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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Damaged Hearts

Two summers ago, a relieved airline stewardess handed over a wheelchair containing my mother-in-law. Her nightgown peeped from under her skirt. Her wig sat too far back on her bald head. Below her bare knees, two identical onion-shaped knots kept her mended nylon stockings from sliding down her useless legs. Her eyes lit up when she saw me.

What’s For Lunch?

Hazel Mitchell died last summer while I was out of town. She had a massive heart attack as she sat in her recliner watching an afternoon Braves game on TV. The last words she heard, after eighty years of life, were probably “High and inside to left-handed batter Fred McGriff. Need a cool, refreshing break? Tap the Rockies: Coors Light.”

A Buddhist On Death Row

The electric cell door came open, and the guards rushed inside. The whole tier heard the beating and Walter’s screams. I could smell his flesh burning from the Taser.

Acts Of Love

“Dr. O’Brien told me about your, um . . . act of love,” says Syd, the therapeutic-shoe salesman, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “I was totally moved.”

Moving Scott’s Car

The other day, my brother Scott asked me if I’d be willing to move his car on street-cleaning days, if he ever became too sick to do it. “I can’t drive a stick shift,” I said, relieved to have the excuse of ineptitude.


Foxglove Canyon

It rained last night, and this morning there’s a heavy mist hanging low over the Blue Ridge Mountains, like a Sunday dress over a grandmother’s sagging breasts. This is the last place I’ll work, the end of the trail, my final stop: Shady Rest Nursing Home. I work full time, day shift, weekdays and every other weekend, supervising the aides, orderlies, and practical nurses. I pass out all the medications on my shift. We have thirty-eight clients — we’re not supposed to call them “patients” anymore; something to do with their rights, and not making them sound more sick than they really are. I’ve been a registered nurse for forty years: hospitals, home health, the county clinic. Shady Rest is a good place for me to finish my stretch.


Flute thin and rigid, Laura stood in the foyer, one arm extended toward David, the dog’s leash swinging gently from her hand. She was wearing those pink jeans that always made David think of flamingos. Holding the leash out to him, her face an imperious mask, she looked both regal and ridiculous.

The Bottoms Of Her Feet Were Pink

My mother wasn’t from the cooks. Her measuring cups were chipped, her pots dented, her pans blackened and bruised. She used the bottom of her shirt as a potholder. When she burned or cut herself, she’d give a yelp, but never put on a band-aid. She was always in a hurry.


Photographs By Clemens Kalischer

Three years after the end of World War II, thousands of people remained stranded in European displaced-persons camps. Some sought and gained asylum in the United States, where they hoped to start a new life. Having recently taken a beginners’ class in photography, Clemens Kalischer was drawn to the New York City waterfront to record the arrival of the displaced persons. The scene was reminiscent of his own life six years earlier.

February 1998

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

Readers Write


When I enrolled in the huge university downstate from my small Midwestern town, I had some trepidations. Once I got there, my trepidations turned to paralyzing fear. The crowds, incessant noise, and confusion overwhelmed me. My peers were savoring their first real taste of freedom from parental restrictions, testing the limits of their tolerance for alcohol, filling the halls with the sounds of the Beatles, the Stones, and Jimi Hendrix. My sheltered life had ill prepared me for this world. I listened to Peter, Paul and Mary and played classical piano. My mother had spent the summer sewing me a “wardrobe” of mix-and-match skirts and blouses.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


A man who sees another man on the street corner with only a stump for an arm will be so shocked the first time he’ll give him sixpence. But the second time it’ll be only a threepenny bit. And if he sees him a third time, he’ll have him cold-bloodedly handed over to the police.

Bertolt Brecht

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