Follow Me – published by The Manifest-Station

My short story ‘Follow Me’ was just published by The Manifest-Station. I really had fun playing with surreal elements while writing this story, which focuses on a young couple who are haunted by increasingly bizarre episodes of sleepwalking each night.

Click here to read the full story now! Here’s a brief excerpt:

The hot, wet tears falling down her face released the immense pressure that had been building inside her head. She calmed down, pulling herself off the floor to sit on the bed. She stared down at his leg still sticking out and felt a sudden urge to kick him, hard. That small flicker of rage disappeared before it could grow into something dangerous. I love you, she whispered, no matter what you decide. 

Follow this link to read the full story. And let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!

Winking and Blinking – published by Stoneboat Literary Journal

My short story “Winking and Blinking” was just published by Stoneboat Literary Journal (Issue 10.2, Summer 2020). It’s a beautiful journal with lots of great prose, poetry, and visual art. Check out their website for a full list of contributors and information on ordering your copy today! Below is a short excerpt from my story:

The woman I lived next door to as a child just shot herself in the head. The news is passed along like the latest bit of juicy small-town gossip. I imagine my mother telling her friends at the beauty parlor, exaggerating her connection to the tragedy. When I hear the woman’s name, I drop the phone, barely managing to catch it before it hits the floor. I pull it back to my ear, to the sound of my mother rambling on. Typical of these Sunday night calls to check in, she’s already moved on to something else, hitting each bullet point of our mostly one-sided conversation. She likes keeping me updated, but not a lot happens back home, especially in the span of just one week. She keeps talking, but I can’t hear anything after that first piece of information. Something finally happened ..

To read the full story, order your copy today! Please enjoy, and let me know what you think of “Winking and Blinking” in the comments below.

Quarantine and Read: My Review of Samanta Schweblin’s novel ‘Little Eyes’

Samanta Schweblin’s novel Little Eyes might be the perfect book for our new Quarantine Times. Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, the story feels eerily prescient in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It takes place in a not-so-distant future where people connect virtually through a deceptively simple toy-like device known as a kentuki. Many of the users feel isolated in some way, looking to use this new virtual reality as a means of escape from their actual surroundings. If, like me, you’ve been cooped up for months in light of COVID-19, you might find yourself wishing they were real, if for nothing else but a fun distraction.

But, as the novel progresses and the underlying horrors play out, you’ll  be glad this is a work of fiction.

Kentukis are basically stuffed animals that have wheels, allowing them to move around freely; there are various types you can get, like a cute rabbit, a crow, a mole, or a dragon. Inside, there’s a “dweller” who controls the kentuki and sees everything through the animal’s little eyes. If you own a kentuki, you’re known as a “keeper” and typically treat the device as a high-tech pet. Each device has only one life, much like a real pet. It must be charged regularly or the connection is lost. Also, a dweller can disconnect at any time, which leaves the kentuki lifeless, meaning you can’t reboot and try again. Likewise, a keeper can’t disconnect the device and try again if they’re not happy with the dweller for some reason.

Schweblin presents the story through a series of vignettes, each involving different characters from across the globe. Some are dwellers, some are keepers. There are a few characters we return to again and again while others are relegated to only one chapter. The format makes the book highly readable once you get into its flow.

As a dweller, you get to watch someone go about their daily life, often on the opposite side of the world. There are different reasons why some choose to be a dweller as opposed to a keeper, but most jump into the kentuki relationship without thinking about potential consequences – just who is the person behind the little eyes? And how much does the keeper want to know the answer? As with other virtual connections, we often don’t really know what’s on the other end, which adds to the underlying tension through Schweblin’s book.

Some of the kentuki adventures are light and rather harmless – a young boy in Antigua mourning the loss of his mother secretly resides as a dweller inside a dragon much further north; he becomes obsessed with using his dragon to touch snow. An older woman in Peru who misses her son dwells in a cute rabbit kentuki in Germany; she quickly becomes attached to her keeper, but the relationship takes strange turns when the keeper’s lover intrudes.

Perhaps the most interesting keeper/dweller relationship concerns Alina who’s spending time at an artists’ residence in Mexico. Her artist boyfriend is preparing for a show, leaving her alone much of the time. Bored and on a whim, she buys a crow kentuki but remains intent on keeping the relationship as anonymous as possible. She fantasizes about who might be controlling the little crow, but she wants to treat the device as nothing more than a pet. Her behavior towards the kentuki gets stranger and stranger as she feels more and more isolated in the real world. Her story arc carries the novel forward and ends with a disturbing twist.

Little Eyes is perhaps not as creepy as Schweblin’s excellent first novel (to be translated into English) Fever Dream, but it’s just as compelling. I had a hard time putting it down and even had a dream about kentukis one night. I woke up disappointed that they’re not real – but, after shaking off the grogginess, I felt relieved that these strange little creatures don’t exist.

Not yet, anyway.

Can I Take My Pants Off? – published by Ghost City Review

My short story “Can I Take My Pants Off?” was just published in the August 2019 issue of Ghost City Review. Go here to read it now. Below is a brief excerpt:

As I got the news, a wave crashed into the room, filling it with water. I fell under, looking everywhere for the surface but failing to find it. A pair of lips continued moving across from me, but the words floated away. I left like that, still submerged and stunned, my hand gripping papers with more words I couldn’t understand. This drowning would be long and slow. I had to get used to life underwater.

To read the full story, go here.

Ghost City Review is published by Ghost City Press. Check them out! And let me know what you think about my story!

The Sound of Father’s Gun – published by Bookends Review

My short story ‘The Sound of Father’s Gun’ was just published by Bookends Review.  Follow this link to read the full story.  Below is a brief excerpt:

Mother pushes us out the door and across the porch, yelling for us to hurry up, like it’s a race to see who gets there first.  The sound of her keys jingling around worries me, making me wonder what would happen if she dropped them down between the slats of wood beneath our feet.  My sister freezes in place, tears in her eyes even as she tries to hold them back – and I realize she’s holding us back.  Her feet are bare like mine, but I’ve already made it to the car while hers are stuck in place; our black cat walks over and rubs up against her leg, unaware that this is an emergency. 

Keep reading here.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Eggs – published by Gravel Magazine

My short story ‘Eggs’ was published in the April 2019 issue of Gravel Magazine.  Follow this link to read the full story.  Here’s a brief excerpt:

While fighting through the throng of passengers on the train, I started panicking.  The cramps were so bad I feared I’d never make it in time.  Out on the platform, I doubled over, gripping my stomach as I wondered what in the hell I could have eaten that would wreak so much havoc, like my insides were being ripped apart.  No one offered to help or glanced my way at all despite the fact that I was clearly in pain.  Not that I expected them to.  In New York, it’s best not to get involved.  Even making eye contact with a stranger can lead to trouble.  Holding my stomach, I shuffled along, hobbling up the stairs to the sidewalk.  By the time I reached my block, the cramps suddenly stopped.  I wiped the sweat from my brow, relieved I hadn’t had an accident on the street.  Now that would have been embarrassing, though I’m sure my girlfriend would’ve got a kick out of it.  She laughs at all the bad things that happen to me. 

Continue reading here.  Please let me know what you think in the comments below!

One Eye to Heaven – published by Bird’s Thumb

My short story ‘One Eye to Heaven’ was just published by Bird’s Thumb (v.6, issue 1, Feb. 2019).  Click here to read the story in full.  There’s even an audio link so you can listen to me read it with my twangy southern drawl!

Here’s a brief excerpt from the story:

A stray dog wandered into our yard one day, scaring the chickens into a real tizzy. They clucked and squawked like they were under attack. Daddy ran out to the porch to see what the hell was going on, and we followed close behind, my sister and me. We saw the mutt right away, and it was a strange one, though he wasn’t after the chickens at all. He’d pushed his way through an opening in the fence surrounding our empty doghouse, sniffing around like he’d found his home at last. We’d lost our last litter of pups to parvo, and Daddy said the virus lived in the ground there, all around the doghouse. We tossed everything out that could have been contaminated, like the bowls for food and water, a couple of chew toys, and a tattered old blanket. We took our little terrier and moved her to a new home, out near the shed. Daddy was still trying to decide what to do with the old doghouse.

Rubbing his stubbly chin like he often did when thinking something over, he glanced down at us for a moment before returning his gaze to the dog. “Tell you what,” he said, sensing our excitement, “you two get rid of that dog, or I will. Got it?”

“Yeah,” my sister said, clasping her hands together. “We’ll chase it off.”

“You better,” he warned. “You ain’t gonna like it if I have to take care of it.”

Click here to read the full story.  And please let me know what you think in the comments below!

‘Trash Bags’ – published by Cease, Cows

My short story ‘Trash Bags’ was just published by Cease, Cows (November 2018).  Click here to read the full story.  Below is a brief excerpt:

You want to tell the world about trash bags, how it feels to stuff everything you’ll ever need inside one. Mother says there isn’t room for more than one, nor is there time. Two trash bags – one for her, one for you. She tells you to hurry up, and don’t forget your toothbrush. You make sure to grab your favorite shirts, like the one with the Smurf on the front. You shove in a pair of denim pants, a pair of corduroys, and two pairs of shorts, even though it’s still cold out. No matter how far away it feels tonight, summer will eventually arrive, and you have to be ready. You add two sweaters, your pajamas with the race cars down the front, and your favorite He-Man toy, Screech the bird – he has floppy wings, and you love him most because he can fly up, up, and away. If you could be anything other than a boy, you’d be a bird with wings that could take you higher. You’re not sure Mother would approve of the toy since it isn’t a necessity, so you wrap it in a plain white t-shirt, hoping she won’t notice. Underwear and socks are boring, but you stuff those inside too.

To continue reading, click here.  And let me know what you think in the comments below.  Thanks!

Grasshopper – published by Jonathan

My short story “Grasshopper” was published back in 2013 in Jonathan Issue 04: A Journal of Gay Fiction.  Click on the link if you’re interested in ordering a copy from Sibling Rivalry Press.  Here’s an excerpt from the story:

For such a violent act, he did it with the most delicate precision I’d ever seen, snatching a grasshopper up from the ground and flicking it against our electric fence in one swift move, watching its twitchy little legs pop off.  A single line of juiced barbed wire enclosed the pasture, keeping the cows and lone bull safely confined.  “You got your eyes open?” he’d ask, hunching down near the fence, his left hand balanced on one knee as he searched through the grass.  They were everywhere, so it never took him long.  Wade liked performing such tricks, all to the morbid delight of my eleven-year-old eyes.  I wouldn’t touch the alien insects, no matter how many times he tried to show me how to flick them just right.

I wrote this story a number of years ago .. I really like it and hope you do too! Again, if you want to read the full story, the issue it ran in is still available for purchase.  Just follow this link.

A Meditation on Swimwear – Published by Thrice Fiction Magazine

My short story ‘A Meditation on Swimwear’ has been published by Thrice Fiction Magazine (Issue No. 23, August 2018).  Follow this link to access the pdf version of the issue.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Knowing he won’t return for a few hours, I finally let go, abandoning the idea that what I’m about to do is wrong.  Left alone with the clues and artifacts of his life, of his essence, I stop resisting and fling the door open to whatever comes next.  I’ve never allowed such freedom in his presence, which might be half the problem. 

Click here to continue reading. My story begins on page 35.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Enjoy!