By Larry Wormington, Peauxdunque Review Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Each of our print issues starts off with a letter written by our Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Larry Wormington. Issue 4 came out in December 2020, at the end of a hard year for all of us. Larry’s Editor’s Letter took this head-on …

As millions of raindrops kiss the earth outside my fogged windows, their steady sizzle and transformation from singular to whole is the perfect backdrop for my thoughts on Issue 4 of Peauxdunque Review. For it is not impossible for me, here in early December of 2020, to separate my thoughts on wonder and loss. I’m not referring to “wonder” as in, I wonder if my sanity will finally disintegrate if I hear one more we’re-in-this-together car commercial, or I wonder if I’ll ever slide the USB cable into the charger block right the first time. I’m talking jaw-dropping, gobsmacked, standing-naked-at-the-edge-of-the-world-watching-meteors-streak-across-the-sky wonder. And as far as loss goes, anyone who’s lived through 2020 knows I’m talking loss with the big “L,” not the loss of a contest, no matter how many times the recalcitrant child screams otherwise. I will return to wonder, for that’s what leads us back home, out of the darkness. But first, we must take out this black cube of loss that sits so heavy within us and play with it again, and hope we can solve it this time.

How the hell did we get here? How could we have lost so much? The cumulative loss the world has experienced over the last year is staggering. I’m reminded of an old Eddie Izzard skit about the abominable Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, and how he was responsible for the deaths of nearly 30% of the population of Cambodia in the mid- to late-1970s. The comedian contends, and I tend to agree, that at some point, a human’s ability to comprehend and cope with an event or set of truths is inversely proportional to the size and scope of the experience. As I look back on the way my wife and I loaded up our kids, pets, and all we could carry and left behind our lives in Texas so many months back, Eddie Izzard’s math on the human psyche is the only thing that seems to make it all add up. See, we’d agonized for months on what to do to protect our family as COVID19 numbers skyrocketed and those around us scoffed in our masked faces and berated our overreaction. I won’t bore you with our specific experiences, as I’m sure many of you have similar stories. In a nutshell, we assessed the situation, reviewed our options, and made a decision. Even if our actions were rash, or outright wrong on some levels, we acted. That seemed to be the key: not the appearance of motion, but motion. We moved.

So, here we are, in another place, a new podunk, faced with a whole new set of challenges, but our family is safe … safer. After all, how much can a person take? How much pressure and loss can one experience, or witness, before running screaming into the night? So, yeah, we ran—no, “fled” is more accurate—and probably would again. We tore a life down and attempted to create another one.

Something else happened then, though, something between the big leave and the arrival far north, something I hadn’t intended. I ghosted my former life entirely. In the process of this strange, panicked rebirth, I became hyper-focused on day-to-day living. Just focus on today, I thought, and the tasks at hand. Thoughts of tomorrow’s problems and challenges just seemed to paralyze me, and warp my focus on the present. Screw tomorrow. Today, today is what you have. The cumulative fear and pressure closed a door within me, or I shut it myself, in an attempt to stem the blood loss. I shut out all but my immediate family, went dark on everyone, even my Peauxdunque Writers Alliance kindred. I stopped writing, stopped commenting on the writing on others, stopped responding to emails, texts, even stopped moving around commas in work I’d already completed but for which I had yet to find a home. Here, at the top of the world, in total isolation, my creative self atrophied. “Arrète! C’est ici L’empire de la Mort.” Do not go there, my friends.

So, there I was, having Taken the Black, hunkered behind the wall, denying myself to myself—pure folly. It didn’t work, thank the gods, as I’m sure you’re probably aware. Lifeblood needs, well, blood, and our creative selves will either be heard or will cannibalize us in the effort. The first cracks in the black were just a few simple texts around the run-up to the annual Words and Music conference, from the indefatigable Tad Bartlett, our managing editor. In the warmest way, he drew me out, just a little, with memories of life before—just soft touches, to say, “remember” and “we’re still here.” This was followed by more texts and emails from our Borg, more slivers of loving light pricking through. The Collective hurts when you do, it seems. I didn’t know that. Didn’t trust it. But their case was constant, and compelling. The Tads, Aprils, and Emilys of my world stood and knocked softly. So, I opened the door, just a crack, and started seeing what they were up to.

To no surprise, my fellow-Peauxdunquers toiled away on our current issue, taking up my slack in the most loving, non-judgmental way. I started quietly sneaking into Submittable, checking out their reactions to the work in the queue. The sculptors were already working their magic, proposing a leg over here, a hand here, a heart there, a soul there, and here—Frankenstein’s monster, no, more a Dali collage, from Inferno to Ascension. And this work, these parts of the whole taking shape, experiencing it, ripped away my feeble door, obliterated it. It seemed impossible, still does, but what these editors, these artists, these friends were assembling felt like a roadmap back for me, a lost text of all the stops along the way. In Mitch James’s searing “Being from Nowhere,” I saw my escape from that reality, that place I left behind, or thought I could—his truth a mirror to me or any of us who think we can ever truly leave a place that’s inside us. Then, there was Hamza Rehman’s lessons on depersonalization, in “And I Thought Islamabad Would Rescue Us From Us.” At one point, the main character says, “We rarely are ours and I was never mine in Toronto.” When I read this, I chilled and looked behind me, as if I would find her there, alongside my Peaux-folks, nodding. What both works screamed was the old adage but with new poignancy: Wherever you go, there you are. And this was just the start, the first volleys of a barrage of creative hits, from David Meischen’s “Fixed Horizon,” and his “… your world, mine—this world is ever edges pressing on whatever aches in us,” to Ana Fores Tamayo’s “…Roads,” and “Rails,” all leading me back, back to body, back to self, back to my connection to the static-filled fray. The wires sizzled, like the rain outside, a bit disturbed, but still able to carry a current. And there’s so much more here, my friends: the visual, the poetry, the truth, in piece after piece, work that will heal you, convince you you’re not alone, bring you back home, and restore your sense of wonder. I could go on and on, but I don’t have to. It’s all right here.

Now, as I do my little part to put the finishing touches on Issue 4, I can say, with honest exhilaration, that I’m back, maybe not all the way, but the steps are coming to me. Through the stunning work of our contributors, and the love and support of my tribe, I found the lost thread.

What will you find?

Larry Wormington is a sometimes-Dallas- and sometimes-Canada-based fiction writer who grew up in the piney woods of East Texas. He received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and his BA from the University of North Texas. His stories have appeared in Elm Leaves Journal, Harpur Palate, and the fiction anthology Monday Nights, among others. He is a Marine veteran and a member of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance.