Just to prove we have skin (if not submissions) in the game, we asked our staff members to recall a time in their lives when they were dealt a heaping hot slice of rejection pie.
To read more lengthy responses to the prompt, check out our latest issue, which is filled with
sad sack tales stories, essays, and poems dealing in rejection and regret.
We were planning on Raccoon for supper. My boyfriend’s dad, Stewart, had paid a hunter to shoot it, skin it, and bring it—wrapped in a plastic grocery sack—to the Superior Federal Bank he owned in downtown Rogers, Arkansas. The bank was one of the reasons I liked his son. We’d go there to study and sneak Dum Dum suckers from the teller counter and snack on fresh, buttery popcorn from the old-fashioned popper in the lobby.
I’d been invited, last minute, to go camping and though it felt like a father-son type of getaway, Chris assured me his dad wanted me there. Stewart illustrated this by swiftly grabbing a can opener (attached to a keychain, attached to his belt), popping the cap, and handing me a wine cooler the color of pink lemonade. For gentle drinking.
Stewart poured a bottle of beer into the cast-iron pot. The pot was perched directly on the kindling and the fire sizzled from the few stray drops of Michelob Light. We’d stopped at Last Chance Liquor on the way, one mile before the dry county line. The raccoon cooked slowly, the dark purple meat almost camouflaged within the cast iron pot.
When Stewart decided it was ready to eat, we huddled around the fire—the sun just down behind the Ozarks—and ate from paper bowls resting in our laps. The meat was tender and greasy. My first bite felt like a pad of butter in my mouth and I had to resist the urge to spit it out. The second and third bite tasted like oily duck.
As we were cleaning up, a loud bang filled the quiet night. Another boom sounded, followed by the sound of crackling metal. Chris told his dad we were going to walk down the road, deeper into the campground to investigate. Stewart put his hands up; I’m not your keeper.
The hollow tree stood upright, tethered to the ground by four large metal cables. At fifty yards away, it looked like a grand chimney without a house around it. About two-thirds of the way down were large holes drilled into the trunk and hours of firewood circling its base. The fire looked blue-hot: shot flames through the trunk, piping smoke from its top.
One of the men, he looked a teenager, darted from the log yelling something that sounded like Redbug!Redbug! and a few others jumped behind their trucks, waiting. The log whined and hissed, louder and louder till it blew, and shot fire and metal high up into the sky. The boy flung his fists into the air and was soon surrounded, hands smacking his back, others offering a fresh beer.
We started to walk closer, but were stopped by a man sitting on the bed of his truck. The Allman Brothers Band crackled through the speakers in the cab, windows down. The man had a beer can in each hand, drinking from one—spitting chew in another. You looking for somebody?
I asked him what they were doing. It’s called a Blow Log. Its purpose, he told us, was to blow stuff up and destroy the log. They threw in spray paint cans, hairspray, anything under pressure. All the trucks that were parked in a large circle around the log belonged to men in Newton County. He called them neighbors. Only the men who kept drinking could keep throwing. He couldn’t remember the man who had won the blow log last year, but bragging rights are involved.
We moved to get a better look, maybe to try tossing a can or two, but the man leaned and touched my elbow. Sorry, hon, no ladies at the Blow Log.
Later in the tent, I listened to the explosions in the distance. I closed my eyes and saw night stars moving over the tethered log with the fire burned from its top like yellow and orange leaves. The men passed out in trunk beds, hands stuffed into the waistbands of their pants. The last men standing, still drinking, still trying to blow up the log, throwing in last cans of hairspray.
Where did they get it? I wondered. From their girlfriends, their wives? I thought about the poisonous mix of butane, spray paint and hairspray, a mix that probably made the men feel a little bit sick and a little bit good. I tried to picture the women that were not allowed at the blow log. Were they worried about their boyfriends and husbands and sons, out in the cold, drinking and handling explosives? Did they want to be invited or were they sitting warm indoors, glad to have them gone, thankful for the peace and quiet?
Masie Cochran is an editor with Tin House Books and The Open Bar. After working for Inkwell Management, a literary agency in New York City, she now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son.