My Bodhisattva

My Bodhisattva

I was doing my daily meditation but also aware I was hungry and craving a hamburger and thinking about getting takeout from the bar down the street with its gruff bartender who always writes up the order, which last time and the time before and, yes, the time before that wasn’t ready by the promised...
The Farmers’ Almanac Best Days for Breeding

The Farmers’ Almanac Best Days for Breeding

The Farmers’ Almanac was not the first book to which we turned—there were stacks, volumes, before it. So many more up-to-date sages willing to show us the best way to make a baby. Best is the wrong word; the most successful way to make a baby. It was only after months of desperation that we...
Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades

Oscar Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray, “It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.” I wanted to be a...
The Cremation

The Cremation

In the cremation chamber, a solid wall blocked us from the furnace. This was new, I heard, as it used to be that the furnace was in plain view. Perhaps the sheer horror of watching a loved one turning into ashes had led to the change. On the wall, a small, low window opened to...
On the Eve of My Mother’s Dying

On the Eve of My Mother’s Dying

What hospice people do is coordinate. They coordinate my mother’s move from the hospital where she was taken unresponsive to the assisted living facility where she remains unresponsive. They coordinate the ambulance personnel who transfer her from the stretcher to the hospital bed whose rental and delivery they have also coordinated. They coordinate the schedule...
If You Find a Mouse on a Glue Trap

If You Find a Mouse on a Glue Trap

If you find a mouse on a glue trap, he’ll eyeball you with one black shiny eye while breathing in and out faster than you have ever seen anything breathe. You will panic, though you know the mouse is panicking harder. When your husband points out that the mouse is not alone in the furnace...
On the Elliptical Machine, You Ask Your Mom How Her Week Went

On the Elliptical Machine, You Ask Your Mom How Her Week Went

She’ll consider it a good week if it ends without any of you getting influenza. It’s so bad, she says to you on the phone, all the schools have closed. Besides the flu, news has spread on the farm that one of your dad’s best employees, Brad (Traci’s husband, Brad—remember Traci? Traci who cleans the...
A Murder of Crows

A Murder of Crows

Once upon a time in a summer camp as far north and left as you might go from here, there was not just one crow, but many. There always had been crows in that place. There was also a hired groundskeeper who watched after the summer camp cabins, repaired sheds and steps, cleared trails in...
Simple

Simple

When I was seventeen, I spent a lot of time in another family’s home. We slept on futon mattresses back then, covered in flannel, with thick dark fabric over the windows. The beige carpet was scorched and melted dark where the frying pan of cigarette butts had tipped over to smolder. That summer, I lived...
Katy Perry Is Crooning and Won’t Stop Just Because I Did

Katy Perry Is Crooning and Won’t Stop Just Because I Did

Because this is a small village and people tell other people’s news, I already know when I walk past your mother’s house, and the garage door is flung open wide as if it got stopped mid-scream, and you are lining up the contents on the lawn (an artificial Christmas tree, boards that once belonged to shelves)...
Our Bodies and Blood

Our Bodies and Blood

There is blood on the pool deck. Coach points and we stare: blood, in the small grooves between tiles; blood, barreling towards the nearest drain like it’s being chased. “Oh no. No, no no. Did someone start—” his voice trails off. “Is someone on their—” We lift our butts and examine the tiles around our...
Sardina and the Dream

Sardina and the Dream

My brother was in a motorcycle accident. I learned about it in a dream. I tried to change it to a car because he’d just learned to drive, and it would have made more sense, but the dream wouldn’t budge. It was so intense that I woke up and went to the kitchen to tell...
Blood and Whiskey

Blood and Whiskey

There’s an old photograph of me and my dad, taken one day during hunting season. Daddy stands tall in the picture, his legs apart, the butt of his shotgun braced between them. The barrel points toward the wintry gray sky. He’s wearing his red-and-black plaid hunting jacket and a hat with furry flaps. His eyes...
Twofold

Twofold

“The world is twofold for man in accordance with his twofold attitude.” — Martin Buber, from I and Thou One thing my grandfather did when he was alive: he wrote commentaries on the Bible. Another thing he did was fall asleep sitting up in a chair. Sometimes these two activities would blur and blend, and,...
Ha Ling

Ha Ling

I live away from him, in Canmore, Alberta, a small town at the base of the towering Canadian Rockies and along the shores of the Bow River. My job is to take tourists on vacation in national parks like Banff and Jasper. I cater to the whims of the wealthy. We bike along the Icefields...
Solving for X

Solving for X

She’s never been good at word problems. She remembers hours of agony at the kitchen table, her father trying to help her wrench the variables of time, speed, and distance into manageable equations. “A freight train left San Diego and traveled east at an average speed of 28 mph. A diesel train left one hour...
Aphorisms for a Lonely Planet

Aphorisms for a Lonely Planet

1 When at home I long to travel, on trips I pine for home. Thank you Lord for these twin dissatisfactions, and this vagabond moon blessing my feet. 2 The couple in the Lima Airport entwined under an orange blanket at 2:00 a.m. She plucks rogue hairs from his eyebrows then snuggles closer, all satisfaction,...
Logophobia

Logophobia

One morning I watched—through our ground-level bedroom window—the steps of his work boots, back not thirty minutes after he had left for a new job in town. Fired. I never knew why, and he claimed not to know. He lumbered around unsettled, rewiring our bedroom or checking mystery switches, wrapped in his tool belt, eyebrows...