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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Cure For Racism Is Cancer

This strange country of cancer, it turns out, is the true democracy — one more real than the nation that lies outside these walls and more authentic than the lofty statements of politicians; a democracy more incontrovertible than platitudes or aspiration.

In the country of cancer everyone is simultaneously a have and a have-not. In this land no citizens are protected by property, job description, prestige, and pretensions; they are not even protected by their prejudices. Neither money nor education, greed nor ambition, can alter the facts. You are all simply cancer citizens, bargaining for more life.

Maintenance Boy

I worked weekend nights and a couple of afternoon shifts during the week. Sometimes I requested more hours just to get away from home. Being away meant I didn’t have to deal with the sadness that lingered in our house.

Boy

When my brother was twelve, I found six mice nailed to the wall of the abandoned tree house in the woods near our apartment. He spent a lot of time there. It seemed to me the little mouse faces were frozen in agony. As though they’d been alive when he’d hammered the nails through them.

Invisible Symphony

The next two hours are the most precious I will ever spend with my father. He is alert and not visibly suffering. Though not a chatterbox, he converses with us all.

What I Heard

You do not have cramps. That’s invented by women who want attention. We don’t go in for that kind of malingering — that’s what it is. You have cramps because you eat too fast. You don’t chew.

The Feminist Club

We experience two kinds of violence: the violence done to us by others, and the violence we do to ourselves. The latter hurts more, because it’s of our own making.

People Are Starving

We didn’t know what it was to be desired. We didn’t know what girls’ bodies were supposed to look like. We just knew it was better for us if nothing stuck out too far.

Loyalty Rewards

In the fall of 1991 I was the lowest-ranking waiter at a steakhouse in Hampton, Virginia. My sole transportation was a Honda 350 motorcycle — halfway between a street bike and a moped — whose chain slipped at the most inopportune times.

A Place For Songs

In the summer we got word that the county forestland near our northern-Wisconsin home would be clear-cut. “Not my favorite pines,” I said, hoping. But, yes, those were the ones.