I am lucky. In my mind I see myself playing with the black and white Snoopy dog perched high above my head with the other stuffed prizes. My dad, with my brother on his hip, put a quarter down on the red circle and, bam! We scored. The painted lady loomed over me; my small voice, my conduit to the outer world, failed me as “black and white” came out sounding like “red and white”. Realizing she couldn’t hear me over the screeching of Ferris wheel gears and the bellowing of the cotton candy barkers, I desperately pointed, and the magically large lady reached up for the teddy bear right next to the Charles Schultz-inspired canine. Too polite to complain, and with everyone congratulating me for picking the red circle, I pretended to be happy. I held on to that red and white teddy bear for years, and I learned that no matter how hard I tried I could not make myself be understood.
Some writers turn to creative nonfiction as a way of making sense of their experiences. Scores of articles and some books are devoted to explaining this as a craft. I will throw my five bucks into the pot and raise by venturing to say what I think it means to create naked nonfiction. To me, it means entering the outer world with my inner world wide open, bringing with me my past failure to be heard. Perhaps this time I will connect. Perhaps not. But I will use these experiences, these red and white teddy bears, as motivation to try as opposed to an excuse to remain silent. Maybe, in the next exchange, one of us will walk away with a black and white Snoopy dog nestled firmly against our skin, a gift for successful, primal communication. Too soft-spoken, too shy, too polite, one might decide to settle for less. Unlike my little brother, who at 2 years old was gregarious and outspoken enough to decide we were not leaving that state fair booth without a prize for him, too. My whimper was answered by his bang; kicking and shrieking my brother thrashed the urgency, and to be fair, my dad turned back and reached in his pocket for another quarter, this time placing it on the green triangle, Clayton’s choice.
Twelve dollars and fifty cents later my brother triumphed, or one might say, my dad left the fair booth in relief, destined to manage the family budget a lot more leanly that September. I don’t remember eating nothing but beans and cornbread for a week. I see a photograph—me with a red and white teddy bear half my size; my brother with a long, mean-looking green alligator (way before reptiles were popular). This photo reminds me to get my naked on; reminds me, too, that no matter how lucky I am, sometimes I will need to take a leaf from my brother’s book and just scream.
Belinda Bruner, editor