She thought it was only a dime…

Here’s a bit of my family lore. When my great-grandmother was a young girl, her family fell on hard times, and she had to get a job. They were living in Milwaukee, and Pabst Brewery had recently won a blue ribbon at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, the Chicago World’s Fair. The brewery was tying blue silk ribbons on every bottle.

That was her new job. (In those days, children could work in factories that made beer.) After her first week, tying countless ribbons, she got her pay envelope. She could tell by feel that it contained only one small coin. A dime! She’d worked so hard and wanted to be so proud of the help she could give her family, but she’d earned only ten cents.

She cried all the way home on the trolley and gave the envelope to her mother, who opened it. The coin was a ten-dollar gold piece.

A glimpse of unexpected heartbreak

The disaster of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana and other southern states reminds me of an unexpected heartbreak I witnessed in 2018.

I was traveling, and on September 10, I was in Michigan eating breakfast at a Best Western motel. I was up very early, and everyone else in the breakfast room was obviously a tradesman: construction workers and truck drivers. These were strong, tough men used to going from job to job and working with their hands.

Television screens on the walls played the CNN morning news, and at one point the news ran a segment on Hurricane Florence. The mammoth storm was about to hit the Carolinas coast and cause catastrophic damage.

The room became silent and every man watched somberly. On their next job, these men, or their friends and coworkers, might be called on to haul supplies and to repair and rebuild the storm damage. They looked grim, not joyful, at the prospect of plentiful work.

Their jobs would bring them face to face with loss and grief, and the future could be hard on their hearts as well as their hands. They’d seen it before, and they were going to see again.

My critique group has published an anthology

Over the Edge AgainOver the Edge Again by Samuel Durr

We did it again. My writers critique group here in Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago has released an anthology. It shows off the high skill level of the members I’m lucky enough to critique with — and the range of our imaginations.

“As Fast as You Can,” by Julie Danvers, takes a hard look at corruption in the Fairy Kingdom. Who murdered Humpty Dumpty?

“Sport,” by Z Jeffries, examines an ugly divorce through the tender eyes of a boy fixated on comic books. Could Batman fail?

“R/truthseekers,” by Briana Shucart, narrates the pathetic implosion of a Reddit online conspiracy group.

“Milk Cow Standing in Field #48,” by Nate Currier, studies art and its meaning in an authoritarian society, using an absurdist angle. Nominated for a Pushcart prize.

“Maleficium,” by Edward Pionke, takes the point of view of an oppressor without taking his side.

“Let Me Stop You There,” by Edward Pionke, could have been titled “Am I the Asshole?” If you have to ask, the answer is yes.

“Catch and Release Protocols,” by Coleman Gailloreto, accomplishes that rare feat in science fiction: humor.

“In the Weeds,” by Sue Burke. I destroy humanity, but with a dash of marvel.

“Wild Heart,” by Samuel Durr, who also edited the anthology (thanks!), uses his experience as a hunter to explore the relationship between two people who didn’t seek each others’ company.

These nine stories have no theme besides short works that we’re proud of. By the way, new members in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood are always welcome. You can find us on Meetup:

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Goodreads review of “The Difficult Loves of Maria Makiling”

The Difficult Loves of Maria MakilingThe Difficult Loves of Maria Makiling by Wayne Santos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like to read books I could never have written. In this case, I don’t know Filipino or Canadian culture from the inside out. I also don’t write a lot of humor, especially not the zany, snappy wit that makes this novella a delight.

A young woman falls in love, and a pattern seems to be emerging that she can’t entirely recall until she has to save her lover from being murdered by a demon. Then Maria realizes she is the goddess of Mount Makiling in the Philippines. And we get dialogue like this:

“Got an errand to run,” Maria said. “I gotta see a horse about a man.”

It’s fast and fun, it has magic swords, and (are you listening, Hollywood?) it would make a great summer movie.

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I lied to Mom and Mom-in-Law

True story. Almost 25 years ago, when my now-husband and I were planning our wedding, we thought it would be good if our parents met ahead of time. We invited them to come to our home for dinner.

I knew my parents and my future in-laws well. The men would do whatever their wives told them to do — but the women had very different ideas about punctuality. So I told my mother to come at 6:30 p.m., and I told my future mother-in-law to come at 4:30 p.m.

Everyone arrived, as expected, at 5:30 on the dot.