Pulpit Rock: A Reverie in Three Acts

Roger McKnight

               I

Hank Standish saved his and Hanna’s serving cup after City bus 12 rammed a curb, but nothing stopped the chocolate sundae from swishing onto her white skirt.  His sister wiped at a darkening splotch, only to see the ice cream trickle down her leg. “My bad,” he apologized. “Maybe Mom’ll blame some goon from your school for it.” Sensing frowns from nearby passengers, Hank wished someone’d tell him okay, it’ll go away.

That someone wasn’t Hanna.  Hank guessed she’d been pouting off and on since Flo ordered them to meet up at the depot and take a bus home together. Not Mom’s brightest idea. Hanna’s school was a hike from town and the streets were iffy for a pretty 16-year-old. Nevertheless, she met Hank with a smile at his commuter train from the City, and they figured out the best bus to take.  Her frown returned when he bought them a sundae with two spoons, then dumped it in her lap.

Hank’s day was as mixed as Hanna’s moods. He’d left for the City that morning intent on joining the Army, anything to get away from home. Being a grunt was his idea of something new, but he returned in doubt. The morning ride passed suburbs whose sleazy back sides revealed overstuffed garbage containers and straggling drunks. The train smoothly avoided other bugaboos, like the highway backups and road rage Hank knew from delivering pizzas for Pasta Bomba. In posher neighborhoods green soccer fields, tennis courts, and concert halls whizzed by until the train inched to a halt among downtown highrises. Spiffy businessmen strode by while women in high heels turned their noses up. Hank realized they barely noticed a 21-year-old wannabee like him.

He wandered around downtown until his Fourth Street military induction site popped up. It belonged to the National Guard, but regular Army examiners retreated to it when street crews with jack hammers besieged their regular testing spot. “Military Entrance Processing Station? Fancy name. Ain’t far from a cattle market,” joked a fellow recruit Hank met on the street.  They went in together.

“Yeah, MEPS, they call it,” Hank replied.

He knew the jargon because he’d read up on recruit processing. The test for boot camp sounded imposing.  Two minutes of push-ups, two more of sit-ups, and a long-distance run. He’d trained for weeks to pass, only to realize the test was administered after basic training, not today.  It didn’t sound so rugged anyway.  He’d played high school soccer, where the coach said strikers like him ran seven miles a match.  In addition, MEPS measured guys’ aptitude and judged their moral standards. If any, Hank guessed with a smile.  

The Guard’s crumbling brick Armory reminded him of a Quonset hut from some long-ago war. Creaky flooring made it even humbler indoors. Hank and his new-found buddy joined a couple hundred roustabouts who came, the fellow guessed, from every walk of life, but were mostly working dudes.  “Jerks without jobs,” he continued with a wry smile.  “Like me. I’m Karl, name means a real stud in old English.  Used to do sheet metal.  What’s your story?”

“Don’t have one,” Hank answered, but knew it wasn’t true, just that nobody ever asked.

He and Karl joked inanely about the other testees, mostly a conglomeration of overweight or undernourished guys of every skin color. Then came a few stupendous hunks, who’d been pumping iron and probably dreamed of emerging bloody but unbeaten on far-off shores, Rambo-style.  An uneasy camaraderie held the diverse mix together. They inched forward to be measured and tested, in hopes their testicles and temporary abstinence from dope or alcohol rendered them inductable.

“These guys don’t know squat about heat,” Karl explained.  “I been roofing all summer, temp job.  Hot enough on housetops to bust your balls.”

“Sheet metal, what’s that?” Hank asked.

“Ventilation systems, plastics, good dough till the virus closed business.” 

Hank studied the guys ahead of them. He noticed Karl watching him and figured they were thinking the same things. Like, here we are. Piss poor jobs. No future. Dependent on our folks, who hardly make it themselves. 

“Me, I got a little sister to worry about,” Hank said.

Karl eyed him carefully.  “Army’s not your dream job?” he asked with another smile.  He was strong and nimble like Hank, but clearly most at home talking.  “They strip you down, test your muscle strength and coordination. My big brother told me.”

When Hank’s turn came, the docs established what he didn’t have.  TB. Heart disease. VD. Fallen arches. They ordered windsprints, two laps around a shortened track. Hank ran the half-mile instead, felt out of shape but finished first. His aptitude test measured little more than if he could read or write. Examiners left his morals moot.    

“So, what’s your story? You never said,” Karl reminded Hank on the way out. 

“No money for college.  Delivering for Pasta Bomba, heard of it?” he replied.

Karl shrugged.  “I left home when Pa wanted me in mortuary science.  Dressing stiffs.”

“I figured there’s gotta be a way out,” Hank continued.

“To where?”

“From here.  A bigger world.”

“And here you found it?” Karl asked and pointed dubiously at some guys lounging in uniform.  “See you at swearing-in?”

***

Hanna wiped at the fudge then put a hand on her skirt to cover it.  Seeing her self-conscious movements, Hank wondered how her life’d be at home without him. She argues with Pa, he thought, and Ma’s Bible-banging continues.  At the same time, his thoughts jiggled around to his Army swearing-in, or the absence of one. Karl joked about swearing allegiance on a stack of Bibles, but Hank’s own recruiting officer never showed up at the Armory. He was to send a notice. Soon, he texted.

Gazing past Hanna and out the bus window, Hank compared the jumbled mix of folks on Fairfield’s streets, their hometown, with the motley crew he’d just been tested against. Nothing he saw made the Army feel better or worse.His Bomba route presented a shifting kaleidoscope of human nature, good folks and bad. There were enough guns in town, he knew, to blow a few small world republics off the map, but nobody’d confronted him with deadly force yet, face to face.  

Meanwhile Hanna quit fidgeting with the lace on her soiled garment. She either hadn’t thought much about, or didn’t fathom, what her brother was about to sign up for, but was smart enough to know her own needs.

“What’s up?” he asked. “Fiddling? Why?”

“Praying for the chocolate to dry and me not look…,” Hanna answered.

“Like what?”

“A floozy.”

“The brown specks? It’s only fudge.”

She shot him a glance that turned to a grimace, then melted to glee.  At last she exploded in ringing laughter so her spit splattered on the back rest before her.

“Nut case,” she mumbled at him and giggled so her torso shook.

“Makes two of us,” Hank whispered. 

True, they were nutheads together, though not the usual sort, equal in age.  Hanna was still a sometimes petulant or often giggly teen and he a guy on the cusp of manhood. Still, they bonded together, caught as they were between opposing forces at home, Mom and Dad never seeing eye to eye.

“We’re all we have,” was Hank’s explanation.  He meant all, like deep down, where they could laugh about dopey stuff or endure angry outbursts that left them giggling when others bawled. In the long run they were happy with each other by nature, because of awkward moments like the hot fudge, not despite themHe jabbed her in the ribs as they rode the bus and she leaned against him, still giggling, so they rubbed fudge on each other, with sticky fingers.

“Who cares what any dumb boys or pissy girlfriends say about my skirt,” she said. “And here I was bragging so much about it in school today.”

“So no matter?” he asked.

Hank sensed the mixed feelings in her, tough as nails but sensitive to pain, if that made any sense. No girl deserved teasing, unless it was the right boys saying the wrong things to her by mistake.  He prayed the wrong boys’d leave her be, but their shallowness was what it was, and Hank felt her brace for the indignity of their approaches even before they left the bus. To calm her at touchy moments like these, he entertained Hanna with stories of looney times at Pasta Bomba, like the silly old ladies with blue hair or the codgers who talked to themselves. Not to mention the guy that bragged he kept a real-live tiger cub in his one-bedroom apartment. Hank knew she’d heard his tales before but would fib about it and save her worst irritations or tantrums for the folks at home. 

“You know, the one about the naked Norwegians?” he asked.

Hanna grinned, so he saw she recognized comic relief time. “You told me once, but I kinda forgot,” she white-lied.  She straightened up, while sneaking peeks at the crowds of guys outside the windows. 

Hank decided to keep it short.  She’d tune out if he bored her. “They’re this old couple, forty at least. He’s a famous chef at some persnickety joint, but orders from us.  Same pizza.  Same day.  Every week.”

“A Margarita,” she added.  “I remember.”

“Yeah, thinnest crust.  We don’t normally even make them, only for him.  Gives huge tips. Us guys fight to deliver there, him this renowned cook, does TV shows, and all. They live across town, on Emerald Lake, know it?  Lotsa dough.  It only costs them $9.50 for a large, but they’re big tippers. They give the delivery guys 30-40 bucks, sometimes more. Clear profit, for us.”

“Depending on what?” Hanna insisted eagerly.

“How long we stay and talk. About any old thing. With them, it’s not about pizza.”

“About what then?”

Hank wondered himself, the same way he knew other delivery guys did, trying to figure out what strange habits the chef and his wife brought with them from their far-off fjords and fells.  The chef showed him pics of a place called Pulpit Rock. A Norwegian precipice of stunning granite that people edged out onto then peered straight down. Nine hundred feet below. Or was it nine thousand? 

“We climbed up there as kids.  Every summer,” Hank remembered the chef saying with a laugh.  “It’s like life, climb high toward what you dream of, do what you want.  What do you want?”

“Dunno. Art. Famous books. The heights don’t bother you?” Hank wondered.

“The heights? No. Falling? Yes,” the chef answered.

Hank puzzled how anyone could muster the bravery to balance between life and death so high up and bare themselves to the heavens, knowing some never passed the test and fell or were like the young couple the chef knew, who clasped hands in a suicide pact and sailed into oblivion.

 “You mean, why a Margarita?” Hank finally asked realizing Hanna was waiting for a reply. Ordering simple pizzas must be the Norwegian chef’s sub-text, he decided, like English teachers talked about, whatever they meant by it, exactly. “Like maybe the Norwegians’re telling us there’s something beneath the surface driving them against the grain? Doing what nobody expects?”

“Like you joining the Army?”

“No, maybe more like me staying home. Writing books.”

“Or maybe simple food, like Margaritas, are what they had when they were young and poor?” Hanna suggested, changing the topic back to pizza.  “I bet it became their tradition.”

“Yeah, or they come from where life’s ordered to a tee, and here they can act nuts, and enjoy it, trying to fit in like everybody else who’s whacko. You know, they open the door with this beaming smile.  Don’t have a stitch on.  He’s this grizzled tall guy with a beer belly and a super fancy mustache. But no hair on his legs. Stands there clutching dollar bills so they wad up, while the Bomba gets cold, I can feel heat seeping outa the box.”

“And her? Maybe she’s the hungry one.”

“Like maybe they don’t even eat it, I’m thinking.  They order something, to make it seem natural. I mean, they can’t call us to come out just to show they don’t have any clothes on. Anyway she’s happy and nodding yes to everything. She stands next to him, she’s got her arms crossed and covered with goose bumps, and he squishes the bills even tighter and holds her at the waist. It’s darned cold out, so I’m shivering in my boots.  Like I said, they’re old and the door’s open and the pizza’s cooling. I’m wondering if he’s ever gonna pay up and give me my tip.”

“Her, though?”

“Like I told you, they’re in their birthday suits, and she’s smiling, and bouncing…”

In mid-sentence he saw Hanna glance out the window.

“Remember Pulpit Rock, he says to me, following dreams at your age will decide your life forever…he finally hands me the tip,” Hank continued, “and says Takk.”

Hanna frowned.

Eager to explain his only word of Norwegian, Hank eyed his sister expectantly until she pointed out. “Look.”

Takk. Look.  Two four-letter words, he thought as a guy in a gray felt hat closed the door to a liquor store and proceeded unsteadily toward his car. 

“Dad,” Hanna whispered and leaned back to roll her eyes.

II

At the last stop folks rushed on and off #12. Among them were scads of the dumb boys and pissy girls Hanna willed to go away.  This time they accommodated her and scattered, which left Hank to walk on with his sister.  Neither spoke.  Both knew their dad’s scenario. Stop for a draft and head home with a bottle.    

Hanna hit their porch first and opened the door while Hank hurried in so Flo would miss his sister heading upstairs in the smudged skirt. From the kitchen doorway, he watched as his mother went to the sink and pared potatoes. She pursed her lips, while Hank’sdad, who’d gotten home before him and Hanna,slouched in a chairslinging epithets at Lowry Accountants, where he worked. 

“Dumbasses, can’t add, substract, and…threaten…sack a guy for it!” His words came out clear at first then subsided to static.

As Corey Standish’s ramblings filtered through the room, Hank remembered the down-and-outers he’d seen from the commuter train, poking among empty bottles.

“Don’t let me hear that,” Flo retorted. 

“Low-down Lowry,” Corey muttered in reply.

“Lush. A miracle they don’t dump you,” she harangued him.  Flo had bright eyes, so when she grimaced a flame burned from her visage. “You’ll pay at the Reckoning.”

At times Corey’s slumping posture made Hank sure his drinking was a knee-jerk reaction to Flo’s tirades.  Other times he wondered if Corey’s drinking drove Flo to the arms of unforgiving temperance folks long before he and Hanna were born.

“How often do I have to tell you?” Flo demanded. “Take your shoes off.  Spreading germs from sleazy saloons.”

Corey straightened up and smiled for whatever reason, lightening the heavy atmosphere. Flo sensed the change and relaxed while slicing the last potatoes. She put them on the stove.

“Oh, American fries, my favorite!” Hanna exclaimed as she flounced down the stairway, now in shorts and a baggy blouse.

“Where I come from, nobody removes their shoes indoors,” her dad explained, while obeying Flo’s command. “My oysters next?”

Flo shifted her attention from him. “Where’s that new dress I bought you?” she asked Hanna.

Caught between her father’s smile and her mother’s glare, Hanna waited, knowing their moods could change on a dime.

“It’s a skirt, remember?” Hank interrupted.  “I spilled something on it. Ice cream.”

Flo gave him a questioning glance, so Hank hesitated.  “My god, it’s washable,” he said.

“What flavor?”

“What?”

“The ice cream?” Corey asked.

“Sassafras,” Hank fibbed.  He glanced at Hanna and both burst out laughing, which lowered Flo’s insistent guard.

“Yeah, sassafras, ice milk,” Hanna chuckled and all four joined in playfully to ease the tension.

“Just think, sassafras milk,” Corey joked. 

While Flo prepared dinner, Hanna and Corey went to wash up. That left Hank setting the table. He had his mind on the Army physical, but only spoke when his mother asked.  

“Were they dirty, the others boys?” she asked.  “Smoking?  Swearing?”

“No, but no swearing-in. Any notice come here for me?”

“How would I know?  Without your password?”  Her questions hinted he was remiss not giving it to her.

While Hank wondered why she needed his email access, Flo described her own father’s long-ago days on World War II’s Pacific front. Kamikaze pilots.  Blood and guts. Hank heard she knew her stuff.

“What about Dad?”

“Him? No war. Spent two years guarding a nuclear test site.  Buck private and all.”

“Yeah, I know. Sandia. Or some god-forsaken place.”

“The Service’s when he started drinking.”

Interesting. I begun in school, Hank thought.   

“You could stay here and work, get something real.”

“Me, laboring in the fields of the Lord? Totin’ Scriptures?”

Flo pursed her lips in frustration and motioned for Hank to sit. 

He waited for Corey and Hanna.  Finally, he got up to fill their glasses with water while an unlikely dinner of oysters and American fries or hash browns, whatever they were, waited. He watched his busy mother. Fervent Evangelist, he thought, serving meatless Friday fare.

***

Table talk went well.  Hanna spoke of her pride in the new skirt, now in the wash, and other school girls’ envy of her for having a mother that knew a girl’s taste.  Hank recounted the routine at MEPS, but skipped his thoughts about the Army personnel trying to act busy.

Together Hank and Hanna finally got around to telling how it really was on the #12 bus. Bumping the curb to avoid some bikers was a shock. Hank wasn’t the only guy that spilled stuff, but nobody got hurt. As they babbled on, Flo went to the stove and returned with raw oysters.  Corey produced a bottle of Bacardi rum.  By the time the others got a full plate, he already had a foretaste of oysters down his gullet. Hank knew seafood was his dad’s favorite, but he eyed his own serving skeptically.  The oysters looked slimy, an impossible dose of gooey fat.

“Oysters excite the palate,” Corey said and took yet a sip of Bacardi. “An oyster’s blood is seawater.  You chew the beast till it breaks or snaps, like a fresh fig.”

Hank looked at Hanna, who munched on her potatoes and poked an oyster.  In turn, she glanced at Corey as he contemplated another drink. Seeing the disharmony between father and daughter, Hank chose an oyster.  He examined it and took a shucking knife.  Next he placed the tip at the base of the hinge.  He applied pressure by twisting the knife upwards till the hinge opened. Corey showed him how to slide the blade under the top shell. Hank released the oyster and removed the shell.

As he slurped the oyster, the texture felt firm yet slippery. Strangely he felt a one-on-one relationship with the creature he was consuming and by extension killing.  Life and death became like one, as when victor and vanquished share the moment of truth in mortal combat, Hank imagined. The salty taste, transferred from oyster to human, was satisfying, like the blood-watery essence his father spoke of. 

“That’s it, you have to chew to get the fruity fruitness,” Myles encouraged him while handing over a shot of Bacardi.  Hank swallowed slowly, ignoring Flo’s stare.  Savoring oyster and rum together, he felt alive and sensual, sensing warmth in his father’s attentiveness. 

“For crying out loud!” Hank heard his sister screaming in revulsion. She shared her mother’s distaste for the food Flo so reluctantly prepared to satisfy her husband in his cups. 

“No worry,” Hank said to calm Hanna.

“It looks like someone puked or sneezed on a seashell,” Hanna uttered as she jerked back.

Hank realized he for one had gone beyond taste. He remembered a poem from high school English about a girl brave enough to defeat the child in herself and leave her juvenile ways behind, as Hank had done in devouring the oyster. The poem was intriguing, but he could never remember its title, just the idea that the death of childhood’s a ritual and everybody experiences it alone.

“I’ll gag!” Hanna cried out. 

To defend her, Flo lashed out at Corey. “Getting our only son drunk on this acid.”

In anger, she attacked a bowl of potato soup she’d prepared for herself while Corey devoured the remaining oysters.  Left to celebrate his transformation in private, Hank moved Hanna’s oyster to his plate and downed it with the last sips of Bacardi. While doing so, he thought of his leaving home, an act of abandoning Hanna to a pitched battle between church and tavern, fought out across the dinner table each night.

“Ugh, I said I’m gagging!” Hanna repeated.   

“Eat it,” Corey ordered. “Good for you, rich in dopamine.”

“You’re the dope,” Hanna replied with a scowl. 

“Corey!” Flo retorted. 

His parents’ outburst over Hanna and the oysters made Hank recall similar, or even worse, family feuds.  He’d put up with his mother berating him at Sunday dinners for missing church or imagining his father flirting with younger women.  Worst was the time both parents hit the ceiling after the Fairfield Record published a photo of Hank dancing with a black classmate at a teen dance.   

 Hank spoke little while helping Flo and Hanna do dishes, but he felt their worlds tug at him, one dying and the other being born. His locked in the middle. Once back in his room, he found the recruiter’s message.  Swearing-in. Wednesday.  

III

Hank was sprawled across the front porch sofa when Hanna left for school on Monday.  He was still lazing there when she came home.  The afternoon breeze wafted through a huge sugar maple overhead, and Hanna walked through the leaves’ shifting shadows, which made her white skirt rustle. In the light it appeared dappled, even though Hank fumbled for a better word. 

“Liquefaction?”

            Maybe, but he let it be.

“What?” she asked.

            “Wearing the same clothes two school days in a row?”

            She smiled. “I acted like your chocolate had turned it into a different skirt.  Didn’t fool anybody.”

            That was all.  Sometimes they talked lots, not now.  The rippling sunspots on her clothing suggested continual renewal of thoughts and ideas, but Hank and Hanna let waft be waft and pretended nothing changed.  While the afternoon sun held steady, Hank gripped the swing’s metal arm rest and Hanna sat at the other end looking ahead.  Long minutes passed until they sensed the sun gliding down. He glanced to the side and saw her sense of surprise that he hadn’t packed.

            “A penny,” she said, trying to sound reflective and motherly.

            Hank fingered the metal, like he’d peel the paint off but for no reason, except doing so allowed time to figure a reply.

            “I remember once. I’m ten and you five. We’re all at home. Everybody’s talking up a storm, like we’re encapsulated, you know?”

            She shook her head.

            “Like we’re in it together,” he said.

            “In what?”

            “Whatever. Like all wrapped up in the moment. Can you imagine?”

            Hanna didn’t answer but leaned forward waiting for more.

            “Outa the blue, the phone rings, and everybody stops but doesn’t move.”

            “Who in the world?’ Ma says.”

            Hanna nudged her end of the sofa, so they floated back and forth in an even tempo. She looked like expecting another of his Pizza Bomba tales.

            “Then everybody freezes tighter not wanting dull news on the other end of the line or some church biddy to drag Ma away,” Hank continued.

            “Who was it?” Hanna insisted.

            “We never find out. You, you squeal, run over, and pick up.”

            “Me, what could I say? Talking to strangers, at age five?”

            “‘Hello. Goodbye. We are eating thupper,’ is all. You speak, hang up, and that’s it.  Everybody laughs.”

            “And you’ve never forgot?” Hanna asked. “So dumb.”

            “Who? Us or you?”

            “The whole story. And that’s what you’ve been up to, all day, sit here an’ swing back and forth an’ think up stupid stuff to tell?”

            “No, I got calls today. These I answered.”

            “From who?”

            “Friends, here and there. Wanting me to go where they are. I like it.”

“Will you?”

He smiled. “Could be. Recruiter, too. Report and swear in, he says.”

            “We all knew that. You shoulda waited and let me pick up. I’d run the bad guys off. Like in the old days.”

            “You’d tell them what?  I’m eating thupper?”

            Hanna fell silent. So Hank drifted back to his thoughts. The day was his, but he’d barely moved. Prospects outside the front door felt stultifying. Thirty more years in Fairfield, this dull burgh? Delivery boy or something worse? Why not somewhere else? 

            Meet up, before your stack of Bibles? Karl texted. A last beer in civvies?

            Put that way, military service didn’t sound half bad.  Good pals like Karl would pop up.  From the Army Hank’d get college tuition, or maybe killed. In some unheard of place, far away, like the hunks lifted weights for, fighting for nothing. But that could happen here, too. Only a matter of time before Pizza Bomba sends me out and I knock on the wrong door and some riled up guy opens with an AK-9, expecting police not pepperoni. Not much fun being splattered against an apartment house wall.

            Thinking like that made Hank waver. He needed to be part of something special. Hanna needed him, but by the time she reached his age, he’d be up there. Twenty-five for sure and no experience. Or education. The world won’t wait. Somewhere there were books and music. Artists his age.

            “When I’m gone,” he said to Hanna, who was growing tired after another day at school.

            “And so?” she asked.

            “The cops’ll murder another guy or two for driving while black, and the working slobs’ll protest and it’ll feel like there’s hope at last, but nothing changes,” Hank continued and studied her.  She was spunkier than him, but living in a world where having sensible folks mattered and the wrong boys could outnumber the right ones. She’s still only a kid, he thought, but so was I until the oysters.

            “Meaning?” she asked in puzzlement.

“Meaning it’s like the rustle of your skirt. The light flickers and then goes. The skirt stays, nothing changes, except our perception of it and the light.”

Then he heard footsteps and saw Flo.  She said hello and peered at Hank, just as Corey entered. 

“Not packed?” Flo asked.  “What’re you taking?”

“What’ll I need?” Hank asked with a shrug.  “Underwear? Toothbrush?”

“They’ll give you that,” Corey explained. “Plus some discipline. Start from scratch.”

***

            On Wednesday starting from scratch didn’t sound so awful. Hank packed a duffel bag, went to the bank for some cash, and thought of what he’d see from the commuter train to the City. Varied temptations, some of which he’d avoid for sure. A few others he’d wanna try. 

The time for swearing-in and having a brew grew closer, but for now he was driving Hanna back to school after she took time off for hotdogs and a coke. She explained yet again how clean the white skirt came out while also telling about a kid who broke into her school locker. He heard her but couldn’t help thinking about boot camp, like at Ft. Leonard Wood, where Karl said his brother went. Hot and dusty, but guys from the Midwest knew no better. 

Stopping at her school, he opened the driver’s window and remembered being a school boy himself. He turned to Hanna, but she was already out and over the curb. 

From the sidewalk, she sang out, “Bye, Fudge.”

Back at home Hank grabbed his duffel. As he walked along the path to #12, Hanna’s goodbye hung in the air around him, like a light but insistent breeze. He thought again of the crazy Norwegians. In the midst of everyday seriousness, their views were a beguiling invite to climb upward on his own and not look back. His mind awhirl yet wishing for the unknown, he stopped to text, Yeah, but heading up a sheerer cliff, what we do with our life, and trusted Karl to understand. Maybe he’d even go along. As Hank walked on, his duffel grew heavy but his steps light.

 Roger McKnight: I’m from downstate Illinois, but now reside in Minnesota. I studied at Southern Illinois University and the University of Minnesota and have worked in Chicago, Puerto Rico, Sweden, and Minnesota as a teacher of English and Swedish. My most was fortunate experience was witnessing the dignity of Puerto Rican life before the US’s post-hurricane neglect of the island.  I’ve published one novel, ‘Out of the Ashes’ (Mayhaven Press, 2014) and a book of creative non-fiction, ‘Severed Ties and Silenced Voices,’ (Chicago: Nordic Studies Press, 2009). My short story collection, ‘Hopeful Monsters’ (London UK: Storgy Books, 2019) features tales about Minnesota, the Midwest, and Scandinavia. My short story “Victoria” appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine in 2018.

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