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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Answering Phones In A War Zone

Bryant-Maddox makes war. It’s hidden under files of paper covered with legal jargon and beneath sappy 1970s love songs droning from ceiling speakers. It’s hidden under the respectability of secretaries and file clerks and men with ties who go to meetings. It’s not so hidden in the McDonnell-Douglas prints of U.S. fighter planes on the walls, or in a client list that reads like a Who’s Who of defense contractors: General Electric, Westinghouse, Rockwell, Lockheed, Boeing, the U.S. government. Bryant-Maddox has just a small part in the war industry — cables, antennas, and something called components. But it’s an important part, and they must do it well; their services are in great demand.

Letter To The President

Mr. Clinton, you’re not aware of this, but you and I both ran for president last year — in fact, I ran longer than you did. When I entered the race, only Paul Tsongas was running. George Bush wasn’t even running.

The Fence Posts

Visiting my hometown of Daruvar, Croatia, in 1986, I was taken aback when a friend told me, “Go back to the States! We’ll have a war here. Serbs have lists of all the Croatian households. At night they will slit our throats.” I thought he was crazy. Now I think I was crazy not to see the warning signs.

The Way Of Peace

Wherever we may live, each of us is aware that there is an ever-mounting confusion in the world. This loss of orientation, this degeneration of values, is not restricted to any particular class or nation. Wherever we live, at whatever level of society, we are aware of conflict and misery that seem to have no end.

Fiction

Evangel

Grandpa didn’t eat with us that morning. Instead, he stood in his pajamas, arms hanging limp, watching some invisible scene through the louvered front-room windows. His absence sped us through breakfast, since Mama’s prayers weren’t nearly as long as his. I spent a few extra minutes shaving my recent whiskers, which were coming in blond and sparse, and then I parted my hair with a little Brylcreem to counteract its tendency to rebel. I waited outside for Daddy and watched Timmy Rogers, the three-year-old boy next door, romp with his new cocker spaniel puppy. The puppy tumbled around the boy, tripping over its own ears. Timmy said didn’t I think his puppy was the greatest ever, and I agreed he sure was. Then Daddy came out to drive me to school in the ‘65 Ford Fairlane, its red vinyl seats still smelling new. We got to school before the buses did, and I stood kicking a few pebbles outside the green portable classroom where Mrs. Shiffield struggled to teach French-rolled r’s. I had just stubbed the toe of my boot on the sidewalk when I heard a raspy voice mention Heidi Muller.

Stones: A Love Story

When Izzy gets to the boardwalk, she thinks about turning back. Maybe he won’t remember her, maybe he’s forgotten it all. But he’s a psychic; of course he’ll remember her. The past, lives already lived, are his specialty. If it’s water under the bridge, he can reach in and pull out the stones, the small, hidden, calcified truths worn smooth by years of forgetting. For Izzy, maybe he seized the wrong stones, but he’s an old man, and she owes him something.

Zen Masters

I left college to seek enlightenment. I went to live at the Golden Gate Zen Center, a Buddhist community midway between the Haight and the financial district. I expected a quiet, contemplative life. Instead, I was up every day at four-thirty to sit two meditation periods before going to work at the Golden Gate Bread Bakery, one of the center’s business operations.

Readers Write

Attics

I never understood what got her so frustrated. As children, we went to friends’ houses as often as we could. Our father stayed late at work a lot, so nobody was around to get on our mother’s nerves. Yet she would yell at someone almost every morning, throwing the frying pan across the kitchen, hot and full of eggs. She was dangerous, and we didn’t like her.

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Quotations

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If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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