IN THE PROUDEST COUNTRY BY MICHAEL WASHBURN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 33
Claude studied the American for a moment with a look neither warm nor cold. When Bryan had another round of drinks ready on a tray, the young man broke the silence, in the type of voice a shopkeeper uses toward a vagrant loitering outside. He asked whether Bryan was a Canadian. Bryan gave curt answers: American, writer, Les Cerqueux, et cetera.
The calm face studied Bryan for a moment. Then Claude stated his name and said that he lived a mile outside Vihiers, and that it was not common to see Americans, who took little interest in the town even when studying in Les Cerqueux.
“But then,” added Claude, “if you don’t care about those who go through life as amputees thanks to you, then who cares about a little place like Vihiers?”
Bryan smiled by default at his interlocutor. Now the music shifted to a snappier, more danceable song and the throng in the center of the place swelled. Bryan could not see his friends.
“Relax, I’m just making a joke with you,” said Claude. It was one of the solecisms that result from literal translation.
“Glad you told me, because I’m not sure what’s funny,” said Bryan.
“I’m not saying you would blow up houses full of people in Afghanistan,” Claude continued. “I don’t know, you might be a good guy.”
I write poetry when talking isn’t enough. I wrote Rapid after having a conversation that turned into an argument with one of my daughters. I can’t remember what the conversation was about but I do remember how I felt afterward. It was not anger or frustration. The poem didn’t materialize because I was sad or hurt. Instead, I was motivated to measure the growth of my relationship with her and my other two children. Their toddler years passed by so quickly. I thought about how communication traversed the distant mind of developing teenagers and how (years later) our friendships developed.
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Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, I am a part of all that I have met. France has provided the setting for some of my most passionate fiction, but I have attempted to do something with my experiences besides conveying the tired old wonder and awe that visitors to the country have written about ad nauseam. Writing about France at a fragile juncture, between the riots in 2005 and the terrorist attacks of November 2015, I’ve attempted to capture something about the country and its peculiar psychology and explore the question of how people in the Vendée really think about visitors, and why outright hostility might actually be preferable to the kind of cool acceptance that some of us have met with in France.
I have had work published in a few places including Rosebud, The Brooklyn Rail, The Bryant Literary Review, The New Orphic Review, Nomadic Sojourns, Floyd County Moonshine, The Montreal Review, and The Weird Fiction Review. I am looking for a publisher for a novel and a short story collection.
There’s this mysterious glue that holds polar opposite personalities together. There are masters and slaves, and the puzzle is what makes the ‘slave’ so loyal, so unquestioning, and so content to be treading away everyday like Sisyphus with his stone.
The story was intended to be humorous, although a few readers told me they found it depressing or even sick. Maybe I’ve worked with repeat offenders, addicts, and dysfunctional families too long. How normal it is for us to do the same thing over and over and yet expect a different outcome. That’s both hilarious and seriously depressing. Or maybe character is destiny. Maybe there are innumerable characters everywhere performing their comedic roles so earnestly and conscientiously and with such diligent concentration, that they can’t hear the audience laughing.
I ended up moving from Chicago to Salt Lake City, Utah, for no real reason. I was a rock climber but I don’t think that was the reason, nonetheless I found myself working at another climbing gym, but would try to still get as much writing done as possible. So I would sit at the front desk writing on my phone until I would get yelled at by my boss. At the same time I was living with four or five other people not counting the near-constant parties at my house, this leads to stress.
Nadya lives on the street when she meets somebody that can change her life. It seems like a dream come true until she discovers that it may cost someone else their future. Should she give up her dreams to save someone else’s future? The story shows that no matter what situation people are in and despite the darkness all around, the light of love can shine through. Beautiful Tragedy aims to show that there is still some beauty in the world despite the darkness all around us.
My stories are published in Emrys Journal, Skyline Review, Foliate Oak Review, Oak Bend Review, Flyleaf, The Linnet’s Wings, The View From Here, The Monarch Review, and others. I have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I live in New Jersey with my wife of thirty years Corinne, and my two daughters Nicole and Christina.
Other people’s stories fascinate me. I’ve come up with this theory that you can learn all of the important bits of a person’s character simply by observing them in a place they spend most of their time such as at work or involved in a hobby. How they interact with other people, their mannerisms, their nervous tics, how they handle chaos, what they talk about to pass the time—all of these are clues into a person’s character and all you have to do is pay attention.
I have two poems featured in A, a literary journal out of Colorado State University. If you would like to read my short guide to mining, you can visit my blog Crushed by Sarcasm at crushedbysarcasm.wordpress.com.