Daryl Murphy’s “As Clear As Water”

Contributed by Daryl Murphy and Kit Peterson

photo (7)When I was a kid in the turbulent ’50s and ’60s, the fiction and poems
I read presented a world where people maintained (or found) a strong
moral compass despite the sometimes insane behavior around them.
Harper Lee’s Scout, Jem, and Boo Radley. Tormented John in James
Go Tell It On the Mountain. I knew people like them walking
my streets, needed to write about them, so I earned my MFA from the
Iowa Writer’s Workshop. After twenty-plus years as a teaching
vagabond, moving from state to state to teach the craft of writing, I’m 
currently settled in Chicago and focused on actually finishing a short fiction collection and a novel. My story “Philly” was the 2010 Briar Cliff Review Fiction winner and a Pushcart Prize nominee. “Fledgling” was a 2013 finalist for the Bellingham Review’s Tobias Wolff Fiction Award, and “Blue Notes” was a 2013 finalist for Southwest Review’s David Nathan Meyerson Fiction Prize.

                                                                                                          -Daryl Murphy

What is the color of one’s skin when the hueless and ghostly shape of emptiness lies beneath it?

Daryl Murphy’s award-winning short story “As Clear As Water” is one of scars that will not heal even if the skin itself has not been physically marred. Dr. Louise Banks is left with the choice of seeing a lover from the past who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. She instantly remembers Abe Connor, the white pre-law student, and a romance born from social activism and broken by society’s prevailing judgment of interracial couples. Within the walls of old pain she not only recedes into the past of her people, but her own tormented womanhood as well as a powerful love lost. It is her father’s look cast down upon Abe and her as they walk down the street, and people stare. It is her weakness for Abe, “the lingering brush of his hands on her body,” when “she should have stayed loyal, choosing a man black and strong…”

Through Daryl’s powerful present-tense narration, we receive glimpses of Louise’s family’s arduous past in Mississippi, as she “relives stories told in her father’s deep rumble,” as if they are happening for the first time. Daryl’s characters are internally wounded—on the surface their stories coincide with so many others who were and still are subject to the racial prejudices of the 20th and 21st centuries. But it is their personal narratives that make these wounds something more than merely exemplary of a time period or one particular cultural theme. Through revelation, these characters tell us something that feels privileged and honest—something that lies beneath their armor and color. They are strong, fervid, and vivid, but eventually we feel their emptiness and their fragility, as Daryl paints us people “as clear as water,” and “as vacant as steam.”

Please visit Gemini Magazine website to read Daryl Murphy’s “As Clear As Water”



Maggie Kast: I Never Knew You Had A Girl

Maggie at Call to Action conference

Contributed by Kit Peterson

Maggie Kast is the author of The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family, published by Wipf and Stock. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has published fiction in The Sun, Nimrod, Paper Street, Rosebud, and others. Her essays have appeared in America, Writer’s Chronicle, and Image, among others. A memoir excerpt, published in ACM/Another Chicago Magazine, received a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council, and a Pushcart nomination. She’s currently working on a novel, I Never Knew You Had a Girl, excerpts of which have been published in anthologies on food and sleep from Red Claw Press. Her most recent excerpt, “I Hate that Chills,” will soon appear in The Huffington Post.

In Maggie Kast’s story, “Sleeping With Men, an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, 17-year-old Henriette is with Lucky, “a rakish older reporter,” at a left-wing meeting. It is Chicago, the year is 1930, and earlier in the novel Henriette has escaped her oppressive home life in Oak Park, Illinois to experience the “life of the body,” as she calls it. But as Lucky’s thigh moves closer to hers, Henriette, who has been embattled with the powers that be in an oppressive social structure, now must descend into the volatile trenches of her sexuality, and emerge from them into womanhood. When the two go back to Lucky’s apartment Henriette must make a choice, despite the memories of her father’s sexual abuse resurfacing. Her decision juxtaposed with her traumatic past makes us feel a different type of violent insurgency– Henriette’s interior mutiny of past ideals, where she will stop at nothing in order to bring about her own revolution.

“Sleeping With Men” is published in the anthology, Seek It: Writers and Artists do Sleep from Red Claw Press. Maggie’s most recent essay, entitled “Symbols: Forest of Ambiguity” can be found in the online publication Numero Cinq Magazine. Her nonfiction flash piece, “Ghost Alive,” has just been published in Defunct Magazine. Links to other publications and excerpts can be found on the blog Ritual and Rhubarb Pie.