Outside the rain has been falling in steady, indifferent sheets for nearly 72 hours. Flashes of lightning illuminate my sleeping baby's face, delicate veins on eyelids. He's the only one asleep in the house. Hour after nerve-wracking hour we wonder: when will the old tree come crashing through the wall of windows? How long before we lose electricity? How best to corral the cats? Who else is waiting, willing the water away from the doorstep? We have, somehow, made it nearly halfway through one of the most devastating floods this state has ever seen. So many have lost more than their homes to the ravenous currents. In the midst of feeling powerless, guilty, afraid, I have also been profoundly moved and inspired: over the last two days, our besieged city has seen ordinary people—many of them self-proclaimed working stiffs—from here and farther afield, braving treacherous waters to take their boats out into the most vulnerable and devastated places, casting hope to those clinging to its shreds. I feel a similar frisson every time I read these essays in which ordinary people meet the extraordinary and something unforgettable happens. These personal narratives show the immensity of the human spirit that is revealed through struggle. When the unknown takes the hand of the familiar and tragedy grapples with possibility, we are revealed. I hope that as you read these essays, you too will feel that duende, for, you know, as long as the rain is falling, there is someone out there in the storm, reaching out a steady hand.

Ranjana Varghese
Creative Non-Fiction Editor


the essays


the unexpected baby chronicles (part 3)

michael harshbarger

Time just disappears in emergency rooms. The waiting takes on a religious quality — it makes you feel like a monk performing some kind of mortification of the mind instead of the flesh.

They verify her name at every point. Every time someone new enters the room or sits at a computer in the near vicinity, she is asked to recite her date of birth.

“Eight, fourteen, eighty-four.”

I must have heard it a thousand times that day.

And then: more sitting, more waiting, more being cold — why are hospitals always so insanely cold?


a wild yard

dayna patterson

Deep in dream, I’m startled awake—a scream. Piteous, terrified, screeching, the sound is almost human.

And another noise—a low, throaty snarl outside my bedroom window.

I think, What the fuck was that? But it comes out as: I think a bunny just died.

My husband, also tense, awake, whispers in the dark: Yeah, but what killed it?

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jellyfish blue sandals

shlomit miky dan

Israeli army helicopters hovered and whirled above the hospital helipad that skirted the shores of the Mediterranean. With their rotor blades still whirling, the choppers’ doors opened like the dark maws of whales, spilling out the wounded: Israeli and Lebanese soldiers and civilians, among them women and children. The hospital bustled by night as by day. I was a nurse on the tarmac during the armed conflicts between Israel and militant Palestinians in southern Lebanon in the seventies. Palestinian civilians suffered significant casualties from the constant fighting, as did Israelis living in the north of Israel.

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homer's odyssey

therese gilardi

It’s 2:30 and I’m at Linda’s, sitting in her deep gray chair, the one that feels like a bunch of pillows sewn together. The green Buddha statue stares at me from a corner, beneath the mobile of butterflies that never moves even when the sliding door is open and a breeze runs across the oatmeal-colored living room. Some woman whose name I can’t remember reaches into an aquamarine bowl and starts rifling through the writing prompts until she finds one she likes. It’s cheating and clearly an indication that our session should be all about meeting her muse, but, whatever. I don’t mind; I need all the help I can get to pass this giant band of nothingness that stands where my words should be. I don’t care what the prompt is. I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care, I tell myself. Until the woman says, “Write about a pet.”