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October 15th, 2017 12:50 a.m.

During the dark morning hours, the time when my eyes are cloudy and my muscles ache, I worry about losing you in space. My gut lurches with that feeling people get when they’re holding a helium balloon and lose their grip — there’s no more control of that umbilical string, and what was once an extension of them drifts into the atmosphere. In the glow of street light coming through my blinds, I imagine you floating toward the stars. It’s a slow ascension, yet you’re just out of reach. Your crown catches moonlight and shines like the long hairs I pull from my clothes, the ones that clog our bathtub and live in between the fibers of everything.

After I turned off your brain for the first time, I noticed how the buzzing of electricity that’s normally in the room ceased to insense me. I felt stillness. It was like the green desolation that lingers after heavy rain, when the quiet is fragrant. You had pleaded in the way you always do before bedtime. But the back of my eyes felt like fire. I was close to chewing through my tongue. More… “Our Sleep at the Onset”

Aaron White holds an MA in Literary Studies from Eastern Illinois University and contributes to Bluestem Magazine as an assistant nonfiction editor. His work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, Parent Co, 13th Dimension, Prong & Posy, The Pedestal Magazine, and other publications. He spends his days raising a toddler, navigating academia, trying to sell a novel, and wallowing in obscurity. Connect with him on Twitter @amwhite90 and Tumblr at amwhite90.tumblr.com.

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When I was seven, I moved out of the room I shared with my older brother and into my own room. I don’t recall what caused my parents to decide this — perhaps it was a birthday present for my brother turning ten — but for me it was nothing if not a mixed blessing. I mean, I loved getting my own desk and new wallpaper that I picked out and my own bed, all the trappings of a room to grow up in. But without my brother there with me, there was something truly terrifying about being alone at night in the dark.

Not that my brother was much of a protector. More often he’d attack me in my sleep, steal and break my toys, and “dead-arm” me over and over again for his sadistic pleasure. But in my room alone, all alone, I felt susceptible to all the forces of darkness — the monsters under the bed, the prowlers lurking at the window, the creepers in the closet waiting to kidnap me. I had no protection at all. Leaving the safety in numbers of my brother’s room and the comfort of our New York Giants’ helmet night light filled me with imaginings of untold peril.
More… “Halloween is Cancelled”

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I was 16 years old when I ran away from home on a December night in Ottawa, Canada where the typical monthly temperatures range from ten to 21 degrees Fahrenheit at night. I had no choice. My mother was an alcoholic and I was the only family member left on whom she could vent an increasingly dangerous rage.
More… “Try a Little Tenderness”

Wendy McElroy is the author of thirteen books, several dozen documentaries and hundreds of articles that have been published in venues ranging from Penn State University to Penthouse magazine.

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The day my 11th graders began The Catcher in the Rye, Duane* said, “Man, this book is so boring. And what’s he got to complain about? Why we gotta read about this whiny rich white dude?”

“What’s he getting kicked out of school for, anyway?” Gary asked.

“He’s failing most of his classes,” I said.

“You can’t get kicked out for failing!” More… “Failing to Learn”

Anne P. Beatty is a high school teacher in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her nonfiction has appeared in The American Scholar, North American Review, Vela, and elsewhere.

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If you’re in the midst of a career change, I’ve got some advice: dress for the job you want. So, do you want to be a D.C. reporter? Or a punk rocker? (Lapham’s Quarterly, The Smart Set)

Once you’ve landed the job (no doubt due, in part, to your stunning wardrobe choices), celebrate your newfound success with a classy vacation. Paris, perhaps? The louvre? See the Mona Lisa, a work famous for its mystery — first for its perplexing theft (initially pinned on Pablo Picasso) and now for its enigmatic subject. (The Smart SetOpen Culture)

Once you’ve got the dream job and seen the world, you may be thinking of starting a family. Whether you are a SINK (Single Income No Kids) or half of a DINK (Double Income No Kids), you just want the best for your potential offspring. Which may, it turns out, mean having fewer juniors than previously thought. (The Smart SetJSTOR Daily) •

 

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.

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While I was pregnant I hoped for a child who, once born, would leave me alone. Sure, we could stand up on stools and sift flour into a mixing bowl together, or run out into the yard to blow bubbles, and I definitely wanted to spend time with my nose buried in some baby hair, but for long stretches of motherhood I hoped to recline on the couch with a magazine, lulled into quietude by the sounds of my child playing at my feet, moving little plastic sheep in and out of a toy barn.

More… “The “A” Word”

Aileen Jones-Monahan is a writer living in Western Massachusetts. Her mother cut the cord off the television when she was a kid, so she spent a lot of time reading and fashioning “helpful” inventions from junk drawer tidbits. She enjoys these activities to this day. After the birth of her sons, she added napping and eating in bed with the door closed. Her essay “Cigarette Ash in the Frying Pan” was published in the last issue of Hip Mama, and she has work forthcoming in Green Prints and Curve. Keep up with her here.

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Everyone has that one book they fondly remember from their childhood that takes them back to the cozy winter nights snuggled up to mom or dad. Perhaps, like me, you’d beg them to read it through one last time before you drifted off to sleep, never satisfied hearing the words only once though you’d memorized nearly all of them. We all have that one book that was just magic for us, whether your favorite was the novel your mother tirelessly read a chapter from each night, or the picture books that your dad always created a new story for. My book was P. D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother?, the cardboard pages long since chewed, tattered, and thrown away. A five-year-old me found it hilarious that the poor little bird thought a dog or a “snort” could be its mom. 

What English teacher hasn’t cursed Edgar Allan Poe? Isn’t he responsible for all those cheesy revenge plots and creepy sex-death fantasies that teenagers (mostly male) insist on writing? Can you really quarrel with T.S. Eliot’s observation that Poe had “the intellect of a highly gifted person before puberty” (though going through puberty seems more apt) — or with Edmund Wilson’s indictment of Poe’s “awful diction”?

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale… More…

Invite your most aloof and sophisticated friends to the New York Public Library exhibit, The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, on display through March 23, then watch them melt. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be charmed by the books, illustrations, manuscripts, and sundry artifacts in this exhibit — and you’d have to have been born a grown-up not to regress a little.

“The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” The New York Public Library, Through March 23, 2014.

“There’s the Pokey Little Puppy!” I heard a woman in tweeds squeal, pointing to that book, with its familiar cover, displayed in the manner of Renaissance painting in a vertical glass case in the middle of one of the rooms. “C’est George!” exclaimed an impeccable Frenchman to his impeccable wife as they… More…