Peek Inside the New Issue

posted in: Fiction, Memoir, Poetry | 0

Working through it, with pieces from Ellie Anderson, Etta Brandt, and Nikia Leopold.
5 minutes


Passager’s editors noticed when they were putting the Winter ’24 issue together that there were several pieces that had to do with jobs — or at least the work that one does. On this episode of Burning Bright, three of those.

Ellie Anderson said, “This piece came from the landscape of my childhood: southern Alberta in winter. Always fascinated by how the inarticulate among us account for unusual happenings in their lives, I fictionalized a relative who worked for the highway department.” Here’s an excerpt from Ellie’s short story “Waiting for the Light.”

Willie never thought he’d be a hero, not once, not even in grade school when a lot of kids dreamed about rescues and high adventure. Willie never did that. He loved to listen to other kids talk about such things. He’d say, “Brian dreamed his mother was falling out of a train so he grabbed her by the hem of her dress and pulled her back. Can you imagine?”

Willie got a job with the Department of Highways, taking the responsibility as seriously as a surgeon. When the weather permitted, they repaired damage done by alternate freezes and thaws that pushed the pavement up in some places, and created pot holes in others. From the first snowfall at the end of October until well into April, they plowed the highway from the mountain pass bordering Alberta and B.C. on the west, to Lundbreck Falls where the highway moved out of the eastern foothills of the Rockies onto flat prairie.

They kept the road open through the Rockies. This was a dangerous job. Blizzards blew up so quickly that they’d lost plows and drivers, men who got disoriented in the blowing snow and drove over mountain embankments. Willie accepted the challenges of his job for more than forty years.

An excerpt from Ellie Anderson’s story “Waiting for the Light.”

Etta Brandt received her MFA In creative writing at age 71. She said, “I tried for many years to write about Frank and how he died, but everything was so confusing that I couldn’t make sense of it on paper. Then I took a workshop and discovered the “list” essay as a way forward. Suddenly, I remembered Frank’s carry-on bag at the bottom of my closet; I opened it up and realized that, by simply listing the items inside, I could tell the story of his life, our relationship, and his death.” Here’s one of the items in Etta’s list essay.

4. O’Donnell Pontiac, Inc. Earnings Statement — period ending 02/04/87, gross pay: $300., net pay: $217.24. I believe this was Frank’s last “real” job; real in the sense that he wasn’t being paid under the table by his family business or by any other home improvement contractor. It’s hard for me to even envision Frank getting dressed to go to a regular job. Frank was fired from this job when he disappeared for a week-end with one of the cars that had been for sale on the lot.

An excerpt from Etta Brandt’s essay “What Is This Thing Called Love?”

Finally, a poem by Nikia Leopold. It’s about physical work, but it’s also about working to build trust, and it’s also about working to move from one relationship to another. Nikia said, “’Fires’ was kindled by my husband’s death in 2016. We had been married for 48 years and I was stiff with grief. Years later I was reunited with a man I’d known when we were teenagers and had not seen for 40 years. We emailed and went from friendship to love and now we’re together. The poem rose from an attempt to adjust to this new person taking my husband’s place.”

He lays and lights the fires
easily, this new man in my house.
All the kindling collected by my husband has waited since his death
to be burned.
He split the wood and stacked it near the porch door.
A step outside —
logs near at hand.
This new man takes pride in his fires. They burn with concentrated grace,
flaring and sparking
into flames so hot
we retreat, push our chairs apart to make space for its breath.
The heat moves in, settles
between us, and I realize my husband is back, claiming his place.

“Fires,” Nikia Leopold, from the Winter 2024 issue of Passager.

To get your own copy of Passager’s newest issue or to subscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts and various other podcast apps.

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.