Love Letter to New York | by Andrea Avery
Snapshot of Christ | by Joe Esser
The Beginnings of an Animal Rescuer | by Randy Grim
From Way Down Here to Way Up There | by Chris King
The Gift | by Christian Saller
High on Jesus | by Rob Thurman
Cemeteries | photos by Jane Linders, Katherine Bish, and Andrea Avery
Robert Keyes | by Aaron Belz
In Appreciation: The Pruitt-Igoe Nature Preserve | by Thomas Crone
As Grandmother Neared Death | by Lindsey Durway
Say Hello to Papa Legba | by Franklin Jennings
Jackrabbit Stew | by Patrick Landewe
From Out of Nowhere | by K. Curtis Lyle
Oh Ye Of Little Faith | by Andrea Noble
Variations on a Rag for William S. Burroughs | by Randall Roberts
Torn Map Home | by Stefene Russell
As a Means to Love Him More Dearly | by Eric Erfan Vickers
Thank Christ for Easier to Argue | by James Weber
Southern Spine | by James Weber
Andrea Avery, Jenna Bauer, Andrea Day, Thomas Crone, Caroline Huth, Jane Linders, Carmelita Nuñez, Kerry Zimmerman
The Beginnings Of An Animal Rescuer | by Randy Grim
Early childhood memories are blurred at best, or are skewed for those of us haunted by adult fear, those of us who take a pill that is suppose to help heal disturbing wounds that are so deep you know it is best not to explore those dark daunting caverns of a damaged psyche. Instead you deny and cope. You become an expert at avoiding those looming caverns and probably become an overachiever or you fall victim to them. For me, it was a little of both. I have found this to be a common thread amongst those of us who deal with anxiety disorders. We all have a past that mirrors one another in several types of behaviors. We keep searching for that cure all pill but I believe that pill exists in the form of four legs, bad breath and unconditional love.
My first childhood memory is sitting with my outsized family in front of a tape recorder listening to someone called “my dad” in a ‘60s retro looking living room. It was the era of the Vietnam War and my father was there. I don’t remember him at all; he was just a recording and not a real person to my four-year-old mind.
“And remember Dalky, be strong for your Mom and I will be home soon. I love you.”
Dalky was his nickname for me. I had no idea what it meant, except that I must be special to him. He always closed out his recordings with a quivering pitch to his voice, a tone of deep sadness. My brother and sisters sat with tears, my mom sat with concerned looks for us all. I never knew what to make of it.
Time passes and soon the “voice” became human: A man who stood about six feet tall, dark black wavy hair, an olive complexion and wearing a uniform similar to my G.I. Joe doll. He scared me. I didn’t know him and never expected the “voice” to materialize into a person, my father.
“Come here, Dalky,” he said, with a sincere smile. I remember that; it was a genuine beaming smile. But I wouldn’t budge. I stood anxiously behind my mom. It was like meeting the Easter Bunny or Santa and my miniature mind was in overload. I think my mom nudged me towards the grinning soldier, and soon his arms were wrapped around my small tense frame. I didn’t like it.
My dad sensed my discomfort, and the more he saw how scared I was, the more the embrace became physically painful. I saw, even at age four, anger fill his eyes like a disillusioned warrior. Every single part of my childish being told me to fear him.
Soon the trepidation I was feeling became valid. My older brother Ricky, two of my sisters and myself decided it would be amusing to play “war” and dress up in my father’s military garments. We even made bogus helmets using kitchen pots and pans. We really did think he would love us even more if we showed him we were first-rate little soldiers. Waiting outside his bedroom door, we began to giggle with excitement knowing that the ambush was to happen at any second.
One by one he threw us like rag dolls to the corded brown carpeted floor. I remember being picked up and thrown again and again while he roared his fear-provoking war cry. The metal pot on my head soared across the room and I was in pain. My sisters screamed and my mom came running, shrieking at our hallucinating soldier dad. “The war is over!” she shouted at him.
That is all I have of this memory. The recollection just suddenly stops. This is probably the day my future anxiety disorder was sketched into my minute brain. After all, I had been correct in my assumptions that I should fear this man.
“Dalky, I am sorry. I love you. Please forgive me,” was a line I heard until the day my dad died. A child’s mind becomes confused quickly and easily. I believe I grew up with a form of Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in a hostage, in which the hostage exhibits seemingly loyal behavior to the hostage-taker, in spite of the danger. I wanted him to love me and not hurt me or my family. But how?
One day, just my brother and I were home. For some odd reason, I was to carry my dad’s dinner to him on a tray. By now I am at least five and this task seemed as daunting as performing a high-wire circus act. The air was filled with apprehension, and the inevitable did happen. The tray crashed down in a muddled mess as I missed my footing on the imaginary high wire.
I knew I had little time to clean it up—and tried to—at a rapid pace. I could feel his weighty footsteps, the grumbling. I am sure I must have screamed in panic. My mind and body began to shut down like a computer with a virus and go into a survival mode. I began to cooperate.
What little I recall of this incident is in a third person, dreamlike form. An army duffle bag and a boy deposited inside a burlap-smelling sack. Punches and kicks, blindsided pain and weeping until the boy surrenders and waits, curled up in a fetal position, staying quiet with hopes this would accelerate the end to his pounding punishment. The end for me being his human punching bag.
How it ended or what happened immediately after is erased from my memory, or hidden too deep to be reached. Once released from the bag, my mom now home, I knew she would never know what happened. My brother and I to this day have never talked about it. We never talk about any of it. I went outside to escape and see my friends: But they were not humans. They were the cats that lived in the sewer, my sewer.
That is how it all began, a scared boy who would sit the sewer and feed the scared cats. They got me.
Randy Grim is the founder of Stray Rescue, an organization with the sole purpose is to rescue stray animals in need of medical attention, restore them to health, and place them in loving adoptive homes.