Paul Strohm

Sailor Doll

My father was edgy about my Christmas request for a doll. “Gol-darnit,” he was saying to my mother, “where does that kid get his ideas?” What was the problem? My sister had a dozen and I was only asking for one. Innocent of the role of sailors in the gay imagination, he decided the answer was to get me a sailor doll. I named him “Petey.” The first thing I did was shrink his wool uniform in my sister’s doll washing machine. I took him to school anyway, for show and tell, unclad except for pinched-looking little black sailor oxfords.


Ever hopeful, my father bought me a kid-sized football uniform, complete with ungainly plastic shoulder pads and an ear-crunching, vision-obscuring helmet. He dressed me up in it and sent me down to the vacant lot where the neighborhood kids ran a pickup game. Briefly awed by my official-looking getup, they abandoned previous custom and handed me the ball. For a long five or six seconds all of us stood there, frozen, wondering whether my costume had transformed me into a credible athlete. Then they recollected themselves, unceremoniously threw me to the ground, and punched away any thought of equipment-based advantage.

Some Car

I meant to buy a practical sedan. I came home with a mean-looking Chevy Camaro instead. Not much of a back seat, but the children were still small. I settled for the six-cylinder model. “Some car,” my friends said. “Like Paul,” my wife said. “Looks good but not much under the hood.” No wonder that marriage didn’t last. My next car was a Prelude, also low slung. Claire was sitting in it at the gas station. She became convinced that a guy was hanging around and ogling her. I gave him a look. He said, “You wanna sell that car?”


Unchained country dogs always went after Ray: snarled, nipped at him in passing, reluctantly fell away. Because he was always out front, toiling, they considered him leader of our two-man pack. Or maybe the opposite: viewed him as the weak link, sensed in him some sweat drenched vulnerability. Ray was a pessimist, always braced for a bad outcome. His biggest gripe was about hills, at least the downhill kind. “Uh-oh,” he’d say, when we came to one. Starting a downhill swoop, rather than enjoy the effortless movement, he’d imagine the climb ahead. “This’ll cost us,” he’d mutter. “We’ll pay for this.”

Wedding China

Exasperated with our failing marriage, my wife expressed herself by breaking dishes. She’d go in after dinner, wash a few, and then: zing! crash!—a plate would hit the floor. Our registered “wedding china”—Dansk Spisa Ribb—was going fast. After the divorce I housesat for a friend whose kitchen was stocked with the same pattern. One morning I was asleep upstairs when my still-angry wife staged a home invasion. Whatever her objective, upon entering the kitchen by the screen door she spied this new trove. I was awakened by the familiar sound: Spisa Ribb shattering on tiled floor.

Among Men

I drove up to Point Arena to see about seafood. Out on the pier some seasoned-looking guys were bringing in rockfish, still flopping around and with goggley eyes. They sold me a couple, at a tourist price, but I was enjoying the camaraderie. I hovered while they spouted various extreme views, complaining about things like chickenshits who wanted to turn the Point into a marine sanctuary. When I came off the pier a guy asked me, “What’re you catching?” I said, kinda casually, “Rockfish.” He said, “How deep?” “Actually,” I confessed, “I bought these.” He brushed past, averting his gaze.

Formidable Member

Claire is telling me about the Writers’ Colony, where she hung around with an eminent poet. It seems that he has a formidable member. That’s a line of thought I’d rather not pursue, or anyway it evokes a succession of images I can do without. I don’t know much about writers’ colonies, except of course for their legendary promiscuity. But this one is also known for its spontaneous events, like midnight swims. Maybe that’s where she got a look at this guy’s equipment. “So you met him on one of those midnight swims?” I suggest. “No,” she says, “not really….”


Carolyn and I were fly-fishing in the Florida Keys. As novices, we had a guide. We were after tarpon and bonefish, but they weren’t running. The guide suggested we go for shark instead. He started throwing bloody chum in the water and sharks gathered around the little flat-bottomed boat. I caught one right away and then Carolyn followed up by catching two. You get a nickname on a fishing trip. On land everybody started calling her “Two-Shark.” Oh, I had a name too, but based on a snack item I had brought along: “Mr. Peanut.” Not quite the same, somehow.

Kay Bradner, Ten Birds


Many talented individuals are featured in the West Marin Review. Please click below for this volume’s contributors.

    • Kay Bradner   Ten Birds
    • Cathy Rose   Balance
    • Jackie Garcia Mann   Bolinas Bound
    • Michael Sykes   Leaving for Italy
    • Dave Stamey   To Steelhead Lake
    • Joan Thornton   Two Short Stories
    • Barbara Heenan   On Religion: Oklahoma City
    • G. David Miller   Prepare for Landing
    • Kaitlyn Gallagher   The Blows
    • Cynthia Fontaine Reehl   What It Takes
    • Molly Giles   Next Time
    • Paul Strohm   Masculinities
    • Brooke Williams   Post-Election Walkabout
    • Tobi Earnheart-Gold   Untitled
    • Mary Winegarden   Between Birth and Song
    • Ariel Wish   Through Motions
    • Nancy Cherry   All My Biographies Are Lies
    • Stephen Ajay   Giving
    • Karen Benke   Spring Cleaning
    • Lisa Piazza   Here
    • Barry Roth   Henry Evans Poppies
    • Thomas Hickey   Monk’s Empty Eye
    • Satchel Trivelpiece   Oh, Animals
    • David Swain   Dead Reckoning
    • Robert Hass   DANCING
    • Deborah Buchanan   A Bowl’s Circumference
    • Prartho Sereno   Emergency Lock-Down Drill
    • Dave Seter   Douglas Iris
    • Judy Brackett   Swimming Through Summer
    • Gina Cloud   Ken
    • Kay Bradner   Ten Birds
    • Christa Burgoyne   Small Barn and Late Afternoon “C” Street
    • Lissa Nicolaus   Country Road
    • Kimberly Carr Harmon   Wooded Gate
    • Emmeline Craig   Living on the Edge
    • Matthew Polvorosa Kline   Tule Elk at Dawn, Point Reyes National Seashore
    • Elizabeth Gorek   Forgotten Summer
    • Susan Hall   California Twilight
    • Sandy White   Roy’s Redwoods
    • Jaune Evans   Fog Heaven
    • Isis Hockenos   Side Street Chickens #1 & #2
    • Caitlin McCaffrey   Biggie’s Vision
    • Marius Salone and Sofia Borg   Young Red Onions
    • Lily Andrews   Hummingbird
    • Susan Putnam   Untitled #261
    • Amanda Tomlin   Laird’s Boathouse
    • Jani Gillette   You Wearing You
    • Christel Dillbohner   Iridescent Cloud
    • Philip Bone   Three Masks
    • May Ta   Somber Summer
    • Toni Littlejohn   Fire Under Ice
    • Xander Weaver-Scull   Arctic Peregrine Falcons
    • Grace Nichols and Belle Nichols Southworth   Letters from Bolinas
    • Julia Edith Rigby   Waste in Paradise
    • Van Waring   Coastal Cross Section
    • Rich Clarke   Kehoe Morning
    • Johanna Baruch   Enthymesis
    • Michel Venghiattis   Lili Marlene
    • Glenn Carter   Night of the Falling Flower/Lucid N13-2
    • Sherrie Lovler   Crossroads
    • Mary Siedman   Bolinas Beach
    • Jon Ching   Flowers in Her Hair
    • Mark Ropers   Bound for Kilkenney Beach
    • Mary K. Shisler   Wabi Sabi Tulips
    • Richard Kirschman   Bogside Remembered
    • Patricia Connolly   Late Afternoon at McInnis
    • Bob Kubik   Fox
    • Cathy Rose   Accept and Balance
    • Anne Faught   Coming Together