The Average Man

I do not know exactly when it was that I first started thinking about him. But if I had to guess, I’d say it was the day I went for ribs with my sister. As we ripped into the moist flesh with our hands, I remember wondering where the pig I was eating had come […]

Peace Comes at a Cost

“That nurse-girl stole my check blanks.” It’s a conversation starter. I just got here, just sat down in the chair that used to be Grandma’s and we needed a place to start. The nurse comes in on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to check on him and get him to bathe. On Fridays, I show up […]

Sometime Long Ago

Sun-Min, you all right today, my teacher asked. It could have been any morning during that winter that stung like numbness until late April. It was a little before eight in the morning and barely light outside. Thick grey was on the forecast. On days like that you could taste the air. It was soggy […]

Rock of Ages

On the morning of her twenty-eighth birthday, nearly six months after the birth of our daughter, my wife Emily forgot how to talk. It was Live-Through-History Day at Crestview Elementary, an invention of my own, and my class of sixth-graders had risen to the occasion. Around the room were icons in miniature: George Washington, Albert […]

Falling Is Like This

“One minute it was road beneath us, and the next was sky.” —Ani DiFranco   The hotel lobby is square, all elegant chandeliers and dark leather chairs. Jazz standards float above the concierge. Women click by in impossibly tall heels. Elevator bells chime. I lean against a column in the center of the room. Outside, […]

First-Person Shooter

Please God let today be like any other day. That’s what I say every day before I get out of bed. That’s what I’ve been saying every day for the past six years. After I brush my teeth, I start my console, wear the headset, and log in to a multiplayer. When Mom hears my […]

Goat Sucker

It wasn’t fleeing. It was a road trip. It was a chance to bond, an opportunity too rare to pass up, and I was blitzed out of my mind from the possibilities that lay before us: a grown, jobless man and his retired father on the way south in late spring. It seemed good. It […]

Automicide

He’s winding through a residential part of town in his modified, unmarked Crown Victoria. It’s a sunny weekend morning and everybody not actually driving seems to be out in their driveways washing and polishing their cars. He’s responding to a possible automicide out in Carmichael. They wait at Watt and Edison, caught in the web […]

Spiders Are Not People

My long-dead parents’ house is infested with spiders. I’ve spent many sleepless years watching them. They skitter out from under dishes, loose papers, the pillows I kick off the bed in the night. They crouch in corners, tight circles of them, weaving away like old ladies. They swing from the ceiling on shining threads and […]

Too Old for War

Old Makatiku looked wearily upon the young Katanuku. A pillar of youth he was, standing more than two meters in height, with broad shoulders, a head full of shiny black hair, skin that was taunt and clear, and muscles that rippled like the palms in a tree. His shadow stretched out on the African earth […]

A Little Give

Adele buried her nose right below his armpit and inhaled deeply. She never liked someone so much that she wanted to know them by smell, but with James she wanted him in every sense. “Guess what?” he asked her. “What?” “I found a house for us.” As soon as Adele got pregnant, she moved into […]

An Axe to Grind

I held no illusions about my place or function in this world. I relished routine because it was order and order was perfection. Repetition was perfection. Every day I got better and better at what I did. I took comfort in that steady swing—the to and fro in the day-to-day travel from home to the […]

Anchor Bright

If only there were more people, you think. There are plenty of people, actually. But they aren’t here. They’re back on the ground, back on Earth. Back where everything used to be; back in the time before. Back where everything is dead, gone—almost forgotten. This is your new home now, you know. *     […]

A-B-A

Juan Manuel Ortega Alfonso Rodolfo Guererra rolled into town during the driest weeks of August, the dog days, when even children stayed indoors because it was too hot to play outside. He had traveled for weeks across the desert, stopping at whatever villages he encountered, but no place had given him reason to stay…

Legs

The first thing that anyone would notice was the sign. It was supposed to be a tourist trap, but nobody seemed to have put much effort into attracting visitors. The sign was just a rotted out piece of wood lying flat in the grass, a broken off stump planted in the ground next to it. […]

Smith Hill

Gabrielle had never noticed how loud Friday mornings were. Now that she slept on the couch, she felt the trash truck barreling through the walls, destroying her home. Bolting upright, she’d hear men laugh, cans tossed, the truck move on. After a few weeks of fearing she might wake to the front bumper of the […]

The Postcards

On a chilly Saturday morning in October, Donald Shieffer found a mysterious postcard in the mailbox at his townhouse in Cincinnati. It pictured a swan in flight, white wings a blur, taking off from the surface of a gray pond edged with snow. The message read, “Poetry is made in the mouth.” The card had […]

The Recluse

Minny Glorious was well aware that many fervent readers of her client, Billy Benson, would probably apply the term “recluse” to the author’s public persona. While the term wasn’t used explicitly (perhaps out of politeness) in the letter that currently sat on the edge of her dark mahogany desk, she nevertheless read the official fan […]

The Yin-Yang Market

I sip my black coffee, peering up at her. I have offered her a cup of café phin―slow-drip coffee. She palms the cup with both hands. Head lowered. The cup raised to her lips. First sip. Gingerly. Her brow furrowed. It’s so peaceful around here, she says, her partially-tilted face leaning into the morning light […]

Heimlich

The thing about Danny MacIsaac was that he was average. Average weight,  average height, average brown hair. He played hockey and baseball but he was never captain of the team or Most Valuable Player or anything. At school he half-slumped in the middle of the middle row, as if to mirror the position of his […]

Take It From Me, Kid, I’m a Clown

Listen kid, I know it’s your birthday and all, that you only turn ten once, and that this is your special day, but, come on, you’re crying over your balloon animal because you wanted a giraffe and you got an Irish Wolfhound, which you say looks retarded, and that I’m retarded; please, give me some […]

Dunn

I heard the following ghost story one February evening when I was buttonholed in a corner of a tavern where I’m a regular and go to drink and read or take in hockey games I don’t especially like, no matter I was born in this country. The man (his name was Dunn) was imposing, long […]

This Once, My Story

My secret is not for show, not yet, my uterus no more on display than my kidney or my spleen. I am a private person, my feelings hard to plumb, and has Jimmy ever asked? He cares that I’m a pretty thing, that I eat what’s on my plate, that I listen to his crazy […]

Undone

When I grabbed at her hand to keep her from going again, a tiny tip of her pointer finger came off. I clasped it tightly as she ran in velvet high heels down 42nd Street, almost tripping over her hair. It was still warm against my palm…

Art History

When Grandmother Gasse passed, Art got access to the trust account. The very next morning, he quit the radio station by calling his boss and suggesting he shove it. Dropping the phone, he tossed his head back, flung his arms high, and howled. The boy would devote himself to painting, hereafter, as he had dreamt […]

Placement, or The Sound of Caves

The drumbeat of his brain, a cave dweller sonata; birch branches pounded on scorched log; the curvature of myelin sheaths, the upper elevations of intelligence, the emergence of the bipedal stranger in the dark night gazing at the moon like the flat face of the clock that reads 4:07.That has read 4:07 for the past two […]

Me After You

In the interest of being honest, I fucked someone else fifteen minutes before we met.  In the pay toilet at the Peace Park, room for only me, this guy, the squat toilet, the sign that said Gyōgi yoku shi nasai – Mind your manners.  He laughed at some half-formed joke I made and turned me […]

The Cat Psychic

I’d never seen a cat in a cardigan before. I liked the alliteration of it, though. It made some sort of sense that a cat would wear something buttoned rather than, say, a turtleneck. Plus, the soft turquoise really did accent the orange striped fur nicely, and I’m normally not one for mixing cool and […]

Palsied

When she was born they cried, and they all knew they would. She came out crying too. This was normal enough; there was a baby in a hospital crying. She cried and looked skyward. Her mother, that is. Linda. A neck falls limp on its spine. She cried and didn’t know what it all meant. […]

What Happens When Something Happens

Grandpa started having headaches the summer the tree fell on our house. Missy likes to joke that it was the tree that caused the headaches: that it somehow knocked loose something in his mind. I think part of her believes it. She certainly believed it back then. He came to live with us when Grandma […]