Fiction

Us

I felt her eyes upon me before I saw her. No more than three feet tall, a blonde ponytail pulled tight from her face, her cheeks wet with tears. The street was still quiet.

A Life Lost

I was twelve years old when my father tried to kill me. We’d all gone on a day trip to the beach. I was sick of my idiot brothers splashing water all over me and throwing sand in my hair, so when Dad suggested the two of us take a walk up the cliff path, I jumped at the chance. It was such a blustery day we had the viewing point at the top all to ourselves. We scanned the horizon for fishing boats and tankers, and spent ages trying to work out if a black dot in the distance was a seal or a buoy. I was mesmerised by a gannet silently gliding past when I felt his hands on my back, pushing me. I screamed at him to stop. This was not the time or the place for Dad’s messing. But he didn’t stop. He kept pushing and pushing until, being no match for a fully grown man, I went hurtling over the edge to certain death.

Grief Trough

I prefer to eat alone, but on a dim and backlit Thursday evening, I call my sister and ask her to witness me chew my own grief. She’s surprised but says yes, she’ll wiggle the woe-bone from my throat, tell me if I have gristled sadness between my teeth.

Crisis

Steph remarked on the schema of plexiglass skyscrapers crouching over a green veneer in the distance on the drive back from the airport, three days early, telling Leon that she had squirreled her cashing winnings in a duffel, which was stolen in the Charles De Gaulle terminal, meaning she was illiquid but could gamble his savings to the gosh darned moon if he’d let her.

Freckled Gal

“Drink the dark or else you’ll forget,” laughs the freckled gal. She flits here, there. The murk obscures her figure, but not her laugh, a raspy cackle like someone being garrotted.

Denver

I loved her name because it made me think of misty haloed mountains. It made me think of snow falling from the sky and turning the earth pure and white.

At the end of a story

I wrote a story of our friendship, but tequila and beer fucked it up in the end. I even reworked the ending to undo the parts about the car’s speed and the curve in the bend of the road, but I couldn’t delete the enormous bruised oak tree on Palmer or your twisted, bloodied body being pulled from the wreck.

After the Death of Sons

In a museum dedicated to man-made landscapes,a virtual elevator lowers one couple through Earth’s calibrated crust, temperature rising from coal mine to gold mine to deepest bore hole, heats verifieduntil they are safely in hell.

Possession

I don’t believe that my husband is dead. The dead cannot walk, but every night he shuffles into our bedroom and lies down next to me, swamping me with his exhale of stale corpse air, breathing with lungs that I know are as black and wrinkled as rotten plums.

A Change of Tune

You hear the strings bend, the hammer downs and pull offs, but not in ways that impress your critical ear. Although such musicianship would have been cause for celebration when you played guitar, it’s now a “pedestrian display, dragging the album throughout a rock ‘n’ roll mire.”

At the Aeroplane Zoo Cafe

There were few safe public places left to meet, but we knew we’d be among strangers at the Aeroplane Zoo Cafe. My heartbeat was heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat as I entered our foreign town. You soon sat at my side, and told me about your new concert. A different...

Holy Mother

Looking back, I could’ve stopped it. When my uncles, my mother’s brothers, the five-headed mass of them, cornered me at her funeral and said, “Irene was a saint,” I could’ve said no, she wasn’t. Could’ve said, you didn’t know her like I did. 

The Ice Sculptor Regrets

One day, the ice sculptor began to melt. As it happened, he came to realize he had a few regrets. He regretted having become an ice sculptor for one thing—there was no stability in it, it had never quite felt like a solid career. His parents had hoped for a more conventional sort of success.

Airing Laundry

Polly was supposed to be an expert, but she couldn’t do it anymore. How does one stay balanced and regulated when the world is overflowing with stupid and greedy and your mom is dying and your child just got called mop-boy at school even though she’s a girl and beautiful to you and you promised yourself you would lose weight but you ate three cookies waiting for the water to heat for your first coffee and your phone therapy clients have problems that make your life sound like a dream?

Tool Box

When the hammer comes down, the constituent parts of a cell phone will go their separate ways. It is just a beautiful dream left unrealized, but when annoyed by the texting driver or oblivious teenager holding up the line, rerunning it can never fail to brighten the day.

The Dog and the Sea

They were there, every other day, at the beach. I used to come every day. To see the wind, hear the air pop like bubble-wrap on the shore. I’d come at night: the wind was wet, free from the tongues of visitors, save me. But I’m more of a resident.

Watermelon Boy

You asked me what would happen if you ate a watermelon seed, and when I said it would grow a plant in your belly, you didn’t hesitate, just popped the seed right into your mouth and swallowed it whole, laughing as it slipped down into warm and wet caverns.

Counting in Three’s

Your mother was fond of saying things don’t always happen, but when they do, they always happen in three’s. So you learned very young to count events, not apples or sticks or stones, on your fingers. When you got to three, you’d start all over again.

Docking the Boat

Pops begged for a cigarette in hospice. So Beth bummed two smokes off a tattooed nurse, lighting one in Pops’ mouth with hers—two cigarettes kissing. They smoked, Pops coughing and rattling. The nurse glared. Pops died.

Phobia

The complex phobias knew they were superior. They conquered adults, not mere children. They were difficult to treat. They fucked up big chunks of people’s lives. Someone with arachnophobia or aerophobia could pretty easily avoid spiders or planes. But try making a decent life with agoraphobia.

Road Trip, 1958

The father doesn’t know where he’s going. He tells the mother to pull the map out of the glove compartment. Two little girls in the back seat. I want ice cream, the smaller one says. She is only three, but already a princess. This is how she will be the rest of her life.

Christmas is Cancelled

My son says Santa isn’t real, but I’m dying tonight. Snarling at sleigh bells, I sink beneath bloody bubbles into a whirl of bathwater. The Jacuzzi swallows me like a sperm whale and spits me out when it realizes what a terrible mother I am.

Melting

The thing about having a child is that you’re always sick. And after a while this perpetual sickness starts to bleed into your actual health, so what started out as daycare residuum (a clogged nose and cough that feel, even without squinting too much, like an...

Among Many Things

I didn’t want to go to the thing but he wanted me to go to the thing. He always wanted me to go to the thing and I never wanted to go. All year long, he thought about the thing and so did I. He thought about liking it and I thought about not liking it. But sometimes he thought about me not liking it and I thought about him liking it.

Roadside

The doe was definitely dead. Of that, Sean could be quite certain in his diagnosis. Her eyes rolled in their sockets, glassy and cold, her neck skewed backward at a disjointed angle, and her tongue hung out her open mouth, resting on the tarmac.

Vestiges

Tara’s superpower was seeing the vestigial parts of her lovers. It started with the virgin sporting shadow wings. After they made love, the wings detached and fluttered about them like moths. The instructor from the spin studio with thighs like Tina Turner wagged his vestigial tail like an eager Golden retriever puppy.

In a Jar by the Door

After the burial, we’re taking what we want from your house. I pause to look around the living room, which smells of perfume and cat urine. The room appears even smaller now, but it’s still the interesting assortment of clutter I recall as a kid.

Fury

Inside a bar off Ditmars, John flirts with a twink who has a nosering. “I didn’t always believe either,” John says, as he lifts his martini. “But after my ex-girlfriend died, I would wake up with scratches all over me…”

Diablo

A situation like this, a loss like this, would be hard on anybody. She finishes her burrito and throws two quarters and a nickel at the toll basket. Anyone would be a mess.

Oilskin

So, he’s finally found a job, and he comes home to me and the baby the first Friday he gets paid wearing this huge shiny hat that he’s tied under his chin in a leather knot that looks tangled and permanent.

Songstress

At the bottom of a starless alley, in the mellow light of a bar lounge perched atop a mahogany stool, there is a songstress sporting a room-temperature smile. Outwardly, there is little evidence of the dark clouds that have been preening themselves for weeks in the...

Dear One

Dear One, My mouth waters at your obsolescence.  As soon as I find you, you’re gone again, these days, like food, or egrets. Thinking of you on this many splendored sieve of the salt flats, as it were. The salt flats being simply flats. Okay flat. One, weathered...

This

I can’t do this anymore, I say, and say, and say. I say it to my soon-to-be ex. I say it to my soon-to-wed son. I say it to the moon. This? the moon says. This, I say. It’s the presumption of something, that there is something, somewhere, anywhere....

Medusa has a Drinking Problem

The room spins. The ceiling falls. The floor criticises my dress sense. I did this to myself, I know that, but it doesn’t undo that last whisky sour. A gentle mist lingers in a city peppered with skyscrapers and too many people, and I stumble into the nearest parked...

Dare

Half past nine at night and I dared to answer the phone. “Hello,” I said. “I’m surprised you picked up,” she said. “You never do.” I didn’t recognize her voice. “Ever wonder what you’re afraid of?” she asked. “I thought I’d call and tell you how I’m doing. You want to...

The Baker

I will measure and swiftly sift. I will do so carefully. While I think of my ricrac past like a hem on a faltering dress. That is still too pretty to let go of. There is no buttery butter so buttery you could melt. Or rabbit sugar flour. No spiked vanilla soliciting a...

Brief Death

After I dropped my kid at school, I made the fifteen-minute drive back to our house. I realized, as I often did, that I couldn’t remember driving any of that stretch. I must have appeared unwell, because my wife suggested we look at the EKG on my watch. “You had no...

Brown

The first time you kissed a boy, you were eight. It was in a dream; a crazy dream. The act: however insignificant and nonsensical, brewed logical questions spilling at the pool of your mind. The questions, what kind of dream is this? What am I slowly turning into? In...

Bullets

Dad fed broken glass to the neighbor’s pet Rottweiler—I think his name was Spot. When I was a kid the dog kept coming over into our yard and tearing up the garden and pissing on the siding and one night eating hamburger meat that my dad had left out by the grill as he...

Maternal

I never felt the urge. Mel said it would hit like a wave. She knew, with three under five, but when it came for me it was quiet. A low thrum, like a weight curled up on my chest. I knew you’d come round. The café was a dingy place. I sat opposite Mel, sipped coffee...

Undying

In a way he lived on—in the chaos, in our groans as we wakened that black night in our dorm. Operatic anguish: clanging cymbals, wailing voice, brassy blats that brought us staggering heavy-limbed up to our feet. Just noise to us: something to kill with a switch. So...

Left Coast

In early November, I quit drinking for the 87th time. What disgusted me was how I kept cracking beer after beer on a Friday night, complaining to the kids about their deadbeat father.

Fuck Me In the Dumpsters

and you know I don’t mean inside the dumpsters because holy fuck how gross would that be but in the cinder block enclosure that hides the dumpsters from the public with its blocks textured on the outside to mimic cut stone

Us

I felt her eyes upon me before I saw her. No more than three feet tall, a blonde ponytail pulled tight from her face, her cheeks wet with tears. The street was still quiet.

A Life Lost

I was twelve years old when my father tried to kill me. We’d all gone on a day trip to the beach. I was sick of my idiot brothers splashing water all over me and throwing sand in my hair, so when Dad suggested the two of us take a walk up the cliff path, I jumped at the chance. It was such a blustery day we had the viewing point at the top all to ourselves. We scanned the horizon for fishing boats and tankers, and spent ages trying to work out if a black dot in the distance was a seal or a buoy. I was mesmerised by a gannet silently gliding past when I felt his hands on my back, pushing me. I screamed at him to stop. This was not the time or the place for Dad’s messing. But he didn’t stop. He kept pushing and pushing until, being no match for a fully grown man, I went hurtling over the edge to certain death.

Grief Trough

I prefer to eat alone, but on a dim and backlit Thursday evening, I call my sister and ask her to witness me chew my own grief. She’s surprised but says yes, she’ll wiggle the woe-bone from my throat, tell me if I have gristled sadness between my teeth.

Patrilineal

Dad got taken by Grandpa again. We were all sitting around the dinner table when his eye did that twitchy thing, his head snapped back, and he screamed, “Timmy!” (That’s Dad’s name.)

Universal Love Story

You are not pretty, and that’s what I love. Jowls like a bulldog’s and white, chalky makeup that collects in the ravines between your nose and cheeks, turning to wet cornstarch when you sweat—and you’re always sweating.

Crisis

Steph remarked on the schema of plexiglass skyscrapers crouching over a green veneer in the distance on the drive back from the airport, three days early, telling Leon that she had squirreled her cashing winnings in a duffel, which was stolen in the Charles De Gaulle terminal, meaning she was illiquid but could gamble his savings to the gosh darned moon if he’d let her.

Freckled Gal

“Drink the dark or else you’ll forget,” laughs the freckled gal. She flits here, there. The murk obscures her figure, but not her laugh, a raspy cackle like someone being garrotted.

Denver

I loved her name because it made me think of misty haloed mountains. It made me think of snow falling from the sky and turning the earth pure and white.

At the end of a story

I wrote a story of our friendship, but tequila and beer fucked it up in the end. I even reworked the ending to undo the parts about the car’s speed and the curve in the bend of the road, but I couldn’t delete the enormous bruised oak tree on Palmer or your twisted, bloodied body being pulled from the wreck.

After the Death of Sons

In a museum dedicated to man-made landscapes,a virtual elevator lowers one couple through Earth’s calibrated crust, temperature rising from coal mine to gold mine to deepest bore hole, heats verifieduntil they are safely in hell.

Nobody Told Me Flowers Scream

A car drives past my bedroom window blasting ‘Return of the Mack’ and I just — feel so jealous. I’m in the dark with my newborn who has finally let sleep win, lives going by outside like carriages on a Ferris wheel, luminous and swinging with adrenaline.

Possession

I don’t believe that my husband is dead. The dead cannot walk, but every night he shuffles into our bedroom and lies down next to me, swamping me with his exhale of stale corpse air, breathing with lungs that I know are as black and wrinkled as rotten plums.

A Change of Tune

You hear the strings bend, the hammer downs and pull offs, but not in ways that impress your critical ear. Although such musicianship would have been cause for celebration when you played guitar, it’s now a “pedestrian display, dragging the album throughout a rock ‘n’ roll mire.”

At the Aeroplane Zoo Cafe

There were few safe public places left to meet, but we knew we’d be among strangers at the Aeroplane Zoo Cafe. My heartbeat was heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat as I entered our foreign town. You soon sat at my side, and told me about your new concert. A different...

Holy Mother

Looking back, I could’ve stopped it. When my uncles, my mother’s brothers, the five-headed mass of them, cornered me at her funeral and said, “Irene was a saint,” I could’ve said no, she wasn’t. Could’ve said, you didn’t know her like I did. 

The Ice Sculptor Regrets

One day, the ice sculptor began to melt. As it happened, he came to realize he had a few regrets. He regretted having become an ice sculptor for one thing—there was no stability in it, it had never quite felt like a solid career. His parents had hoped for a more conventional sort of success.

Airing Laundry

Polly was supposed to be an expert, but she couldn’t do it anymore. How does one stay balanced and regulated when the world is overflowing with stupid and greedy and your mom is dying and your child just got called mop-boy at school even though she’s a girl and beautiful to you and you promised yourself you would lose weight but you ate three cookies waiting for the water to heat for your first coffee and your phone therapy clients have problems that make your life sound like a dream?

Tool Box

When the hammer comes down, the constituent parts of a cell phone will go their separate ways. It is just a beautiful dream left unrealized, but when annoyed by the texting driver or oblivious teenager holding up the line, rerunning it can never fail to brighten the day.

The Dog and the Sea

They were there, every other day, at the beach. I used to come every day. To see the wind, hear the air pop like bubble-wrap on the shore. I’d come at night: the wind was wet, free from the tongues of visitors, save me. But I’m more of a resident.

Watermelon Boy

You asked me what would happen if you ate a watermelon seed, and when I said it would grow a plant in your belly, you didn’t hesitate, just popped the seed right into your mouth and swallowed it whole, laughing as it slipped down into warm and wet caverns.

Counting in Three’s

Your mother was fond of saying things don’t always happen, but when they do, they always happen in three’s. So you learned very young to count events, not apples or sticks or stones, on your fingers. When you got to three, you’d start all over again.

Docking the Boat

Pops begged for a cigarette in hospice. So Beth bummed two smokes off a tattooed nurse, lighting one in Pops’ mouth with hers—two cigarettes kissing. They smoked, Pops coughing and rattling. The nurse glared. Pops died.

Phobia

The complex phobias knew they were superior. They conquered adults, not mere children. They were difficult to treat. They fucked up big chunks of people’s lives. Someone with arachnophobia or aerophobia could pretty easily avoid spiders or planes. But try making a decent life with agoraphobia.

Road Trip, 1958

The father doesn’t know where he’s going. He tells the mother to pull the map out of the glove compartment. Two little girls in the back seat. I want ice cream, the smaller one says. She is only three, but already a princess. This is how she will be the rest of her life.

Christmas is Cancelled

My son says Santa isn’t real, but I’m dying tonight. Snarling at sleigh bells, I sink beneath bloody bubbles into a whirl of bathwater. The Jacuzzi swallows me like a sperm whale and spits me out when it realizes what a terrible mother I am.

Melting

The thing about having a child is that you’re always sick. And after a while this perpetual sickness starts to bleed into your actual health, so what started out as daycare residuum (a clogged nose and cough that feel, even without squinting too much, like an...

Among Many Things

I didn’t want to go to the thing but he wanted me to go to the thing. He always wanted me to go to the thing and I never wanted to go. All year long, he thought about the thing and so did I. He thought about liking it and I thought about not liking it. But sometimes he thought about me not liking it and I thought about him liking it.

Roadside

The doe was definitely dead. Of that, Sean could be quite certain in his diagnosis. Her eyes rolled in their sockets, glassy and cold, her neck skewed backward at a disjointed angle, and her tongue hung out her open mouth, resting on the tarmac.

Vestiges

Tara’s superpower was seeing the vestigial parts of her lovers. It started with the virgin sporting shadow wings. After they made love, the wings detached and fluttered about them like moths. The instructor from the spin studio with thighs like Tina Turner wagged his vestigial tail like an eager Golden retriever puppy.

In a Jar by the Door

After the burial, we’re taking what we want from your house. I pause to look around the living room, which smells of perfume and cat urine. The room appears even smaller now, but it’s still the interesting assortment of clutter I recall as a kid.

Fury

Inside a bar off Ditmars, John flirts with a twink who has a nosering. “I didn’t always believe either,” John says, as he lifts his martini. “But after my ex-girlfriend died, I would wake up with scratches all over me…”

Diablo

A situation like this, a loss like this, would be hard on anybody. She finishes her burrito and throws two quarters and a nickel at the toll basket. Anyone would be a mess.

Where Daughters Lost End Up Sometimes

It’s the parking lot straddling Addison Mall on 3rd, and here’s your standard-issue bag lady with shopping cart in tow who she haunts the lot where she lives off by the entrance where it says stop stenciled on the asphalt and there’s a signpost welcoming customers to the mall

Oilskin

So, he’s finally found a job, and he comes home to me and the baby the first Friday he gets paid wearing this huge shiny hat that he’s tied under his chin in a leather knot that looks tangled and permanent.

Mulch

Mummy likes specific things. Specific things with specific names with the specific intention of making them unique and referable. Not vague, loose.

Songstress

At the bottom of a starless alley, in the mellow light of a bar lounge perched atop a mahogany stool, there is a songstress sporting a room-temperature smile. Outwardly, there is little evidence of the dark clouds that have been preening themselves for weeks in the...

Dear One

Dear One, My mouth waters at your obsolescence.  As soon as I find you, you’re gone again, these days, like food, or egrets. Thinking of you on this many splendored sieve of the salt flats, as it were. The salt flats being simply flats. Okay flat. One, weathered...

This

I can’t do this anymore, I say, and say, and say. I say it to my soon-to-be ex. I say it to my soon-to-wed son. I say it to the moon. This? the moon says. This, I say. It’s the presumption of something, that there is something, somewhere, anywhere....

Medusa has a Drinking Problem

The room spins. The ceiling falls. The floor criticises my dress sense. I did this to myself, I know that, but it doesn’t undo that last whisky sour. A gentle mist lingers in a city peppered with skyscrapers and too many people, and I stumble into the nearest parked...

Dare

Half past nine at night and I dared to answer the phone. “Hello,” I said. “I’m surprised you picked up,” she said. “You never do.” I didn’t recognize her voice. “Ever wonder what you’re afraid of?” she asked. “I thought I’d call and tell you how I’m doing. You want to...

The Baker

I will measure and swiftly sift. I will do so carefully. While I think of my ricrac past like a hem on a faltering dress. That is still too pretty to let go of. There is no buttery butter so buttery you could melt. Or rabbit sugar flour. No spiked vanilla soliciting a...

Brief Death

After I dropped my kid at school, I made the fifteen-minute drive back to our house. I realized, as I often did, that I couldn’t remember driving any of that stretch. I must have appeared unwell, because my wife suggested we look at the EKG on my watch. “You had no...

Brown

The first time you kissed a boy, you were eight. It was in a dream; a crazy dream. The act: however insignificant and nonsensical, brewed logical questions spilling at the pool of your mind. The questions, what kind of dream is this? What am I slowly turning into? In...

Bullets

Dad fed broken glass to the neighbor’s pet Rottweiler—I think his name was Spot. When I was a kid the dog kept coming over into our yard and tearing up the garden and pissing on the siding and one night eating hamburger meat that my dad had left out by the grill as he...

Maternal

I never felt the urge. Mel said it would hit like a wave. She knew, with three under five, but when it came for me it was quiet. A low thrum, like a weight curled up on my chest. I knew you’d come round. The café was a dingy place. I sat opposite Mel, sipped coffee...

Undying

In a way he lived on—in the chaos, in our groans as we wakened that black night in our dorm. Operatic anguish: clanging cymbals, wailing voice, brassy blats that brought us staggering heavy-limbed up to our feet. Just noise to us: something to kill with a switch. So...

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