There Are Distances Between Us

The interstate highway system in the United States is the largest and most sophisticated in the world. It is named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. There are two points and between them, a distance between you and me. These two points are connected in ways we will never fully understand but they are connected. You are there...

Some Space

1. A month ago I was tying a red polka-dotted, pink ribbon and white satin bow to the trunk of a cherry tree.  The viewing of the cherry blossoms, sakura, was waning, the petals left on the bloom ragged, muscled aside by the surging green leaves, the sublime and melancholy image of a fall in...

Zuill Bailey and a 1693 Matteo Gofriller Cello

Fairbanks, Alaska, September 16, 2010 Prelude: black leather piano bench gleams softly in a single spotlight.  In the background, organ pipes stagger toward heaven. Black shirt, black jacket, black hair—the cellist strides across the stage.  Slight nod and he’s seated, his instrument settled, caressed.  His eyes close as his bow draws out the first notes...

Come Back, Jimmy Dean

At my hometown community theater, there is a staircase that goes nowhere.  Two separate theater boyfriends have promised—threatened?—to have sex with me in that stairwell, and I put both off with excuses: those steps are filthy; we’ll get caught; I’m wearing a skirt; I’m not wearing a skirt. My living boyfriend, as distinct from my...

Our Neighborhood

When we walk our dogs at night we see a blue ten-speed bike locked to a telephone pole in our neighborhood.  In the morning it’s locked to a different pole. The neighbor in the enormous house behind ours is a lawyer named Shambie who rides his European bicycle or gathers pomegranates in his back yard....

If

… the six pathologists at Colorado’s Air Force Academy had voted differently on the diagnosis of the biopsy from your cheek–the same cheek you popped with your thumb before shuffling cards for Gin Rummy, if they had voted four melanoma, two sarcoma instead of the other way around, if they had not voted wrong on...

Dogs in the Dark

I lie in bed, breath suspended. In the darkness, something is moving. It’s not that I don’t know the source of the noise–it’s that I do. My border collie mix is just making his watchdog rounds, checking each room, working the graveyard shift. His job for fifteen years. Only for the last year Cal’s rhythm...

After the Sun Melted

inspired by Aftermath by Elane Johnson After the sun melted on the top hat of the Mad Hatter with Alice, outside the window in Central Park; after your doctor refused to talk to you, when you were behaving crazy, because the tumor had spread to your brain; after the doctor told us there was nothing...

The Role of Fiction in Suicidal Ideations

I get ten new suicidal adolescents a week in my creative writing class at the psych hospital where I work. Their arms are mutilated. Their minds tortured with self-hate. Some are gothic, others only misfits who are picked on at school. They’ve been taken from their homes by DHR, betrayed by drug-addicted parents. It exposes...

The Drowning

In July a boy drowns in the lake. * There is a picture window above our kitchen table and through it a view of the lake.  At noon, when we sit to eat sandwiches, the water is glassy and green, fracturing only when unseen fish rise and retreat.  The sand on the shore is pale. ...

Variations on a Home Depot Paint Sample

Desert Sunrise, 230B-4 To mix Desert Sunrise 230B-4, combine equal parts vodka, orange juice, pineapple juice, and troposphere; add grenadine syrup to taste. Throw in blender with ice cubes and a handful of red dirt. Blend. Next drive westward all night along I-80 until you reach Wyoming, and, when you see in your rearview the...

Cherry Red

John Gravely was our neighborhood house painter. He was never John, or Mr. Gravely. Just John-Gravely.  He was always cheerful and whistled when he worked. Sometimes, while he scraped and painted,  I’d climb the creaky wood stairs to the attic, where my parents kept an old office typewriter on an old metal stand that made...

Things are Meted Out to People and Then They Leave

At fourteen I got my first real job from a woman named Cia.  When she spoke she lisped a little and gutted her words with curses; on breaks she sat outside the kitchen on a milk crate, long legs planted far apart, bright mouth pulling on a cigarette like it was keeping her alive.  Cia...

Mortal Grammar

Lia got sick and then died. She was young. She got liver cancer. She’s gone. So is her black hair and her violin and the car she’d just bought. So are we. We left not long after. Before she knew she came up to the city. She wanted to have supper with us. It was...

All the Forces at Work Here

First thing in the morning Willie Murnion turns his welding rig onto our road and comes raising a rooster tail of dust fast down the gravel and bangs on the screen door with his ham of a fist and announces to my mother that he’ll go ahead and fix the basketball hoop. My mother, in...

Please Do Not Shoot the Pianist

The U-Haul guy asked my brother for a “destination address.” My brother, confused, arched an eyebrow and cocked his head. “You know,” the U-Haul guy said. “Where you’re moving to.” “Oh, I’m not moving anywhere,” my brother said, finally understanding the question. “My ex-wife is.” The U-Haul guy chuckled and nodded like he’d heard that...

First Apartment—Brooklyn, 2002

Loaves rise, engorged as dangerous moons, all through the night. I ring the bakery’s back-door bell, buy Pumpernickel for a dollar. No matter the after-bar hour; the late-night bakers always take our neighborly buck. The dark street’s swollen with the smell of bread—intimate, in-folded—like the small humidity behind an ear, between the toes. I carry...

Dead Babies Photo

Puffy white satin folds and clumps like clouds around the two babies. Lying side-by-side in an open casket, ghost-gowns drape down their tiny bodies. Their heads appear to float. One baby is darker than the other. Both have blackened and hollow eyes like sunken shiners that won’t fade into the purplegreenyellow of the living. Time...