A new story by alumna Christine Hale (fiction, ’96) appears online at Still:
My parents built their house, the only one our family ever lived in, over a period of years beginning around 1945. A compact, one-story rectangle, asbestos-shingled, devoid of any pretension to beauty, it faced busy, two-lane U.S. Route 11. The “Robert E. Lee Highway,” so designated by the legislature in the ‘20s, ran the diagonal length of Virginia from the Mason-Dixon Line at Washington, D.C. to Bristol, situated partly in Tennessee. In fact, the state line, marked with bronze plaques sunk into the asphalt, bisected our main street. Downtown, at what seemed to me as a child a particularly unsightly location where the multiple rail lines responsible for the city’s bygone prosperity intersected State Street, a modest rectangular arch of steel scaffolding straddled the pavement to proclaim the city’s slogan. Hundreds of incandescent light bulbs, always a dozen or more of them dead, spelled out BRISTOL, VA.-TENN. A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE. When the family car, a beetle-backed, mouse-gray Chevy from the ‘40s, passed beneath the sign on the way home from a trip to “the Tennessee side,” the axles rattled across the rusted rails with the same head-jarring violence set off by crossing a cattle grate.
Our house, on the northeast edge of town, sat on two acres of land; my parents raised flowers, vegetables, fruit, and at one point, chickens. Indoors was much smaller than outdoors; the five-room house had just two bedrooms. One was my parents’, of course, and the other my eldest sister Sara’s. My other sister Betsy—eight years older and cognitively impaired from birth—shared the attic with me.
Continue reading online.