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When my family went Woke

While I was cleaning out our barn, I found signs that someone had briefly been living there. Among the scraps left behind was this scrawled letter dated Feb 22, 2023.

4 min read


— Fox News chyron, Feb 22, 2023

Marybethsue and I sat quietly on cold plastic seats as Papa stood at my brother's bedside, his head lowered as if in prayer. The machines connected to Johnbob beeped steadily, and I stared at the hospital's scuffed tan floor and tried to block the noise from my mind. Johnbob's soft breathing could be heard just under the rest of the din. It sounded peaceful, just like it did back at home.

It was then that Mama burst into the room, nearly knocking over a hospital worker standing in the way. Papa immediately turned around and moved towards her, shielding Johnbob so that Mama couldn't see him.

Mama wailed at him: "What happened? What happened to him?"

Papa grimaced, telling the story with closed eyes as he held Mama back with steady hands planted on both her shoulders. "There was an accident. He got his arms caught in the harvester, and by the time he could even scream it was too late. Nobody could do anything."

Mama's face contorted in pain.

"He's alive," Papa continued. "But ..."

He moved aside, allowing Mama to see her oldest son. He was pale on the hospital bed, still asleep from the drugs, with tubes hooked to him and screens above his head showing charts that moved with every beep of the machines. Where his arms once were, there were only thickly wrapped bandages pushed against his shoulders and taped to his neck and back and chest. His arms were still in the harvester somewhere, or maybe they'd been fished out already, but the doctors lowered their eyes when Papa had asked them whether they could be put back. This was my brother, now. Whatever was under the bandages was all he had left.

Mama reeled in shock. What sounded like it was meant to be a scream barely came out. She staggered backwards into Papa's arms, and whirled to embrace him.

"My boy," she cried. "My boy ... he's ..."

Papa nodded, and she continued.

"... he's woke now."

Papa closed his eyes again and hugged her as she began to ramble. "He's woke. My boy that I raised, he's woke now." She raised her head, searching Papa's face for answers. "What'll we do? How will we live?"

Now she looked at the hospital ceiling, looked into the fluorescent lights humming overhead, and we saw her eyes blur with tears. "He can't go to church like this. We can't go to cookouts trailing a woke son around. Our friends ... and the neighbors ... God, the neighbors."

"Will we have to move?" she asked Papa. "Will we have to move away, to somewhere they don't know him? To somewhere where we can hide him?"

Papa spoke softly. "He'll need ... accommodations. A way to open doors when he can't turn the knobs. He can't go back to school, they'd ... put him in a class. They'd make allowances. They'd give him verbal tests instead of written, maybe. They'd give him a ... teaching assistant, maybe."

Mama shook her head. "I cannot live like that, Charlie. I cannot drive a woke son to school, or see a woke son off when the bus comes. I can't send a child of mine to a woke school, one with accommodations or assistance or where a bunch of woke administrators will do woke favors for the boy. I will not live like that."

Papa said nothing, just nodding slightly. They stared at Johnbob, both of them together. Marybethsue began to tremble beside me as they continued to speak.

"Woke ... I cannot have a son that's woke."


"I cannot be one of those people who abides woke, Charles. I raised him better than that. A thousand times I told him, I told Johnbob, you will not be woke in my house, Johnbob. And he agreed. He promised it. And now he's ... he's woke, and look at him. He's sleeping. He's woke and he's sleeping like he doesn't even care."

"It's the drugs, Cathysue. The docs are keeping him asleep with the drugs so that we can ... sort things out, maybe. Sort things out, before he wakes up."

At this point Marybethsue was no longer trembling but shaking. Her whole body was shaking. I put my hand on her knee to try to steady her, but the shaking wouldn't stop.

"Sort things out. Yes. Yes, we have to sort things out," Mama said in barely a whisper.

Suddenly Marybethsue jumped to her feet. It startled me, and it startled Mama and Papa.

"Mama! Papa!" she cried out in a loud voice. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, and her eyes were red and wild.

She fairly shouted at them as she said her piece. "Seeing Johnbob get his arms ripped off by the harvester is giving me anxiety!"

Mama let out a bloodcurdling screech, a scream louder than I'd ever heard anyone scream before. Papa fell to his knees, making choking noises like he was trying to hold back vomit.

I ran. I jumped to my feet and I ran out of the room, and down the hospital hall and through the lobby. I burst out the automatic front doors with both shoulders banging hard against them as they slid open not nearly fast enough. I ran, and I kept running.

That was the last time I saw them. I never heard from any of them again, and I don't want to. I don't want to be woke. I don't want a woke brother or a woke sister. I'm not a Lego. I won't put up with that, not for anything.

Hunter Lazzaro

A humorist, satirist, and political commentator, Hunter Lazzaro has been writing about American news, politics, and culture for twenty years.

Working from rural Northern California, Hunter is assisted by an ever-varying number of horses, chickens, sheep, cats, fence-breaking cows, the occasional bobcat and one fish-stealing heron.


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