We couldn’t decide on one name and figured that, since it was early, we didn’t have to. So we tried to have some fun with it. We started trying out different names, saying them out loud, sort of trying them on.
But after a while we got sick of using real names and just made stuff up, names that seemed right given whatever the circumstances were at the time.
We called her Bruce Lump when she did something sort of physically crazy or acrobatic like to deliver a flying round house kick to the internal abdomen area of Holly. The kid was Jonathan Edwards because sometimes we heard all too clearly the lecture she giving us about all the many ways we were deeply unready to have her be born, our own anxiety about it all, a fake voice coming from inside each of us telling us we better get our act straight.
We had made up names for when the kid was like a horror movie, when we joked about unrealistic physical complications like the kid being a pod or with tentacles or thousands of teeth.
And we had names for when we thought it was possible she would save us, and not only us but the whole universe – wrapping everything that is in a shimmering and benevolent glow.
(2017) "The Gods, A Rabbit, A Question, and Those Who Are Unborn" in December 28.1.
As a kid I would buy this brand of gum with something like ten or twelve sticks in one pack, all in different flavors. I liked it partly because I didn't have to make a choice. I didn't have to commit to one single flavor.
But instead of taking them out one at a time, pacing it out over different days or even a week, I would gorge. I would take a stick out, unwrap it to see the powdery color of it, and put it in my mouth. Then I would take another stick and do the same thing until I had the whole pack—every stick of gum—in my mouth all at once.
And all of those pieces would get mashed together in a sweet glob, none of the flavors or colors standing out more than any other. That's how I feel looking back at my life now. All of those different experiences and emotions, all of the people I knew. Moments of trembling sadness and paralyzing happiness all compressed and unrecognizable.
(2017) "The Strangest Man for Hundreds of Miles" in The Collagist.
Darla always said to meet things head on, “We’ll deal with it all together,” but that old song didn’t mean much to him even when he was feeling right about himself. It was his name on the bills, showing in neat computer-generated script through the cellophane windows, not hers.
But this time, as he flipped through the mail pile, one of the letters caught his eye, one with actual human handwriting on the front of it, bubbly blue ink letters that reminded him of the passed notes he had tried to intercept back in middle school. Except this one was addressed to him with no return address, and Sam felt his blood chill just a bit. Not every man has good reason to think something bad is angling for him right out of the clear sky. But that’s what he felt just the same, the numb feeling that something was lying in wait for him like a snake between rocks, sticking to shade and waiting out the day. His insides felt oily. He left the envelope on the table and walked off.
(2015) "The Letter" in Story.
The man walked through the grass back to his long driveway and then continued his previous trek toward the mailbox. He noticed something white, like paper, and folded into some complicated shape, mixed among the gravel at his feet. He bent down to examine it more closely. It was tinged with dirt, mud that dried after those recent rains, and it was small—small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. He didn’t pick it up, though, and simply looked at it as closely as he could.
He used his finger to move away a few smaller rocks that were covering it. Indeed it was paper, and folded —into the shape of a bird, but smashed a bit, crushed down, as if it had been compressed between whatever two hands had formed it.
(2015) "A Bird in Spring" in [PANK].
“It’s our daily drama,” she said, standing up. She turned away from the cat and looked over at him. Her hip was slightly cocked, as if one heel was shorter than the other, and she took a kind of half step toward crossing the street. “That cat lays in front of the tire to keep me from leaving.” She pantomimed exasperation with her dark eyes, “But I love it! He’s the only one who’d rather die than let me leave him.” She smiled because it was a nice line to end on, but she stood there, challenging him to say something else, to continue the banter. So he let his eyes lock with hers while he forced his mind through many hundreds of rejoinder possibilities, a forest of sentences, words he could add and add together to come up with something.
“That cat’s a true poet,” was what he came up with and she laughed at that, took a step toward him, and he knew he could introduce himself, could finally say hi.
(2014) "It Was Always the Same Day" in Pif Magazine.
Even characters in books are people and I realized that there are different kinds of people. For example, there are people who do things – build things or make things happen. They put up fences or move the garbage from in front of your house to somewhere else. You can watch it happen. Whatever it is. It’s like a gift. Then there are people who do different kinds of things, invisible things. You can’t see what they’re doing. You can see that they did it – that someone did something – but you can’t even imagine someone actually doing it.
What kind of things? What? I didn’t know.
(2013) "A Reference for the System to Recognize" in Atticus Review.
So you drive away, over time and miles both. Through the season, through months. The trees around you burst and get lush, the green almost too much to bear. Then the leaves fall, you see them flare into different colors and then collapse while the sun gets harder in the sky, colder. The snow starts to fall, dry and harsh, a whisper across the empty fields. You feel it throughout your entire body. It's the only thing that reminds you about your body.
(2013) "A Clearing in the Forest" in JMWW.
At times, he feels as if his own language has failed him. Here follows a barrage of staccato sentences. Impressions. Images, half-formed ideas. Frenetic glimpses. Or rather, he experiences his relationship to his own language as one does to a sturdy & tired beloved. There is tenderness & compassion in each caress, a wondrous history in every dappled inch of the adored body, but the enthusiasm has dulled. The rush & vigor of possession has faded. Possibility has dimmed through constant usage.
(2012) "The Translation" in The Collagist.
People would look at me & expect me to do more than notate the shape & color of every leaf. Actually, this isn’t theoretical. I’m talking here in generalities, like a case study, when in fact what I am describing is a real occurrence. It was May. I was sitting on the ground outside my secret headquarters where I go when I want to hide from the world. I reached down to pick up a really oddly shaped leaf off the silent grass. Behind me, the sun was screeching. I turned the leaf over in my hand in the hopes that careful study would reveal the workings of the cosmos, that staggering answers might be contained within simple natural mechanisms. Instead, a single mantis stared back at me. The leaf had fallen, & the little guy had clung on.
(2012) "Forever People" in Untoward.
(2011) "Please Don't Tell" in Everyday Genius.