Allyson Chavez Larkin is a family physician specializing in wound care. She lives in Corpus Christi, Texas with her unfailingly patient husband, a Midwest transplant who still cannot get used to the heat, and three lovely children who are turning into amazing people right in front of her eyes. She reads and writes voraciously in her spare time. Middle grade and young adult fiction are her guilty pleasures.
Jesus Lopez mows his own lawn. So do I of course. So do most of us; but Mr. Lopez is paraplegic.
Twenty-five years ago, a bullet lodged in Jesus Lopez’s back severing the neurologic connection between his spine and legs. Now no signal reaches the muscles below his waist. Paralysis and deformity ensued. His feet are contracted and twisted upside down so that they look like curved bowls -- no good for walking or even standing for that matter. So, Mr. Lopez mows his yard in his wheelchair.
Mr. Lopez’s home health nurse keeps calling me, complaining that his dressings are dirty or have fallen off when she goes out to care for him three times a week. She can’t figure out why. So this visit I’ve got to have a “heart to heart” with him about his role in the healing process.
“Mr. Lopez, you won’t heal unless you are compliant with our wound care plan. If your dressings are dirty or wet when the home nurse sees you, you will never heal.”
“Sorry Doctora.” That is what he calls me. “I think it might be the mowing. I’ll tie a grocery bag on my foot from now on to keep the bandage clean.”
“Mowing? How do you manage that?”
“I pull my chair right up next to the mower so I can pull the crank at the same time I squeeze the start paddle on the handle.”
“It’s a push mower?” I cannot believe what I am hearing.
“You bet, self-propelled. Once I get it started, the mowing is easy.”
I shake my head.
“I pull my chair up behind the mower and push it with my left hand. I drive the wheelchair with my right.”
“That doesn’t sound safe,” I say as I inspect the horseshoe-shaped ulcer on top of his right foot, which due to his contractures, is actually resting on the footplate of his wheelchair.
“I tie that belt around my legs to keep them from flopping if I hit a rut.” Mr. Lopez points to a frayed brown leather belt draped on the edge of his seat. A jagged tear in the cushion has been repaired with silver duct tape and a shopping bag chock full of gear -- a sack lunch, an umbrella, a blanket -- hangs off the handles. “I’ve never had a bit of trouble.”
The wound is pink and shallow. It looks like it should heal right up; but never does. It is maddening. “Dirt and debris getting into your dressing isn’t doing your foot much good either,” I say.
“I have to do it, Doctora. I have a big yard and if I don’t keep it cut, the city will fine me $75. I’m not made of money. ”
That’s true. He gets to my office by bus, but unlike a lot of my bus patients, he is never late. I should have Mr. Lopez give a class: “How to Master Public Transportation and Arrive On Time.” I didn’t even know he took the bus until one day I ran so late that I made him miss the last pick-up. He had to borrow the phone at the front desk to shift around for someone to pick him up.
“Jesus Lopez’s mother died,” my medical assistant warns me before I go in for our next visit.
“I'm so sorry, Mr. Lopez,” I say as I look at his foot.
“Thank you Doctora. I miss her. We were very close, but she was old. It was her time.”
“You lived with her?”
“Yes, just her and I. The house is very quiet now.”
“How are you managing? Have you had to move?”
“Doctora,” Mr. Lopez pauses waiting until I look up and give him my full attention. “My mother couldn’t get out of bed this last year. I managed to take care of her. I sure can take care of myself.”
I blush. This is the closest to an angry word I have ever had from Mr. Lopez, and I deserve every bit of it. I’ve been treating him for a year, but I don't understand a thing about his life.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean -- I just assumed.” I struggled for words. I did not want to offend this man, always so courteous and patient. “But how do you possibly manage? It’s not just your paralysis, but your feet. You can’t even -- ”
“Doctora. I got shot over twenty years ago -- and it was pretty much my own fault. For a few weeks I thought all about ‘I can’t.’ I couldn’t get out of my mind all the things I would never do. But then I decided, ‘Hey, I’m alive. The Lord is not done with me.’ So, every day I just do everything I can do.”
I am humbled and have no response.
“So I took care of my mother. I owed her that. She gave me life and I wasn’t gonna put her in a nursing home.”
“You’re like MacGyver,” I say.
“Oh Doctora,” Mr. Lopez laughs, “I love that show.”
I have an idea. “Do you think if I put home health on hold, you can figure out how to you reach down to your foot and dress the wound yourself everyday?”
“I’ll find a way if you tell me what I need to do.”
“Jesus Lopez is healed.” My medical assistant moon walks in the hall outside Mr. Lopez’s room at his follow up appointment two weeks later.
I walk into the room, hoping but not convinced. I shine the spotlight on his foot. Indeed there is a thin, translucent layer of pink tissue over the wound.
“Mr. Lopez, you are healed.” I can’t help but grin.
“I thought you’d like that, Doctora. Thank you for healing me.”
“Mr. Lopez, are you kidding? You did it. I’m just sorry I didn’t have you change your own dressings months ago.”
“That’s OK, Doctora. You always did your best. Sometimes it takes trying different things before you get them right.”
Copyright Allyson Chavez Larkin
Brandon Cantu was given a school assignment in creative writing when he was 6 years old. He and his mother, Melinda Cantu, chose to use a porcupine as subject material based on a TV documentary they had seen.
This is a story about a porcupine named Quillan. Quillan was a very nice porcupine except he had one big problem. Quillan could not control his temper.
Every day he would play baseball with his friends. When it was his turn to bat if the pitcher would strike him out he would get so MAD! Quillan would arch his back, tighten his muscles and his quills would stand straight up. His friends were so afraid to get close to him for fear of being stuck with one of his quills that they would all run away.
This made Quillan very sad.
He went home and told his Mom, “No one wants to play with me.”
His Mom said, “Quillan you have to CONTROL YOUR TEMPER!”
“But Mom how do I control my temper?”
"Try counting to ten.”
Copyright Brandon Cantu and Melinda Cantu
Read the full story on Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology
Jose Olivares was born in Corpus Christi. He graduated from Roy Miller High School, and the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&I University Kingsville, and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. He worked as a secondary mathematics teacher, middle school principal and Corpus Christi Independent School District mathematics consultant and as adjunct professor of mathematics at Texas A&M CC. Jose and his wife Tomacita have three children who are also graduates of UT Austin. Their daughter Liana Gonzales is an attorney in Corpus Christi and daughter Mariela Olivares is also at attorney and law school professor at Howard University in Washington DC. Their son Jose Luis is a graphic computer artist in Portland, Oregon. They have four grandchildren.
“Please close the windows, the air is burning my face” my younger sister cried as we drove to California seeking work as migrant workers. My parents had loaded the family (five children ages 17, 15, 13, 10, 4) into the car and headed cross country to the Bakersfield area. Two older siblings did not join us—one was married and the other was serving in the U.S. Army. I was 15.
Our car did not have air conditioning, but the desert air blowing into the car was so hot that we alternated closing and opening the windows. My Mother would constantly place a wet towel over my Father’s head and shoulder in order to cool his body.
We worked picking grapes, peaches, potatoes and tomatoes. Our home was in one of the many labor camps in the area. Our shelter was a metal structure that felt like a furnace in the hot summer days. Our shelter had no electricity, running water or bathroom facilities. Group facilities were available for our use.
Read more of this in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology
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Tom Murphy is the People’s Poetry Festival-Corpus Christi committee chair. Murphy’s books & CDs: American History (Slough Press, 2017), co-edited Stone Renga(Tail Feather, 2017), chapbook,Horizon to Horizon (Strike Syndicate, 2015), CDs “Live from Del Mar College” (BOW Productions, 2015), and “Slams from the Pit” (BOW Productions, 2014). Murphy has also been named the 2020 Writer-In-Residence for the Langdon Review. Tom Murphy has been teaching at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi since 2001.
Gulf Sunrise — like mercury
leaving the larger glob with a waver
Blue Heron perched upon the dunes
Beak faces the spread of light
Across the warp and woof
That weaves wet sand
to dune undulations
Garbage bag and garden gloves
Kneel and squat
Root out washed up trash
plastic in any form
Like a pig snuffling for truffles
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
In this God forsaken Bible
Rust Belt, Margaret Screws
Lived 98 years before going
To the Lord on November 19th
2016 at Mount Carmel CC.
A dedicated nurse, who
Learned her asses and lube trade
In the same hospital, she was born,
St. Paul’s in Big D
As Margaret Ann Thurmon.
Moved to Kermit with her friend Janie
To nurse that West Texas big sky
At Robinson McClure Hospital
Where she gave a shot of penicillin
To her love, George Dewey “Pete” Screws.
Humble Margaret screws
Pete’s Fitz-Willie and pops
Out eight children before
Sun Oil Company shipped them
To San Isidro Sun Oil Field.
A school nurse, then a quick in ‘n out.
The Kingsville Record’s headline
“Margaret Screws Bishop
Now Screws in Premont.”
Nurse of Brock County, humble, butt-proud.
Oh, Saint Teresa of the Infant Flower Catholic church of
How do we know Margaret Screws?
The eight kids’ 19 grandchildren
Their 39 great grandchildren
and their 3 great great grandchildren.
Her boys weren’t all that proud or humble.
After childhood torment, teasing and torture
Two of the sons changed their name to Crews.
The five girls all married, thus taking their husbands’ name.
Except for David Screws in Stephenville.
Remember, when you’re pressing the button
While you’re lying in that hospital bed,
mainlining meds and saline solution,
plus, filling up that colostomy bag,
remember, “Oh nurse?” Margaret Screws.
copyright Tom Murphy
Dr. Bill Chriss is a trial and appellate lawyer who is also a historian, political scientist, religious scholar, and published author. He was nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship and holds graduate degrees in law, theology, history and politics, including a J.D. from Harvard and a Ph.D. in history from The University of Texas. Dr. Chriss has taught Political Philosophy, History, and Constitutional Law and has written several articles for scholarly journals. His first book, The Noble Lawyer, was published by Texas Bar Books in 2011, while his second book, Six Constitutions over Texas, is currently being edited for publication.
I can’t sleep. Sirens whine and pulses of light flash red on the walls of this dingy hotel. There are only ten channels on the television and no wifi, and I’m stuck another night. All the flights home had departed by the time those New York lawyers finished interrogating the witness. Their hourly rates are higher than mine; certainly their cost of living is, so I understand. It’s a long time since our firm, too, had more than enough work, a long time since the days when practicing law was an adventure and billings were mere bookkeepers’ annoyances. I remember trying ten or fifteen cases a year with files only two inches thick – comp cases, fender benders, divorces, DWIs, and occasionally the more complex civil case or white-collar crime.
But maybe more than the law practice has been transformed. Maybe I was different then, too. Maybe I’m just growing old, inexorable change befuddling my calcifying brain. Maybe everything was wrong. Maybe I just took the wrong path. Maybe I’ll never rest, never feel that I can go up to my house justified, never, like the prodigal son, come to myself and return where I belong. Maybe that place where I belonged is gone.
The rest of this story is in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology. BUY NOW.
Zoe Elise Ramos was born and raised in Corpus Christi. She studies chemistry and creative writing at Texas A&M-CC. She has been a poetry editor for the Windward Review since 2016. Her work has been featured in the Switchgrass Review, Sink Hollow, and the Sagebrush Review. She was also awarded a 1st place prize in the 2018 Scissortail undergraduate creative writing contest. Her latest work (in progress) is a multimedia zine which pays homage to social media culture and its impact on communication styles.
We are under the trellis of Nueva Vita, a garden that murmurs with heaves of impatiens. From somewhere, the scream of autos tears at the plum of gingersnaps. They coil and fold their leaves into boats. I hold your hand while leaning, watching passerines blowing kisses to one another. This is just as you like though we are not llamas gemelas; we are the stems of an allium shooting off in diverging directions, never to touch but always close, borne from the same fruits. We swell from the heat of that glowing suspension and the sun is singing. It singes your skin into milky champurrado. Liberated winds hold their shining ends as if a vessel. And hummingbirds bait and stick us as we turn to sap all over the tree scenery. An SUV bares its teeth across the way to remind us that we are machinery. You cup your hands into buds and hold them over these ears. Your words are soil to me with my ligaments of buzzing bees and veins rippling with honey. “Suelo bueno, tomar este corazón y comerlo.” The cherub fountains of flushed marble cry themselves onto the floor. Brown translucence melts into creases between planets, with our shoes dripping into softness, wasted pollen stolen on fingertips. Now, we no longer stand but float atop the white and scarred swing, still creaking back and forth like the hands on a clock. Usted toma estas flores picante como el suyo en su boca. I give you my roots and you give me your flowers.
copyright Zoe Ramos