institute for documentary studies

{the work: Amy Miller}

The Beef Soldier

Ben floors the accelerator of his two-wheel drive Ford pickup. “The cows work for me, I don’t work for the cows,” he says as we thump our way down the muddy access road that runs alongside his grazing fields.

Glenn Beck is on the radio, criticizing our Government for their mortgage foreclosure policies. Ben’s faded desert camo hat sits on top of a hill of paperwork, bailing twine and tools on the bench seat between us, and all sliding slowly onto my lap at each bump. He is quiet, lean shaven, in his early 30’s and a no-nonsense Libertarian.


I woke my younger brother, John, every morning by covering his mouth with my hand. He couldn’t breathe through his nose, something to do with a fused septum, and so he punched me. I’d helped him find his uniform before we ran out the door together and up the ten blocks to Sacred Heart Catholic School. We were usually late. There were 24 kids in my third grade class, seated alphabetically in tidy rows. I sat behind Mary Smith that year who had the shiniest brown ponytail in the class. Mary never talked directly to me, but her best friend, Anne, sat behind me. Mary leaned on my desk to talk to Anne, who leaned forward to listen to Mary. I sat pinned between these two girls who ignored me, although inadvertently included me in all of their secrets.

Is It All Woo-Woo?

Rose rests on the velour sofa next to Quinn, and props her slippered feet up on her boyfriend, Peter’s, lap. Rose is recovering from her recent c-section delivery, and six day old baby Bella rests naked across her mother’s swollen abdomen. Bella’s abundant head of hair is dark, and slightly oily; her raisin-colored eyes are the size and shape of large almonds. Rose is living with her mother for now, along with Peter, her two other children, and the new baby. The shades are drawn in the living room, and their downtown duplex is tidy and sparsely furnished. A television blasts cartoons in the family room, computer games are pinging, and her five-year-old daughter is pouring packets of pink and blue sugar into her mouth. Rose takes a cellulose capsule filled with a course, dusty colored powder and examines it in the room’s thin stream of sunlight streaking through the curtains. “Breast feeding was my biggest wish I had for this baby. I hope this will help,” she says. Without any more hesitation, Rose pops the pill into her mouth and washes it down with a swallow of bright red Kool-Aid. “It doesn’t taste like nothin’!” Rose says, excitedly.

About Amy

In 2010 Amy Miller wrote and published a book called Behind the Purple Door, in collaboration with eight other Mid-Coast writers. She runs a sailing charter business in Belfast with her husband in the summer months, and is a stay at home mom of two.

Amy Miller
Spring 2012

view personal site »