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April 2024 Issue #18 | The Best Writing in Virginia
Burying Teeny Tiny

Burying Teeny Tiny

A Better Place

My first scientific experiment was to find out if heaven existed. Of course it wasn’t real science. I didn’t know anything about the experimental method, but I knew there was something I had to find out. By the time I was 6, I had heard a lot about heaven from my devoutly religious father and from preachers who conducted funerals. You have to understand that when I was growing up in the farming community of Smithfield, Virginia, back in the 1940s, funerals and weddings were the two biggest social events, and my family didn’t miss a one. Funerals and weddings were like family reunions with people you hadn’t seen since the last event and one person you’d never see again.

Read More »
Public Comments

Public Comments

Censor-y Overload in King George County Schools

Letter to Trump

Letter to Trump

Mexico’s Just Sitting There Waiting for You. Step on It.

No Moss?

For Hospital Corporation, Free Clinic Support ‘In Perpetuity’ Comes to an End After 20 Years

Burying Teeny Tiny

Burying Teeny Tiny

A Better Place

My first scientific experiment was to find out if heaven existed. Of course it wasn’t real science. I didn’t know anything about the experimental method, but I knew there was something I had to find out. By the time I was 6, I had heard a lot about heaven from my devoutly religious father and from preachers who conducted funerals. You have to understand that when I was growing up in the farming community of Smithfield, Virginia, back in the 1940s, funerals and weddings were the two biggest social events, and my family didn’t miss a one. Funerals and weddings were like family reunions with people you hadn’t seen since the last event and one person you’d never see again.

Read More »
Public Comments

Public Comments

Censor-y Overload in King George County Schools

Letter to Trump

Letter to Trump

Mexico’s Just Sitting There Waiting for You. Step on It.

No Moss?

For Hospital Corporation, Free Clinic Support ‘In Perpetuity’ Comes to an End After 20 Years

Deep Dives

No Moss?

For Hospital Corporation, Free Clinic Support ‘In Perpetuity’ Comes to an End After 20 Years

The Far-Right Spammers of Falmouth Bottom

Meet the Neighbors

The Right-Wing Spammers and Scriveners show up for work in the mornings just like anybody else, pulling off Washington Street in the tiny village of Falmouth, Virginia, squeezing through a narrow opening in a chain link fence, and parking in a gravel lot under a row of ivy-strangled oaks, three of them dying, one already dead. They drive a Toyota Prius with a turtle sticker on the back. Or a black SUV, or an older-model Camry, or any of a dozen other middle-class sedans. Nothing flashy, though one of their bosses, a bearded, balding, political marketer and Shriner potentate named Andrew Coelho keeps a Heritage Shrine Club trailer back there for ferrying around his lodge’s clown cars.

Dishonorable Mentions

The Gaujot Brothers of West Virginia

They must have been hard up for heroes back in the day. How else to explain the Medals of Honor—America’s highest award for valor in combat–given 15 months apart in 1911 and 1912 to the Gaujot brothers of West Virginia, one of whom had once shot and killed an apparently unarmed fellow soldier and got away with it in military court, the other of whom had been court martialed for water-torturing Filipino prisoners and had to pay a whopping $150 fine? 

Missing

What Has Spotsylvania County Done with All Those Books They Banned?

Deliverance

Story Time in Heck

I’d rather have been Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, one of my favorite Old Testament stories, plus I always liked saying their names, but since there was only just the one of me I settled for thinking of myself as a modern-day Daniel in the lions’ den as I strode in a light rain past the free hot chocolate tables and the not-so-free donut trucks and into Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The lobby had been converted for the day—the first Saturday in December—into what looked like the tail end of a yard sale when all that’s left are a bunch of crappy books laid out on folding tables, plus a couple of bowls filled with rubber balls and pencils.

O, Brother

This Getting Old, These Failing Hearts

What, Me Worry?

You Know, You Could Get Hit by a Bus Tomorrow

Off Our Rockers

From Lies, Race, and Redemption: A Memoir

As a white Southern woman born in 1937, I grew up in a segregated society of “White only” and “Colored only” signs, separate water fountains, separate bathrooms, separate waiting rooms and schools and churches, separate entrances to the town of Smithfield, Virginia’s one movie theater. “Separate but equal” was the mantra, but it was a lie. You had to be blind, insensitive, and in total denial to believe it. Since I was the privileged color, racism hadn’t threatened my life and stripped me of my humanity, but it had sickened my soul.

Bullet in the Brain

Our Hubris. Our Arrogance. Our Delusions. Our Guns.

The only time I ever shot a gun I killed a turtle. We were visiting a family, the Collinses, who used to be our backyard neighbors, but they had moved somewhere else. It looked like a farm only there weren’t any crops or animals. There was a barn and a pond. The grownups went inside to do whatever grownups did back then. Us kids stayed outside. The Collins kids had a .22 rifle and were showing us what great marksmen they were, blasting away at cans and things. My brother and I weren’t allowed to have guns, though we were allowed to pretend we had guns—with sticks—unless it was a Sunday, when even playing with sticks was forbidden. I remember getting a pirate pistol as a present one time, but that was when I had my tonsils taken out, so I don’t think it counted.

It Could Have Happened Here

G.O.D. and Country

Brent David Alford was watching hockey the night of June 18, 2022. Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. The Avs were in the process of smoking the Lightning, 7-0, and would go on to win the Cup 4-2. At 9:45 p.m., late in the second period or early in the third, Alford’s wife Anjelica noticed a car had pulled into their long private drive in rural Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and was idling about 30 yards from the house at a dirt turnaround. Alford grabbed his handgun, a Glock 9mm with a 15-round magazine, and went out to confront the driver and whoever else was in the car. Anjelica and a teenage son, their youngest, stayed at the front door. Anjelica would later tell an investigator that there was so much marijuana smoke filling the car that the occupants’ heads bobbed above it as if they were floating on a cloud–an image she insisted she saw despite the distance from the house, the darkness, the floodlight she said was reflecting off the car windows, and the law of thermodynamics.

Being Human

Burying Teeny Tiny

A Better Place

My first scientific experiment was to find out if heaven existed. Of course it wasn’t real science. I didn’t know anything about the experimental method, but I knew there was something I had to find out. By the time I was 6, I had heard a lot about heaven from my devoutly religious father and from preachers who conducted funerals. You have to understand that when I was growing up in the farming community of Smithfield, Virginia, back in the 1940s, funerals and weddings were the two biggest social events, and my family didn’t miss a one. Funerals and weddings were like family reunions with people you hadn’t seen since the last event and one person you’d never see again.

Ripple

Three Stories and a Joke

MAGAlomania

The Trump Supporter Who Peed on My Mattress

Stevenitis

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Porn Free

A Cub Reporter Makes the Front Page

At Long Last Love

A man doesn’t wait for you to take care of your dying ex-husband if he doesn’t love you.

La Familia

The Past Is Never Dead. It’s Not Even Past.

A Memory of Light

Salt to the Sea

[Editor’s note: Ceili Leahy was 17 in the fall of 2014 when she started at the University of Virginia, three months after completing chemotherapy for metastatic Ewings sarcoma. She took a course in American Environmental Literature that first semester, and in November 2014 was assigned to write an essay in the style of one of the authors. Ceili—an Irish name, pronounced Kay-Lee–chose Annie Dillard because she so loved Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. “By using [Annie Dillard’s] technique of posing rhetorical questions and incorporating language that is more colloquial than literary, I created a similar voice,” Ceili wrote in a note accompanying the assignment. “My exploration of the human memory builds off Dillard’s treatment of consciousness and self-consciousness and their pertinence to the ‘great door to the present.’” On January 27, 2016, a year and a half after writing this essay, Ceili, then 19, died from acute myeloid leukemia at Children’s National Hospital. She had stopped treatment a few months earlier so that she could “live vividly” through her last days.]

O, Brother

This Getting Old, These Failing Hearts

Prescriptions

Ripple

Three Stories and a Joke

Not Healthy. Not Caring. Not Even a System.

Broken Bad

A few months after he graduated from college, a friend crashed his bike one evening as he raced down a trail near Charlottesville. He suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury, but as those injuries go, he was fairly lucky: He retained full use of his upper body and partial use of his legs, and despite fears that he’d never ride again, he went on to become an Olympic para-cyclist. He was also fortunate in another way: Before his accident, his dad had bought him a short-term health insurance policy.

How to Hospital

There’s No Point in Depriving Yourself When Things Already Suck

Title Fight

“How Come We Have to Have the Girl Coach?”

Roadkill

Something Smells. Must Be Those Confederate Street Signs.

LOL

Letter to Trump

Mexico’s Just Sitting There Waiting for You. Step on It.

Porn Free

A Cub Reporter Makes the Front Page

Low on the Hog

One Man’s Quest for the Perfect Pickled Pigs’ Feet

A Modest Proposal

Being for the Benefit of the Citizens of Our Glorious County, Their Children, and Future Faithful Generations (With Apologies to Jonathan Swift)

A Modest Proposal

(With Apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Being for the Benefit of the Citizens of Our Glorious County, Their Children, and Future Faithful Generations

22401-ish

No Moss?

For Hospital Corporation, Free Clinic Support ‘In Perpetuity’ Comes to an End After 20 Years

The Far-Right Spammers of Falmouth Bottom

Meet the Neighbors

The Right-Wing Spammers and Scriveners show up for work in the mornings just like anybody else, pulling off Washington Street in the tiny village of Falmouth, Virginia, squeezing through a narrow opening in a chain link fence, and parking in a gravel lot under a row of ivy-strangled oaks, three of them dying, one already dead. They drive a Toyota Prius with a turtle sticker on the back. Or a black SUV, or an older-model Camry, or any of a dozen other middle-class sedans. Nothing flashy, though one of their bosses, a bearded, balding, political marketer and Shriner potentate named Andrew Coelho keeps a Heritage Shrine Club trailer back there for ferrying around his lodge’s clown cars.

Missing

What Has Spotsylvania County Done with All Those Books They Banned?

Deliverance

Story Time in Heck

I’d rather have been Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, one of my favorite Old Testament stories, plus I always liked saying their names, but since there was only just the one of me I settled for thinking of myself as a modern-day Daniel in the lions’ den as I strode in a light rain past the free hot chocolate tables and the not-so-free donut trucks and into Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The lobby had been converted for the day—the first Saturday in December—into what looked like the tail end of a yard sale when all that’s left are a bunch of crappy books laid out on folding tables, plus a couple of bowls filled with rubber balls and pencils.

A Modest Proposal

Being for the Benefit of the Citizens of Our Glorious County, Their Children, and Future Faithful Generations (With Apologies to Jonathan Swift)

It Could Have Happened Here

G.O.D. and Country

Brent David Alford was watching hockey the night of June 18, 2022. Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. The Avs were in the process of smoking the Lightning, 7-0, and would go on to win the Cup 4-2. At 9:45 p.m., late in the second period or early in the third, Alford’s wife Anjelica noticed a car had pulled into their long private drive in rural Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and was idling about 30 yards from the house at a dirt turnaround. Alford grabbed his handgun, a Glock 9mm with a 15-round magazine, and went out to confront the driver and whoever else was in the car. Anjelica and a teenage son, their youngest, stayed at the front door. Anjelica would later tell an investigator that there was so much marijuana smoke filling the car that the occupants’ heads bobbed above it as if they were floating on a cloud–an image she insisted she saw despite the distance from the house, the darkness, the floodlight she said was reflecting off the car windows, and the law of thermodynamics.

The Beavers of Accokeek Creek

We Like Nature OK, We Just Don’t Like It to Be Too Messy.

The Humans of Brooke Road aren’t all beaver killers. Some are actually quite nice. One family rescues mini pigs. Another runs a conservation research center. Many may not even know they had a hand in the torture-deaths of nearly three dozen beavers two years ago—parents, yearlings, and kits—and the destruction in all or in part of 15 beaver dams tucked into the reeds and hyacinths and groves of dead ash trees in the forested wetlands of Accokeek Creek.

Etcetera

Hey Dewey

Some Questions and Some Answers

About Pie & Chai

Steve and Janet Watkins started Pie & Chai Magazine in November 2022. Our intention is to publish 12 times a year, with a new issue coming out the first of every month. We’ll see how that goes. Steve is the editor. Here’s what Janet wrote (and Steve edited) for the first issue under the headline “Why Pie & Chai” which pretty much explains it all:

We’re launching Pie & Chai Magazine for a simple reason: to provide good writers with a place to tell good stories, the kind worth sharing. In these stories—under the broad categories of Deep Dives, Being Human, Prescriptions, LOL, Etcetera, and 22401(ish)—we hope to move, enlighten, and amuse you, and draw you in to a creative community.

We aren’t here to make money. We won’t sell subscriptions, we won’t run ads, we won’t pirate your data, and our contributors won’t get paid. Everything here will exist because someone cared enough to create it. For free. 

We’re old-school print journalists, so we believe in facts (not alternative ones) and the power of stories to comfort and afflict. We’ll serve up deep reporting, thoughtful analysis, personal essays and poignant humor. You won’t find press releases here, or fiction. No poetry, either, except as it may offer itself up in some of the prose. What you will find is humanity in all its glorious messiness.

In our dreams, Pie & Chai has been a physical place for dishing up warm desserts and bringing people together. But we don’t own a building, and we’d rather write than cook. So, this is our virtual effort to expand minds, forge connections, and sweeten lives.

Pull up a seat.

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