author photo Tape Measure
by Luke Whisnant

You are once again a dumb shit.

You’re leaning in the doorless doorway angry and frustrated because you have lost your 24-foot measuring tape.


For the third goddam time.

And that means you will once more have to climb in the truck and drive down the dirt road to the store with the Confederate flag painted on the white concrete block walls and fork over another six bucks.

“I see you’re fond of them tapes,” the old man at the register will say.

And the son of a bitch will laugh.

And his daughter or his granddaughter or whatever the hell she is, the heavyset girl who wears a torn and far-too-tight black PANTERA teeshirt and a studded leather bracelet, will bag your new yellow tape in what she sometimes calls a “paper poke,” and she will hand it to you with an insolent smack of her pink gum-wad, big as a cow’s cud, and sniff.

Heritage, not hate.

And as you push through the door out to your parked truck still running, the old man will call to the back of your head, as he has thrice before: “Measure twict, cut oncet. My daddy learnt me that.”

Luke Whisnant grew up in Charlotte and has taught creative writing and literature at ECU since 1982. About “Tape Measure,” he says, “This piece is a tribute to my former student Linsey Trask. I used her second-person point-of-view story ‘Full Circle’ as my model, trying to match her tone and apply her technique of fragments and one-sentence paragraphs.”

Copyright 2005 by Luke Whisnant. Photo by Leanne E. Smith.