Short Works by PC Writers

Short works by RPCVs that do not reference the Peace Corps experience.

1
Thelma Firestone’s Daughter by William Siegel (Ethiopia 1962-64)
2
Soledad by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)
3
The Grownup Train by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)
4
Volunteers of America by Jim Graham (Nicaragua 1970-71)
5
Puta Caballo
6
Gypsy Gina
7
Who Was That Stranger
8
Pink
9
Soutine and Dr. Maisler
10
Under Blossoming Boughs

Thelma Firestone’s Daughter by William Siegel (Ethiopia 1962-64)

[For all of us of a certain age, seeing the new film Inside Llewyn Davis brings us back to those years and the romance of living in New York City and on the edge of society as we tried to make our way as writers, artists, and folksingers. Within the ranks of the Peace Corps, we have a few very successful professional writers and a few really good guitar players, and one of them, Will Siegel, not only played the guitar professionally, but he is also a successful writer and editor. Will Siegel went to Greenwich Village after his Peace Corps (Ethiopia 1962-64) tour, playing in and hung out at the clubs made famous by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and now dramatized in this new movie featuring a character named Llewyn Davis. In his time in the village, Will performed as “Will Street” at Gerde’s Folk City and The . . .

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Soledad by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)

[Chris Honore’ was born in occupied Denmark, during WWII. After the war, he immigrated to America. He went to public schools and then attended San Jose State University and the University of California, at Berkeley, where he earned a teaching credential, an M.A. and a Ph.D. After teaching high school English for two years, he joined the Peace Corps. He’s a freelance journalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His wife owns a bookstore on Main Street. His son is a cinematographer, living in Southern California.] • SOLEDAD By Chris Honore’ I was thirteen years old when I went to stay with my grandmother. She lived alone in a rambling, two-story farmhouse with a wide wrap-around porch that offered soft views of the road and woods and a sheltered bay just beyond. Not far inland, due east, was the town of Watson. Everything west was ocean, the Pacific, deeply blue and endless. . . .

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The Grownup Train by Chris Honore’ (Colombia 1967-69)

[Chris Honore’ was born in occupied Denmark, during WWII. After the war, he immigrated to America. He went to public schools and then attended San Jose State University and the University of California, at Berkeley, where he earned a teaching credential, an M.A. and a Ph.D. After teaching high school English for two years, he joined the Peace Corps. He’s a freelance journalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His wife owns a bookstore on Main Street. His son is a cinematographer, living in Southern California.] THE GROWNUP TRAIN by Chris Honore’ They stood on the train platform, eyes narrowed, bodies angled to the right, looking down the track, waiting. A train had just passed through. Another would be along shortly. They were hardcore, their posture and dress conveying a self-conscious, determined insouciance: shoulders hunched, knees slightly bent, baggy denim shorts riding precariously low on their hips, their hair a shag carpet . . .

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Volunteers of America by Jim Graham (Nicaragua 1970-71)

[Jim writes that this ‘incident’ is the opening of his memoir of Nicaragua. The ‘basic incident is true, the particulars are mine’ he writes. The latrine project in part 2 of the story is one of the projects he was involved with. The photo is of Jim working the warehouse he mentions in the story.] • Volunteers of America By Jim Graham (Nicaragua 1970-71) They crossed the Rio Coco at its lowest point.  At this time of year, the river was shallow. Their horse’s hooves threw up muddy water as the bandits splashed toward the other shore, into another country. Northeast Nicaragua, the Mosquito Coast on the Gulf of Mexico, didn’t seem different from Honduras. Both were poor and oppressively hot at midday, siesta time.  The bandits liked to move during siesta, when all of Latin America is sleeping.  This strategy had succeeded many times before. Once across the river, . . .

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Puta Caballo

Puta Caballo by Miguel Lanigan (Colombia 1961–63) About horses, I knew not much. The few I had ridden back in the States were beaten down robots one finds in rental stables — the giddy-up-go plodders that get you from A to B and back again. The horse the Colombian stable hands were leading up from the stalls below was a trembling, brown, mass of quivering  muscle.  The beast I was to ride furiously jerked his head from side to side; the whites of his eyes showed he did not want to be ridden — earlier riders had done him too much harm. How, I lamented to myself, had I gotten myself into this unhappy and dangerous situation I was facing. . . . Back in 1961, I had it made in Washington, D.C.: I was twenty-two, driving a black MGA sports car, was a co-chairman of the debutante committee, had . . .

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Gypsy Gina

Leita Kaldi Davis worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, for Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard University. She worked with Roma (Gypsies) for fifteen years, became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal at the age of 55, then went to work for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti for five years. She retired in Florida in 2002. She wrote a memoir of Senegal, Roller Skating in the Desert, and is working on a memoir of Haiti. • GYPSY GINA by Leita Kaldi Davis (Senegal 1993-96) GINA LEANS into the corner of the tenement kitchen, trying to stay out of the way. She’s only nine years old and doesn’t take up much space, pushing close up against the walls.  She idly stretches out a finger and runs it down the yellowed, chipped paint, and puts her finger into her mouth.  Streaks of dirt mark her cheeks; . . .

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Who Was That Stranger

John C. Kennedy is the author of Last Lorry to Mbordo. He was station in Peki, Ghana (196568) a Peace Corps Volunteer, 1965-68, in Peki, Ghana. He is working on a second novel about the travails of RPCV readjustment. About this story – In his youth John was a fan of western serials. John is a man of few words. • Who Was That Stranger By John C. Kennedy, Ghana (1965-68) The passenger lorry slowed as it entered the old part of town.  Jason wondered if the large van had somehow become a time transporter. The bank, built during his last year in the village, still looked new and out of place. The community center that had beenunder construction was still under construction. A large sign congratulated the paramount Chief on thirty years of service. He nudged Karen, “He was a new chief when I came so that sign is new. . . .

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Pink

Susan O’Neill writes about her story “Pink”: The missionaries we knew in Venezuela were young men who always traveled in pairs. I’ve often toyed with the idea of what might happen if circumstance or fate separated them in some exotic locale. Then, five years ago, we traveled to Amsterdam for our younger son’s wedding to a Dutch woman. We wandered on foot or on bike over most of the center city, and I was amazed at how, when you’re not used to the layers of traffic — cars, trolleys, bikes, pedestrians —it’s an incredible challenge just to cross a street. The two ideas — paired missionaries, and the exotic, precarious city of Amsterdam — meshed in this story. It was once much longer, but I’ve tinkered with it over time, until it became rather naughty and twisted and something close to “flash fiction.” Pink by Susan O’Neill (Venezuela 1973–74) James . . .

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Soutine and Dr. Maisler

Stan Meisler writes about his story “Soutine and Dr. Maisler”: Hona Maisler, my father’s brother, was a Parisian doctor who was murdered in Auschwitz during World War II. Chaim Soutine, the painter, was a very distant relative, through marriage. He died in France during the war. Both lived in France from the turn of the century. I thought it would be interesting to imagine the two knowing each other in Paris during the 1930s when France was regarded as the most powerful country in the world. To do so, I used the device of a memoir, putting myself into Paris at that time as well. But I actually was a little child in the Bronx then and never met either of the two men. When I sent this around to a few literary magazines, I labeled it carefully as “a short story, not a memoir.” But I guess I wasn’t . . .

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Under Blossoming Boughs

John Givens writes about his story: Peace Corps for me was transformative. My wife Gail and I were in Pusan, Korea from 1967 to 1969. We later lived in Kyoto for a few years and separated there. A couple of years later, I was accepted by the Iowa Writers Workshop, as was Dick Wiley, another K-III RPCV, who also lived in Japan. After teaching in San Francisco and publishing three novels, I returned to live in Tokyo for eight years. I have never written directly about my Peace Corps experience (other than a couple of puerile workshop stories). My second novel, A Friend in the Police, is very loosely based on what it might feel like to be thrown in at the deep end of an unfamiliar culture although the narrative is so heavily distorted by use of an unconventional point of view that it would never be classified as . . .

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