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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Minnie: Rest In Peace, Mom

Do you remember what it is like to wake up in a strange room? That sense of disorientation happens to me sometimes when I travel. It takes a moment or two for me to realize I am not at home in my own room. This helped me to understand what my mother may have been feeling when she asked so often, “Where am I?” I think she may have been wondering if she were dead yet. She was in a hospital in Virginia, a long way from her home in New Jersey, and rousing not from sleep but from a state of consciousness that was moving to the next life. Over and over we told her she was in Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, and the time and date.

Amazing Conversations

Sometimes people ask me a question to which, over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought. They ask me: how come, if you’re a photographer, you don’t carry a camera around with you? Of course, what they mean is how come you don’t carry a camera around when you go to see the Bulls play in Durham, or when you walk around Chapel Hill on a Sunday afternoon, or when you go to a party and lots of your friends are there? How come you don’t bring your camera to concerts where people are already dressed up as if begging to have their picture taken? They’ll ask me: what happens if you’re walking down a street without a camera and something incredible happens, say, a beautiful woman in a blue dress starts singing in the middle of traffic, or a tiger escapes from someone’s back yard and finds himself trapped by the fire department on top of an abandoned gas station? Don’t you wish you had a camera with you at these times? Well, the answer is: probably. It would also be nice if I had color film in my camera so I could at least catch the blue of the singing woman’s dress, or if I didn’t have color film at least have a yellow or orange filter, so the tiger pacing up and down on the roof of the gas station could be seen against the illusion of a blue sky, since if you use black and white film in a camera without an orange or yellow filter a blue sky turns out pure white. I’d have to have a few lenses, too, to cover emergencies. What if the fireman wouldn’t let me get close to the tiger and all I had was a wide-angle lens? Later it would look as if I’d taken a picture of a gas station, period. It gets complicated after a while carrying a camera around, constantly making decisions about what kind of photographs you’re going to take of the world.

Fiction

You’re Weird, Irene

I hate to admit it but Mom is right about Irene. The girl’s mind is totally messed up. If my parents find out what she got me into today, they’ll ground me for the rest of Christmas vacation.

Backlighting

When her father died five years ago, Alice had a dream that gave her a great deal of comfort. Her father was sitting at the end of the bar in MacDonald’s — where the owner later put up a little brass plaque with his name on it — and Alice came in and tugged at his sweater to ask him for nickels for the pinball machine. In the dream she was still her age, sixty-two, but at the same time she was somehow a little girl. Her father gave her a roll of nickels and smiled at her, and as she watched he began taking off his clothes. He removed his button-down sweater, the yellow golfing shirt and the blue-and-white striped trousers, and when he’d taken off his boxer shorts he peeled out of his skin. Underneath there was nothing — nothing, at least, that corresponded to bones or organs — just a series of quick sparks, like someone’s lighter that wouldn’t quite work. That was her father now, and as she watched him leave the shell of his body behind — somehow it had taken on the colors of his clothes, so that it looked like a deflated beach ball there on the cracked leather stool — Alice saw that death was no big deal.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write

Where I Am Now

I’m sitting at my desk watching the moon rise over the Berkshires, shivering in a flood of cold air pouring out of my cathedral ceiling that looked so airy and open when I rented the apartment in August. I’m wishing that I’d learned that wood-only heat was no more capable of giving me a spiritual life than a BMW was of giving me happiness back when I lived in North Carolina where it doesn’t get as cold in February as it already has up here. I have never been able to see around the corner until I get to it, and I sense that I’m approaching another corner. This time, at least, I’m not so sure that the next one will be the last one.

Karen Tiede
Conway, Massachusetts

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

Once, when a G.I. was visiting Picasso during the liberation of France, he said that he could not understand the artist’s paintings. “Why do you paint a person looking from the side and from the front at the same time?” Picasso asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?” “Yes,” replied the soldier. “Do you have a picture of her?” The soldier pulled from his wallet a photograph of the girl. Picasso looked at it in mock astonishment and asked, “Is she so small?”

Quoted in Richard Kehl’s Silver Departures

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