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Things Go Wrong

By Chila Woychik

PROMPT — Who am I today?

“One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.”

— Gertrude Stein

I didn’t know how wrong things could go until they did, all at once, a domino of events inside a tiny box of years:

  • A den full of those now only half my own and a new den crowded with those I’ll likely never meet.

  • A mother star, brimming with love, falling from a night sky.

  • And then came the new daddy star then the good daddy star, both dropping down, tumbling tumbling, a meteor shower of parts of me, a slippage of anchor points in an increasingly empty sphere. I look up and see stretches of void.

Did I tell you I’m studying philosophy? Or a strange non-class called Art in the Dark? It’s odd, I admit, the combination, yet the correlations surprise even me. Think Ezra Pound swathed in blankets at midnight in front of a tv screaming an emergency alert. Think Joan Didion listening to “The White Album,” a wordless, discordant sound.

Things go wrong. Life getting rough, payback for too much good or soft or, simply, random jolts of nasty.

Leave it to the experts, they say, but what do the experts know that we don’t know when things go wrong? Is it happening to them? Are they walking a mile in my sexy black boots? Tell me why I’ve so often had to run from life in my skinny jeans. But I know why. "The rain began again," said Helen Garner. It fell heavily, easily, with no meaning or intention but the fulfillment of its own nature, which was to fall and fall. Sometimes stuff happens and you fall and fall. And sometimes you just need a good therapist.

Where does the good fairy come in? Well, that depends on whether or not we believe in fairies. But we have to show people how it goes, leaving nothing to these shattering thunderbolts. Fear shrinks the brain, and a small brain, who can bear? So we save each other by telling the truth about falling stars and dens replete with those from other packs.

Things go wrong. Understanding is another word for love, so we try to understand. Go beyond. Stretch the thought. Cut all the onions and make a stew.

I’ve lost the capacity to be surprised these days; basically, my surprise index has passed the saturation point. It’s an emotional scorched earth policy of astonishment, a conjurer of cheap and painful tricks I wish on no one.

Someone will always be ashamed of our truth, but the North Star still shines in every night full of stars. And there’s not a bone to pick with a night sky.


Chila Woychik is originally from the beautiful land of Bavaria, but has lived in the Midwest most of her life. She has been published in Cimarron, Passages North, and others, and has an essay collection, Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology (Shanti Arts, 2020). She won first place nonfiction awards from Storm Cellar and Emrys. Her impressive Iowan barn is currently home to a single old barn cat named Sweet Pea. Chila also edits the Eastern Iowa Review. She writes from Shellsburg Iowa and can be reached at:


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