Editor's Note: For the first time in the history of the San Mateo County Fair, a 300-page anthology has been published that includes more than 100 stories, poems and essays from writers who submitted award-winning work for the fair's literary contest. The idea was the brainchild of Bardi Rosman Koodrin, a San Bruno resident who runs the fair's literary contest, and the anthology, titled "Carry the Light," features work from many Peninsula writers.
From p. 291, “Peacetime”
We grew up under fire, learned to look at life from the peephole of a submarine. From the doorway of an army barracks. No bullets or flame or blood. We stow bombs behind our teeth, on the smooth slippery of our tongue. Words are black magic, missiles that can rip away your barricades like wrapping paper. Everyone’s got an arsenal. Everyone’s sitting with a cocked trigger. Reclining with a loaded gun. I know this as I know the sound of my father’s voice. I wasn’t so good with weapons as a boy. Not so good with words. All I had was worry at what was to come. Your weapon ready, you don’t ever have to worry. Even when it seems like everything’s gonna be fine. Some folk get fooled with the skies free of smoke, and silence all around. I don’t. Peacetime is when the worst storms are brewing. Typhoons growing like cancer. If you don’t know better, you could get real relaxed when the weather’s fine. Doze off in your chair with the door unlocked, thinking nothing’s bad out there. Don’t do it, man. Bad shit’s out there. Bad people. You fall to dozing, you’ll wake up dismembered. Innards torn out. Don’t do it. Lounge in your rocker but keep your back against a rack of bazookas. Everyone’s sitting with a cocked tongue, mouth full of spells. Anyone try to slag me off, I’ll bring down brimstone. I got enough ammo to beat the moon out of orbit. Gets hard on easy days, though. When everyone you watch seems to smile at you, when compliments are thrown like bouquets, when an insult seems as unreal as goblins. Makes you drop your guard a bit, makes you think maybe it is peacetime. Maybe that underworld you climbed out of really is out of sight. You think, maybe you can relax. But those goblins are real. You can’t ever relax.
Excerpted from "Carry the Light" with the permission of Sand Hill Review Press, the publisher. The book is available for purchase for $12 on Amazon.com.
Katie Wheeler-Dubin grew up in San Francisco, lives in Oakland, loves ginger and is currently healing from elbow surgery, which she broke while lube-wrestling with her older sister. She writes fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. You can read what happens to her at www.k-w-d.blogspot.com.