A Literary Feast

Posts by Heather Arndt Anderson

The Lovely Figs

Posted on April 29th, 2011

My name was Tree, like the woody plant; first name, Fig. I was forty-two when I was murdered on September 18, 2010. In landscape plans, most looked like me: foundation plantings with flappy green leaves. This was before fruits of all shapes and flavors started appearing in grocery stores or on menus. It was still back when people believed things like that didn’t happen.

On Urban Foraging and Other Childhood Liberations

Posted on April 26th, 2011

From my leafy guard I could see the passerine flocks soaring past—almost at finger’s reach—I was so high up this tree. I could see the entire world from my roost, and was deliciously invisible doing it. This was true freedom. The wind gushed, and I waved with the tippy-top of this spindly bole, less afraid of those great heights than what was on the ground.

Red Threat

Posted on April 20th, 2011

While some immigrants assimilate as quickly as possible, some stay foreign. The Laotian and Cambodian kids I played with as a girl were so Asian: barefoot all the time, weaving long Chinese jump-ropes from scavenged rubber bands, eating green plums from neighboring fruit trees, with salt and hot sauce. Some of their parents never really learned English, even after many years in Portland. The southeastern Asians pretty much stuck to themselves, and by the late 1980s, they’d formed little cliques of attractive, popular kids with highly-styled bangs and superior pencil erasers, and seemed to prefer their exclusivity to integration.

Purple Tickets: Part 3

Posted on April 15th, 2011

I got hot breakfast, too (a blue ticket), in exchange for my service in the Safety Patrol. The overcast atmosphere of the cafeteria at breakfast time left me feeling a bit melancholy, drawing down my energy and honing my resignation to the impending school day. It seemed like there was always one basketball bouncing languidly across the floor, echoing plaintively, moping. The gym teacher supervised the morning cafeteria, authoritative whistle around his neck. If it was rainy out −and it often was− the half-lit cafeteria/gym served as the early morning recess area as well as a place for kids such as myself to scarf down a toasted hamburger bun (leftover from the previous day’s lunch) with melted American cheese, some canned pears and a…

Purple Tickets: Part 2

Posted on April 13th, 2011

I held my purple ticket so tightly that it conformed to the heart line of my palm. We lined up at the classroom door, and then marched down the hall, single file, alphabetically by last name (or in boy-girl-boy-girl order if there had been any acting up that necessitated a squelching of horseplay), to the cafeteria. All of the different classroom lunch lines were tributaries to the main cafeteria river-line, and the confluences were where I saw my other, luckier friends − ones who weren’t in Mrs. Pukey’s class. The savory aroma would jog my appetite, and I would begin to salivate. I tried to make idle chitchat with Corey Simpson and Christine Flatt while we were queuing up, but I was too distracted…

Purple Tickets: Part 1

Posted on April 11th, 2011

Every school day at noon, Mrs. Uttke (“Mrs. Pukey”) attempted to shush us all into submission, and if that didn’t work, she’d resort to raising a shrill voice that echoed against the classroom walls. Her eyes flashed red, and the flab on her cheeks and arms quivered with impatience. Strung out and running on fumes, we’d manage to assemble into a fidgety line with our little hands out, and she checked our names against the list that sorted us by Poor, Kind of Poor, and Not Poor. She walked down the line, doling out a little purple ticket for all of the hot lunch students from the roll she kept in her yellow oak desk. Some kids’ families paid full price for the luxury…