Just a Moment from Pen + Brush In Print No. 1

“Swingset!” by Miss Lauralee is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Pen + Brush has been closed for 17 weeks. That’s a long time. We mourn the creative work that couldn’t be in our space: the art on the walls, the words on the page. And we miss you, our friendly, enthusiastic public. In lieu of a new issue of In Print in person, I want to share a piece for our first issue, which was published in July 2018. In this short story, Erik, a grad student, has returned home after the death of his brillian mother Helen. Despite a recent coldness between the two, he is bereft, and he lingers in the crematorium remembering his relationship with Helen. At this point, I should disclose that this story has made me cry more than once. Erik’s grief is poignant every time – even on the sixth or seventh read.

As June moves into July and so many of us are hurting, I found myself thinking more and more of Helen. She is a historian, obsessed with doing primary research in the small midwestern town where Erik grows up. She delights in shocking her neighbors — with multicolored socks and, later, LGBTQ bumper stickers — but her secret hopes for the son she adores are more conservative than she would ever admit. We, the readers, love her along with Erik, but we’re disappointed in her. We’ve just exited a month of protest and pride, a month where so many of us grappled with the dangerous, hurtful assumptions and beliefs we grew up with, and so many of us had to articulate the pain those beliefs have inflicted. It hurt. But when I sat down to think about what I could possibly post from our archives at this moment, I realized I wanted to share a story about love and family, about a bi grad student grieving the loss and celebrating the good. Miranda’s compassionate eye encompasses queerness and family and bereavement and wildness, and sees an often-maligned part of the country as a place of value; we should all be lucky to be observed with such understanding. I’m so pleased to share it with you here.

“Just a Moment” was originally published in Driftwood Magazine. If you’re interested in reading a little more about the story, you can read Driftwood’s interview with Miranda here. And if you want to spend some more time near Helen, you can read a second story about her in The Collagist.

About the author: Miranda Rowan Schmidt, is a writer, editor, and teacher whose work has appeared in TriQuarterlyOrionCatapultElectric Literature, and other journals (including, of course, Pen + Brush In Print). She has taught creative writing at the Loft, Portland’s Literary Arts, the University of Washington, and Portland Community College and edited for the Seattle ReviewPhantom DriftSun Star Review, Lambda’s Emerge Anthology, and other publications. A Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Writers Fellow, they are also a graduate of the University of Washington’s MFA program. They are currently at work on a novel about haunting and a series of ecological lyric essays. Miranda grew up in the Midwest and she now lives in Portland, Oregon with their wife, child, and two cats.

I would particularly recommend reading Miranda’s Tree Talk column at Catapult if you are looking for more words.