I’m finished!

2015-08-31 13.06.08

It took me nearly a year and a half to do it, but I’ve finally finished the first draft of my novel Here’s Waldo! The rewriting might end up taking just as long as the writing itself, but I don’t care. I’m happy.

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My first story in print!

So freaking grateful/happy/excited to see my work in Thrice Fiction’s August issue. I’ve never had one of my stories paired with an artist’s original work before, or seen something I’ve written in print, so I still feel like this is an elaborate Inception dream. But if you’re willing to bet the top will drop, you can dl a nifty-looking pdf here. Or, if you feel like supporting indie literature and reading a fancypants print issue, you can also purchase that here.

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Pictured here: fancypants print issue.

Thanks so much for all your support, peeps!

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With No Hands

Mile 5: It’s Chicago hot outside. “Chicago” is an adjective that trumps ones like “very” or “extremely.” You ride the trail with Phil anyway because he’s leaving for basic tomorrow and Mom says you have to. Little rivers of sweat flow out to sea from the banks of your stubbly armpits. Stubbly because when Phil showed you how to shave, you took it you were supposed to shave there too.

Mile 10: You fish sweaty directions out of your pocket, unfold them like they point the way to treasure. You were out of printer paper, so it’s a palimpsest of CCD homework. On Jesus’ face it says, “Turn left.” Phil says a man shouldn’t need directions. A man should just know. You do mutter something under your breath, but you swear you didn’t because that’s an offense punishable by gutpunch. When you pass through swarms of flies Phil calls them clouds of flysex. You make a show of taking your Jesus directions out when Phil’s inner compass fails him.

Mile 15: The second shirt you sweat through is the one the recruiter gave Phil. Your lopsided perspiration turns ARMY into MY. Phil’s the type who needs a break forced on him against his will. You pull out a deformed juice box from the mini cooler that Dad smoked a month for. You ask Phil what did he want. You say it like that too, in the past tense, like he’s already gone. You pack away the cooler before he can answer, pop your kickstand and ride so fast the gravel dust kicks up in his face behind you.

Mile 20: The empty cicada skin in your hand glows like honey in the high sun, over Phil’s head as he “drains his lizard” and turns gray gravel black. Even at thirteen you consider the phrase crude. The cicada’s empty alien claws latch onto Phil’s shirt the way they would the bark of a tree. When Phil whips around, he’s still going. Some of it splashes onto your ankles. You find this is an offense punishable by eyepunch.

Mile 25: Your eye’s already starting to swell. Your failing depth perception tries telling you that faraway Phil is actually close-up, tiny Phil. He hits the last mile marker and stops, turns around, heads home. He grows in size right before your eyes the way the jingle insisted the little foam dinosaurs will when you “just add water.” You ask Phil if he remembers the little foam dinosaurs and he acts like the wind’s drowned out your voice.

Mile 30: Your chain comes off and your shoelace tangles in it and Phil cuts you out with the pocket knife he let you use that one time and you ask about the school Mom wants you to go to: Our Lady of Something. If Phil didn’t go there, why do you have to? Phil pulls out the one hitter he let you see that one time. You can take a hit if you’re not a little bitch about it. Phil holds a can of Coke to your eye after you’re through and you watch the way the cursive swirls away from you and into Phil’s face, the space behind it.

Mile 35: You tape Pokémon cards to your spokes to try for something like a Harley, but you only have a couple, so it sounds like leftover fireworks a week after the Fourth. Phil empties his wallet out. Together you tape on old gift cards, IDs both fake and not, legal tender. The sound effect is glorious until the tape fails and leaves a trail of identification behind you. You try to stop for it but Phil won’t let you. Try to protest but Phil says leave it. Just leave it all.

Mile 40: When you get there, always keep your uniform neat. Always be thinking of ways to be more presentable. To look better. And don’t mouth off. If some kid starts shit, that’s another thing. You hit him so no teachers see but all the other kids do. It’s kind of like prison that way. Don’t try to act smarter than everyone else. Get out of the house sometimes. Playing games all the time is just jerking off. If Dad starts drinking too much, don’t hide his shoes like I did. Let him go. (You mime like you’re taking notes.) And stop doing shit like that.

Mile 45: The gravel turns to paved and lined mini-road in the rich areas before going back to gravel again in your neighborhood. When the tires make the transition it’s like you’re flying. The handlebars wobble at first when you let go, but they steady out. They calm down. Phil laughs at you, but you peer pressure him into letting go too. You ask him if he’s ever done this before. He does it all the time. He did it when you were still in diapers. You feel like you could ride this way forever, with no hands. Phil’s front tire thrashes like a frightened horse. He gives in, grabs the handlebars. But he’s not scared. He just doesn’t want to show off.

Mile 50: When you ride back in it’s past pepto pink Chicago sky and closer to the way the world fades out right before sleep takes you. Where you’ve gone to there’s the tide melting into sand, marking its height against it like a kid on a wall, but horizontally. The kickstands don’t hold up on the beach, so you let your bikes fall. It’s late in the season with a kind of a chill, so no one else is out. This beach is your domain. The two of you own it. There’s a lighthouse so distant it could be shining from another state, way out there. You and Phil watch the way the fog takes the light and pours it over all the water. You let the sand erase your feet on the shore.

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Spirals

I sat on the stairs while my father pinned my mother’s wrists to the bed to stop her from slapping him. He had a store-bought card for some anniversary that he “had had all along,” but she wasn’t buying it. I remember there was a dartboard he got because he smoked a certain number of cigarettes. In the aquarium downstairs there was a fish called the ghost fish. It had a single fin under its body that undulated and propelled it where it needed to go. It spent most of its time hiding in the hollowed-out half coconut my dad sunk. Underneath the tank there was a flashlight Drew left so I could look at the snails whenever I wanted to, not just when they accidentally got sucked up whenever Dad cleaned the tank. The snails were tiny and numerous, dotting the glass under the aquarium’s rock bedding like chickenpox. We never bought them; they must have hitched a ride somewhere, somehow. Each of them so tiny, but they had these shells that fractaled into multicolored singularities, and the light of the flashlight glinted off where the spirals ended so you could never be sure just how far they went.

On the TV there was a story about Steve Fossett sailing away in a balloon, and I remember considering how unfair it was that these snails were born as snails, unable to float over drifting cumulonimbus, to see the way the clouds absorb the sun and turn it into something it’s not. There was an empty twenty-four pack of MGD in the kitchen, empties either crushed to wafers or waiting for me to kick them. My father spaced them out: one for each hour, if an hour was ten minutes.

One of the things to do was play N64 with Drew, to turn up the volume till the yelling went away. Drew wagered it’d take till 26. I said at least 32. The background music of Doom 64 at 36 was enough to erase the fight. I asked Drew what I won and he insisted it was just a friendly wager. Nothing at stake.

The numbers I was supposed to dial if Mom really started screaming were 9-1-1, but if I wanted information it’d be 4-1-1. So would I call 411 to find out if aliens are real? It doesn’t work like that, Drew said. What if I wanted to learn Spanish? 411? Nope, again, that’s not how it works. So I’d call them whenever Dad leaves and we don’t know where he’s gone to, when he’s coming back? But Drew didn’t answer that one.

The thing was that Dad wouldn’t leave without his shoes, so Drew would stuff them in the fridge, next to the government cheese. The government cheese was pale and flaky but the shoes were not. The shoes were holy and worn.

Dad swayed in the light coming through the window, where there were tiny planets of dust orbiting some force we could not see. Dad was smoking for a tent. The month before he was smoking for a cooler. Month before that it was for a collector’s mug. Nowadays he’s smoking for a polyp, but these were simpler times.

The people on the TV were arguing over whether Steve would be found this time, as he was lost. I thought of how he could be lost to himself but not us, and vice versa.

Dad found the shoes next to the government cheese, and there were a few people crying. One of those people was Drew, and we had an unspoken pact that if he cried, I cried.

Mom tried to stop Dad in the driveway, but he was practiced. He left her kicking up gravel behind him, sparks trailing down the street from where he scraped car after parked car. When he was gone and the gravel dust was all that was left, Drew took me inside to watch the snails and Mom cooked us up some pizza puffs, a cigarette dangling from her bottom lip. On the TV, the people were still talking about Steve Fossett. They still didn’t know if and when he’d turn up again.

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Whirling in a Bottle

With your hand above water, the bottle’s a spaceship leaving home with a crew of sand grain people who climbed aboard when the lip scraped bottom.

When I open my eyes underwater I see only the shadow of you, like the you is implied somewhere else I can’t see.

The stars are flashlights held by impossibly faraway children, shaking when they laugh.

We swim like porpoises but maybe not so graceful.

The water sloshing in our spaceship doesn’t look the same as the lake at night from satellite view.

When they drain your lungs for the first time it won’t look the same in the IV bag as it does from the probe’s camera where we can see the polyp growing larger by the day even though you’ve never smoked.

I’ll take you out where water meets sand so you can watch your feet melt to stumps, errant grains of sand sticking to the cool sickles of your calves.

When you pick them off, your painted nails will be rubies that don’t last.

It’ll be a time so innocent I’ll think your cough is the beginning of a summer cold.

If we look carefully at the screen, those cells are just another harmless part of you.

Grains of sand whirling in a bottle.

We’ll be in a room way up high, a room with a satellite view of the lake.

The little lights of your machines will be stars dancing in impossibly distant, impossibly tiny hands.

There’s something to be said for seeing the way the waves break and chasing after them anyway.

For holding your breath underwater, legs kicking.

For dumping bottled sand out neatly on the shore when we get back.

And the way the tide takes it out.

Out.

Way out.

Farther than we can see.

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