Mother died today. Slaughtered like memory. Buried cells past. Eyes a tragedy. Unhinge her skull. Imagine her alive. Shattered window shards. Quaff, questioned, qualm. Private hospital rooms. Electric shock therapy. Dad signed papers. Dry, muted tongues. Jeerful, hideous husband. Sex addict status. Xenophobic Irish neighborhood. Catholic sheep sheared. Six total births. One child stillborn.


Mom’s beige sister. Four total births. Lunacy of intrusion. Convulsed, mad chaos. Too much noise. Fragments scattered her. Diffused outside terror. Unkempt choral clocks. Half-baked skies. Nights groped yesterdays. Hands circuited rooms. She was seven. The uncle babysat. Her breath impotent. Uncle groaned thunder. Bleary, overgrown carpet. Mom was nine. That year hissed.


Depression transfixed gestures. Grizzled efforts dissolved. Faces never migrated. Nothing rediscovered dawn. The sisters dissolved. Mom: cancer castaway. Aunt: slit throat. Fetid photograph albums.


Kids rotted indifference. They became addicts. They became thieves. They became Jesuits. Dads’ fluttered on. Found vigorous wives. Sparkling, white wine. Yoga begot scourge. They detested offspring. Cleaned, cleaned, disinfected. Screamed, yelled, eradicated. “Fucking get out.”


Kids ambushed exits. They got out.


  1. Nancy Bauer-King

    Oh My. What stories are summarized with these great short short word clumps. Word choice so creative. Excellent rhythm (I read aloud). Though this writing describes tragic lives, I wonder why I find myself grinning. Love the alliterative “qs” (quaff, questioned, qualm) And, I’m glad the kids ambushed the exits and got out!

  2. Todd Clay Stuart

    Meg, this is like a hundred fast jabs to the face, leaving the reader bloodied and dazed. I expected nothing less from you. 😉

  3. sara lippmann

    HOLY HELL, Meg. I love how you took the first line of Camus and made it 1000000% Tuite. This is so signature, rife with rage and horror and trauma and depth and exploding with unforgettable imagery. And I love how the three word exercise dialed the urgency of your word choice/imagery/and verbs.Those verbs! Your language choices are something to study.

    I love how you mix up abstract language with concrete. And the sheer terror of this sequence: “She was seven. The uncle babysat. Her breath impotent. Uncle groaned thunder.”

    And how: “Aunt: slit throat” gives the big f-u to Hemingway’s “baby shoes”

    The haunting subtraction of births. Mother, sister. And how those “births” morph into “kids” by the end… and then, their gutting trajectory:

    And the careful employment of repetition: “Kids rotted indifference. They became addicts. They became thieves. They became Jesuits. Dads fluttered on. Found vigorous wives.”

    Forceful, linguistic pyrotechnics on full display. Pop and explode. I’m obsessed with your title. Brilliant.

  4. Randal Houle


    Any of these three-word sentences could themselves embody an entire narrative. This piece really took me in a lot of places in a short space and as I reread it, I see other things that I didn’t notice before. I dare say (as usual) but I don’t want to give the impression that I take your work for granted, by hey, this is so fine. Cheers!

    PS- When “Mom: cancer castaway. Aunt: slit throat” here again another rabbit trail that could take the reader in another direction… I would say more, but I just will let it be. 🙂

  5. Jenn Rossmann

    I was gunshy about the three word sentence prompt, fearing it would get repetitive — man oh man, you proved me wrong. (Though I am still gunshy, because no way could I pull something this amazing off.) Meg, this is phenomenal. The seemingly endless variety you find in this constraint! There are just enough flights of imagistic poetry mixed in with these deadpan concrete sentences — the balance is just right.

  6. Nancy Stohlman

    Love your ending here! I used the same prompt and struggled with how to escalate tension and how to end. I thought you did a great job of both these here–letting the text get more strange once the initial rhythm was established and feeling a sense of completion by the end. Beautiful xo

  7. Jonathan Cardew

    Beautiful alliterative piece, Meg! I just love all the alliteration! This especially: “Quaff, questioned, qualm.” Nice one to say out loud! And then the ending, my GOD…it’s fantastic, “They became Jesuits.”–I laughed hard at that.

    This is perfect, imho! The only thing: I’m not sure I like the title. I think this story deserves a more powerful phrase as the title.

    Great stuff,

  8. April Bradley

    This is brilliant, and I want to hear you read it. I hear you in my head, hear this, the crescendo of the last sentence ring. Meg, it’s amazing. My voice stopped in my throat on this exercise, and yours hollered. I love it.

  9. Kristen Ploetz

    I LOVE what you did with this. You had me early (a bone/skeleton lover) at this: “Unhinge her skull.” But then in close proximity the “Q” words…wow that works. How often do we see such alliteration with Q?! There is such a visceral feeling to the entire piece, how it evokes the body in all its guts and glory, literally. How it can be violated, how it can be malleable and grotesque. Every single word of this BEGS to be read aloud. You are a master with the use of language in this one. And then, near the end, the arc of this rounds the whole piece out so perfectly: “They became addicts. They became thieves. They became Jesuits.” That’s a whole story right there in just nine words. Love this a lot.

  10. David O'Connor

    So good Meg—this: Xenophobic Irish neighborhood. Catholic sheep sheared. Six total births–is a whole novel, perhaps a biography. Love how this story loops, almost like music, little leitmotifs circle just out of reach like refrains. I bet Camus would applaud. I am.

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