Guest Post, Hannah Brown: Laughter, Not Zero, at the Bone

The spring after my father died, a large bull garter snake undulated across the floor of what had been my father’s office in the basement. “The Old Boy’s gone,” my brother said, “so the snake must have figured it was finally safe.”

*  * *

I had learned to walk in the dewy grass outside the back door of our farmhouse in Hastings County. I have a dim memory of snatching something moving. My hands were always quick. I headed back to the house and knocked on the door. I don’t remember what happened next, but I do remember my father outside, his face red, fiercely chopping with the axe. My mother said I had entered the kitchen with a small garter snake spiraling around my forearm, its head licking the air by my hand.

My father’s horror of snakes was a weakness my mother enjoyed. When he took her and her mother to Florida the first time, they bought a papier-mâché snake, a little piece of string between each of its sections. If you pinched one of the sections between thumb and forefinger, both its head and its tail sections writhed. The conspirators placed it on the dashboard, and my father studiously ignored it all the way to Tampa.

When they parked at the motel, my grandmother picked it up. “Why, what’s this, Bill?” He ignored her question, which sent my mother and her mother into gales of laughter— then, and every time they told the story.

I was fifteen and about to graduate from high school, and had read some mischievous information about interpreting symbols. I decided to make another open foray in my ongoing battle with all adults. My father, who had gone out with my mother’s older sister before he went out with my mother, was sitting with my aunt at the kitchen table.
It was large enough for eight of us at every meal: breakfast, lunch, and supper, every day, no breaks, no ceasefires. There were eight of us, six children and my mother, and him. Unlike city children, or children who lived a happy distance from the local school, we went home for lunch—and so did he. He was a fierce man, tall and well-built, with an inclination for the fancy. When he went away to university, one of his first purchases was a suit of tails.

There he sat, smoking a cigarette with my aunt. She was also fierce, an accomplished artist, who could kick her foot up over her head on a moment’s notice. She smoked without cease, but my father only smoked one cigarette, and only with her when she visited.

“I have a personality test, “I announced. “If you’re not too chicken.”

Neither was. They both willingly took the pencils and pieces of paper. My instructions were to draw a snake. My father was finished first. His snake looked like this:


Father's Snake Drawing



My aunt finished in a few minutes. This was her snake:


Aunt's Snake Drawing







“So, what’s your interpretation, Hannah?” My aunt was pleased with what she had drawn, but not for long.

“The more coils your snake has, the more sexually frustrated you are.”

My father laughed out loud.

* * *

My mother picked up the garter snake with the bacon tongs and threw him in the ditch across the road. She looked aghast when she said a little bit of tail had broken off, and then smiled and coyly asked me if I wanted it.


SR Pod/Vod Series: Writer Hannah Brown

Hannah Brown_0Today we’re proud to feature Hannah Brown as our fifth Authors Talk series contributor, discussing her story “On Any Windy Day” in her podcast “Nail Salon Grants PhD.”

Inspired by conversations in nail salons, “On Any Windy Day” is a deep examination of life. As Hannah says in her podcast, “somehow when someone is handling our bodies, we feel inclined to let them handle our hearts as well.”

The story exemplifies this by segueing from casual conversation to progressively more complicated topics, and back again. In one section, a character waits for laundry to dry by reading a tome of social criticism, then offers detailed step-by-step ironing instructions and muses about what ironing a man’s shirts means to her.

With the cheerful sincerity of its author, “Nail Salon Grants PhD” uses similar brain and heart to dig into the writing of “On Any Windy Day.”

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read Hannah Brown’s “On Any Windy Day” in Superstition Review.


More About the Author:

Born in Hastings County, and currently living in Toronto, Hannah Brown has two degrees in Film from York University and taught English and film at the college and collegiate levels. She wrote screenplays for anyone who’d pay, and won first prize from the National Film Board for her screenplay, How to Call Cows. Her brief memoir about her brother, “The Education of a Class A Mechanic” was published in This Magazine. More recently, in June, two of her poems appeared in Lynn Crosbie’s Hood, two poems were published in the Untethered Magazine’s July issue, and The Harpoon Review published her short story, “Bangande” in October. Her story “The Happiness” will appear in the upcoming November issue of (parenthetical) Magazine.

About the Authors Talk series:

For several years, we have featured audio or video of Superstition Review contributors reading their work. We’re now establishing a new series of podcasts called Authors Talk. The podcasts in this series take a broader scope and feature SR contributors discussing their own thoughts on writing, the creative process, and anything else they may want to share with listeners.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Writer Hannah Brown

Hannah BrownEach Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Hannah Brown.
Hannah Brown was born in Hastings County, Ontario, and currently lives in Toronto where she has taught English and film classes at the college and collegiate level. She has two degrees in film from York University and is the author of several screenplays, including How to Call Cows, which won first prize in a National Film Board contest. She wrote a brief memoir about her brother, “The Education of a Class A Mechanic” which appeared in This Magazine and has recently written a novel. “On Any Windy Day” is her first published short story.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.