A book proposal by Kevin Ethan Johnson Peterson, former-accidental White House temp
An elite group of books has sought to pull back the curtain on the trials and scandals of the Trump Administration:
Happy New Year and welcome to 2021. Have some coffee.
One complication of the COVID crisis that I don’t see talked about as much is the trouble, effort, and frustration of drawing boundaries. Maybe it seems like small potatoes in the face of a deadly and worsening pandemic, but if individuals are expected to bear the brunt of stopping the spread of the virus because of gross national negligence, I think it’s important to talk about the things that complicate that process. …
I made my first website last month. Whether or not I’ll have enough money to upgrade to one of Squarespace’s plans remains to be seen, but I suddenly feel very serious about being a Capital W Writer.
That’s not to say I haven’t been serious about my writing. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old. One day, I came home from the second grade determined to write a short story for an English class assignment. “It’s gonna be at least thirty pages!” I told my parents. Not the last time my plans would outweigh my ability. Still, I think I made it to three pages. …
I said to my husband: I’m going to tell you how I got disinvited from my brunch group.
We get together every Sunday and that has been the tradition for nearly four years. At this point, though, I really can’t remember how it started or how I even met all these women.
At this point, my husband gives me a look like Get on with it. So I get on with it.
Though we don’t all show up every week, we try our best. Oddly enough, I may be one of the more consistent members of the group.
Marie is the ringleader. She’d say it’s because she’s the Type A of the group but really it’s because she’s the oldest. Tanya is the hip young one of our group. She dresses as if she were ten years younger and dates 30-year-olds since her divorce, so I guess that makes her the young hip one. My husband says Tanya’s cigarette habit means she’s not as with the times as she’d like to be. Young people don’t like smoke. I don’t know much about that. Maybe he’s right. A lot of people our age still smoke, I say. I never did, but a lot of us do. Tanya has to take at least three cigarette breaks while we’re at brunch. …
Every night, she dreams of the dangling heart. It is coarse and hard and made of lustrous red and pink stone. It hangs by a long rope of twine from the highest branch of a tree. And every night in her dream, she hikes up the small hill the tree sits on.
She brings along a pickax she never uses.
At the start of every dream, she intends to use it. The dangling heart sways with a gentle and pendulous rocking and it seems to know she has come to hack it apart. To cut it away into chips of jewel and gem. But every night, when she reaches the top of the hill overlooking the cattle pasture and sets her eyes on the dangling heart gem, she is so arrested by its rich ruby glow that she forgets her desire to bust it open like a piñata. It calls, speaks to her in a silent language with music that send her own heart fluttering. She lays the pickax down and sits under the heart and gazes into its freckles of light and comes to understand the difference between something meant to be appreciated and something meant to be acquired. …
Charlaine sat looking at the big, black tool box on the table. It shined in the light. Across the table, her sister Elodie sat staring at her laptop. They both had lukewarm cups of coffee nearby and a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray nearest them.
“That’s a bad-ass tool box, ain’t it?” Charlaine said as she took a drag on her cigarette.
“It’s nice,” Elodie said, still staring at the laptop, “Real nice.”
Charlaine: “Damn fuckin’ right, it’s nice. Chuckie got it for sixty bucks over at the Home Depot. That’s a nice box, right?”
Elodie: “What’s he got in there?” …
My emaciated uncle held court at the patio table. Relatives from all around had come to see him and he could see their horror when they saw him come outside. He was in his mid-fifties and looked twenty years older. No one had gotten a word in edge-wise that afternoon. He was too busy telling stories and monologuing about his life and treatment to convince them he was still as energetic as he had ever been.
At present, he had caught me spacing out over his shirt which was a black graphic tee that read “FUCK CANCER” in white graffiti lettering. …
I am sixteen and my hands are coarse. Father used to say I had the hands of a working woman thrice my age.
As I wash the apron in the tin drum of soapy water on the kitchen floor, I wish I could fix it all. Everything that had happened could have been stopped or avoided or at least painted over — fixed, mended. But I’m not the fixing kind. Never was. Not like Father.
I’ve seen very few things so broken Father couldn’t put them back together again. He was a genius like that. He could glue, stitch, or tape a block of jello back together. I’m the opposite. I know how to tear things apart, whether by force or by accident. I always find a way to destroy, to break down, to lay waste. But there wasn’t a thing I, or anyone, could break that Father couldn’t fix. Even Mother’s heart. …