing about it personally.

SENATOR WITT: I would like to hear it.

MR. KNIGHT: Your Honor, I see no reason for any impatience on the part of the Committee. This is the first witness we have had on that line.


MR. KNIGHT: We have as much right to have it as the newspapers on the other side.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Judge Knight, I don’t appreciate your remarks. I am discharging my duty–

MR. KNIGHT: I don’t doubt it.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I am following the testimony, and shall rule on all objections promptly.

MR. KNIGHT: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I will ask counsel not to make remarks of that character.

MR. KNIGHT: We are trying the best we can to help you. We have no interest except to get the truth.

SENATOR WILLIFORD: The witness says he don’t know anything about it.

MR. KNIGHT: Well, they have been doing it for a week.


Q Now, Mr. Jessup, Senator Witt says he would like to hear it. Just go ahead and state what you know.

A They started from the plantation with this man about noon, went over to Point Isabel, about twenty miles East on the coast, stayed overnight in Point Isabel, left next morning about nine o’clock coming in the direction of San Benito and Brownsville to a point where the road forks leading to the two towns, the Rangers taking the road towards San Benito accompanied by Florencio Garcia and little Charley Stark and the two soldiers with him taking the road on towards Brownsville. I will say I got it from reliable information. Further than that I know absolutely nothing.

0 Yes, sir. Did you ever go to the scene of the discovery of the bones?

A I did not.

Q You had nothing further to do with it?

A No, sir.

SENATOR WITT: Do you know the names of the Rangers who had the man in charge?

A No, sir, I did not know them at that time; I have heard them.

SENATOR WITT: What are their names?

A Sadler was one and Locke the other. I believe I am correct in that.

2 Now, Mr. Jessup, you were on the local Exemption Board in your town?

A Yes, sir.

2 You heard the testimony of Mr. Canales in relation to his stenographer’s being selected and his disappearance into Mexico and his connection therewith. Now, will you kindly and in the briefest possible compass tell the Committee what occurred regarding that, and in your own way?

A I don’t remember the name of the young man. When his paper came before the Board we looked at that one just as we tried to all others to see what the papers showed; found that he was a single man, early in the twenties; that he claimed deferred classification, that he had a dependent father and mother, aged and infirm, and several younger brothers and sisters. The paper also showed that he was earning a salary of considerably less than thirty dollars per month. We immediately placed this man in Class A-1.

Q One minute. What did the questionnaire show with reference to the actual age of those parents that were aged and infirm?

A That they were both considerably younger than myself.

2 Now, what did it show with reference to a continuity of–

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Will you pardon me a minute?

MR. KNIGHT: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I will be glad if you will have that put in the record.

Q Do you remember their ages as stated in the questionnaire?

A Going to make me tell my age?

2 Yes.

A They were less than fifty years of age, both of them.

2 All right.

A They had quite a large family of children, some of whom were very young.

& Now, what was the similarity, if any, between the reasons for being put in a deferred class as contained in that questionnaire and those that were contained in the questionnaires of other young Mexicans?

A No, as I stated before, we placed this man immediately in Class A-1. Judge Canales came to see me in reference to the matter and asked me if I did not know that this was his stenographer, and I said I did not, those papers all looked alike to me, and I didn’t know that to be the case; he explained that he was his stenographer and that his father was in frail health and he thought he ought to be deferred for that reason. After talking the matter over we suggested that if one of the reputable physicians of the city would examine the father and make a sworn statement to the Board that he was in such a critical condition that the son should be left at home we would reconsider the matter, all of which was done, and we changed the boy to third class and left him in Judge Canales’ office.

Later on we got instructions from the Department that we must recomb our list and get more men; every Board was informed that they had men that ought not to be deferred. Later on we were compelled, on our oath, to take this boy, so we put him back in Class 1. The Judge talked to me again about it and seemed rather surprised that we should have ruled as we did and so expressed himself, and when I stood on the ruling he said, “May the Lord help you!” and said he would appeal it to the District Board, and the District Board sustained the Local Board, but the boy didn’t stay in America long enough to hear from it–he went to the other side.

2 Now, Mr. Jessup, the pay of a private soldier in the Army was how much?

A Thirty dollars a month.

Q Board and clothes thrown in?

A Yes.

2 Expenses paid. What was that young man receiving as salary as shown by his questionnaire?

A My best recollection is that it was six dollars a week, twenty-four dollars a month; I won’t swear that it was, but it was considerably less than thirty dollars a month.

Q Now, then, that’s the last you have heard of him?

A Yes, sir.

2 Now, do you recall the record of your county with reference to the number eligible to the selective service, the number that were aliens and deficients, the number that were delinquents or deserters, and the number that enlisted in the Army? Take those figures there and see if they are correct, at the top, for Cameron County.

A These figures are probably made up after the second registration.

Q Yes, sir.

A I resigned from the Board just prior to the second registration. I remember distinctly in our first registration we had 2354 registrants in Cameron County. The Board was compelled to call and examine every man who appeared in order to get our first quota of 229 men. I can’t state the exact number of those who never appeared, but it was in the neighborhood of forty percent, those who had registered never answered then call when they were called for examination; we found that those people were across the river largely.

Q Yes, sir. These figures, you think, were made after the second registration?

A Those figures were made after the second registration.

MR. KNIGHT: That’s all.


By Mr. Canales.

Q Mr. Jessup, you said you never knew Gustavo Vera before I called your attention to the fact that you had placed him in Class A-1?

A I knew there was a Mexican boy working in your office, Judge, but I didn’t know his name.

2 Don’t you know that he worked for you–that I loaned him to you and Mr. Jones and he worked for you several weeks?—Mr. Dancy was my partner at that time?

A He worked for the Board several days, but I didn’t know his name, and when his paper came before us I didn’t know him from a thousand others.

Q Don’t you know that the first one that called your attention to that was Mr. Dancy and not me?

A No, I don’t remember.

d Do you mean to say that Mr. Dancy did not talk to you?

A I don’t know; he possibly did talk to me. I remember distinctly that you did.

2 Now, don’t you know that we selected Dr. Spivey, who was State Quarantine Officer and, I think, City Physician at the time, and everybody said he would be agreeable, and Dr. Spivey said that his father was incapacitated for doing work, in his affidavit?

A That is correct. I have already stated that we sent a physician.

2 Isn’t it a fact that two other reputable physicians testified that he had been in that condition for nearly two years?

A I don’t remember whether we had other testimony on that or not.

2 Do you remember that there were three other affidavits attached there?

A No, sir, I don’t remember that. We had a great many.

2 Don’t you know that he first appeared before you before the questionnaires and was examined and was turned down by the physician because he himself could not pass the physical examination?

A No, sir, I don’t remember that.

2 Don’t you know that his questionnaire showed that the average that he had earned during the year was about eight dollars a week, but that he was making forty dollars for the last three months?

A It didn’t show that. You raised his salary the second time before the paper came before us.

2 Don’t you know that he was making forty dollars?

A The second time?

No, sir, he was making fifty dollars the second time. I made an affidavit to that. Since you changed him from Class 3 to Class A-1 he had been raised ten dollars more, which made it fifty dollars a month?

A No, sir, that is not my recollection.

2 Well, do you say that is not true?

A I say he was earning less than he would have earned in the Army, thirty dollars a month, according to his questionnaire.

Q Don’t you know that the question asked the average for the whole year-that’s the question in the questionnaire?

A I will state again that the questionnaire placed before us showed that the boy was receiving less wages than he would have received in the Army.

Q I will ask you to state whether or not that was not in answer to a question asking the average monthly earning for the last year?

A I don’t remember that.

2 Well, you seem to remember these other things, Mr. Jessup.

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, isn’t it a fact that I told you at the time that his condition existed exactly the same and that if he was entitled to go in Class 3, that there was no reason why you should put him back to 1-A?

A Yes, sir, but the United States Government had told us that conditions had changed across the water and we would have to have some of the boys now that we had passed up before.

Q You didn’t change Mr. Cuerto at all.

A We sent Mr. Cuerto to the Medical Advisory Board at Corpus Christi twice and the doctors sent him back each time; that’s no fault of the Board.

Q Now, coming back to last March when you came to ask for aid, don’t you remember–who was the man that came with you to Austin to see the Governor?

A I think Mr. Foley from San Benito came with me.

2 Do you remember the time you went to the McDonald Flats to talk to me on Sunday?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you remember the conversation you had with me that afternoon before Mr. Foley in regard to getting Rangers?

A No, sir, I don’t remember what we said up there.

Q Don’t you remember you told me you didn’t want Rangers, but you wanted relief and if you could not get any other kind of relief you will take Rangers?

A No, sir, I don’t remember saying that.

Q Don’t you know that you made me go and make an engagement with the Governor and you made substantially that same statement to the Governor before Mr. Foley, that you needed relief but you folks didn’t want Rangers, because it would alarm the Mexican people, and if you could not get any other kind of relief you will take that?

A Well, now, since you have mentioned that feature of it, I will explain that we did say to the Governor that if he could bring influence to bear on the Commander at Fort Sam Houston to send a large force of soldiers down there we would take soldiers; if they could not do that, we wanted Rangers, and wanted them right away.

2 Why didn’t you want Rangers if the Rangers were so infinitely better than soldiers?

A Well, personally I was in favor of having Rangers.

2 You didn’t tell that to me?

A I did not?

2 You didn’t tell that to the Governor?

MR. MOSES: That is argument.

0 Did you?

A I can’t remember; I can’t tell you everything that occurred that day, Joe.

Q Don’t you remember the time you and I’ and Mr. Hanson and Captain Taylor went to the Piper plantation, that the reason was that the people were afraid of being arrested promiscuously by the Rangers, brought into town and put in jail, and that you people were not consulted about it–that was one of the complaints I had to make and was one of the things that was discussed at that meeting at the Chamber of Commerce?

A No, I don’t think that had any bearing on the case. The thing we went to the Piper plantation to relieve was the crossing into Mexico to avoid the operation of the draft law.

2 Mr. Jessup, let me remind you, didn’t you make that statement to the Mexican people, and I acted as your interpreter, and you made the request that if there were any persons in your employ that had failed to comply with the registration the officers should furnish the names and you would send them to town rather than come there and arrest them?

A Yes, I did that.

2 Why did you do that? why did you make that request?

A To show the Mexican people down there that we wanted to co-operate with them and keep them out of all sorts of trouble. Those people being picked up around there were not by the Rangers, but by county officials and registration authorities, some not knowing that they should register, and the fact that those officials had been going and picking them up to my positive knowledge. During the twelve months I was on the Board no person was apprehended and brought before the Board by Rangers; the others had brought them there in bunches.


A I say, in the twelve months I was on the Board there were no deserters or slackers ever brought to the Board by the Rangers; they were brought there by some Deputy Sheriffs and some of the Immigration officials there. We were kept busy fixing up papers for deserters and slackers, but I don’t recall a single instance in which a Ranger brought any to the Board; that is my recollection; if I am wrong I would like to be corrected.

2 I think you are correct. You made the request of the Ranger Captain who was just coming in to instruct the Rangers not to arrest any individual on the plantation before giving an opportunity to you or to your foreman to bring him to the Board and that you would co-operate with them and bring him at your expense?

A I no doubt made the same request that I made to other officials, that if there was anybody wanted on the plantation and they would let us know we would deliver him without any disturbance or arrest on the place; that is our rule and our understanding with all the officials, immigration and others.

Q Now, you made the very strong statement that the Rangers- I mean that as soon as the Rangers were placed on the Piper plantation that it stopped stealing completely, and then the statement about Mr. Cunningham when he was killed, which was about fifteen miles North of town?

A Yes.

Q That there was a great deal of stealing through there, but no Rangers were there. I wish to remind you—

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Mr. Canales, you must interrogate the witness and not make statements.

MR. CANALES: I am cross-examining him.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: You have practiced law long enough to know that you must interrogate him by specific questions.

MR. CANALES: Yes, sir, but I first predicate it with the testimony, substantially.

2 Now, isn’t it a fact that Rangers were stationed at Ranchito Esparza, about two and a half miles from where Mr. Cunningham was killed?

A I know nothing absolutely about it.

Q And also that Rangers were stationed at San Benito, about six miles away?

A No, sir, I didn’t know any were stationed at San Benito.

2 You talk about the bandit trouble and activities there and your general knowledge of it. I ask you to name a single time when you went to help anybody or protect anybody during that time–assist anybody physically who needed assistance during that time?

A I was not out on a single expedition. As I explained, I was in charge of a mercantile business in San Benito and my time was devoted to that store. I have explained what I tried to do to allay feeling in San Benito, but I was not out on any of the raids. I was trying to get guns and ammunition there fast enough for the other fellows. (Laughter.)

Q Now, you talk about the exodus of Mexicans, that the exodus in 1915 and in 1916 were not caused by slackers, that the exodus in 1918 to which I called your attention a while ago was wholly caused by registration. I ask you whether it is not a fact that it was also caused by the fact that the Federal officers would go into the various plantations and arrest Mexicans on mere suspicion for not registering or not complying with the draft, lugging them into jail and keeping them sometimes a day or two, and then find out they had already registered and did not violate the law?

A I have already explained that the Federal officers spent a good deal of their time in such work, and I have explained that that was in the operation of the selective service law. 2 The Rangers had nothing to do with that? A So far as I know, there can be nothing attributable to Rangers in the exodus of 1917 and 1918.

Q In fact, they did not participate in enforcing the selective draft law?

A During 1917 we didn’t have them down at Brownsville; they didn’t come to Brownsville until in April or early in May, 1918.

Q Now, Mr. Jessup, can you name a single instance, not only from your knowledge but even from hearsay, of a United States soldier during 1915, 1916, 1917 or 1918 having captured Mexican persons and killing them?

A United States soldiers?

Q Yes, sir, after they were captured?

A No, sir, I don’t know of any.

Q Now, you know Mr. Kibbe?

A Well, which one?

2 Frank W. Kibbe?

A Yes, sir.

2 What sort of a man is he—isn’t he a reliable man and a man well acquainted with the Mexicans and the situation there?

A So far as I know.

& If Mr. Kibbe says that man Garcia, who had been working for him a number of years, was a law-abiding man, do you believe that his testimony is good?

MR. MOSES: We object to that. Has Mr. Kibbe been here?

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: The only reference to his testimony was that testified to this morning, that the special officer of the Mexican Government-

MR. MOSES: Well, if he testified to that, all right, but we don’t think it is proper cross-examination.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I don’t think it is proper cross-examination.

2 Mr. Kibbe had been there a long time?

A Mr. Kibbe had been manager there the year prior to my going there.

2 He went there very frequently?

A No, sir, he didn’t go there frequently; he went there about once a week, and they had a lot of Mexican laborers on the plantation, so I don’t think he became intimately acquainted with any of them.

MR. CANALES: That’s all.


By Mr. Knight.

2 Mr. Jessup, counsel asked you if American soldiers have ever killed a prisoner after having captured him. I will ask you if Mexican soldiers across the river have not killed American officers and soldiers after they captured them?

MR. CANALES: I don’t think that is material, Your Honor.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I don’t think it is necessary to go into that.

MR. KNIGHT: I will state that this warfare down there 11f grows out of a peculiar situation. The war is on the Mexican banditti, and of course there are American outlaws down there. Counsel is now showing that the American soldiers did not exe¬ cute prisoners. He is also constantly endeavoring to show that someone Ranger Captain did that. Now, I want to show that the Mexican soldiers did exactly what he condemns the Texas Ranger for doing, and it was not Mexicans they were fighting. I just want to show that there are two sides to every question. I want to show—if Mr. Jessup does not know of any instance, all right, but if he does it would be well to let it go in the record for what it is worth.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Judge, if you indicate that this testimony would relate to the action of any person on this side of the river or attributed even by hearsay to the Rangers I would think it is admissible, but otherwise it is not.

MR. MOSES: We will agree that no prisoner ought to be killed–that no officer ought to let a prisoner be killed, and also that a negro who is charged with an outrage on a white woman ought not to be mobbed, but they do it just the same. If Mexican soldiers on the other side of the river murder our sol¬ diers when they capture them or our people when they take them over there it would arouse a feeling of ill will and anger on the part of the men on this side, and while it would not justify it it would palliate it to some extent, just like the people who mobbed that negro up at Hillsboro in broad, open daylight; while it is not justification, yet you don’t feel in your heart that condemnation which you might feel-

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: There may be conditions under which we might go into that, but I don’t think we have authority to do so at this time.

MR. KNIGHT: All right. That’s all.


Q You indicated about how many Rangers were located in Brownsville in 1917 and 1918?

A In 1917 we didn’t have any Rangers in the immediate vicinity of Brownsville. The Rangers that I have been talking about having any dealings with came there in the Spring of 1918.

Q Do you know whether or not there were any Rangers located in Brownsville in 1916?

A I don’t know whether they had a camp or headquarters there or not. The Rangers were in there at that time operating in connection with the citizens and the United States Army all along the border, but in very small numbers as compared with citizens or troops.

2 Do you know of any instance in which Rangers in the city of Brownsville have acted in an illegal or overbearing way towards law-abiding citizens?

A No, sir, I don’t know of any.

MR. KNIGHT: I am glad you asked that question. I overlooked it.

2 Do you remember the condition that existed in about January, 1917, or December, 1916, when General Parker was in command of that post?

A Yes, sir, I think I am fairly familiar with it.

Q Do you remember whether or not it is true that time after time the Government corrals were raided there and Captain Conger was constantly on the alert for them—did you know Captain Conger?

A No, sir, I didn’t know Captain Conger.

2 Do you know General Parker?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did you hear anything of the outbreaks in the latter part of January or February when they were corralled there and the cavalry were after them for a number of days?

A The date I don’t remember. It is possible you have in mind calling on the United States troops at the Galveston ranch South and West of San Benito when they were fired on and some killed.

2 About how many killed?

A I think there were two or three Americans killed; they were ambushed.

Q Do you remember the date of that outbreak?

A No, sir, I don’t remember the date of it. Then the United States troops were fired on together with citizens over North and East of San Benito and one soldier killed at Scribner’s ranch.

2 Do you remember the date of that?

A I can’t remember exactly, but it was rather early in what we term the bandit raids.

MR. TIDWELL: That’s all.


2 Mr. Jessup, have you ever seen Rangers in an intoxicated con¬ dition in the streets of Brownsville or in saloons?

A I have never seen any Rangers in an intoxicated condition in Brownsville, either in saloons or out. I did not go in the saloons myself, and we haven’t had any there for some time, and I have no recollection as to seeing any of the boys in a saloon, and I have never seen a Ranger on the streets acting in an unbecoming manner.

MR. LACKEY: That’s all.


having been duly sworn, testified as follows:-


By Mr. Knight.

2 Judge, where do you reside?

A I reside in McMullen County.

Q What is the county seat?

A Tilden.

& How long have you been on the border?

A Thirty-seven years.

0 Have you held any official positions down there?

A A few. I was County Surveyor for ten years in McMullen County, a member of the Twenty-fourth Legislature in 1895, County Judge of McMullen County, and District Attorney of the Thirty-sixth District.

2 Name the counties in that district.

A Well, now, that is hard to say, because they were shifted a time or two, but LaSalle, DeWitt, Frio, Wilson, Karnes, Bee, San Patricio, Aransas and McMullen.

2 Is that all? (Laughter)

A They were shifted once or twice.

2 I understand.

A Then I became a member of the Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth Legislatures.

& The Thirty-fourth Legislature assembled what year?

A The Thirty-fourth assembled in 1915.

2 You are an attorney?

A A little bit.

2 How long have you practiced law down there?

A Twenty-five years.

Q You are also a ranchman, are you not?

A I am.

Q Have you been in close and intimate contact with the people in that country down there during your long residence?

A My personal experience covers Nueces County, Duval County, LaSalle County, Webb County, and my own county, and everything North from there and to El Paso. I have no experience in what they call the Valley.

d All right. Now, then, Judge, are you acquainted—are you advised of the fact that there has been an exodus of Mexicans from this side of the river to the other side for the last three or four years during those troublous times?

A Yes, sir, most of ours ran away.

2 Did you have any Rangers up in your country?

A Not in the last ten or twelve years.

Q Yes, sir.

A They appeared in the county in which I have my office about eight months ago. They were kind enough, four of them, to come to my office and notify me that they did not come to see the lawyer, but came to see the cowman and wanted assistance.

2 Yes, sir.

A They broke up the cattle stealing proposition that had been going on for about seven years in the neighborhood. We could not find testimony enough to do anything, because the men who were finally arrested were brothers of the Sheriff.

Q Well, did the Rangers assist you in bringing them to justice?

A Well, I assisted them. I was not engaged either in the prosecution or defense.

Q They were prosecuted and convicted?

A Yes, sir. They got continuances once or twice.

That’s the only time they have been in that section?

A In that part of the country.

2 You say there was an exodus from that section?

A Well, we could not put them in the United States Army.

2 What was the cause of that exodus? was it the visit of those four Rangers?

A Well, I would rather not state that, because I held another office or two.

2 What is that?

A Well, I was Appeal Agent by appointment of the Governor in the draft cases and I tried to put them in the Army, and I could not find them.

Well, they had disappeared?

A They had gone.

2 Well, in your opinion what was the occasion of their going?

A Well, they didn’t want to put on the United States uniform.

2 It could not have been that visit of the Rangers there six or eight months ago?

A Oh, no, sir, we haven’t been afraid of the Rangers.

& Now, Judge, the other day I believe you were present when Mrs. Yeager was on the stand?

A Yes, sir.

2 And she related a controversy over the tank on her place, in which she mentioned Captain Oscar Thompson?

A Yes, sir.

0 Rangers and so forth. Now, I will get you to state whether or not in a suit brought there to enjoin certain parties from using that water hole you recall Oscar Thompson was ultimately impleaded as a party defendant and you represented anybody in that litigation?

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: It has been suggested that both members of the Senate in attendance today have been called into the Senate. Let’s suspend until they return.

MR. KNIGHT: All right.

(Thereupon the proceedings were suspended for a few minutes.)

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Gentlemen, let’s have order now. Senator Williford is here.

Q Now, Mr. Burmeister, when we stopped–you were counsel in that case for whom?

A For Mr. Oscar Thompson.

Q Was that case tried?

A It was tried.

2 Did you hear all the facts sworn to there in court?

A Every word of it.

2 Now, Mr. Burmeister, just go ahead and tell the Committee in your own way all about that transaction from beginning to end.

MR. CANALES: I simply object to this as an immaterial and irrelevant point, that it could not possibly have any bearing on either side of this case.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Well, I am not clear in my recollection of Mrs. Yeager’s testimony, but I think her reference to Judge Burmeister was entirely on cross-examination, was it not?

MR. KNIGHT: It was on what the Rangers did. Her attack, if anything, was against the Ranger Force.

MR. CANALES: I wish to remind you–

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Wait just a minute.

MR. MOSES: Before you finally rule-

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Well, we will hear you.

MR. MOSES: I was not here at the time Mrs. Yeager testified, but read the account in the Dallas News; it was rather an extended account, and I presume the reporter will admit an accurate account. The substance of her testimony was, she testified to two propositions, one of which Mr. Burmeister knows nothing about; one was in regard to some misconduct of Rangers in San Benito; then she testified in reference to what she termed the outrageous conduct of Rangers at her residence, in which Oscar Thompson was the principal party, but it became material because a Ranger was backing Thompson up. Now, all that is involved in that lawsuit. In this same suit referred to she asked, I believe, for something like fifty thousand dollars against Mr. Thompson, or maybe twenty thousand, by reason of that misconduct of his in the presence of a Ranger.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I understand, though, that that entire matter was brought out on cross-examination, and it showed up here that she did not file the suit, but that it was brought by Thompson and she filed a cross-bill.

MR. MOSES: Well, if she stated it was filed by Thompson that is not correct. The lady was mistaken if she testified that. It was a suit filed by Timberlake—

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Well, she said other parties brought the suit. I may be wrong in saying Thompson.

MR. MOSES: She impleaded Thompson.


MR. CANALES: I want to say that the principle of law and evidence is that you can’t bring in cross-examination anything to lay a predicate to impeach the witness. All the matter was brought out on cross-examination, not by myself. Judge Knight can’t come up here and try to impeach a witness for saying things he brought out on cross-examination. That is an abuse of the principles of evidence, so far as I know.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I think a predicate for impeachment can be laid on cross-examination.

MR. KNIGHT: That is the only time it can be laid.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: The only question is whether up to the time of the cross examination it was on a material issue.

MR. MOSES: It was in reference to misconduct of Rangers.

THE WITNESS: Will the Committee hear me?

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: No, you are a witness.

THE WITNESS: I am a lawyer.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Well, I will ask you to occupy your place as a witness.

THE WITNESS: Well, Your Honor, I was present here when the examination of that witness took place.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Well, if you will keep your seat it will expedite matters. As far as I am concerned, you can go ahead with the evidence, unless other members of the Committee take a different view. In so far as you may desire to interrogate him with reference to the truth or falsity of any statements made by her, we are willing to hear it, but not as to laying out the tract of land and the inception of the trouble.

MR. KNIGHT: Well, I could interrogate him, but it would save time for him to go ahead.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Well, I want the examination to be in bounds.

MR. KNIGHT: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Now, so far as it relates to her examination, go ahead. I have tried some boundary-line cases.

Q Judge, in the evidence in that trial was it not developed that Oscar Thompson and others were sent for by this little woman and that they did not voluntarily go to her place?

A In order for the Committee to understand this question, Gibbens and Timberlake filed suit for injunction against Mrs. Yeager and her husband. She had one hundred acres in one place and 640 in another. The suit was filed in August, 1914, and I was then a member of the Legislature and was in Austin. I knew nothing of these parties. During the special session 1120 Mr. Yeager came up here and stated to me that his wife, who lived in McMullen County, had a lawsuit and would like to see me. I informed him that on my return home I would see her. By accident I met her in San Antonio, and she informed me that she had employed Mr. Bullitt and W. W. Walling, two lawyers. When court met I came on the Ilth of November and found out that Mr. Bullitt and Mr. Walling had filed an answer in which they impleaded Mr. Oscar Thompson and asked for fifty thousand dollars for maltreatment, blowing up a dam, drinking and carousing in her house. And threatening her?

A That was the allegation. I have it here–the Committee can read the pleading if they want to have it introduced.

0 All right.

A Mr. Thompson was an old client of mine. I notified Mr. Bullitt I could not join in that case at all, and I answered for Mr. Thompson, which was filed five or six months after that, I think. The venue was changed and the case was tried at Cotulla before Judge Mullally. As leading counsel for Mr. Thompson, I represented that end of the case. It was proved on the trial that these gentlemen met in about a quarter of a mile of this lady’s house, with her son, surveying to find out how much of the water belonged to her–ran a line there on the East of the windmill, and the balance of the windmill and the well were on the Thompson land.

SENATOR WILLIFORD: We had the other day a matter coming before us in which the testimony was ostensibly given as contain¬ ed in a book. I don’t think testimony heard in that court down there is testimony here.

THE WITNESS: I undertake, Your Honors, to allege the facts that were developed in this case; I was present.

SENATOR WILLIFORD: I don’t think that is testimony, Mr.Burmeister.

THE WITNESS: Well, possibly we differ and this Committee will have to rule. These matters were developed under oath in my presence.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: I will hold that it is not proper testimony and those facts can not be established in that way.

THE WITNESS: Her own admissions?

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Her own admissions, yes.

THE WITNESS: I am coming to that.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: The point objected to by Judge Williford is your statement that these parties met at a certain place and did certain things. That is clearly not admissible, and we could not tell what you were coming to, and the objection to that part of the testimony-

MR. MOSES: Now, Your Honor, the agent of the CarranzaGovernment made certain investigations with regard to the death of Florencio Garcia and his conclusions reduced to writing, but nevertheless conclusions, just the same, from his investigations were introduced by Mr. Canales to establish the fact that the Rangers named murdered somebody. Now, the investigations of a number of witnesses have been introduced on both sides who had investigated the transaction and have testified to the result of their investigations.


MR. MOSES: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: There is another call for the Senator to come back to the Senate Chamber. Now, I doubt the propriety of proceeding in the absence of both Senators. We will take a short recess.

(Thereupon the Committee recessed from 3.40 P. M. until (3.45 P. M.)

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Gentlemen, we have a Senator with us. Let’s proceed. Let’s have order in the house.

MR. KNIGHT: Gentlemen, in my judgment it won’t take ten minutes to tell the whole thing.

MR. MOSES: If the Court please, I may be in error, but my recollection—I don’t pretend to say, I read it in a newspaper and don’t say that I remember it accurately, but my recollection is that the substance of her testimony was–it was probably brought out on cross-examination–that Thompson and a lot of men, among the men a Ranger or Rangers—

MR. KNIGHT: Rangers.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: Wait a minute. We must have some order out there where that talking is. Go ahead, Judge.

MR. MOSES: In other words, that these men went up to her house and raised a rough house at her place of their own initia¬tive; in other words, a bunch of ruffians went up there drinking and cursing.

CHAIRMAN BLEDSOE: That was not testified to; there was no testimony about any cursing there.



Quotes from our readings since the last issue.

Organized police forces are relatively recent inventions, developing especially in the nineteenth century. They emerged as (and remain) a means of imposing social order. Their precise nature differs in important ways across national contexts and forms of government, depending on which populations were perceived to be threats to social order. For example, British police were formed to quell Irish nationalism and Chartist demonstrations in the interests of wealthy Victorians, fearful that London was growing rapidly in size and impoverishment. The London Metropolitan Police was modeled both on the Bow Street Runners, originators of the concept of regular uniformed police patrols, and on the London Marine Police Force, initially funded by the West India Merchants and the West Indian Planters Committee for the purposes of securing cargo from the colonies. Techniques of policing were also derived from colonial governance. Through the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, British police forces increasingly took on the role of ensuring public order against the threat of rioting. In nineteenth-century Canada and Australia, national “mounted” police forces were established to control Indigenous populations, serving as security forces for settler colonialism.

These histories are important for understanding not only the criminalization of Indigeneity, and the continued regularity of the murder of Indigenous people in police custody, but also the ways that war and police have been inextricably entwined for centuries.

— A. Howell, International Feminist Journal of Politics, page 123

Mexico’s power elite in the last three decades is overwhelmingly the product of elite mentors. Only one out of seven of our power elites had no known elite mentor. Furthermore, most of the mentors were either members of their same small power elite circle or members of elite circles prior to 1970.

These figures are extraordinary for two reasons. First, the fact that nearly half of Mexico’s most influential figures were disciples of their own peers during a thirty-year period suggests the rapidity of elite dynamics on one hand and the ability of a narrow group of leaders to choose their replacements on the other. Second, although having an elite rather than an “oridinary” mentor is not a requirement for achieving super elite status, in more than eight out of ten cases it is in the norm. Thus, those talented individuals in Mexican society with leadership ambitions are not likely to achieve membership in Mexico’s power elite withoutthe assistance of an elite mentor. Having such a mentor does not guarantee achieving elite status, but rather it is a typical characteristic among those Mexicans who achieve such influence.

Camp, Roderic A., and Camp, Roderic A. Mexico’s Mandarins: Crafting a Power Elite for the Twenty-first Century. United Kingdom, University of California Press, 2002.

Those who rule in this country now . . . want to hide the truth from black people . . . and they would like to hide it from the world; and not, alas, because they are ashamed of it but because they have no intention of changing it. They cannot afford to change it. They would not know how to go about changing it, even if their imaginations were capable of encompassing the concept of black freedom.

— Nabile Fares, as qtd. in Paris and the Marginalized Author: Treachery, Alienation, Queerness, and Exile. United States, Lexington Books, 2018.

First of all I am, not through my own choice, in the Western world, and also in a world which in a certain way is not yet born, created, or else it’s so ancient that it exists only in the passions and underground memory of certain folks. I’m in mid-voyage. It’s not all in escape. I see something, and I have confidence in this something that we are: human beings.

— James Baldwin to Nabile Fares, as qtd. in Paris and the Marginalized Author: Treachery, Alienation, Queerness, and Exile. United States, Lexington Books, 2018.

Baldwin’s sentence, despite my little enthusiasm for determents, I hunted for in my boxes until nightfall. In fact, it was a question of returning to Baldwin’s thoughts through Albert Memmi, in [his] introduction to The Fire Next Time. I wanted this sentence. I wanted to read it again because it is a phrase that is a part of impossible discourses, discourses that are only very rarely heard, discourses that will never be understood. It belongs to these sentences that are written to be lost, and which, because of their loss, continue to remain, as if, despite the events which overtake them and will overtake it (this little sentence, Baldwin-Memmi), they stand before you . . . like the Sphinx before Oedipus, words of an enigma that no one, neither violence, nor tearing apart can resolve.

— Brandy Fax in Un passenger de l’Occident

I don’t believe Hayek has any genuine faith in or affection for political democracy. I don’t think that he would put nearly as much punch into a campaign against business monopoly as he would against a trade union monopoly.

— Economist Jacob Viner, as qtd. in The SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalism, pg. 108

Create beauty from all that pain. You have talent and legacy. This is a privilege that life has given to you. How many times have I wanted to sing to life, to the struggle, to the pain, to those who are no longer here? And when I opened my mouth, all that came out was a moan.

— Haydee Santamaria as qtd. in Margaret Randall’s Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression. Duke University Press, 2015.

After the May 21 cease-fire, Gazans began visiting relatives and friends who survived the [Israeli] onslaught in an atmosphere that is both sorrowful and triumphant. Families are reuniting after splitting up their children among friends and relatives, so that, should their own home be hit by a missile, at least one of their children — and their lineage — would live on.

— Isra Namey and Taylor Luck, “Gaza’s painful reckoning with war’s physical toll,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2021, page 10.


If [people] get involved in one form of politics, it often spills over anbd they will be engaged in other forms of political activity. This is not the first time we have seen issues around public schools be flashpoints. You can think of school board politics as the gateway drug to greater involvement across the board.

Because school board elections are low-profile races with low turnout, and the number of voters compared to a congressional district is small, it means a small group of dedicated activists can make a big difference — and that’s part of the appeal. It’s not uncommon for people running for Congress to describe how they first got involved in school board politics.

— David Campbell, University of Notre Dame, qtd. in “Why are parents so mad in one of America’s best school districts?” by Story Hinckley, The Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2021, page 8

This exploitative imagery is dressed up with numbers that attempt to portray the state of women in the country and austerity in a bad light. They are the same myopic and dubious figures as always. They state, for example, that 46.2 percent of the population is below the poverty line, that 58 percent of those same poor households have a single mother at the head of the family, and that 70 percent of them are unemployed.36 Other common figures include the number of women who receive public assistance to obtain food for their households, and those who receive child support. Some days, when the newspapers disseminate statistics about abused women, women killed by their partners, or those who have gone missing, I can’t understand if they are raising awareness or propagating victimization.

In spite of so many facts and figures, there are some that never, or only very rarely, get mentioned. Like, for example, that a box of eighteen tampons costs, on average, $7.00 before tax, while the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour before subtracting taxes. They also fail to point out that under PROMESA the minimum wage can be lowered to $4.25 an hour, before taxes, for women twenty-five years old or younger, at the governor’s discretion.37 Or that the average menstrual cycle lasts five days; and in order to avoid infections or life-threatening complications, a woman should change her tampon every six to eight hours at most; and that the flow of blood obligates us to change them much more frequently. Or that eight tampons may be needed every day, and that two boxes are needed every month, twelve months of the year, which adds up to about $168 annually, or twenty-four hours of a woman’s work time. Or that thanks to the federal government’s budget cuts, which eliminate the cash a family with public assistance benefits can withdraw—which was $60 a year ago—today, they can only withdraw $36. Or that from that sum, an impoverished woman is responsible for paying for sanitary pads, tampons, cleaning products, deodorant, toilet paper, adult diapers, children’s school materials—because if it wasn’t for the teacher there wouldn’t even be chalk—but also gas, water, and electricity, because if you don’t pay they’ll take the roof from over your head. And with that, they’ll snatch away our children, our peace and dignity, our bodies, our stink, and all the fucking rest of it. This is what the statistics don’t show. This is the truth that fleshes out the beautiful facts and clean numbers of poverty. But it’s never spoken about because it isn’t proper, because it stinks.

— Godreau-Aubert, Ariadna Michelle, and Tara Philips. “We Women Who Don’t Owe Anyone.” Critical Times, vol. 4, no. 1, Apr. 2021, pp. 130–47. (Crossref), doi:10.1215/26410478-8855283. Accessed 20 June 2021.


Logistics is power. Block everything.

Chilean mining protestors, as quoted in Arboleda, Martin. Planetary Mine: Territories of Extraction Under Late Capitalism. United Kingdom, Verso Books, 2020.

“True injustice is always to be found at the precise point where you put yourself in the right and other people in the wrong.”

— Adorno

Any one of those is a possible narrative, but of no single use can I say with certainty that it alone is true.

— Butler, Judith on Nietzschean genealogy in Giving an Account of Oneself. United States, Fordham University Press, 2009.


“influx of the refuse and criminal hordes of foreign countries”

— U.S. Sen. Heflin of Alabama, May 2, 1921, as quoted in Gandal, Keith. The Gun and the Pen: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and the Fiction of Mobilization. United States, Oxford University Press, 2010.


About three-quarters of Texans working for companies with fewer than 100 employees do not have access to a pension or retirement savings plan. In all, nearly 60 percent of the state’s private-sector workers—5.4 million people—have no savings plan through their employers, the analysis found.

— Thomas Korosec. “Pushing to Help Texas Workers Save for Retirement.” Texas AARP, AARP, 1 July 2021,


68% of the private sector workforce has no long-term disability insurance.

48% of the workforce in private industry has no private pension coverage.

— Factsheet: Social Security. Factsheet, Social Security Administration, Accessed 19 July 2021.

Total employer compensation costs for private industry workers averaged $36.64 per hour worked. Wages and salaries averaged $25.80 per hour worked and accounted for 70.4 percent of employer costs. Benefit costs averaged $10.83 per hour worked and accounted for the remaining 29.6 percent. Median (50th wage percentile) employer costs per employee hour worked were $26.88 for total compensation, $18.91 for wages and salaries, and $7.97 for benefits.

— “Employer Costs for Employee Compensation – March 2021.” Employer Costs for Employee Compensation – March 2021, U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 June 2021,


When building a decolonizing machine out of colonizing scraps, we ought to ask, what are the types of organizational structures to get it done? What organizational structures do we think we are supposed to have? Why do we think that way?

—  la paperson (K. Wayne Yang). A Third University Is Possible. United States, University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

I can lose my hands, and still live. I can lose my legs and still live. I can lose my eyes and still live. I can lose my hair, eyebrows, nose, arms, and many other things and still live. But if I lose the air I die. If I lose the sun I die. If I lose the earth I die. If I lose the water I die. If I lose the plants and animals I die. All of these things are more a part of me, more essential to my every breath, than is my so-called body. What is my real body?

We are not autonomous, self-sufficient beings as European mythology teaches. . . . We are rooted just like the trees. But our roots come out of our nose and mouth, like an umbilical cord, forever connected to the rest of the world. . . . Nothing that we do, do we do by ourselves. We do not see by ourselves. We do not hear by ourselves. . . . That which the tree exhales, I inhale. That which I exhale, the trees inhale. Together we form a circle.

— Jack Forbes. “Where Do Our Bodies End?” Windspeaker Publication/, Aboriginal Multi-Media Society, 2002,


It is easy to blur the truth with a simple linguistic trick: start your story from “Secondly.” Yes, that is what Rabin did. He simply neglected to speak of what happened first. Start your story from “Secondly,” and the world will turn upside-down. Start your story with “Secondly,” and the arrows of the Red Indian are the original criminals and the guns of the white men are entirely the victim. It is enough to start with “Secondly” for the anger of the black man against the white to be barbarous. Start with “Secondly,” and Gandhi becomes responsible for the tragedies of the British . . . It is enough to start with “Secondly,” for my grandmother, Umm ’Ata, to become the criminal and Ariel Sharon her victim.

— Barghouti, Mourid. I Saw Ramallah. Egypt, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2008, as quoted in Majumdar, Nivedita. The World in a Grain of Sand: Postcolonial Literature and Radical Universalism. United Kingdom, Verso Books, 2021.


Can the defeated be let off politics? . . . How can our Arab francophone and anglophone critics believe this? . . . Politics is the family at breakfast. Who is there and who is absent and why . . . Where is your illusion laid bare by the newspaper lying on the cane chair at your side? . . . Who ruins your sweet inconsequential things with the awe of his authority and his driver and his servants and his happy bodyguards? . . . Politics is the number of coffee cups on the table, it is the sudden presence of what you have forgotten, the memories of what you are afraid to look at too closely, though you look anyway. Staying away from politics is also politics. Politics is nothing and it is everything.

— Barghouti, Mourid. I Saw Ramallah. Egypt, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2008, as quoted in Majumdar, Nivedita. The World in a Grain of Sand: Postcolonial Literature and Radical Universalism. United Kingdom, Verso Books, 2021.


Now, the inclusion of indigenous knowledges by the emissaries of global capitalism is certainly an instrumentalist move, and to the extent that it furthers their fundamental economic agenda, it is part of a general strategy to mobilize all available intellectual and material resources. Put differently, outfits like the World Bank will adopt any knowledge system, scientific or otherwise, as long as it advances the goal of capitalist development. Because indigenous systems of knowledge in certain instances offer a valuable repository of information that can be channeled for what’s called sustainability (of capitalism), they have embraced its utilitarian value. Contra culturalist claims, however, this adoption shows that the motivating factor in dominant development models is not a hostility toward indigenous cultures, but global capitalist growth. However, it is also the case that, institutional promotion of indigenous knowledges by institutions like the World Bank notwithstanding, such an inclusive approach toward traditional knowledges is not the norm. In fact, more often than not, indigenous populations have little to offer to the trajectory of capitalist development, or constitute a hindrance in its path; therefore, such populations are typically marginalized. But, note that the driving factor in the treatment of indigenous populations—inclusion or exclusion—is not cultural. Rather, it is the logic of capitalist growth.

—Majumdar, Nivedita. The World in a Grain of Sand: Postcolonial Literature and Radical Universalism. United Kingdom, Verso Books, 2021.

In the middle of the gentle Indian night, an intruder burst through the bamboo door of the simple adobe hut. He was a government vaccinator, under orders to break resistance against smallpox vaccination. Lakshmi Singh awoke screaming and scrambled to hide herself. Her husband leaped out of bed, grabbed an ax, and chased the intruder into the courtyard.

Outside, a squad of doctors and policemen quickly overpowered Mohan Singh. The instant he was pinned to the ground, a second vaccinator jabbed smallpox vaccine into his arm.

Mohan Singh, a wiry 40-year-old leader of the Ho tribe, squirmed away from the needle, causing the vaccination site to bleed. The, government team held him until they had injected enough vaccine; then they seized his wife. Pausing only to suck out some vaccine, Mohan Singh pulled a bamboo pole from the roof and attacked the strangers holding his wife.

While two policemen rebuffed him, the rest of the team overpowered the entire family and vaccinated each in turn. Lakshmi Singh bit deep into one doctor’s hand, but to no avail.

—Brilliant, Lawrence B, and Girija Brilliant, “Death for a Killer Disease.” Quest May/June 1978.



Recommended by the SAR Editorial Collective:



Ma, Cindy. “What Is the ‘Lite’ in ‘Alt-Lite?’ The Discourse of White Vulnerability and Dominance among YouTube’s Reactionaries.” Social Media + Society, July 2021, doi:10.1177/20563051211036385.

Nine Lives of Neoliberalism. United Kingdom, Verso, 2020. Open access at

Charlie Tyson and Naomi Oreskes. 2020. “The American University, the Politics of Professors and the Narrative of ‘Liberal Bias’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 9 (8): 14-32.

Sandra Faustino, Inês Faria & Rafael Marques. 2021. “The myths and legends of king Satoshi and the knights of blockchain.” Journal of Cultural Economy, doi: 10.1080/17530350.2021.1921830

Claire R. Lay, et al. “City-Level Vulnerability to Temperature-Related Mortality in the USA and Future Projections: A Geographically Clustered Meta-Regression.” The Lancet Planetary Health, vol. 0, no. 0, May 2021., doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00058-9.

Monument to Habitat Compensation Island,

Gamez, Patrick. “The place of the Iranian Revolution in the history of truth: Foucault on neoliberalism, spirituality and enlightenment.” Philosophy and Social Criticism, 2019: doi:10.1177/0191453718794751.

“Forum: U.S. Foreign Relations Historians Writing Their Way Out Of COVID-19,” Diplomatic History, vol. 45, no. 3, June 2021, pp. 445–50. Silverchair,

Rule of Experts:

Wyld, Evie. The Bass Rock, Pantheon, 2020.

Glaser, Amelia M. Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine, HUP, 2020.

The Guys?


The Klezmatics, Di Krenitse





Scan to visit SAR’s Bookshop:

Find all San Antonio Review’s recommended reads at




DB Fishman is an Edinburgh-born poet living in Oxfordshire, UK. @TheDanPrism on Twitter, they write about drag, thrash metal, gender and film. Their poetry ‘greatest hits’, Grit for Traction, is published this year.

Milicent Fambrough sends art by mail. Learn more about her by viewing her digital portfolio:

Julia Vu is a pansexual Vietnamese American high school junior from Bay Area, California.  She is the Editor-In-Chef of the literary magazine Café Au Lait Magazine and works to amplify the voice of the underrepresented. Julia founded Operation Dopamine, an international mental health advocacy organization, and has worked with ambassadors from 9 countries to stimulate discussion around mental health. As an IB Diploma student, she is actively conducting individual research on nivolumab-ipilimumab combination immunotherapy in metastatic melanoma. A survivor of depression and eating disorders, she documents her cycles with decline, relapse, and recovery through her poetry. Her works have been published in the anthologies Songs of Peace: World’s Biggest Anthology of Contemporary Poetry 2020 and A Celebration of Poets 2020, as well as various literary magazines. Julia hopes to empower others and embrace the beauty of her own mental illness by sharing the letters she never intended to send. 

Oscar Lopez Lule is a Mexican American digital artist from Santa Cruz whose work is focused on Mexican rural culture from deserts to small towns in central Mexico that showcase how the richest parts of countries aren’t always the cities with the most tourist attraction. Many subjects in his work appear with colors streaming from the environment into the person to convey how the soil is a present and vital part of every person on this planet.

Coyote Shook is a cartoonist and Ph.D. student. They are currently working on a graphic novel dissertation of an environmental history of the Everglades with the department of American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Their work has appeared in The Puritan, The Ransom Center Magazine, The Florida Review, the Society of Historians for the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the National Humanities Center, and The Wisconsin Review and is currently in publication with North Dakota Quarterly and Honey Literary Magazine. Their debut graphic novel, Coyote the Beautiful, was the winner of the 2020 Leiby Chapbook Award with The Florida Review.

Andrea Muñoz Martínez is a visual and performance artist currently living and working in Austin, Texas. She has an MFA from UC Davis and a BFA from The University of Texas at Austin.  Her work can be found in private collections around the United States and has been exhibited at ICOSA Collective, Artspace111 and at Camiba Art.  Martínez paints a colorful, vibrant imaginary space she calls Borderlandia.  Her works include series on dogs, targets, roaches, chispas and caras malas. Martínez grew up in the borderlands of South Texas and her paintings and performance art take the border and boundaries as their subject. Her painting exhibition, “Dogs Heal in Borderlandia,” can be viewed online and at Link & Pin Artspace in Austin. Her paintings are available for purchase at

Robert McGuill’s work has appeared in Narrative, the Southwest Review, the Saturday Evening Post, Louisiana Literature, American Fiction and other publications. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times and short-listed for numerous awards. Previous work in San Antonio Review includes the Pushcart Prize-nominated short story “Kings in Exile.”

Nick Young is an award-winning retired broadcast journalist whose career included twenty years as a CBS News correspondent. His short stories were selected for Vols. I and II of the Writer Shed Stories anthologies. He lives outside Chicago.

Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton is a Louisville, KY native who migrated to Corpus Christi with his family, where he teaches Spanish. Between Kentucky and Texas, he has traveled and lived in several places, including Spain, Appalachia, Panamá, Peru, the Philippines, and the Colorado River.  He has two chapbooks: Rain Minnows (Gnashing Teeth Publishing), and Slow Wind (Finishing Line Press), and his poetry appears in such journals as Windward ReviewDriftwood, Voices de la LunaTiny Seeds Journal, and Sybil Journal.

Robert Fromberg‘s prose has appeared in Indiana Review, Colorado Review, Bellingham Review, and many other journals. His memoir, How to Walk with Steve, is forthcoming from Latah Books. On Twitter and IG, he is @robfromberg.

A. S. Robertson is an artist and writer living outside Glasgow, Scotland. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner.

Dr. Emily Bilman is London’s Poetry Society Stanza representative in Geneva. Her doctoral dissertation, The Psychodynamics of Poetry: Poetic Virtuality and Oedipal Sublimation in the Poetry of T.S. Eliot and Paul Valéry, was published by Lambert Academic in 2010 and Modern Ekphrasis in 2013 by Peter Lang. Her poetry books, A Woman By A Well (2015), Resilience (2015), The Threshold of Broken Waters (2018), and Apperception (2020) were all published by Troubador, UK.

Oscar Lopez Lule is a Mexican American digital artist from Santa Cruz whose work is focused on Mexican rural culture from deserts to small towns in central Mexico that showcase how the richest parts of countries aren’t always the cities with the most tourist attraction. Many subjects in his work appear with colors streaming from the environment into the person to convey how the soil is a present and vital part of every person on this planet.

Darren Shiverdecker is a San Antonio-based photographer who focuses on capturing unique candid comments.

Maxim Matusevich is a historian of Africa and the Cold War. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, he moved to the United States on the eve of the Soviet collapse. He is presently Professor of Global History at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where he directs the Russian and East European Studies Program. Maxim also writes and publishes fiction, mostly in English, but occasionally in his native Russian. His short stories and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The Bare Life Review, MumberMag, Anti-Heroin Chic, BigCityLit, the Wild Word, Transitions, ReLevant, and other outlets.

Patrick T. Reardon, who has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, is the author of nine books, including the poetry collection Requiem for David and the history The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago. His poetry has appeared widely.

John Willingham is an op-ed contributor to the History News Network and an essayist and short story writer with work published in Southwest Review. He is completing a novel based on the travels of Frenchy McCormick, who ran away from Baton Rouge as a girl after the Civil War and became a legend in the Texas Panhandle.


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16th century woodcut of monster by Aldronvandi
Monstra Niliaca Parei

To add in a messy way to a messy account of a messy world does not seem like a very grandiose activity. But we are not after grandeur.”

— Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (New York, 2005), 136



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