L. ANN WHEELER
Brookside Beach House
Last year in this prairie city, a woman decided to cover her lawn with sand. She missed the ocean. It didn’t violate any rules. She checked. Sand was paid for and trucked in, workers filled the yard over the course of a month, low-lying retaining walls of two–by-fours built for the edges. The job was done in sections, layers with days in between them to allow for settling, blowing away. Neighbors were so angry they called the news, local channels reported live from the scene, couldn’t get an angle that didn’t have another station’s truck in the shot. Someone stole her winged garden gargoyles out of spite. She receives notice from the city of a nuisance, replaces the sand with asphalt.
You and I drive to the river, get out and walk. The water is so low its banks are made of concrete slabs; the marks and numbers on a pillar of the distant bridge measure nothing but air.
tell me again about
glacial arcs, how the waves
were ironed flat
As we moved into our new apartment, the longest friendship of my life
fell silent, then fell apart. I became someone who consulted advice
columns and message boards— I was never able to articulate the
questions I wanted answers for, but I searched to find the best fit from
the innumerable worried exchanges that already exist on the internet.
Surviving a Best Friend Break-Up. Why I Broke Up with My Best Friend. I
Don’t Want to Know my Best Friend Anymore. Before we had fully moved
in, I took a trip to California and K continued to ferry our things from the
old house to the new. The friend in contention showed up at our new
place to return my dress— ocean blue with swirls of green embroidery,
my small-waled corduroy shirt with glinting rivets for buttons. That
night on the phone, I asked my husband what she had to say, and the
only thing he could remember was that she was troubled by the air
quality of the apartment. I do not miss answering to her.
I washed the dress and gave it away.
Your first love’s parents own a dark, stoic saltbox, its yard awash in blushing beach roses and a lawn blotted with sand. A street away from blond, blond dunes. You don’t remember anything besides the top floor’s steeply slanted ceiling, low beach light from a small window close to the floor which paints the room in syrupy reds and oranges. The way your arms draw up over your head as your dress, your peony-pink dress with the zipper up the back and darts under your breasts, puddles to the floor behind you.
To make your own choices
should not feel like a gift;
take heart, it will.
Café Near the Teaching Hospital
I intended to eat a donut this morning. I drew about it, thought about it, talked about it. But when I got here, there was only one donut left, and it looked like a maple donut, and that’s not what I’m going for. I wanted to buy the donut, sit down with the donut, admire the donut, and describe its colorful sprinkles and delicate cake-like texture before, while, and after eating it.
But I didn’t want a maple donut, so I got a croissant instead. A chocolate croissant. I said pain au chocolat to the boy behind the counter, but he didn’t hear me, or didn’t know what I was saying, so I said chocolate croissant and that worked much better. It could have been my hesitant pronunciation.
I considered looking deeply into the history of the donut, who made the first one, the differences between fried and baked donuts, and weave this information elegantly with my own personal observations to bring everything to this amazing zenith of understanding. But instead I have this Midwestern chocolate croissant to discover.
Why We Moved
We heard someone
bang on our doors, then our windows,
our little dog ran from room to room to bark
at whoever was out there— naked, we ran
to into the bathtub, to avoid the flashlights which
sliced through the darkness of our house at random.
We called the cops who said it was the cops
outside—a man was asleep in our backyard
on my beach towel plucked from our porch,
walked down the grassy alley next to our house
and spread on the grass next to our garden
before retiring with a shovel in one hand, a rake in the other.
It was dawn.
We didn’t sleep well for weeks.
The towel lay in the corner of the laundry room
for a month before I could wash it.
L. Ann Wheeler is a writer and illustrator in Lawrence, Kansas. Her photo-essay "A Little Hell of Its Own" won the 2013 Bone Bouquet Experimental Prose Contest, and other work has appeared in Omniverse, Forklift, Ohio, and ILK. She studied at the Pratt Institute, and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. You can find her at home with her dogs.