I have a new story online called “Little Brother.” It’s about childhood and darkness and togetherness and escape. It’s one of my favorite short pieces.
It’s had a long life. Though I should say “lives.” It has existed for many years in one form or another. Its longest life was as a chapter of my first novel, which itself had an adventure (agent, submissions, interest, but not enough). I didn’t give up on the chapter. I adapted it to stand alone in these 1,300 words, which encapsulate a lot of overlapping ideas and theories and worlds that tumble around together in my memory of childhood with my sisters. In the story, they’re both older than me. In real life, I’m the oldest. But age is funny. We’re all older and somewhat wiser now, with spouses and children and good and bad jobs. Age doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. I’m so lucky to be close to them now. This story is for them, for us, honoring a piece of the vast, sacred weirdness we went through together.
He would have hands large enough to go to the edge of that green ground, jab his fingerspades into the sod and grip the turf woven with roots and rhizomes to lift the life-giving blanket of the earth, shaking it high in waves through the sky to reveal the giggling children of old and dead and forgotten beneath it, all the bumps and skeletal humps and vertebrae valleys, the shapes of history that are softened and hidden beneath sedimentary layers of the planet’s bedsheets, the holy collective decay of animal and vegetable life like leaf litter under which all the past sleeps until tectonic turmoil strikes at an invisible hour, the dead awaking the living above the blanket, as his hands shake the wavy coverlets free of the day’s greed and corruption.
Gripping the continental edge, standing in the Atlantic off the coast of Maryland, with one shake he sends the concentration camps flying, hurls aside the anti-immigrant shock troops, tumbles the white-power militias, upsets McConnell’s and Miller’s and Kavanaugh’s and Gorsuch’s beers, giving Trump the thump of fate beneath his feet and deep within his temples.
With this generation’s horrors flung beneath the moss, he’d throw his arms out and with his head back shout, “Tsunami!!!!” crashing backwards into the sea, letting his words and energy breach the shore, sloshing back beneath the waves, disappearing into the green black depths, having given, gone, some dreamed echo of justice.
My new short story, “The Open Air,” appears in the July issue of Numéro Cinq. About the strange world of office work, it incorporates thoughts and things I’ve experienced over the past couple decades working in offices and corporate highrise towers in different cities across America. Office environments are some of the oddest places I’ve ever been in. How these so-called corporate cultures develop and how people survive in them is fascinating, something I’m sure I’ll end up writing more about later on.
It’s about the last deer my father shot before he died in 2012 after many years with cancer. It’s also a small attempt to hint at an enormity of things. What a family goes through during a loved one’s treatment, the motions of anger and solace that form grief. I took the picture of him, above, a few years before the last deer, on a cold morning in Michigan.
The June 2015 issue ofThe Bohemythbrings together texts and visual art by artists from around the world. And the journal’s archives showcase a fantastic mix of traditional and experimental work. I’m grateful to the editors for including my piece, especially toMichael Naghten Shanks.
Bookstores sustain me–it’s an obvious statement to look at it, but perfectly true. When I first moved to Philly back in 2008 I didn’t feel comfortable until I learned where the bookstores were, first those in my neighborhood, and later on all the other ones around the city. (There are so many good ones and I’m devoted to so many I won’t name a whole bunch because it’ll turn into a silly game of favorites!) I even organized and led an independent bookstore crawl about five years ago. It was so much fun and I hope to do another one some day.
For me these are places where special things will always happen, where I’ll return over and over again, often to get away from things I think I need to avoid for a while, and of course I get to meet folks there and chat and learn about great books or just random things I’ve never heard of.
So being a bookstore sort of person it was inevitable that I’d eventually write at least one short story about them and try to get at what they mean to me, or a version of me. Recently, Jared Daniel Fagen, founder of Black Sun Lit, was kind enough to publish my flash fiction, “A Thousand Lives,” about bookstores, desire, and in a way, eternity. (A certain West Philly bookstore plays an anonymous role in it.)
Black Sun Lit has an impressive archive of online work to explore, and the first issue of their print journal, “Vestiges,” is forthcoming.
Thanks for taking a minute to check out the story. It’s fiction, but entirely true in many ways, too, of course.