And Many Happy Returns

tea-party

My mother wanted to give me my birthday present early this year because, as she told me with tears in her eyes and a small crack in her voice, “I might not be around anymore by the time it gets here.”

Mom is only sixty-two years old. She’s not battling a fatal illness. She’s not even sick. She’s just a little dramatic always has been. So after she turned her back and began digging in the closet for my gift, I laughed.

“My birthday’s in less than three months, Mom,” I said to the back of her head, now hidden in the dark behind a row of jackets and sweaters. “Do you think you can hold try to hold on for that long?”

She ignored my sarcasm. “I just think people should say the things that need to be said, and do the things that need to be done,” her voice softened again, “before it’s too late.”

Read More

The Knoxville Film Festival and the Gift of Stories

KFF

Last weekend, the Knoxville Film Festival lit the screens of Regal Downtown West. Festivalgoers enjoyed four days of independent cinema including local, regional, and national filmmakers. From five-minute shorts to feature-length productions, the screens came alive with stories. At the same time, fans, filmmakers, and aspiring artists swapped stories in the lobby, sharing insights, networking, and extending the impact beyond the screen to the world outside.

Earlier in the year, Executive Director of the Festival Keith McDaniel and his team narrowed down three hundred submissions to around forty films. The festival also featured a range of student films and films competing in the 7 Day Shootout. This year marks the third annual Knoxville Film Festival, and it grows in participation, scope, and quality every time.

Read More

A Memory in White, Pt. 2

window

[Read Part 1 here]

Vivien rose and closed the curtains around the room.

“Do you mind if I use your restroom, Miss Wallace?” Lucas asked.

“Down the hall and to the left,” said Vivien, pulling curtain ties and shaking out wrinkles.

Lucas followed her directions. The floorboards were dark and the hallway papered with an embossed white octagonal pattern. More photographs hung on the walls, showing a brooding Georgian building being raised from the ground and more people in period clothes. Amongst these were bold, simplistic charcoal sketches that looked to have come from asylum patients.

Past an open bedroom, Lucas saw a pitcher and basin on an ebony table by a door to the left. He tried the glass doorknob, but it didn’t budge. It didn’t even rattle against its casing. It stuck fast, as if it was only for show. Lucas went back to the living room. Vivien was mixing tea in the kitchen again. Rooster looked doubtfully at the wall beyond which Marley sat on the porch.

“I didn’t quite find the restroom, Miss Wallace,” said Lucas. “Is it the locked door?”

She stopped mixing tea.

“Oh, Lord,” she said.

Read More

A Memory in White, Pt. 1

Gardenia

She had a headdress made of oak leaves, and she was irate.

“What a lot of nonsense!” she scolded the boys at her door.

Lucas Jernigan and Rooster Sutts each took a small step backward on the stoop. They were college seniors, the vanguard of an amateur ghost hunting troop waiting at the filling station two miles down the road. Lucas was a broad-shouldered photography major who kept a dashing crop of blond stubble on his face to hide his rough skin. His dark blue rosary hung from his belt loop. He had searched long and hard for it that morning.

Rooster Sutts was a third baseman, a wildlife studies major, and nobody’s fool. He rolled his own cigarettes and habitually stalked his bowstring frame into the local wetland to muck about for this turtle or that snail. He was short with a face like a tobacco plug and was missing a bicuspid, though he would never say why.

The leaf-headed lady upon whose porch they stood glared at them through the wide open door with fierce blue eyes. She might have been all of forty or forty-five, as far as Lucas could tell, though she looked younger. She had curly dishwater hair and ivory skin with a faint birthmark along her collarbone. She wore a white cotton dressing gown that hung about her like a flag at rest. Lucas caught himself gaping. Rooster stared with acute interest at the door jamb.

“You young reprobates come out here looking for Satanic tales and hoopla!” said the lady. “All you’re bound to find is poor folks who can barely look after themselves. Haunted asylum indeed! I’ve a mind to call the police.”

Read More