”grin & shimmy” // paper darts (print)
People get an ass-backwards impression when I say I’m a backup singer at a karaoke bar in Orlando. What they think: bleak, drab, desperate. What it is: karaoke writ large. It’s a full band with a repertoire hundreds of songs long—White Snake to Whitney Houston, Adele to Aerosmith. It’s a black-painted stage looming above the audience, computer-controlled lighting and fog machines, wall of booming speakers, two floors of table seating with tea candle centerpieces and leather-bound cocktail menus, table service from two bars, but also translucent Solo cups and pleather upholstery, minus the handful of reservation-only booths with their tufted red velvet backrests.
So it’s a simulated spectacle of a place, right outside the gates of Universal, among a towns’ worth of themed bars and restaurants and shops. Every inch oversized and gaudy. So, exactly what you expect from evening entertainment when you’ve hauled your family down to this fantasy land for a week of packaged vacation. Not that I’m against it—I’ve always kind of adored the gimmick of it all, the plastic sheen.
Sadie had written bring a swimsuit for the hot tub! on our invitations, and right then was the time she wanted to get in, so I pulled my one-piece from my backpack, but Sadie said oh no no no, you can borrow a bikini, and she dug through an entire dresser drawer full of them, grabbed a hot pink one and said, you’ll look so cute in this.
I blurted out that my mother won’t let me wear a bikini yet.
Sadie said aw you poor thing, said my mom doesn’t give a shit, said at least you can live it up for one night.
And then we were down on the back deck all dropping our towels to climb into the bleachy bubbling water, me with my body down in Sadie’s bikini.
"all of us animals" // longleaf review
Freshmen get a third-floor lounge across the quad and we paper the walls with torn-out magazine pages. Boys everywhere—acjtors, singers, models—bodies hairless and hips slim, leaned against palm trees.
A thousand gazes follow us always. We think we wish they were real, prowling among us while we swap nail polish and complain about our mothers. While we speculate about which upperclassmen are having sex—with boyfriends, with each other.
nominations: pushcart prize + best small fictions + best of the net
"slather" // cheap pop
Billie bought her first tube of eye cream at twenty-two. Too young? Well, maybe. But when your botoxed,microdermabraded, laser-resurfaced mother slips you that slow scrutinizing look of hers, lets it slide down the length of her poreless nose, tries to squint but can’t and finally says, Ooh honey you might wanna start using a good eye cream—how do you stop the subsequent spiral?
If you’re Billie, you don’t. You ride that spiral right down into the dark, baby girl. You research ingredients and procedures into the night, fingertips pressed to marred face, cellphone screen aglow. That’s what Billie’s done, year after year.
nominations: pushcart prize + best small fictions
"serpentine" // still: the journal
I’m getting worked up again feeling that snaky rustle in my ears that electricity down in the roots of my teeth and the jangling rhythm of my poor old heart so I press my palms together like a prayer braid my fingers press until my arms shake and quiver and Susan’s saying something but I can’t hear her over the roar of that serpent crashing through brown dried leaves and pine straw just writhing around and raring back fangs dripping and finally I hear something over the din and it’s Susan saying Momma Momma shhh and she’s got a hand on my arm not moving just placed there so gentle and I snap out of it and say I’m sorry baby that one came on quick and hard.
nomination: best of the net
"nightmares" // crack the spine
The mares arrive slowly at first, starting with a mother and her wobble-legged filly, both the color of old pennies at the bottom of a purse. Then the scrawny buckskin quarter horse, the limping bay Warmblood, the shaggy white Shetland pony so starved her hide drapes over angular hips like angora on a coat hanger. Next come the matched pairs—two gray Connemara ponies, two hulking Clydesdales, two bird-boned Thoroughbreds so black they’re nearly blue, like a pair of oil slicks sliding down the road. Soon they come in groups of four and five, then in herds, in droves, in hordes. Mares, every last one of them.
anthology: crack the spine xvi
"the garage" // apt magazine
Bunch of boys, bunch of dark-haired boys running around summers shirtless and shoeless on the asphalt driveway hopping on and off bikes and Big Wheels, grey dust pressed always into the swirled prints of their little feet. You can see the color when they run. The mom probably does scrub them down every night but it doesn’t budge, that ground-in asphalt grime. They’ve got a couple of battery Jeeps, the kid kind, but only two and there’s the four boys. So two get to drive, two sit passenger, then passengers get antsy, start trying to hurl themselves head-first out of moving vehicles or stay in and punch their drivers.
"sakura" // north carolina literary review (print)
These days Kuromon market is where I go to retreat. I ride the subway and I step into the light at the Nipponbashi station. I linger at the vegetable stands, my fingertips tracing the contours of white daikon, bright slick eggplants, lumpy kabocha squash with their secret orange insides, brilliant red tomatoes in blue bowls.
honorable mention: 2013 doris betts fiction prize
nomination: pushcart prize