The Birth-Mark, The Thing In The Forrest, and A Wall of Fire Rising

This is the first weekend that I don’t have a crap ton of papers due, or any major assignments other than reading The Savage Detectives, a novel by Roberto Belaño. I should be done with it by now, but I’m still kind of recovering from not-Ebola. I read “A Wall of Fire Rising”, by Edwidge Danticat in The Norton Introduction to Literature. We discussed it in class briefly. It was a depressing story about a father who lived with his family somewhere in Haiti.

I had a professor once that went to Haiti. She said it was, “Neat!” She always said it with such old-lady-like-satisfaction, a little pucker and a shake every time. When I didn’t know anything about Haiti, I thought it was cute. Now I question if she even understood the significance of going to help in Haiti. The people of Haiti fought for their freedom from slavery, only instead of paying for it in blood, they’re paying for it in a long drawn out process called starving to death. The people of Haiti seem to have frequent famine warnings about as often as we have tornado and thunderstorm warnings in the Untied States. I check sometimes, not because I can really do much about the famine from here other than send money that I can’t spend or send food that I don’t have, but just because it’s there and I can, from the safety of my own home, check the famine warnings in Haiti.

The other two stories that were assigned, “The Thing in the Forrest” by A. S. Byatt, and “The Birth-Mark” by Nathaniel Hawthorn, the professor never brought up in class at all. We were behind in the syllabus due to a canceled class, so I can only assume the professor decided in the end that we didn’t need to read them. Well, I read them. Speed read them. Kind of read them. Skimmed. I’ve also always liked the phrase, “read quickly”. I read them, quickly.

“The Thing in the Forrest” by A.S. Byatt was one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever read. It reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia, with two little girls evacuated from England before World War II, only there was no lion, no witch, and no wardrobe. It’s about two little girls who see a scary thing in the forrest. Okay, so maybe it’s not like The Chronicles of Narnia at all.

Also, Aylmer, from “The Birth-Mark” by Nathaniel Hawthorn,  was an asshole.

By Eric Shay Howard

Eric Shay Howard lives in Indianapolis. He's a teacher, a literary editor, and writer. He's a graduate student in the Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA in Creative Writing program at Eastern Kentucky University. He also has MBA and BA degrees.

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