Sara Dobie Bauer · Writing

Underlanders: When the world ends …

When the world ends, I’ll be sitting on my back porch with a bottle of scotch, toasting the zombies on their way to eat me. I don’t see myself as much of an apocalyptic fighter. (I mean, how do you expect me to live without Netflix?) However, some people are fighters: namely, the people in my new short story, “Underlanders,” featured in Arizona State’s literary magazine Canyon Voices. Here’s a teaser …

“Underlanders:” An Excerpt
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Published in Canyon Voices

Marie found her boys in the library, where they rested in all manner of recline. Tiny sat in the large, leather desk chair, with a book in his hands. The other boys sat on couch cushions and cafeteria seats. Some were on the ground—others stood in corners—but they all listened as Tiny stuttered through the rhyme of “The Raven.”

Marie listened to the words, but she also listened to the sounds of the abandoned hospital at night. She knew what sounds were welcome—the settling of the building, rain against windows, boys shuffling to the restroom. She knew sounds that were not: heavy, adult footsteps; the slamming of doors; inhuman growls. She heard none of these noises, nothing at all, and yet, the stranger suddenly arrived at her side.

He said, “I’ve always loved Poe.”

The boys turned. Shippy was the first to stand up, squint, and point. “Did you hear him talk? He is James Bond!”

Voices surrounded the stranger as he walked to the stacks of books, arranged in messy piles on heavy, metal bookcases that covered the windows and walls. She noticed he walked with no sound.

Yellow stood behind Shippy and shouted, “Can he stay? Will he stay, Mother?” His blond head shined silver.

Marie was too busy watching the stranger to respond. She could see his eyes change. From cold, dark blue, his eyes began to shine. He reached out long, pale fingers and took hold of a battered volume of William Shakespeare. She thought she saw his hand shake, and his eyes watered.

“Where did you get all these?” He put the book under his nose and sniffed.

“People left them behind.”

Then, Shippy ran to the stranger’s side—out of character for a boy taught to trust no one. “Are you really James Bond? You are, aren’t you?”

The stranger ran his thumbs over the picture of Shakespeare’s face. He glanced at Marie before looking down at the boy who needed glasses. “Yes, I am.”

“I knew it!”

The sad hospital library erupted in sound, but Marie hushed them until the room was silent.

“Would you read to us?”

“Tiny, the man needs to rest,” she said.

“No, I …” The stranger rubbed his eyes. “I would love to.”

“Can he, Mother? Please?”

Marie nodded.

“Do we call you Mr. Bond or double-oh-seven or—”

“James is fine.” He put his hand on Shippy’s head as he walked past the boy. Tiny vacated the desk chair and gestured with dusty hands. The other boys returned to their states of recline, but their eyes were bright. Unaccustomed to a new voice, they waited. They were the most patient group of children in the history of Earth, and they remained that way, frozen.

(Read the whole story at ASU’s Canyon Voices HERE. I promise nothing bad happens …)



Arizona · Writing

Published in Canyon Voices: Here but Fading

Tonight, I will attend my very first magazine launch party at ASU-West for their literary magazine Canyon Voices: Journal for Emerging Writers and Artists. A non-fiction essay I wrote entitled “Here but Fading” made the cut for their spring 2012 edition. Although this may have been the hardest essay I’ve ever written, they’ve asked me to read it at the launch party tonight. Idiot that I am, I agreed. Wish me luck. For your consideration, an excerpt from my most recently published work.

Here but Fading

My grandfather turns ninety this year. As usual, the family will take him out to Red Lobster for his birthday. He won’t remember it. My grandfather has dementia.

His name is Barney Schwind. He joined the Navy when he was just out of high school, left the family farm in Ohio, and headed to Chicago. He would later admit the only reason he joined the Navy was to get a college education for free. See, Papa is a smart guy. He met my grandmother while visiting a buddy in New York City.

Papa’s buddy’s name was Vernon Cochran. Everyone called Vernon “Rusty” because he had red hair. According to the story, Rusty said, “Hey, Barn, you doing anything tomorrow?” My papa said no, so Rusty invited him to a picnic. Rusty promised food, beer, and girls. Papa’s response? “Put me down for three.” He met my grandmother at that picnic. Although he now says he liked her “knockers,” I think he liked a lot about my grandmother. Hell, they’ve been married for over sixty years.

When he tells you the story, he gets a far-off look in his eye—like he’s watching a black and white film version of that particular day. Papa remembers everything from the old days. He remembers classes he took in college. He remembers the one time he stopped over in Charleston, South Carolina. He used to tell me that story all the time when I lived there. I probably heard it a dozen times. The story got old, but hearing his voice never did.

I don’t know if it’s possible to pinpoint the onset of dementia. Dementia is one of those sneaky diseases that creeps up in the dark and makes a home in your head. We knew it was bad when Papa went mad. He claimed Grandma was sleeping around. The accusation would have been funny, considering my grandmother more closely resembles an apple every year. I should have laughed when my mom called to tell me about the incident. She giggled while she explained.

But I didn’t laugh. I couldn’t. Papa was gone, replaced by something foreign and sick. I would later realize my mom had no choice but to laugh. What else could she do? …

(There’s plenty more where this came from. Head over to the Canyon Voices website to read my essay in its completion.)