Plain China


Kim Stoll · Susquehanna University · Honorable Mention in Nonfiction

When I was a child, my dad always walked with a cane. He had a few of them, but the one I can picture most distinctly had a bronze dog head on top. The decorative head gave it some heft, making it the cane of choice when he went to check traps with my brother. I’m not sure when I asked how they killed the foxes they found in their traps, but at some point my dad must have explained, in his quick, harsh voice. He beat the foxes to death with his cane. Shooting them would have ruined the fur.

Field Notes on Hair

Vicki Yang · Columbia College Chicago

After the brain thing1 the world became divided; there were those who knew the truth about my illness, and those who knew the easy-to-swallow version I personally lubricated for them. As much as I tried to prevent it, there was the cleavage of my life’s short timeline into two separate but unequal segments: before the brain thing, when I possessed coveted big-name qualities like Radicalism and Bright-Eyed Naïveté, and after the brain thing, when I lost a little bit of those things, and also, for several months, a lot of hair.


Amber Eastman (August Lah) · Emerson College

Last night I had a dream that I was fat. More than fat: crouched on the bathroom floor of my old high school, flesh hanging heavy and pendulous. Gravity ached. Deeper and twist.


Laura Hitt · Prescott College

The snow sticks lightly to the road in a pleasant way, shrinking the lanes to wet tire tracks in a delicate white landscape. This is western Massachusetts in February, quaint as pastoral England. Snowy fields, classy coffee shops, large estates. Barebones deciduous trees line the roads like patronizing forefathers. Zoë sits in the passenger seat, her baby strapped into the elaborate car seat behind us. She turns to engage him in baby banter as he squirms. “He gets fussy in the car seat,” she says.


Antonia Angress · Brown University · Honorable Mention in Nonfiction

My mother wakes me in the night. “What? It’s late here.” I try not to sound mean, but I can tell I do. I will apologize later. My mother’s voice is tinny and garbled and distant. She tells me that my brother has tried to kill himself. I note that she says “your brother” and not “David” or “Dave” or “Davie,” as though he is a stranger that only I am related to.

Williams of the Dog Days

Clare Boerigter · Grinnell College

His beard is coming in red. I can’t see the stubble any longer, his face beginning to lose its subtleties. We determine not to look at each other. Or night determines for us. Bill Williams, the mountain overlooking, the mountain hanging, is prefaced by four lesser peaks. Ours is not the least, not the lowest; although ridged by telephone poles—a far running wood-and-wire spine—it is possibly the ugliest.

Actually, I'm Jewish

Seth Winger · Stanford University

Actually, I’m Jewish. It’s a phrase I’m used to saying, for one reason or another. What are you doing for Christmas? Actually, I’m Jewish. (Subtext: going to a Chinese restaurant.) Why are you dressed in a suit and walking away from class on the first day of the quarter? Actually, I’m Jewish. (Subtext: going to shul for Rosh Hashanah, and then probably to a Chinese restaurant.)

The Glasses

Katherine Bove · Emerson College

I was nine years old when I got my first pair of glasses. They were round and thick and wire-framed. When I remember that day, I’m not particularly struck by the way the optometrist’s office smelled (dry, like Kleenex), or by the way the uneven nubs on the periscope-like eye-checker dug red ovals into the bridge of my nose. Instead, all I can clearly remember is sitting on the swing back home, after the appointment, and my Yiayiá leaning over the flowerbeds.

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