Roshelle Amundson

Serena Mira Asta

Terry Bebertz

James Byrne

Joshua Fischer

Gail Gates

James Henderson

Adam Hill

Peter Laine

Alice Lundy Blum

Tawny Michels

Dawn Nissen-Schachtner

Altamish Osman

Rebekah Pahr

January Rain

Sally Reynolds

Donna Ronning

Jer Rucinski

Jake Ryan

Kah Shepard

Laura Sourdif

Cat Usher

Jonah Volheim

A Faded Pink Ribbon

Thrum, bump, bump. Thrum, bump, bump. My finger tapped along to an oldie tune playing on the radio as the patchy asphalt on I-35N kept my tires in rhythmic beat. It was a beautiful midweek summer day—the kind one thinks of while scraping an inch of ice off the windshield in January—blue sky, puffy grey smudged clouds, and a temperature just below sweating range. Traffic was light. A handful of slow moving campers owned the right lane as sportier, less family laden cars whizzed by in distain. I fell in between a mini-van with a Grandma’s Taxi bumper sticker, and a Winnebago wearing a four bike corsage and an ice chest leaking water. I was in no hurry. Thrum, bump, bump. Thrum, bump, bump.

Road distractions, in the form of billboards promising ultimate adventures to the north, and mazes of road-construction barrels, held my attention until the radio faded to static. I was trying to stay light hearted and in the moment, but eventually my mind wandered to the reason for the drive north—a long overdue trip to visit my mother. Dad, twenty plus years divorced from Mom, had never given up on the belief she would come to her senses and return to his life and bed. She didn’t, but her absence seldom interfered with his need to keep her in our lives. Dad kept me well stocked in guilt. How long had it been since I made the drive to see her? Was I aware my brothers had visited Mom on her birthday? They had brought flowers. What had I done? Okay, Dad. I get the hint. I was on my way. Thrum, bump, bump. Thrum, bump, bump. Lord give me strength.

Mom and I had always shared a contentious relationship, and as normal as that seemed, I longed for the day when she would freely share her thoughts and dreams with me instead of her disappointments. Unfortunately, in her eyes, and my ears, the culmination of all her disappointment was… me. For as long as I could remember she’d tick off my faults as though she was reading a grocery list: I wasn’t as pretty as my sister, check. I wasn’t as smart as my brothers, check. My ideas and goals were messes in the making, check and double check. Somewhere along the way I decided the best defense was to laminate a smile on my face and not let her know she was killing my spirit one stabbing word at a time. If her pleasure involved my pain, I would deny her any sign she was hitting her mark. Stab, suck it up. Stab, suck it up. One two three, one two three. Life is rhythms. We continued the dance until the diagnosis.

Memories, both good and bad, played through my head as I left I-35 and took familiar roads deep into my childhood. Where had the farms gone?  Only vestiges of what was remained. Empty pastures, ramshackle buildings, and crippled fence lines echoed my inner emotions.  It seemed everything had changed, been sold, or decayed on the spot. A shiver ran through me despite the summer heat. Had I changed too?

I pulled the car into the graveled driveway, parked, and looked around. The air was heavily fragrant from recent grass mowing. A lilac bush planted by my brother was thriving despite spotty care. Everything looked neat, orderly, and peaceful. Gathering my thoughts I proceeded down the path. What could I possibly say now that would bring Mom and me peace?

Approaching quietly, I found her there in front of me … but she really wasn’t, as usual. I stopped and allowed my feelings to develop unchecked and unfiltered. This was much harder than I had imagined. “Hello Mom,” I sputtered. “I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve visited. How are the cribbage games going with Grandpa?” Arrgh! After all my grandiose practice conversations could I muster nothing but small talk? Could I never get it right with her?

As I looked about in an attempt to regroup my thoughts, I noted a faded pink cancer ribbon lying within a bundle of withered flowers. I held it for a moment, then blew off the dirt and placed it on her headstone. As much as I loved her, it was, indeed, too late.



Elena Reflecting

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Gail Gates is about to enter the Master of Liberal Studies Program at Metropolitan State University, and is sure there will be dreams of showing up at class with no clothes on. At her age this would not be a good thing. On a happier note, she enjoys baking things that she will surely go to hell for.