Category Archives: Short Stories

Off White

I grew up resenting Mom’s efforts to keep me clean cut. Dan Shockley’s parents let him have a mullet in fourth grade. I thought I should too. Mom let my rat-tail slide for while. I couldn’t say for how long. Being a fourth-grader skews your perception of time. It skews your perception of style. When I look at photos of my fourth grade self, I can only find a few shot during the life span of that rat-tail.

Once I stood before a row of inner city public toilets. My body couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel on Broadway, in a better part of town, where a well-cleaned, shimmering-white toilet sat waiting. Analyzing one option and then another, in this row of derelict toilets, or fecally painted pots of porcelain, in this inner city public bathroom, inhaling their foul stink, until I could feel the microscopic particles of shit landing on my tonsils, I painted one of these useless toilets, and the walls around it, with a new layer: puke.

Corey Duffel introduced me to The Ramones. He doesn’t know this. If he remembers our brief, arranged meeting at all, he remembers signing some skateboarding magazine he’d been featured in and eating from a one-gallon tub of sour gummy worms at the edge of his backyard mini-ramp while I failed to roll away from a rock-to-fakie. We didn’t talk of music or any interests beyond our mutual love for the skateboard. As a high school freshman I hadn’t learned to converse with anyone older than me. Corey’s blemished, ripped jeans and uncut hair redefined cool for me. His punk style gave me someone to emulate—an empty niche I could fill at my clean, upper middle class high school.

I dated a girl with white hair. She dumped me because, when we dated, Tom Waits was all that came through the speakers that barely clung to ceiling of my van, the Volkswagen that smelled like gasoline. It was too much for her. It was just one of my phases. Tom Waits. Her hair had just enough brown to keep you wondering. Her ex, the last boy before me, came back from nine months on the road, drifting from town to town. He came back and took her to a Mason Jennings concert. He gave her a way out, a way to escape Tom Waits. She took it.


Tell me, what are you supposed to do when you’re strolling on the Highline and the couple walking behind you decides to break up within a span of ten blocks?

You’d only been vaguely listening to their chatter — the benefits of graduate school, someone’s weird party, ways to poach an egg. But then you hear the woman say I think we should end this. You pause for a moment to wonder if you heard it right, and then you realize that the man has paused too so you think This can’t be good just as he’s asking Did you really bring me up here to say that?

An emphatic Damn nearly escapes your lips and you can feel the rhythm of their steps keeping time with your own. She coolly answers, It’s as good of a place as any. You’re dying to turn around and see who these people are but you can’t — one of them is bound to be staring at your swinging ponytail at this very moment. The boardwalk is too narrow and crowded to move to the side and you don’t want to risk losing them in the stream of people.

The conversation turns to I’ll take my stuff out of the apartment and Some of my books are probably mixed in with yours. You think That’s it? It can’t all end, just like that? The silences hurt and you feel like a kid whose parents are getting divorced. But you aren’t their kid, you’re just another person caught within earshot.

In the space between strained mutterings you grow self-conscious of each step on the wooden slats, keeping your gait even and wondering if they suspect your involvement. As you’re passing a stairwell that leads down to the street you hear the man’s voice: I’m going to go. I’ll see you at home, I guess. You hesitate but you can still sense her behind you so you keep walking. She might be crying, you don’t know. You only know that he’s not there anymore.

The Highline is less crowded at this end; it’s your chance to look. You stop for the old tie-your-shoe trick but you’re wearing sandals so you just scratch a mosquito bite on your ankle. When you look up, there are several girls who could be her — young and alone, just like you.

Basic Drawing

The 6:30 Drawing class at the Artists’ League. It was a terrible idea and she knew it. Gary had let it slip that the model John left her for was named Sarah or Samantha; he couldn’t remember which. Maria figured she would know in her gut when she saw the woman, naked on a pedestal, swaying by the millimeter to keep her balance.

“It’s not healthy,” all of her friends said.

“Fuck healthy, I’m angry,” was Maria’s reply.

She only wanted to see her. She wasn’t going to do anything. And so she signed up for Basic Figure Drawing and waited the month until her six-week session began. The League still hadn’t cashed the check. Maria called several times to make sure they had received it. She was registered, the woman on the phone assured her. They probably wouldn’t get around to processing the payment until after the first day of class.

Maria arrived early and wandered the dingy halls, peaking into classrooms and reading flyers taped to the wall. There were a lot of homemade ads for furniture and different computer things she didn’t understand. A green flyer advertised an “experienced critical eye.” She saw what looked like a “critical eye” in one of the classrooms. They weren’t even drawing. They just sat in a clump around a man with silvery hair and pink skin. When people passed by she smiled and made eye contact. She didn’t want to show that she was lurking.

They went around the room introducing themselves. The metal stools were rickety and uncomfortable so some people just stood and some leaned awkwardly instead of sitting. Maria found a balance at the top of her stool, legs tucked neatly beneath her. When it was her turn she said to them, “My name is Maria. I’m a yoga instructor. And I’ve always wanted to improve my drawing skills.”

She was not a yoga instructor. She did administrative work at a law firm. But everyone else had interesting professions, or at least they said they did.

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Mr. Hale

Had I known more about fucking when I was thirteen, the age I was when I first met Mr. Hale, I would have wanted to fuck him, because that is what I do with older men, relate to them like surrogate fathers, or fuck them. The best relationships I have had with older men have been a melding of the two, because then I get to fuck, and I get to rebel, my two favorite things. But, being that I just thirteen years old, and didn’t yet know that outlet, my interest in Mr. Hale was less prurient. I only craved his attention and approval. Mr. Hale was my seventh grade English teacher. He smoked Lucky Strikes cigarettes, the outline of the circle insignia on the packaging always visible through the pocket of his button-down shirt, like a bull’s eye over his heart. Susceptible to great spasms of rage, I once watched in awe as he threw a male classmate into a row of lockers. He probably should have lost his job for this, but I suspect the boy’s parents didn’t care enough about him to raise a stink.

Mr. Hale was the first person to ever encourage my writing. During my seventh grade year of school, I read a lot of Stephen King and true crime, and was interested in suicide and Satanism. One day during math class, I was sitting in the back of the room, bored, and decided to write a poem:

It was so cold,
The world.
It felt like a thin sheet of ice
Strong enough to hold him underwater,
But easy enough to break.
And no one noticed,
Not his mom, who just drank.
And he’d think
Of nothing.
There was a crash.
A bottle broke.
His mother complained,
“You’re a clumsy pig!”
And he picked up the pieces
Of his life.
The sharp glass twinkled in the sunlight
As it passed his wrists the first time,
Then it turned red
Like an eclipse of the sun.
And no one noticed.

I cringe reading the poem now, but back then, Mr. Hale loved it. I’d never had a person gush like he did over anything I’d done. He suggested a few minor edits (“How about we change the last line from ‘no one noticed’ to ‘not one noticed,’ it will give it more gravitas,”) and made copies of the poem, handing them out to all of his classes. The poem was fast-tracked for publication in the school’s monthly writing magazine. I’d never been particularly good or bad at anything, and suddenly I was being told I had this thing: a talent. I was such a gifted writer, Mr. Hale prophesied, that if I kept at it, one day he would be able to buy a book of my poems. Dedicate them to me, he said.

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I pulled up to the curb in a limo exploded on fire. I tipped the bellhop a pillow I stole from an IKEA in 1997. 1997 was a very emotional year for me because I had emotions back then.

Right on the dance floor was the hottest moose I have ever seen. I wanted to hit on the moose so bad but the moose was in a long term relationship and I respect that. Across from the moose was a duck sitting at the bar.

I told the duck

“Hey did you know Alan Greenspan’s penis is three inches when fully erect?”

The duck told me

“Yeah sports also politics.”

Yes we had quite the conversation until my inner child got intoxicated on my adulthood’s success. Together I went with my inner child to a Baltimore 7/11 and was pissed I could not buy a 40 at the place something about alcohol laws. I stopped paying attention.

Drunk I walked through Whole Foods in the Inner Harbor talked with a crab. The crab led me to my friend who worked at the local candy shop. I wanted her candy so bad, like lollipops. Lollipops are hot shit.

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theo on roof

Hi, My name is Theo and I’m a 19 year old writer living in Brooklyn! :) I came up with this story about having friends while I was on my rooftop and it’s good, and I think you’ll love it, but anyway let me say this, I’m not just talking about relationships here. Try to disassociate things from one another, think about how differences can connect things, and please just don’t be ashamed of existing anymore. No matter how wrong people say your existence is, it just isn’t, OK? I hate watching you cry in front of your webcam. You don’t believe you deserve to be happy, but you do. Everyone makes mistakes, that doesn’t make them a bad person.

Nathan Masserang is lying outside on the morning grass like a bright pair of pants, feeling expensive and comfortable, messaging Paul Rizza on Facebook Messenger.

“Theo is so cool,” Nathan says.

“I think he’s very, very cool,” Paul replies. “Strange and carefree, like a big mystery.”

“I think he is just good, like objectively a good person, and I’m very lucky to be his friend and I really consider him a friend.”

“I do too, I want to spend more time with him online.”

Nathan agrees with Paul, noticing the new shining colors in his phone.

Paul sends Nathan a Pusheen sticker. Facebook stickers are illustrations or animations of characters that you can send to friends. They’re a great way to share how you’re feeling and add personality to your chats. It’s an internet postcard that is sent from one online user to another, something to enjoy yourself with, a small moment of instant gratification, sometimes relief, or to feel comfortable with.

Paul mentions to Nathan how the world can seem glimmering at times, bright and expensive like pants.

Scott Krave sends Bob Schofield a Snapchat of a small rainbow that formed over the mist of his garden hose. It’s a small piece of everything, floating in colors somewhere in the air, and maybe it isn’t really there, but it is because we can see it but, I don’t know, I don’t really know how rainbows work but I still like writing about them because they make people happy.

“What makes Theo a Theo?” The Snapchat says, disappearing in seconds like, well a rainbow I guess, or like, I don’t know, an unimportant memory, maybe?

A girl who secretly has a crush on Theo searches his name on Youtube and watches videos of him reading poetry. She thinks he acts cute, and has a goofy voice but also, he still seems very intelligent too, and good looking, and with a great sense of humor too. Maybe she will message Theo later to flirt with him in a nonconfrontational way.

What does make Theo a Theo? Is it a thing like rainbows, or like pants? Paul wonders if he is a little Theo, and Anthony Peregrine text messages Amy Saul-Zerby late at night, vaguely mentioning Theo in a comforting way, and Stephen Michael McDowell messages Stephen Tully Dierks, “I can’t stop reading Theo’s stuff.” John Mortara Kiks James Ganas, “Did you catch Theo’s new story on Electric Cereal?”

“Of course I did.”

Nathan messages Paul like how you would slide letters under a door, and he feels like a Theo, at least I think he feels like a Theo. I’m not sure, and Paul seems confused too. He googles Theo’s name and suddenly, it’s all there.

Double Crests

I was sitting in my room with Maggie and we were smoking from my ‘silly little vaporizer’ (her words). Her hair was on my shoulder. I thought her hair should be on her shoulder.

“Where would you like to live?”
“I don’t know. I used to think I’d get out of here as soon as I could. I mean I thought I’d do it right away. I mean I mean I knew I was going to do it right away. But it’s scary. So I’m here. I’m here because everything’s scary and this is the least scary option, in an immediate way. Getting a job is so easy here.”

Maggie nodded but looked a bit sad. I told her art communities were better elsewhere and that would be a good reason to move because I’m never going to make it here.

“Good point,” she said. “What about the internet though? Aren’t you on the internet.”
“That’s a pretty funny question.”
“I know.”
“Yes, I’m totally on the internet… but i’m not like big big. You know?”
“I know.”

Maggie nodded again and I kissed her ear. She scrunched up her eyelids like that guy from twin peaks who’s also the detective in barfly. The guy with the mustache who discovers Laura palmer. Lara palmer. Lawra palmer. Whatever. My knee hurts.

“Maggie, I want to kiss you forever.”

Maggie smiled.

“Lee I want to kiss you forever.”
“Maggie I want to kiss your ear forever.”

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I should have known they were going to turn my hearing off. I hadn’t paid the bill in two months, and their emails had become more frequent and passively judgmental.

“You may want to consider the ramifications of losing one of your senses,” one of the last ones said. “The Somatic Revenue Service was established for precisely this purpose: each of our bodily abilities is a precious gift of quantifiable monetary value. Your refusal to pay your bill like your fellow citizens thus suggests a lamentable lack of self-worth, not to mention a barely disguised contempt for society. Should we be forced to terminate one of your senses we will not be responsible for any effects on your public or private life…”

They knew from my NeuroChip reports that I’d been to primary and secondary university and I still didn’t have a happy love life or a job fitting my abilities, at 37. I was reminded that most people are well-fit with partners and jobs by 30, and my inability to pay the bill was the price I paid for sloth.

“Until you pay your outstanding debts, you will be rendered deaf on Monday, March 10th at 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time. When you do pay, your hearing will be restored as soon as your credit card is processed. We hope you will find your deprivation a motivating experience.”

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I often get emotional when I walk alone

I wish I was stoned, but I wasn’t so I was forced to keep walking tirelessly. I pass a white man with brown hair, he looks like a republican that hates black people. He gives me an insulting glare to which I roll my eyes at, he stops making eye contact. God, I wish I was stoned.

I remember this one time in the third grade when this little prick called me a nigger. I told the teacher and she called the boy over. His name was Justin. The teacher was blonde with thin tightly stretched lips. She was often strict and had a reputation of sending children to the principal’s office. That day, however, she told Justin that his punishment was ‘no free time for the afternoon.’ Justin didn’t apologize, and his parents never found out. I was too ashamed to tell mine.

I really don’t want to be thinking about those memories. I just really want to be stoned. My sixty-three-year-old aunt sent me to get milk and cigarettes. “But not the cheap milk from the corner, the organic stuff,” she said. The milk that can only be bought from a mile away. I’m halfway there regretting that I never learnt how to drive while my thigh sticks to my too-tight jean shorts.

An elderly black man in a sweat stained white tee shirt is walking in my opposite direction. He looks at me but we’re too far away to nod or smile without it being awkward. We make eye contact too soon. This happens to me often. I look to the ground for what seems like a hefty amount of time. When I look up the man is two feet away and I smile and tell him to have a good morning. He smiles back and says, ‘you have a great morning young lady!’ When he passes me I turn and look at him again, I felt an urge to tell him about Justin. Fourteen years later, and I have never told anyone about Justin.

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he likes to call her baby during sex. maybe all the time. i wouldn’t know; i’ve taken lengths to ensure we never meet. the new presence isn’t the problem; it’s the live-in-boyfriend thing. my roommate says she’s kind of tall from behind & 20 feet away.

realizing i loved you happened 8 months after you realized you loved me, 3 months after you told me about the aforementioned love, and 1 month after you took my non-heteronormative version of virginity. we drove to the softball field for the confession because i didn’t want to tell you in the car. the whole thing was pretty gay.

the single next door used to be empty. now it’s very enthusiastically filled. scrambling for headphones proves pointless. they’re so fucking loud (they’re fucking so loud), i hear her even though i bought the headphones that go all the way into my ear. the kind no one wears running. they have a pretty normal routine of getting up way too early in the morning and waking me up with moans. it’s hard not to wonder how real the enthusiasm is—she can really only tell him he’s so, so, so good at the top of her lungs a couple of times & still mean it.

you don’t sleep. four hours in a night is good for you. so when i’m woken up at seven, you call me and i whisper hello. we talk in small voices because that makes it seem like we’re a few inches away and not 189 miles.

they shower together, but usually they don’t even fuck they have conversations that echo through the bathroom. they wash each others’ hair and complain loudly when shampoo ends up in their eyes.

yesterday blew. you said trying to act normal makes you hurt worse. plus, i joked that you’d dump me if i gained 80 pounds in just my stomach. the body part should have been more abstract, like just in my forearms. as it was, you said if you think i’ll break up with you because of your weight, you don’t know me at all. & didn’t respond to my next 3 texts. we always say we’ll never break up with each other.

instead of reading, i end up fabricating stories about his presumably magical penis.

last night i dreamt about your arms around my waist and kissing you goodnight. when i woke up it turned out your arms still lived in Chicago.

they orgasm together—or at least it sounds like that; i still have my suspicions. when it happens they both collapse into i love you’s. instead of rolling my eyes like i should my nose pricks & i’m crying at stranger’s sex. this is not romantic like crying over how beautiful your orgasm was, this is like a whole new level of pathetic i didn’t know i had in me.

you like to call me baby all the time & i love it. when you’re running your fingers through my hair and i’m wrapping myself around you like a power up in zelda— when we’re together you can sleep through the night.