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seabed

global warming, incandescent, swallows oceans,
punishes innocents
blind-swimming in double-cupped handfuls.
salt scales crust earth
newly raw to light and sting in the open air.
seas, evaporated,
residual scarring:
the junction of thirst and bloat
puckering gravel beds to
suppurated seams, strained stitches, ruptured weaves.
net the shallows, haul up, and count.
there’s a bulge of bodies to triumph at,
never mind how cursory the trawl, how still they lie.
never mind how deliquesced the skin over meat still aquiver with pulse.

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fallout of u

ash in the willows:
warm grey snow, burnt dark on flesh–
cancer on the wind

the wolf in red

I know I’m in for it the moment Red takes the stand. Gone are the low-cut red dresses she wear all the time (red, because she read psychology articles about how red is the color of passion and she wants men to notice her). She wears a demure cream gown that matches the meek, shy expression plastered on her face. She’s always been something of a babyface, and isn’t she just milking it now. Never mind the thousand and one pictures of her on Facebook that are just the opposite. Three bets which photo they’ll use for all the articles next morning.

She takes the stand, and she destroys me. Under the prosecutor’s inquiries, she says yes, she knew me. We had been friends since elementary school. Yes, she had been on her way to visit her grandmother at the Serene Woods Retirement Home. No, she hadn’t been scared to encounter me alone in the woods–why would she? We were friends. No, she hadn’t said yes.

The eyes of the jury chew me to bits.

I wish her grandmother were here. Her grandmother always liked me, said she wished I were her grandson. But her grandmother’s mind slipped years ago. She can’t even remember who the president is, much less me. Much less the last time her own granddaughter visited–a fact that Red’s been exploiting for years to slip out and run with her boyfriends.

The jury doesn’t take thirty minutes. When they hand down their sentence, she beams, tears welling in her eyes. She never once looks my way.
…..

So here I am now, sitting in the cement square that my world has been shrunk down to. I can sit, lay down, and walk. I can do push-ups, jump, and touch my toes.

I can’t run. I can never run, anywhere again.
…..

The other day I got a note from her. Unsigned, unstamped. It could have come from anyone. Seven little words, seared into my brain with the acid and venom that can be no one but Red.

That’s what you get for saying no.

It’s enough to make me howl with laughter. Her poor boyfriend, whoever he is now. She’ll eat him alive with her sweet, little-girl smile, her sleek red dresses, and her lies. Oh, the lies. What big lies you tell, Red.

haunted house

“It’s an ideal property,” Maxwell said over his shoulder as they proceeded down the hallway. “It belonged to my great-great-great-great-grandfather, God rest his soul, and you can see it’s been kept in top condition all this time. The floors and the banisters are all the original teak hardwood. Those chandeliers you see there are the original crystals.”

“What’s the neighborhood like?” the Morgaunte sister asked.

“Easygoing, friendly-like. There’s a cemetery down the end of the street that’s got some Civil War soldiers buried there. They tell the most fascinatin’ tales.”

The tour concluded in the sunroom, which had always been Maxwell’s favorite. Certaintly the Morgauntes, brother and sister, seemed to like it. The sister turned a slow circle, taking in the smoked glass that softened the room’s sunrise orientation. She pursed her lips. “Such a beautiful place…”

“It certainly is.”

“…so I have to ask. Why are you giving up residence?”

Ah. He’d been wondering when they’d get around to asking. “Part wanderlust, I suppose. I’ve been here for near a hundred and fifty years. Truth be told though, the main reason is the new owners. Not that there’s anythin’ wrong with them like that,” he added hastily, seeing the sister’s expression. “It’s just, the fellow that lived here before, he was a bachelor with no family. I got used to a quiet way of life. Then he passed on, and who should move in but a family with children. And not just any children–”

As if summoned, a toddler waddled into the sunroom and stopped dead. His mouth dropped open. “Ghost!” he screamed in delight, poking a sticky finger through Maxwell’s midriff. It felt like being doused in warm water. “Ghostses!” he screamed, catching sight of the Morgauntes. He continued screaming and jabbing Maxwell until his mother appeared and snatched him up. She didn’t so much as glance in their direction. The toddler’s screams bounced off the polished original teak long after he was out of sight.

The Morgauntes stared at the sunroom doorway, astonished. Maxwell rubbed his midriff. “A psychic child,” he finished, grimacing.

dead nights, up waiting

Your gifts for our marriage bed are
long-winding sheets woven from discourse,
words spun out into thread and spindled into sentences,
into whole mythologies of late-night deadlines
and beer out with the boys,
dyed for authenticity with under-eye bags and sleep-drugged slurring.
A flawless fabric, smooth as Egyptian cotton,
satiny on bare, cold, unfeeling skin.

long hunger fed

Grandmother warned me to never sell the horseshoe, it was cold iron and would ward me from evil, but starvation isn’t evil and it’ll kill you all the same. When the peddler offered two loaves of bread for it, I didn’t hesitate. I slept that night on a full stomach.

The scratching at my window woke me at three a.m. Something outside tittered with malicious laughter. I pulled my blankets over my head, but the scratching continued, a relentless scritch, scritch, scritch until I thought I was going mad.

The scratching stopped.

In the breath of silence that followed, there came a sound that made the fresh bread calcify in my stomach: the soft, sure sound of a latch being undone from the outside.

clarion west week 5-ish (and 6) report

Due to some miscalculation on my part, I ended up starting my write-a-thon midway through the week instead of the start. So of course I did the most sensible thing possible, and crammed the last two weeks into one and a half.

Short story: “The Rest of Lias Igdo”

Word count: 2,789

Status: Incomplete

The good: Some actual story continuity between this one and the previous! I’m so excited.

The bad: Oops, I’m sorry I accidentally betrayed you, no hard feelings, right? (Wrong.)

The resigned: This wasn’t so much of “one story” as it was “three different possible starts for a story.” I have a definite favorite, so all that’s next is to develop that one.

Excerpt:

The whiskey was raw with imperfections, strong enough to knock down a horse, the sort of thing I’d stomached when I was younger, loving it for the mere fact that it would get me drunk. It had been Lias who’d taught me how to appreciate liquor for the taste, not just the strength. We’d spent hours in small-town pubs, shot glasses lined up in an endless row like soldiers marching into the pit of battle, him never speaking, never lecturing, just setting drink after drink in front of me until the harshness mellowed and sweeter notes began to surface, all on their own.

He’d been mentor, teacher, father. He’d taught me how to read the weather and track the stars, how to skin forest pigs and burn ichormoss at night to keep wildlife at bay, all in the same way as he’d taught me to drink whiskey: no words, no soapboxes, just me figuring things out for myself and him keeping a watchful eye on me.

_____

Three and a half short stories in six weeks. Not bad, not bad at all. I didn’t make my goal of six short story drafts, but it was always an Improbably Yet Totally Necessarily Improbable Goal anyways.

Right now I’m just breathing a sigh of relief that I powered through the whole thing. And it’s actually sparked a whole host of other ideas that I’m itching to dive into. Let the good times roll.