I’m thrilled to brag about one of my Converse thesis students, Rhonda Browning White, whose story “A Big Empty” has been published in the Bellevue Literary Review and is now included in the online archives, for free reading: http://blr.med.nyu.edu/content/archive/2014/fall/bigempty
Rhonda worked SO HARD on her thesis, and this story in particular, because she wasn’t sure how to end it. She pushed and pushed and pushed herself…and came up with this, which made me cry when I first read it because I knew it was exactly right.
Take a few minutes and see for yourself:
…My daddy loved mining. Or used to, before they started lopping off the mountains. Fifty years he worked underground. Went from shoveling coal into a rail-cart to watching it gouged out with a continuous miner and dumped onto conveyor belts. I seen his face the first time he saw the dragline megaexcavator shearing off the head of Kayford Mountain. Looked like he’d get sick.
Made me feel sickly, too, watching the monster that stands taller than Lady Liberty eat two-hundred-forty ton of mountain in every bite, two bites a minute. Progress, they call it. Progress that puts thousands of underground miners like me out of work. Progress that changes the land forever. Progress that pumps sickness into the water supply, kills fish and deer and daddies and babies.
It was Daddy’s plan for me and Romie to pack up and head to North Carolina, get out of the West Virginia mountains before the coal companies flatten them all, before the mountains bury us in return. It felt like a message from beyond, then, when we learned on the first anniversary of Daddy’s death that Romie was pregnant again. I knew right then we had to leave….