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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Dark Honor: Vietnam Remembered

Both men were probably in their forties, tending their fields like the men of their village had for a thousand years, defending their families and their livelihood and their land like men everywhere. In a few hours or in a few days they would be dead — after the ARVN beat confessions out of them, or applied electrodes to their balls and sent jolts of concentrated anguish through their bodies until they wished to escape by dying, by being shot in the head or dragged behind an Amphtrack or thrown from a helicopter, anything to make the pain stop.

Spilled Milk

My grandmother has told me the story so often, I vividly recall the milk house although I have never been there. It is built of gray stone gathered from the fields and held together with chalky mortar. A patch of moss by the door looks like a velvet pincushion. Inside: a cream separator, the churn, gleaming tin pails, and butter paddles, their wood frayed from years of use. I see them through her eyes as she recites them like the rosary, like a charm.

Notes Of An Unknown Writer

I no longer run into people I know. . . . Years ago I could just take a walk and let each person I would meet usher me through some part of the day. Now I have to make phone calls for appointments.

Trail’s End

I know I’m in trouble when N. starts saving for a tent and sleeping bags. Then she brings home a book with the ominous title, North Carolina Hiking Trails. Actually, I’m fond of hiking, especially if I can relax at the end of the day with a bed and a bath. But to my wife, this is like washing down a gourmet dinner with a Dr. Pepper. She wants an experience of nature unmediated by civilized comfort. She wants to show me and J., her thirteen-year-old son, how to rough it.


The Doctor

On Friday evening, December 31, 1982, corresponding to 15 Teveth, 5743, Hyman Lebele Andower rose from his evening meal, sat on the couch to read his evening paper, and felt a sharp, twisting pain in his genitals. The next day would bring the secular new year. This did not bode well, he thought. He grunted. He groaned. He shifted his position. Still, when one reaches the age of fifty-six, he told himself, certain aches and pains are bound to occur. For more than a decade, he had been attacked by an assortment of ills, aches, and troublesome sicknesses.

Reality Fire

Water will not put out a reality fire. Those little red extinguishers are useless. A reality fire will not be tamed. As the eyes move from object to object each bursts into flames and is consumed, gone forever, and no smoke either — for a reality fire will consume so thoroughly that nothing is wasted. No smoke escapes. Never any smoke. From a reality fire there is no smoke.

Readers Write


How would I kill her? She would be at the cemetery where her mother lies. She would have to wear black. She would have to wear a short skirt, because she hates her legs. She would have to stand on a granite pillar, because she hates being tall. A lot of people would be there. They would watch her and judge her and their conclusions would all be unfavorable, because she is such a cold, mean person. The people would all wear masks, and the masks would change each time she looked at them. She would never know where she stood, because she could not trust these masks.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


She enjoyed sucking her thumb. He said it was immature. So she stopped, and then there was nothing left that she could enjoy. So she became an alcoholic instead. He didn’t mind that nearly so much; at least, that seemed mature.

Alberto Königsberg

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