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Alexander Lumans, Age 10

A recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Yaddo Corporation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Blue Mountain Center, the Philip Roth Residence, and the Arctic Circle Residency, Alexander Lumans is a writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Story Quarterly, American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, Guernica, Electric Literature, and Glimmer Train. Presented here is an essay called “Universe” that he wrote in 1995.

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— Alexander Lumans, Age 10

Alexander Lumans

“For a kid holding a giant grasshopper—in a ‘No Fear’ hat, no less—I was pretty scared of the world. I mean, I still am. Maybe more now. Definitely more now. But back then, I wanted to become an entomologist. Okay, I still do. But this was 1995! The happiest day of my life at that point was finding a praying mantis on the side of my house and catching it and keeping it for three days before it died. I was in fifth grade. I was afraid on a daily basis that all my allergies would kill me. And if those didn’t, then sunburn, chicken pox, and the inevitable heat death of the universe would. But bugs—bug were (are!) the best. I felt like I could understand their world, whereas my own was far beyond an eleven-year-old’s comprehension. What is it Lovecraft says? ‘Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.’ And what was that great ‘No Fear’ slogan that everyone had on a T-shirt in the 90s? ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.’ Somehow, those don’t seem totally unconnected.”