Short Works by PC Writers

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

1
“The Sunny Side” by Ryan Gahris (Ethiopia)
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Mary-Ann Tirone Smith Remembers Jerry Stiller & Cameroon
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“The Yang of Travel: Traveling Solo” by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala)
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“How to Destroy a Government” by George Packer (Togo)
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A Writer Writes — “Africa Delivers” by Bob Criso (Africa)
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A Writer Writes: “Trauma in Togo” by Mark Wentling (Honduras)
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“Mexico” by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay) in The Oddville Press, Fall 2019
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“Rent Check” by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)
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A Writer Writes — “Why Trees Aren’t Just Colorful” by Roger K. Lewis (Tunisia)
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Mark Jacobs’ new shortstory in Maple Tree Literary Supplement (Paraguay)

“The Sunny Side” by Ryan Gahris (Ethiopia)

  Sitting just to be still, unknowingly, atop an ant hill — the spiders above were spinning their silk. Ahead was an untilled meadow, overgrown and waist-high with nettles. Hiding away microscopic marvels — things just being things. Left to be and compete for the simplest of needs. Predisposed to balance between extremes. Day and night. Hot and cold. Dry and wet. Here and there. But, who really cares? As I stared, my eyes unleashed the anti-abyss — the negative imprint of a tired mind, out sick. But once a lone cloud lured my vacant gaze, it bulldozed through the invisible maze. An ink blot set against a blinding blue blaze. Morphing to mirror my revolting cynical state. Inching closer, as if it had something wise to say… The wind whipped in advance to trigger a chill. Every hair was raised to a static standstill. The elevated scent of a . . .

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Mary-Ann Tirone Smith Remembers Jerry Stiller & Cameroon

  With the passing of the most wonderful actor and comedian, Jerry Stiller, I’m reminded of a day back in 1994. I’m hustling down Broadway to get to the West Side Barnes & Noble, where I am one of three contributors to Going Up Country: Travel Essays by Peace Corps Writers to read that night at the bookstore. I looked up and spotted Jerry Stiller coming toward me and as a great fan, I immediately stopped and asked him for his autograph. I was already late, but so what. Jerry was happy to do it, but neither of us had any paper available. So I held out my copy of Going Up Country and told him about the signing. He was full of congratulations. He said that he’d wished he’d joined the Peace Corps and then signed the front endpaper, ‘To Mary Ann. Good thoughts. Love, Jerry Stiller.’ Then he said he was hurrying somewhere or . . .

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“The Yang of Travel: Traveling Solo” by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala)

The Yang of Travel: Traveling Solo by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73)   • “What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.” –George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion   I began my global journey in the early ’70s as a Peace Corps Volunteer, training in Ponce, Puerto Rico. What better way to see the world and learn a new language than join the Peace Corps? A lifetime of travel would change me radically as well as those around me. But over the years my decisions on what and how to travel would be changed by the relationship with my wife Ligia. This dynamic was best reflected by the symbol of “Yin & Yang” where a balance is struck between two opposites. The one life lesson I’d come away with as a Peace Corps Volunteer was . . .

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“How to Destroy a Government” by George Packer (Togo)

    “How to Destroy a Government”—In The Atlantic’s April issue, George Packer (Togo 1982-83) reveals how President Trump is winning his war on American institutions, and argues that a second term will irrevocably harm what remains.   How to Destroy a Government When Donald Trump came into office, there was a sense that he would be outmatched by the vast government he had just inherited. The new president was impetuous, bottomlessly ignorant, almost chemically inattentive, while the bureaucrats were seasoned, shrewd, protective of themselves and their institutions. They knew where the levers of power lay and how to use them or prevent the president from doing so. Trump’s White House was chaotic and vicious, unlike anything in American history, but it didn’t really matter as long as “the adults” were there to wait out the president’s impulses and deflect his worst ideas and discreetly pocket destructive orders lying around . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Africa Delivers” by Bob Criso (Africa)

A Writer Writes    Africa Delivers by Bob Criso (Nigeria 1966-67, Somalia 1967-68)    My fascination with Africa began when my brother-in-law, Harry, gave me his old stamp collection after he married my sister, Mildred. I was nine years old. It was those East African stamps that fired my imagination at the time — giraffes, flamingoes, and exotic flowers on stamps from places like Tanganyika, Rhodesia, and Madagascar. It sent me to the encyclopedia for my first independent study of geography. In high school, it was the independence movements of the late fifties and early sixties that caught my interest. European colonies in Africa struggling for autonomy and self-government. I was rooting for Kwame Nkrumah and Ghana all the way. Back to the encyclopedia for another independent study, this time in history. Years later, I realized how much these movements paralleled my own struggles for independence at home. After I . . .

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A Writer Writes: “Trauma in Togo” by Mark Wentling (Honduras)

    Trauma in Togo by Mark Wentling (Honduras 1967-69) Published in American Diplomacy, February 2020 April 1991, while I was serving in Lomé, Togo as the USAID Representative for Togo and Benin, protests in Lomé against the dictatorial regime of President Eyadéma reached the boiling point. One night, President Eyadéma’s barbaric soldiers entered the original neighborhood of Lomé, Bè, and killed a couple dozen people or more. They collected the bodies and threw them into the lagoon which cut across the northern part of old Lomé. Their morbid idea was that when the people saw the dead bodies, they would cease revolting against Eyadéma, his cronies and all for which they stood. The opposite happened. Angrily, the people of Bè gathered the dead bodies and put them in a dump truck. Thousands of people marched with the truckload of bodies from Bè, on the eastern side of Lomé, into the . . .

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“Mexico” by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay) in The Oddville Press, Fall 2019

    The opening paragraph of “Mexico” by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978–80)   IT WAS A CHAIN OF EVENTS, some of them taking place in Foster Raines’ mind and some in the world at large, none more real than another. It started with the death of Methuselah’s baby sister, whose name Foster never could remember. He happened to be sitting in the game room at Loblolly Village when she crossed the threshold on her walker and crashed to the floor dead as a bag of cats. A hundred and seven, people believed her to be, reserved but not unfriendly to the end. Nurses and orderlies rushed to revive her. No luck, unless you considered lucky the feat of expiring in a flash after a healthy century. Watching the commotion from his wheelchair, blanket tucked around his knees, Foster was obliged to look his own death in the face. The outcome . . .

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“Rent Check” by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)

  Rent Check by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978-80) evergreen magazine • The question was did Janelle fuck Old Ray Taylor so they got the house. Grace drew a quick picture mental picture of herself, the sticks and circles of her that moment. On her knees next to the bathtub, kneecaps aching where they touched the tile floor. Washing Meadow’s hair because something was wrong with her granddaughter, Meadow always forgot where she was so forgot what came next, for example rinse the soap out. On the toilet seat, Grace’s pocketbook. In the pocketbook, a pack of L&M. Against Grace’s better judgment it was December, but so far she was keeping November’s promise not to smoke inside. She was asking herself did her daughter fuck the owner of the house Grace was living but now not smoking in. And how come it mattered so goddamn much. Ha! If she could answer . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Why Trees Aren’t Just Colorful” by Roger K. Lewis (Tunisia)

  Why trees aren’t just colorful fall features for our region’s neighborhoods   by Roger K. Lewis (Tunisia 1964-66) President, Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation The Washington Post Oct. 25, 2019 • October’s changing leaf colors, along with intrusive leaf-blower noise, are signals every year that fall is definitely upon us and winter will be arriving in a few weeks. But these sights and sounds also remind us how wonderfully verdant the nation’s capital is. We are quite fortunate. Few cities match metropolitan Washington’s extraordinary amount of tree-covered, vegetated open space. Thousands of acres of interconnected, stream-valley parks thread around and through the region, which encompasses countless neighborhood public parks varying greatly in size, shape, topography, flora and function. Complementing our urban and suburban public parkland are hundreds of thousands of private outdoor spaces — front yards, backyards, courtyards — all contributing in different ways to the fall color display. Washington is . . .

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Mark Jacobs’ new shortstory in Maple Tree Literary Supplement (Paraguay)

    Wild Turkey Climbing the outside steps to Glynda’s apartment, Mick Garrity felt the gravity of experience slowing his step. The sky was spitting wet snow at him, paying him back for some screw up he could not put his finger on, just now. Glynda’s deadbeat boyfriend Murphy had beaten her up again. Dispatch said she was hysterical. She wanted the police to save her. Again. Across the universe a thousand cops were climbing the same steps hearing the same old story they had heard and told a thousand times. On the landing, Mick raised his hand to knock but Glynda was already opening the door to him. “I kept my word,” she snuffled. “I swear to God, Mick, I kept my word.” She looked terrible. The sleeve of her burgundy quilted robe was torn. Her hair was wild. She had always had a cute face, a sexy come-get-me . . .

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