Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby


On Saturdays, we play with their children and pour the tea

I arrange the clementines on the table next to the store-bought croissants and juice boxes; this has now become a ritual, though not a meditative one.

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One Mississippi, Two

I can’t forget my client’s final phone call

Thirty-six hours after my client was executed, I drove along the highway in the direction opposite the prison for my wisdom teeth extraction. The throb ballooning at the back of my gums had become a rhythmic, welcome distraction from the grief scratching my throat ragged.

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I wasn’t worried about getting there on time, but I was worried about the drug test

I was eager to run away from a bad divorce and the death of my father and was desperate for a job that would take me away from Nashville.

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Rage Against the Sexy Gym

In the last decade, something changed

In 2009, if someone stopped in front of the mirror to take a selfie, I’m fairly certain they would have been laughed out of the place. When did gyms get so sexy?

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A Tennessee Memory of Sidney Poitier

The year was 1966, and two icons came to honor Fisk University’s centennial

We had seen Poitier’s most recent movie, A Patch of Blue, and we understood — how could we not? — the cultural relevance of his career. In films like Lilies of the Field, A Raisin in the Sun, and now his latest, Poitier embodied a reality he thought America must see: a Black man of dignity and strength.

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Merry Christmas! You’ve Got Cactus Man

Sometimes a community needs a Christmas tradition all its own

FROM THE CHAPTER 16 ARCHIVE: He appeared at my threshold late one night, uninvited: Cactus Man, a ceramic figure in biker regalia, planted with a suggestive succulent. What began as a gag gift from my Ultimate Frisbee teammates grew into an outrageous ritual that, for our little tribe, came to embody the Christmas spirit.

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