This is what Hell is like, my father warns, stirring the embers inside our wood stove. Lined up like dolls before him, my two older sisters and I wait for whatever comes next, afraid to take our eyes from the fire. The rising heat stings my baby-soft skin. I am still a baby, basically; small and wobbly on my feet, my hair is wispy and blonde, my cheeks are round and chubby, my world is the little red house we call home. Somehow, I grow up after all of this, tall and thin just like him. The son he always wanted, or so he thought.
I never believed in miracles until I witnessed one in the summer of 1989. Back then, my granny was always going on about how the end times were upon us while my mother said we should focus on the miracles that were all around. They both claimed I’d see the truth for myself if I bothered paying attention. I didn’t believe either one of them, really. But then I met the boy.
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Follow this link to open the pdf of the issue now. You’ll have to scroll through to find my story. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Last night, as my mother and I cleaned the dishes at the kitchen sink, my father paced back and forth behind us, biding his time. Each time one of his boots hit the floor in the living room, the sound vibrated across the house, warning us.
My short story “The Waiting Fire” is now available to read online. It was published in the 2019 edition of Slippery Elm – they’ve added the entire issue to their web archive. Follow this link to read the story now! Below is a brief excerpt:
This can’t be happening. I feel the colors draining from my body, leaving nothing behind but an outline of what might have been. I can’t feel my heart, I can’t find my next breath. I’m lost in a world burning bright. All I can see are the flames eating my house.
To read the entire story, click on this link now. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
My short story ‘Flecks of Red Paint’ was just published in The Lumiere Review‘s special Advocacy issue. In the story, a young boy fantasizes about how he might kill his father. It’s unclear just how serious he is until the end.
Follow this link to read the story now. Here’s a brief excerpt:
With my right hand, I scratch along the side of the house, scraping away tiny red flecks of paint, some of which get stuck beneath my fingernails. The further I drag my hand, the more it hurts. I stare down at my stained fingertips, thinking back to that day I helped my father paint the house. Even then, I was tempted to shake things up. What if I didn’t hold the ladder so tightly? What if I shook it, making him fall?
To read the full story, click here. And make sure to tell me what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!
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!
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.
My short story “City Filled with Expectant Mothers” was published in the “Crowds” edition of In Parentheses Magazine (v. 5, issue 4, Spring 2020). You can purchase the magazine here (digital download, print copy, or both). Below is an excerpt from my story:
They’re everywhere, they’re all I see, and no matter how far I run I know I’ll never escape. What started on the train continued in the grocery store and followed me on my run along Riverside Drive. This city, suddenly filled with expectant mothers. They’ve sprung up like weeds, their stomachs so swollen I wonder how they keep from falling over.
Purchase the latest issue of In Parentheses here to read the full story. It’s a great magazine filled with poetry, prose, and photography!
Make sure to check out In Parentheses, based here in New York.
I live in the East Village, New York, and, like most of the country, we’re currently on lock down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m sharing some entertainment recommendations for everyone who’s stuck inside like me. Let me know what you think and feel free to offer your own suggestions in the comments below – and please stay safe and healthy!
Tiger King – I can’t enthusiastically recommend this Netflix Quarantine-and-Chill docuseries hit, mostly because it’s more trash TV than thoughtful documentary. If you’re a fan of that genre (think The Bachelor, The Real Housewives of whatever city, or that Kardashian nonsense), then there’s plenty to like about Tiger King. You have a group of larger than life characters – namely, Joe Exotic – doing awful, no-good, terrible things. There’s murder-for-hire, polygamy-a-plenty, toothless husbands who do interviews shirtless for some reason, a zoo worker missing a hand after a run-in with one of the animals, and another staffer who lost his legs but not because of the animals! Tiger King has it all!
Since pretty much everyone has already binged this series, I don’t need to explain much about the plot. I will say that no one featured comes out looking good. No one.
The main storyline centers around Joe Exotic’s ongoing war with Carol Baskin. He runs a sketchy roadside zoo filled with tigers and other exotic animals; she owns a Big Cat sanctuary trying to shut down folks like Joe Exotic. Some might argue that Baskin is unfairly villainized by the series, which I don’t necessarily disagree with; that being said, the woman seems kooky, based on her own words and actions. I mean, that whole story about how she met her second husband while wandering the streets and only got into his truck once he offered to let her hold a gun on him – that’s just whacky. The mysterious disappearance of that same husband is explored in one episode. I have no idea if she had anything to do with it, but Joe Exotic gleefully accuses her of killing her husband and feeding him to the tigers. He even “sings” a song about it and films a video with a Baskin lookalike.
Some takeaways: I wish the animal abuse didn’t feel like such an afterthought. It would have been nice if the filmmakers did more to explain the laws that allow people like Joe Exotic, Jeff Lowe, and Doc Antle to run sketchy-as-Hell zoos in the first place. Also, am I the only one who never really caught on to what Carol Baskin’s missing husband did for a living? He was a millionaire, but they never really explain how he became one – was it real estate investments? That’s a problem that plagues the series throughout – the filmmakers spend so much time on crazy shenanigans when they could have been offering more thoughtful context.
Anyway, if you come away thinking Joe Exotic is a hero, think again. He’s clearly not.
Other shows to binge (also available on Netflix):
Dark – In this dark sci-fi thriller from Germany, kids start disappearing, but that’s just the start of the strange events in the small town of Winden. There’s time travel, multiple timelines that show characters at different ages, and so many twists and turns it’s hard to keep everything straight. I’m still not sure I totally get what’s going on, but it’s a fun ride.
Billy on the Street – I love watching this because there’s something nostalgic and comforting about watching Billy Eichner yell at strangers in New York before the age of social distancing.
With the Beatles by Haruki Murakami.
If you’re like me and can’t wait for the next Murakami book, check out this short story recently published in the New Yorker (February 2020). It’s a nostalgic, bittersweet tale with all the typical Murakami magic: mysterious things happen in the midst of the mundane, and things are never as they seem.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Originally published in 1962, this novel holds up well and is especially fitting for these crazy Quarantine times. It’s a dark, claustrophobic story about two sisters: Merricat, the mysterious narrator, and Constance, the elder of the two who hasn’t left their large estate in years. They live in a grand house set apart from the nearby village. About six years earlier, the rest of the family – excluding their Uncle Julian – died after being poisoned by arsenic. Since Constance prepared the meal, the townspeople blame her for the poisoning and think she got away with murder. As a result, they shun what’s left of the family.
Merricat, Constance, and Uncle Julian lead a quiet, quaint life together, largely cut off from the rest of the world. When cousin Charles enters the scene, everything quickly changes. A fire in the house leads to a dramatic confrontation with the villagers. Much of the house is destroyed, but the sisters remain.
What’s most memorable about the novel is the voice of young Merricat, the narrator. She’s a complicated character you won’t soon forget. This book is Shirley Jackson at her magical best.
More Books for the Apocalypse:
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami Actually, anything by Murakami is a safe bet. How about a big giant book like 1Q84? It’s fantastic too! You have the time, so why not tackle it now!
The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories
Get lost in another culture during your downtime. This collection lead me to so many other Japanese writers to explore.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
This very short book left me breathless. It’s one of the few times I’ve had a hard time setting a novel aside, which worked out fine since it’s such a quick read. I hear it’s getting adapted into a movie by Netflix, so make sure to read the book first.
I don’t listen to a lot of “new” music, though I love Tyler, the Creator’s Igor album, which came out last year. Key tracks: New Magic Wand, A Boy is a Gun, and Earfquake. I loved Igor so much I’ve really dived into the rest of his catalogue. Check out his performance at the 2020 Grammys below:
I haven’t been watching many movies during the NYC Lock Down. I saw Little Joe, a weird film about a scientist breeding a new species of plant that makes its owner happy, sort of like an antidepressant .. but is the plant dangerously infecting those who come into contact with its pollen? In ways, this was like a more subdued version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Here are some other movies coming up in my queue: Carnival of Souls, The Ice Storm (I haven’t seen this in years and look forward to re-watching it), Jojo Rabbit, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. What are you watching next?
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.
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Ghost City Review is published by Ghost City Press. Check them out! And let me know what you think about my story!