Laura Boswell

Carpe diem. Tomorrow.

Lost and Found (from Life in 10 Minutes)

The last thing I saw before they disappeared was my cousin Kevin’s arm, his plaid sleeve, red and white with thin green crosshatching, melting into the Coliseum’s exiting crowd. Ecstatic fans’ bodies jostled past me, whipping me left and right, a royal blue tide of Memphis State Tigers, who in their joy over winning the conference basketball title hadn’t noticed the skinny girl who had bent down to buckle her shoe.
When I stood up, my family was gone.

My father was a homicide detective. I had always been taught in an emergency to find a police officer, that they would help me. But panic, and the nighttime landscape, so different than when we entered, mucked my mind. I stumbled down the concrete steps, wildly scanning the humps of the backs flowing above me, willing just one of them to be my father.

But no one came back.

Breathe. Boswell’s didn’t cry.

And then I bawled. Snot dripping, sleeve-swiping, I tromped with the throng toward the green and red traffic lights, certain I would find someone related to me waiting at Third and Madison. I had walked this route dozens of times with my parents; we were season ticket holders. I knew where I was, and yet I was hopelessly lost.

I crossed Madison, passing two police officers, toward where I thought we had parked our Oldsmobile, Lot C? D? Daddy? I screamed. Daddy!

A couple approached me and asked what was wrong. They were old, like my grandparents, so they must be safe, I thought.

I was losssssst, I squawked. I couldn’t find my p-p-parents.

Only then did I realize how cold I was. February knifed at my skin. My mother had been carrying my jacket, and I had fussed away before she could get it on me.
The man took off his coat and wrapped it around me. It smelled of wool and peppermint, and for a moment I relaxed. But now I didn’t look like me—how would anyone find me? I pushed it off, continued to cry, tears blopping onto the coat lapel. And I felt rude. And I didn’t care. The couple comforted me, assuring me they would do whatever it took to find my family, but in that moment, my world ended at the cigarette butts and crushed beer cans fringing that fast-emptying parking lot. I would never see my parents again.

After some minutes (2? 5? 40?), a figure stalked past us, 20 yards ahead, determined, his arms wide, powerful pendulums, forging his way against the crowd toward the Coliseum again. His face was hidden by a green wool ski mask, but I recognized it, and the reticulated strides of his 6-3 frame, immediately.


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Swing Shift (republished from 3Elements Review)

I already knew I was getting a swingset for my sixth birthday—it would be impossible to hide a large box from a snoopy child, or surprise me with it erected in the backyard where I constantly tripped around, wrestling the dogs or plucking honeysuckle blooms to sip with my neighbor Colleen, our always-bare feet hard as hide. So my father invited me to help install it.

I churned at a bucket of cement with skinny wrists as I watched him dig four deep, perfect circles into the grass with a post-drill. He filled each hole from the bucket I could barely lift, then hoisted the entire clanging gym set assembly above his 6-3 frame in one smooth motion and settled each leg into its home to dry, tightening screws and ensuring the angles.I considered his time with me a gift in itself.

Handyman, hunter, homicide detective. Was there anything my Daddy couldn’t do?

Actually, to call it a “swingset” was an insult to that sparkling edifice of entertainment. Over the years it became so much more—babysitter, princess castle, reading nook, pouting place, “home base” for countless games of hide and seek. The patches of worn turf beneath it didn’t grow back until I was in high school.

It was also massive, like an elephant suddenly appeared in the yard. I didn’t understand my father’s bipolar disorder then, but if I benefited, so be it. When I asked for a swingset, I expected the standard lineup of a plastic swing, a teeter-totter and midget metal slide that would burn your backside in the summer.

Instead, Daddy backed the truck into the driveway that weekend bearing the Aston Martin of jungle gyms. Once completed, its steel frame arched beyond our roof eaves, with glossy red and blue stripes spiraling around poles that extended from a spine of monkey bars I would race across, hand over hand, back and forth, or stop and dangle from for minutes at a time just because I could.

From each end, sturdy silver bars extended in bright T’s, supporting swings, a trapeze, a thick, knotted rope, and a set of black rubber rings on chains. Flinging my way from one station to another, I grew thick calluses across my palms that would eventually crack and tear off, leaving raw pink divots. But I didn’t care—I raced to the gym set every day after school, wheeling, swinging, twisting, spinning, because it simply felt so good to move, to be dizzy and dirty and alive.Life was easy. Then.

On his good days, Daddy would join me on the gym, doing pull-ups from the monkey bars or pushing me on the swings as our Lab rabble leaped over my ankles. I ate his attention; I never knew when the next dark days, the tears, the whiskey, were coming.

I loved showing off my rings skills. These were my favorite piece of equipment, as I fancied myself an Olympian someday; gymnastics were the only sport for girls my age then. I would lock my arms and hold my sweaty legs outstretched, then whip them under and up again, the momentum whirling me into a flip, sticking the landing on an old dog bed as Daddy whooped his approval.

I felt so strong and sure, with kinesthesis so reliable, I was stunned the day I lost control rolling through space and crashed into a nearby stump. The bark ripped my shin to the bone, the torrent of blood so orange and fierce it didn’t look real. It hurt, but I didn’t cry; I was too embarrassed. Worry–an unfamiliar emotion–quietly nagged me: What did I do wrong? What if I fell again? as Daddy wrapped a beach towel around my leg, set me in the truck, and rumbled us off to the emergency room.

My mother had to lie down when she saw me, but Daddy wasn’t fazed at all. In fact he seemed excited. An adventure! He chattered away, punched at the radio buttons, cracked jokes, and even stopped at 7-11 for Slurpees along the way. He assured me I would be back on the gym set that very day.

By the time the nurse called us back I was almost lookingforward to getting stitches. Daddy distracted me with armpit farts and teased the still-pimply intern assigned to my care. Did he have a girlfriend? This gal here’s available! What time was he off work? Watching the nervous young doctor clean my leg, Daddy went for the superfecta, explaining how those little bits of raw pink flesh, flicked onto the blue paper sheet, resembled the evidence he’d recently found in a car trunk that had transported a murder victim’s battered body.

The doctor raised an eyebrow. I smiled. I was nine. And I was fascinated.

What I didn’t see was the toll such work extracted from my father’s soul. I thought he had the most exciting job in the world, and that he shared it with me because he saw me as mature, a peer. But really, I was the only friend he had who wouldn’t judge his moods, or punish his worsening drinking bouts. When he looked into my eyes, his reflection was still that of hero.

When drinking finally did take him a few years later, the gym set lost its allure. Not because I was sad, although I was, but I was 13 now. I’d rather go to the mall than swing on dirty metal bars. I liked wearing makeup and having soft palms to couple-skate with, not that it happened often.

Eventually the gym’s rusted husk collapsed, and my mother had it hauled away to the junkyard. I grew up and learned that life had mortgages and migraines, consequences, shitty people, and too often, the very worries and depression my own father had experienced. And I didn’t have him any more to dissuade them with Slurpees and jokes.

But I had our memories. I never became a gymnast but I did play sports all the way through college, which helped me find work that I loved. And it all began doing ring routines for my father on that gym, where I learned to stick the landing, even when he could not.

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Sister Golden Hair (flash fiction)

On younger nights, before Lisa could escape in the Firebird Daddy bought her (on a drinking binge), I could slip cat quiet into her room and brush her hair while she conjugated French verbs or talked to boyfriends on the phone, polished fingers weaving in and out of the coiled cord.

The brush slipped through Lisa’s hair like warm honey. She rarely acknowledged me as I worked, but that miracle mane in my small hands was intimacy enough.

Lisa was my only sibling, and eleven years older. There was no sweater sharing or giggly prank calls to boys. We didn’t argue over the TV or slam bathroom doors. She was Howdy Doody and Vietnam; I was Sesame Street and Hinckley. What was there to fight about? To talk about at all?

One spring afternoon, Lisa, sweaty-faced, slapped her schoolbooks on the table, popped open two TABs from the fridge and handed one to me. Folding laundry, my mother protested this uncharacteristic brashness, but Lisa waved her off and tugged me upstairs.

She brought no homework and took the phone off the hook. In her chair, she untied her ponytail and grinned at me in the dresser mirror.

I knew what “drunk” was; Lisa was not. Yet she hummed with that same sad energy, simultaneously excited and exhausted. Confused, I reached for the brush, but she stopped me. No, let’s roll it!

The Clairol curling set, and my trust, warmed. As I pinned in each roller, Lisa talked breathlessly about her prom dress and college in the fall, repeating the details—winking blue sequins, the dorm cafeteria waffle bar—as if she dreamt of them constantly. Or had to.

When I finished, Lisa leapt up and placed Kool and the Gang on the turntable, “Ladies Night.” Then Michael Jackson, The Who. By the last We don’t get fooled again!, we were clasping hands and spinning, singing, giggling, the loosening rollers orbiting Lisa’s head like carnival swings.

I was still laughing as this foreign, fun Lisa sat again and I unwound the rollers. But her smile dissolved as she told me about that day. Craving booze, Daddy found the spare Firebird keys, walked to the high school and took the car. Students watched him stumble across the parking lot, snickering as the Homecoming Queen was forced to walk home in platform sandals.

Yet Lisa suddenly felt free. This was the final humiliation. No more stolen money, or steering dates around his sour body on the floor. September, she was gone.

Except I wouldn’t be. And she hadn’t prepared me for the heavy mantle that awaited.

But she was trying now, and that was enough. I didn’t care about tomorrow. I brushed her hair, rubbed those shining strands between my fingers like a rosary, a small ritual of thanks for today alone.

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Word Up Wednesday! Inside-the-Park Home Run

escobarThis year’s first World Series game made history in several ways, like being the longest World Series game ever and Fox experiencing a seven-minute broadcast outage that they didn’t blame on Beyonce, Taylor Swift or Obama.

The game also saw the first inside-the-park home run to lead off a World Series since 1903–the first Series. Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar took the Mets’ Matt Harvey’s first pitch and sent it to deep left-center field, where it bounced off outfielder Yoenis Cespedes’ leg and continued to the wall. As the outfielders chased it down, Escobar rounded all the bases to score.

Meanwhile, Cespedes’ efforts were not ruled as an error. Runners often reach extra bases, even score, when the defense makes a mistake. These I’ve seen. And my friends (aka Guys Who Think They Are Sports Smarty Pantses) and I debated whether that is what happened, thereby scoring Escobar merely as advancing on an error (also known as a “Little League home run” if multiple errors are involved).

But in this case, Escobar scored on his own efforts (aka I WAS RIGHT). And having never seen an inside-the-park home run before, I wanted to make sure I was clear on just what it was.

By definition, it means the batter hits a home run without actually hitting the ball outside the field of play–the ball doesn’t clear the wall. Instead, it takes a lucky path far enough from the outfielders to give the batter time to make it home.

Luckily for the Mets, no one was on base yet–inside-the-park grand slams happen too, most recently against my Washington Nationals in September, even though they were SUPPOSED TO WIN THE WHOLE DAMNED WORLD SERIES AND BE LIKE THE BEST TEAM EVER ON THE PLANET BUT THE METS KNOCKED US OUT OF CONTENTION!

But I’m not bitter at all.

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His Name Is Prince. And He Was Funky.


What’s that Kanye? I can’t hear you over my Oscar.

Dig if you will, the picture: In 1984, I was a white, suburban sixth-grader who collected unicorn stickers and attended 4-H Club and church summer camp.

Yet I had become utterly possessed by an elfin, spandexed, sex-crazed crooner whose lopsided curls looked like they had been styled with Crisco and a pair of eggbeaters.

I had followed pop music since cable TV had arrived in my Tennessee town somewhere around fourth grade. MTV was already in full swing by then–Martha, Alan, Nina and the gang inviting me in each weekend for the Top 20 Video Countdown. I wanted to shock Peter Gabriel’s monkey and stand heartache to heartache with Pat Benatar.

Gen-Xers will recall that we didn’t have a lot of readily available sources for music back then. I liked artists and songs because my friends told me to. Or Rick Dees. Or my uber-cool older sister.

But when Prince appeared on the screen, slithering steamy from a tub toward me on his stomach as white doves took flight, it was as if some cosmic bedsheet cracked, and every note of every song I’d heard heretofore snapped away into the ether, blank and clean, and all that was left was purple, purple, purple.

Prince left “Xanadu” in the dust.

Prince in my knock-off Walkman became the highlight of my morning schoolbus commute. The joy of junior high dances. My comfort when no one asked me to couples-skate.

Prince was my royal raison d’etre.

I liked him because…I don’t know. I just liked him. I didn’t find him especially attractive; he was effeminate, he was short, his outfits looked like he’d raided a laundromat while Louis XVI and Jimi Hendrix went out for a smoke. Some of his lyrics were so dirty they escaped my comprehension; they hinted at acts I wanted no part of then or ever.

But there was something about him and his unapologetic bad-assness that resonated with me, hit some musical sweet spot I didn’t realize was wanting. Something set him apart from other artists. I’d always had a penchant for traditionally “black” music – Commodores, Parliament Funkadelic, Ohio Players. These were the albums I liberated from my sister’s collection and played on my Fisher-Price record player, got down to on “Soul Train.”

Maybe it was the bass. Or their fantastic bellbottoms, the altitude of their afros. IIIIII…wanted the funk. Give me the funk. Lots of it.

Or maybe the music presented for me a glimpse into a world in which I otherwise did not belong. I had black kids I counted as friends; but where I lived, I could also count them on one hand.

Then came Prince, or more specifically, “Purple Rain,” which melded for me the best of both worlds: funk I could find on pop radio. Common ground for kids of all colors—he even had white girls—GIRLS!—in his band. In satin nighties, but still. And they weren’t just rattling tambourines, they could really play.

Simply put, Prince made me go crazy.

Thirty years, five concerts and countless records/cassettes/CDs/downloads later–and now his untimely death– nothing has changed. I am a fan with blind faith. Through assless chaps, through band and label and religion and hairstyle and name changes, through no name at all, it doesn’t matter, Prince found the righteous one in me. Anywhere, any time Prince appeared, I ceased all activity to watch, to listen, to try and understand the hold this tiny, funky man had over me.

Everyone remembers his rain-soaked performance at the Super Bowl, or how he dominated the Hall of Fame induction. But even during last year’s Grammy’s with my friend Quinn—it seemed somehow unholy to speak, move, or bust on the artists (except Kanye) while Prince was onstage–and he was merely presenting. Rumors had circulated for weeks that he would be there–few if any artists build that kind of excitement, that far ahead of time. We sat still as stones as he brought a housequake, indeed.

He received even greater appreciation during the Golden Globes, when a ballroom full of Hollywood’s absolute elite went—for lack of a better word—completely APESHIT as Prince, adorned in a long jacket and silver cane, took the stage like the Willy Wonka of…Wait, What the F*%$, PRINCE IS HERE OMG PRINNNNNCE!!!!

His death has proven to me I am not alone—there are purple people everywhere. I think Prince appeals to pretty much anyone between 30 and 60 because his career was that long and that universal.

I realize not everyone cares for his music like I do (“Graffiti Bridge,” anyone? Me either.), but trust and believe, if he walked into your home or office right now, you would leap up and scream like…well, Prince.

Because, I have realized, Prince was hope. He was the living embodiment of resilience, reinvention, rejuvenation. He had ridiculous success, and some almost laughable failures, but he Just. Didn’t. Give. A. Shit. He just kept on doing what he wanted to do, and people respected that.


Prince is making my eyes bug out and I don’t care! PRIIIINNCE!

I’m just a puny black kid from Minnesota? I will grow up to become rock royalty anyway. Write the soundtrack for Batman? Why not!? I can’t control my own musical creations? Peace, bitches, I’ll start my own label. I can’t use my own name? OK, I’ll make up a new one—in fact, I’ll use a symbol. Appear on “The New Girl” just because I’m a Zooey Deschanel fan? Yup, and we’ll set the show’s viewership record with that episode too.

Oh, and along the way, I will also master more than 20 instruments, quietly write hit songs for fellow superstars and help launch others altogether. I will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while I am 45 and still at the height of my career. I will win an Oscar, seven Grammy’s and countless other honors. I will work tirelessly for the rights of artists and accessibility of our craft to everyone.

Because baby, he’s a star. Then and now and always. And we are all the more blessed for it.




Top 8 Worst Sports Losing Streaks

Soy un perdedor. I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?

Soy NOT un perdedor. No loser here, you don’t need to kill me after all, ktxbye.

Despite having to re-start the game when the 76ers began playing in the wrong direction, Philadelphia managed to escape tying a dubious record Wednesday, winning their first game of the NBA season 85-77 over Minnesota, putting them at 1-17.

To lose 18 would have tied the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets for the worst start to a season in league history—and would have put the 76ers well on their way to last season’s streak of 26 straight losses, a tie with the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers.

So what other loveable losers are out there? Here are a few of more of sports’ streaks so sad, “Beck” might sing about them

Top 8 Worst Sports Losing Streaks


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Down in a Blaaaaze of Glory? #FreeUAB

The Ladies Room

OK, these guys bounced back--here's hoping UAB can too.OK, these guys bounced back–here’s hoping UAB can too.

Did you have an older sibling who was better at you than everything, and never let you forget it?

That must be kind of how it is for the second tier sports teams out there – you know, the overly hyphenated, the ones with a region in the title (Southeast Missouri Central at St. Louis University etc.), the ones named for Hogwarts-like mascots (go Gryffindors!) or Colonial silversmiths. The kinds of schools that would appear in a Key and Peele skit while the major state teams get all the glory.

Or take the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers football team. In a state where the Tuscaloosa team is number one, whenever someone mentions “Alabama football” or even “UAB” people still have to stop and think “Huh? Where? Aren’t y’all some kinda dragon or something?”

Truth is, the school has nearly…

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Sports Numbers You Need to Know

Sports Numbers You Need to Know.

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Tiger Tuesday and a Diamond in the Rough

Tiger Tuesday and a Diamond in the Rough.

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Filanthropy Friday

Filanthropy Friday.

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