“Beating a Dead Horse” contains my childhood memories of life on the streets of New York City and Jersey City during the Great Depression. The focus is on the ubiquitous presence of working horses (as well as a flock of goats) within the city in that era. The ways people made a living include the organ grinder with his monkey, the fruit and vegetable vendors with their horse-drawn wagons, and the man who collected old clothes to re-sell them. This was an exceedingly stressful era for adults, but we kids were unaware of this; we thought everything was normal.
Adolescence is a period in a person’s life in which one changes from a child to an adult. The ages most commonly agreed upon for this period of life is between 13 and 19, in some opinions, or 10 and 20 in others. It is a period of change: Change in physical shape and size as well as in mentality, all sparked by hormones rushing around in the person’s body. The sexual drive is extremely strong, and the teenager must come to grips with how to handle this urge, depending on one’s upbringing, parental influences, religious strictures, the mores of the society of which one is a part. The urges are in constant battle with the strictures, causing tremendous stress and strain. Not for nothing does the word adolescence come from the Latin word for “suffering.” When a teenage boy challenges his male teacher, the masculinity of each is threatened.
The story, “A Merry Trencherman,” aims to explore a widely held idea about overweight people, which is that they are jolly and carefree, and they know how to enjoy life. Toward the end of the short story, the narrator learns that his obese friend is far from merry, far from happy, even far from contented with his lot. The narrator discovers his friend is deeply dissatisfied with his life because of his condition. It should be obvious to people that obesity cannot march hand in hand with true happiness, yet the stereotype of the merry trencherman endures among many.
A lover of rich food became obese. Rejected by a girl, he could have decided to curb his eating habits; instead, he took refuge in comfort food. Later in life, a woman who showed an interest in him led to his redemption. Obesity is a common affliction today and this fiction piece shows two reactions to rejection: one is negative, the other positive. To those who are conflicted, this story offers a moment of hope.
Do those who live in a democratic state take their freedoms for granted? How does the behavior we exhibit when we travel outside our home country reflect national and cultural values? The following personal history piece is a sketch of life under two brutal dictatorships: François Duvalier (“Poppa Doc)” of Haiti and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Vacationing here in 1961, the author narrowly avoided being shot. “A Tale of Two Dictatorships” records a one-day experience with two very strange American tourists. They should be a lesson on how not to behave abroad.