Snowbound

Snowbound

1. You are sitting on the couch that doubles as your bed when your mami hands you the envelope marked THIS IS THE BIG ONE. You’re eighteen, and here is the college acceptance letter you’ve been waiting for, the one from your dream school in Chicago. Over 1,300 miles south—to Hialeah, Florida—this letter traveled to...
On Going (Back)

On Going (Back)

Some beer-soaked dance floor in a bar outside Boulder. I’m twenty-eight or twenty-nine, wild inside a pocket of bodies and an I’ve-gone-away mind, lifting a sweaty bottle of two-buck beer above my head like a lantern. He’s watching from the crowd’s edge. Since he moved in months ago, I devise ways to disentangle, disappear. Distance...
Steering into Winter

Steering into Winter

The last day of the year is barren. Trees long stripped, branches stark against the grey sky. The New England forest reveals the cages of its body, limbs tangling together, weighed down by ice and debris. From a distance the forest looks like a hundred men stooped from age and the harshness of living through...
You Know

You Know

K sounds—both evil and good—are crashing into my ears from everywhere. Not only the biggies—kill and kiss—but the lipstick and the triptych and the styptic and the dipstick, the kicking against the pricks, the key-keeper (oh no, not the basement again), the key-card to get in (and the platinum one for getting out), the kerygma...
The Green Sebring

The Green Sebring

said BOMBER on the license plate, after the “Blonde Bombers,” his mom’s friend group in high school. I was relieved to find the car belonged to her and not his stepdad, who had been deployed to a war zone for a long time. His family was new to town, a group of lazy blondes. His...
The Receiver

The Receiver

Four adolescent boys throwing a football around in a front yard on a fall day in Virginia. Playful insults, some bragging, gossip about someone not there, making this other the subject of ridicule, which dislodges and redirects the ridicule away from anyone present. A boy here needs to hit insults like tennis balls flying at...
True North

True North

Looking back for a low point marking the worst of my insobriety, it might be that signal moment I put out my cigarette in the holy water font of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, right in front of the priest, I might add, who was too stunned to reach in and remove the soggy stub, but...
The Wordless Woods

The Wordless Woods

Foraging along the woods’ edge, the doe looks up from the hydrangea she is nibbling and twitches an ear—a salute, I think, stopping the car, though it isn’t a salute. She may be afraid for herself and the fawn with its muzzle in the mast, but shows no fear standing serene at the border of...
WANTED: Biological Father

WANTED: Biological Father

(spare time or full-time)* Single, thirty-something woman seeks biological father. Must be: tall, 6’2’’ or above. A thick head of hair. Funny by accident—a lovable flop. Swedish descent, but English accent preferred. Royal blood a huge plus. Kind and gentle like Bob Ross. Suave, sophisticated, and street smart like Humphrey Bogart. Intellectual in a Carl...
Let the Coconut Be His Head

Let the Coconut Be His Head

Step 1: Go see Martha the psychic because the man you fell for doesn’t return your calls. Papa Legba, a stuffed doll, sits on Martha’s mantel waiting for the gifts of bourbon and cigarettes. You sit across from Martha, in front of Papa, at the little round table in her living room. Scarves drape over...
Study in Self-Defense: Lubbock, Texas

Study in Self-Defense: Lubbock, Texas

When I bought a house after my divorce, nighttime developed a sharp edge. I no longer shared walls with my neighbors, as I had in the high-rise apartment I rented during the years of my separation. Now, if my husband or some other intruder burst through the front door and I screamed for help, who...
The Red Cane

The Red Cane

I’m in a different period now. Different from the time I wore that striped bikini and frequented the hot springs bubbling greenly out of rock just inside Yellowstone Park. I would undress beside the van. In front of God and bighorn sheep, we used to say. Different from the time four girlfriends with their bikes...
Bole So Nihaal

Bole So Nihaal

Allah hu Akbar. Muhammad/God is the greatest.  Bole so nihaal, sat sri akaal. Whoever utters the following, will be blessed with happiness—eternal is the holy lord. Bhakt janon Ke sankat, Pal bhar door karein, Om jai jagdish harey. Glory to the holy lord who removes all obstacles in the path of his devotees.  * My...
Known Killers

Known Killers

1. Our first day in the projects, I witnessed —— beat his woman bloody in the courtyard while several grown men watched from their doorsteps. I grabbed an aluminum bat—Black Magic—from the house, but my mother would not let me swing. We can’t create problems for ourselves, she whispered. I was fourteen. 2. $$$$, whom...
Still Life

Still Life

“Dale,” the restaurant’s hostess calls from her list, and because it’s been five years I don’t look up. My brother’s dead, and no hostess will raise him or call him forth to claim one last omelet. I’d like to see him cross the foyer of rustling people-filled benches though, have him share in this Sunday...
What Happens When You Drown

What Happens When You Drown

A month after your suicide, when I’ve quit fearing a return to routine would mean I never loved you, I restart my daily swims at the university aquatic facility.  The facility has two pools. Fitness, eleven-feet deep, where recent high school swim stars flash down cool-water lanes, chlorine-bleached hair tucked under bright swim caps. Leisure,...
Whenever Men Think I’m Smiling

Whenever Men Think I’m Smiling

I’m on the elevator alone for one floor before the man gets on.  He stands in one corner, staring at his phone. I drink my coffee. At the next floor, two more men get on. They flank me, laughing and talking about some game somewhere. I pull my arms in at my sides, try to...
Two Septembers

Two Septembers

1. Blink We forgot to drop off the gas bill until 4 am, but that was just an excuse. Really, we drove out because we wanted to be in the storm. The usual thunderstorm things happened: rain blowing in on us, which was a refreshment at first, then a call to close the car windows;...