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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

To Invent Fire

I am much too concerned with the actual earth and what walks on it to spend my small time here seeking to define such abstractions as capitalism and socialism, and broader still, society and country. As most of us, I too was raised on such enigmatic concepts as sacrifice and sin and duty and more, but they started to fall away from me when I began to understand that the inventions that gave warmth and comfort to those who needed them were useless to me, and that it felt better and seemed truer to be out in the cold, struggling to invent fire, than to be in the clubhouse on the other side of the hill soft and fat and nodding off in the heat of all that acquiescence. Better even to freeze to death out there, having failed, than to parrot words I did not believe and for that subtle lie to be on the inside. 

Looking At Trees

A dream: there was a small clearing in the forest, just a break in the trees, cut through by a railroad track. A train of flat cars flew along the track, through the clearing, each car carrying a huge butt log of beech. The logs had the beech’s characteristic gray smoothness, punctuated by wrinkled knobs; there were round, white wounds where limbs had been cut off; the logs flared where they’d been cut from the ground. They were not tied down, but shook and bounced as if alive. Suddenly, a metamorphosis: the trees were now rhinos, leaping off the flying train and galloping about, crazed and disoriented.

Disappearances

My father died on a July day in Phoenix. When he was found, his temperature was 108. The medical examiner’s certificate listed the cause of death as hyperthermia.

Trains, Planes, and Godhead

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I’d sometimes run out to meet the Burlington Northern trains as they made their slow progress through the Colorado town of Fort Collins. Because the tracks ran down the center of a busy street, the train came through at a crawl. It was easy to swing aboard one of the freight cars and ride for a mile or two, then jump down on the edge of town where the engines dug in and the train accelerated.

Fiction

The Wreck

Shirley Moody got sick in our house that night from sunburn, and that night — two nights after my ninth birthday — my daddy had a little too much whiskey and drove the Austin-Healy through the fence down on the canal. He was damn lucky he didn’t pitch into the water and drown. All he did was bust his head on the windshield, just enough to knock him out, and the whole Vinson family, who lived at the very end of our street, ran out and pulled him from the car. They brought him into their house and called my mamma, and my daddy lay on their couch till she got Mr. Sullivan next door to take her down to get him.

Readers Write

My Car

I didn’t drive until I was thirty years old. Before then, I took the bus to work or rode with my husband. Waiting for the bus, I worried that I’d miss it or it would break down halfway to town or a stranger would sit beside me and talk the whole way. In the car with my husband I felt vulnerable in other ways. Cars hurtling by only yards away made me flinch and jam my foot to the floor, or place a warning hand on my husband’s arm.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Sy Safransky's Notebook

November 1992

Bent to the task of reconstruction, this endless need to improve myself, no less intense at forty-seven than at seventeen. My serious plans, shining like new cars on the dusty lot.

Musings From Our Founder ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

“Which foolish man was it who said love was simple?” she murmured. “Ah, yes, it was Rodolphe. But which Rodolphe?”

Leon Garfield

More Quotations ▸
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