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CNF: Spinning

by Paul Crenshaw

We were sitting on the front porch drinking wine when the couple came sneaking down the street. They were a young couple, mid-20s maybe, and they were both looking around and laughing a little, at each other, and at, I would later realize, what they were doing.

Our neighbors across the street were moving, and they had set some of their stuff on the curb for people to pick through. I would say this is a Midwestern sensibility except I’ve seen it everywhere: the hope someone will take what we can no longer keep, the recycling of household items we can’t bring ourselves to throw away. I had recently moved, and given away most of my things, or left them on the curb for someone else to have: my daughters’ way-too-small-now bicycles, a bonsai tree I had trained for 10 years, a guitar I had outgrown. Bookshelves that had once housed my own work, the desk at which I had written more words than I know what do with, the couch where my ex-wife and I watched movies until we were too tired to go to bed. The bunk beds we bought for our tiny daughters when we moved into that house, the books and games we’d collected over the years, the houseplants and clothes hangers, the mementos and memories. I never thought my marriage would end, and giving away everything seemed like giving away the last 20 years, so I wanted, in the way we all want to have a use in the world, for someone else to find value in what I had once owned.

The couple, it seemed, had spied a set of hula-hoops there on the curb, and were coming back—as night set in and the wine started to do its work and the world seemed fine—to get them. They passed through the shadows of the trees and the man waded through the containers of kitchenware and boxes of paperback books, and grabbed the hoops.

Beside me, J. took my hand. We haven’t lived together long. We’re middle-aged now, and sit on the porch some nights drinking wine and watching the world through the windows of our eyes, but I first met her in third grade. We graduated high school, then lost each other for 25 years, but had come together again after both our lives had fallen apart. She lost her husband, and I had divorced, and somehow we ended up together watching a couple much younger than we were taking hula-hoops from a house where people were moving, headed on to the next part of their lives.

They were still laughing, and the dark was coming down like it sometimes does, so I said, in the still air of Midwest America on a fine summer evening, “Let’s see it,” and the couple started hula-hooping right there on the sidewalk. The man made two rotations. The woman made maybe four. Neither of them knew what they were doing, the same as all of us, all of the time, but we clapped and cheered and the man made a thumbs up and the woman bowed, and they went on into the coming night.

As they went, I imagined them passing the hula-hoops down to their children. Or maybe they only wanted to be reminded what it was like to be children again, to find joy in spinning, in seeing themselves back at the same spot after rotating so long they weren’t sure where they would end up. A small celebration that life is a circle. What we give away, we keep.

Paul Crenshaw’s essay collection This One Will Hurt You is forthcoming from The Ohio State University Press. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by W.W. Norton and Houghton Mifflin, Oxford American, Glimmer Train, and Brevity, among others.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Spinning”?

A friend of mine—shout out to Kirsten Clodfelter—posted on social media about her daughter calling a hula hoop a “hoop doop,” and I responded with the story of seeing a young couple grabbing two hula hoops from the curb. Kirsten is a kind and encouraging writer, and asked if I were going to write an essay about it, which, if you’ll pardon the terrible pun, got the story spinning. So I owe lots of gratitude to Kirsten and her daughter’s “hoop doop,” which still makes me smile.

News

Congrats to the Best Small Fictions nominations from Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts: Sara Backer’s “Oh, What a Night”; Dan Crawley’s “Powers”; Jill Talbot’s “Malahat Highway on Boxing Day”; Christopher Allen’s “Falling Man;” and Kathy Fish’s “Five Micros.”

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