Grey Area

editor's note

Grey Area by Sarah Wilkinson
I don’t have many memories of the color grey. As a child, grey were the faceless, shifting bodies of coyotes that ran through the cornfields at night. Grey was the static on the TV, the space beneath the blankets where my step-father held my clenching hand through my first Stephen King movie. Grey was the storm clouds that moved, breaking across wide open skies. The tornado sirens that howled through the night. Cigarette ash overflowing the cut glass bowl, the silver streak across the Marlboro box.
The Best of Halfway Down the Stairs, 2010-2015 by the editorial staff
In December 2010, for the first time, the editorial team had the extremely difficult job of picking our favorite pieces from the previous five years of the life of Halfway Down the Stairs.  And here we are doing this again for our tenth year of publication.  It was no less difficult this time around.
We hope you enjoy revisiting these wonderful pieces of work.

poetry

Lament of the Heirloom Red Deer Tongue Lettuce by Tricia Knoll
You never understood
what I need to grow.

A fine bed, enriched
with patience.
Wish Pennies by Kevin Casey
With the wish pennies our grandmother
had pressed into our palms, we’d stand atop
the bridge’s arch
so by Robin Wyatt Dunn
take me in
and know no one
no words
no solace
Alive by Jan Duncan-O’Neal
Some days we notice crocuses sticking
their purple heads out to sniff the still chill
air. Breathe deeply ourselves. Rush on.
Immersion by Robert Eastwood
Once I floated,
immersed in warm, aqueous jelly.
Currents held me plumb in this
liquid world

fiction

Hook and Button by Mark Charney
The boy in short pants and the bewhiskered old, soap-smelling man go to Mass. Many other people go to Mass as well, men and woman, and lots of them wear hats. The women’s hats sport sizable bows and elaborate flowers; some have veils that hang over the women’s faces. The men’s hats are simpler.
When Linda Sketched the Dead by Hila Katz
Down the block from Linda’s home, there was a cemetery. Its southern gate faced her street and stayed open daily until dusk. On afternoons when Linda’s mother lay down with one of her headaches, Linda took a sketchbook to the graves.
Liars and Cheaters by Angie Walls
Out of the second floor window, Alex climbs barefoot down the drainpipe in a dark alleyway with the ends of her black dress flapping upward from the wind, revealing her soft bare skin underneath. She’s a beautiful and fragile creature, her feet delicately wrapped on both sides of the pipe as she steps, one foot at a time, down the brick wall in a smooth rhythm.
Barcelona by Kim Venkataraman
Matt and I traveled well together, something we learned five years ago when we spent our junior year in London. I was good at reading maps, and Matt could always find the best place to eat no matter where we were.
Biscuits and Gravy by Josh Rank
Gretchen thought she was hungry but realized it for what it actually was:  She was nervous.  School tests and speeches were nothing compared to this.  She was just off of the highway in a town she had never visited on her way to meet people she had been thinking about ever since she understood her situation.
Wedding Song Blues by Daniele DeAngelis Walker
So I promised myself when I was eighteen that I had written my last letter to you. And it’s so damn clichéd to be going back on that, not even five years later, but you know what, you left us, so I get to make the rules now. And tonight I went to Olivia’s wedding. And these are my rules.
Bighorn Country by Clifford Hui
The green undergrowth got thinner as the ground sloped upward, and soon the soft soil turned to rocky granite.  Nellie’s steps were no longer quiet.  But the open landscape sucked away the sound, making her hoof beats sound far away.  They picked their way up the mountain along a trail that generally ran along a dancing stream.
Interrogating Calla by Barbara Mujica
Captain Brad Minden knew all the tricks. He knew what questions to ask, how to instill fear, how to catch people off guard. He knew how to apply pressure and how to “enhance” his techniques. At thirty-two, he was a crack interrogator, capable of squeezing information out of a rock. That was until they brought in Calla. Then everything went to hell.

nonfiction

Escaping the Swine Flu, Nearly—Holed Up in Istanbul by Angela Smith Kirkman
Somewhere between being robbed at gunpoint in Brazil (country number two) and getting run out of the Great Mosque of Uqba in Tunisia (country number three), I began to ask myself what harebrained notion possessed us to schlep three kids, five backpacks, a guitar, a camera, and a garlic press around the world. But, not until now have I wondered in earnest whether the five of us will make it home intact. We’re bound and determined to get out of Bulgaria (country number six) without catching the swine flu.
The Personal Touch by Susan Knox
“It could have happened to anyone,” I told those who asked about my broken arm. “I was in a strange place and it was dark.” And I congratulated myself and thanked my Pilates-trained body: a step sideways into thin air from a high stoop onto a brick patio could have resulted in injuries far worse than a broken humerus.
Enough by Tamara Kaye Sellman
After a short hike, my father found the hole, where the Queets River washed out of one of its box canyons into a wide, deep plateau of calm. I played on the side of the river, making log houses out of twigs and moss, while Dad cast his line into that far pool where he’d always had luck before.