Trees in Winter

Oh, tree, once so full and green with leaves. How small you look now, with a single squirrel dropping acorn shells from your thinnest branch. How he balances on the lightest end, snatches his treat before it falls and flips back to safety nearer to the trunk, where he can rip that spare meat from its shell, and shed the rest to the ground.

Which is bare, too, you know. Bare and crumpled with dry, winter’s leaves that crunched beneath my feet as I came to you in the way of withered and dying things. At the stoplight, I spotted two faded butterfly wings, folded together like an overlarge purse before a polite departure. By the riverbed, which is always more stone than water, a bird nestled down into its coat, puffed itself into a ball and shivered into the wind. Shaking, I set my things down here, where my numb fingers could safely peck at the keyboard, a small defense against the advancing front.

But now I must leave, tree, as the air is cool and growing colder and it is time for me to slip back into a cave of my own. In the spring, we will both have fresh haircuts and emerge youthful and blushing to embrace the season.

Will this same squirrel join us then, or will he have leapt far away from here in his hunt for survival, ending his journey somewhere unknown to you and me? I cannot answer that, tree. But I look forward to seeing you then, and, too, all the furry rascals that call you home when times are good and the weather is fine and we are all so full of life and cheer.


Garbage Cans on the Streets of Suburbia

Huzzah! I’ve got another piece up on Citizen Brooklyn. It’s all about suburbia. Specifically, garbage cans on the streets of suburbia, which is why I decided to title it, Garbage Cans on the Streets of Suburbia. Oh sure, it’s about love and life and children all that good stuff too, but those things don’t make for a good title.

Check ‘er out here. And thanks to Citizen Brooklyn!

The Smell of Drought – Published in Black Heart Magazine!

Our lawn is a jungle. Wild grass blows in the wind, and it’s just as lush and full as the well-watered plants that spring between the sidewalks of Seattle. There are tall stalks of some unknown, prickly weed, around which bees take turns hovering.

The sky is grey and threatening, the weather maps red with tornado warnings.

“Get out your NOAA weather radio,” they’re saying. “Weather approaches.”

There is a dog in the yard across from ours and the wind howls and the dog howls and the dog scratches at the screen door and still the house is dark and still the house is quiet.

This is a very different scene than the one that inspired The Smell of Drought, a short of mine recently published in Black Heart Magazine. Written in the heart of a terrible drought, this piece explores water’s effect on the land, the body, and the spirt.  Check ‘er out here, and then go drink a glass of freaking water.

Glimmertrain! Contest Placement! Hooray!

Yay! Huzzah! Hooray! Flajoygans!

I’m happy to announce that my story, To the Bright Blue Skies and Away, has placed as a top 25 finalist in Glimmertrain’s November Short Story contest. For anyone paying attention to my career (namely, me), this is a story that’s very close to my heart.

So… let us all throw our round noses up to the sky and rejoice, Snoopy style!

Horse, Pride, and Rehydration

The bet was made on a hot summer’s day after a long game of Horse.

“I’m so thirsty,” I said.  “I could drink forever.”

“Oh yeah?” said Devon.  “I bet I’m thirstier!”

And so we raced up the garage stairs to the kitchen sink, and filled the blue chipped glasses right to the top.  Water ran over our wrists and mingled with our sweat.

“On your mark, get set…”

The cold folded around our throats as we began to gulp.  And gulp.  And gulp, eyeing each other over the brim of our glasses.  At first, the water felt cool and refreshing sliding down our throats and into our empty bellies.  Light reflecting through the glass stamped dancing snowflakes across the countertops.  It felt good to be filled again.

Then the frantic shuffle of our Adam’s apples slowed, and the sounds became more labored.  We approached the last centimeter of water, a depth we’d learned could kill you when the wheelchair-bound girl at school had ventured out on her birthday for ten glorious minutes of freedom, tipped into a puddle and drowned before anyone could set her right.  We closed our eyes against the pain, arched our wrists a little higher, then slammed the glasses on the counter and wiped our mouths with the backs of our hands.

“Still thirsty!” I panted.

“Me too!” cried Devon.

The good fight was fought long into the night.

Hot Dog Dogs And Late Night Buses

As the dog grew older, so grew the rot.  He could smell it on her breath, curdling into the lining of her throat.  She shrank into herself, drawing her nose into her drooping chest.  So, too, the length of her body into her master’s legs.  Protection, perhaps, from all those wonderful smells that had so excited her all those years ago.

Too much, too much.  Not so wonderful any longer.

When the bus pulls up to the station, he scoops her into his arms and she doesn’t even protest.  Just submits to the humiliating pull on her bladder, lets the dark spread.  A trail of drops stain the aisle, as if to say, “We two once existed.  Before we disappeared into the night.”

Radiator, O! Radiator!

Radiator, o!  Radiator! When you don’t work, my life is cold. Right from my nose down to my toes. Radiator, o! Radiator! A fair weather friend am I.  For I can’t help but think when I don’t hear your hum, that YOU’RE JUST A GODDAMN FREEZING HUNK OF METAL!

Summer In The City

It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy the occasional bout of small talk–not so long as it adhered to templates sampled from the loudest voice to ripple across this morning’s blogosphere.  No, it was all the things that people could be doing while they small talked.  Mixing that latte, ringing up toiletries, debarking the express, generally: tut-tut-to-ing it; crossing the goddamn street.

This, she knew, meant she was decidedly a city person–not a country girl temporarily swapping tree forests for cultural ones, but a get-outta-my-way-gotta-get-this-next-thing-done-it’s-hot-as-hell-out-here-and-I’m-tired-and-hungry-and-don’t-give-a-crap-what-the-tops-of-the-skyscrapers-look-like-you-goddamn-tourist city person.

Or perhaps, as she’d once guessed, this was simply what it meant to be an adult.

The other day while waiting for the light in a haze of burning diesel, she’d overheard a conversation between a modern intellectual type–the kind with black rimmed glasses he had no physical need for and a voice made of NPR/PRI soporific intonations–and one of those shell shocked hippies who looked like he’d just returned from a forty year acid trip to discover the world had moved on but not much improved itself.

“What about life?” the hippie asked.  “Experience?  Presence?  Moment to moment pleasure?”

The intellectual shrugged, pinched his lips.  “I stopped to smell the roses,” he said, prepared his verdict, tapped his foot.  “Eh.”

Then he sighed, dug for change, made a mental list of phone calls for when he climbed the stairs to his closet-sized loft that lacked real windows yet baked skin like a kiln.

“And how about this weather?”

Then the light changed and they jostled across First, thighs sticky and feverish in the goddamn heat.