Annie Hawkins

Mystery malady silences America

A parable for our politically discordant times

Yesterday, as the sun rose from east to west across the USA, citizens awakened to discover that they could not speak. No embodied voices emanated from pulpits or the campaign trail. Michele Bachmann stopped shrieking. In private homes, there were no mister-and-missus tiffs, no squalls of infants, nor whines of teenagers.

At 7 a.m. EST, the president declared a national state of emergency on Twitter. Conspiracy theories flew through cyberspace like predator drones.

Survivalists blamed the government. Republicans blamed the president and single mothers on welfare. Catholic bishops and members of fundamentalist churches blamed women's widespread use of contraception. Environmentalists blamed big oil.

Left-leaning members of the 99 percent blamed bankers and corporate malfeasance, while staunch conservatives in the latter group continued to defend the “trickle-down” economy. Delusional zealots blamed empty chairs and other household furniture.

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The bigot within

This summer, a resident of Chester's main street staked a homemade sign in his front yard, a few feet from the road. In bold, black letters, artfully arranged on a white background, it asks, “What part of 30 MPH do you not get?” It must be hellish to live...

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Yes to summer

How many breaths between June 20th, when the sun stood still, and now?

Yes! Summer! Friends and neighbors come to celebrate the solstice and climb the stairs up to the barn porch, carrying roast leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, black rice salad, lime cheesecake, beet salad, strawberry-mint tea, homemade rye bread, and more: enough deliciousness to feed 20 people. I am convinced...

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My father, the troll

My father taught me to box when I was still so short he had to get on his knees to spar with me. When I grew taller, he taught me basic self-defense techniques. Both my parents believed that women should be intellectually and physically competent so they could manifest their ambitions and dreams. Real-world skills were an important component of a well-rounded education. Boys and girls, they believed, should know how to cook a meal, clean a house, do the...

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Everything's gone to chaos

I never met “Chaos John,” but I feel like I knew him well. I knew him through the stories of my friend Maria Catell, who had lived next door to him throughout her childhood. He was a considerate neighbor, always greeting Maria and her siblings with a cheery hello and offering help to her family when needed. John also had a streak of gloom and doom that surfaced every time anything went awry, which, according to him, was most of...

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Walk a mile

Far above the village, high in the snow-laden hills, a crone walked under cover of pines and hemlocks, maples, birch, and ash. The hills had always been a refuge for her, but in recent weeks, rumbles of thunder had been rising from the village, shaking its foundations. It was the sound of lawmakers trying to move the church closer to the state. The crone did not understand it. There were serious problems to be solved - poverty, discrimination and other...

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Tending fire

When I get out of bed in these dark, winter mornings, I head straight for the woodstove. My cat Marshmallow materializes out of her shadowy corner of the kitchen, where she keeps vigil in the night, waiting for the wee mice that sometimes emerge from the woodwork. She trots next to me, mewling, as I invoke the blessings of the fire gods and goddesses. “Please, let there be coals.” I kneel on the hearth, and Marshmallow sits beside me as...

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‘If you don’t go swimming, you won’t drown’

Carol and I have been friends since we were barely past voting age, when we shared a country bungalow and would drive up the road six mornings a week to our jobs exercising racehorses on a neighboring farm. Now we live miles apart. When we connect on the phone, it's a free-range conversation. We talk about politics, religion, horses, books, our work, our fears, and our dreams. Recently we were talking about flirting, and Carol said, “If you don't go...

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