Category Archives: Short Stories

The Phoenix Child

I was molded out of the remains of my ancestors. Ash, soot and detritus became my sinew, flesh and bone; dust, dirt and grime interlaced together to construct fresh organs: ones the propelled hot, thick blood through snaking, spidery channels of veins, and ones that opened and ballooned pockets and vials to slurp oxygen and devour nourishment that feed these mechanics. Cobwebs, ghosts and shadows altered into joints and limbs that now could shift, shuffle, stretch, sink, sway and spree if they so desired.

Their death granted me life. For that, I am thankful.

I rise out from the rubble, testing each element of my being, growing accustomed to their jobs and limitations. Once comfortable and with no complaints, I take in my surroundings. There’s wreckage of boards, metals and other matter (some still on fire), charcoal colored powder, moiling smoke the same shade as the cinders and a foul stench of charred flesh and hair. This I know. What I don’t know: is why I am all alone amongst the debris. Within every direction, as far as I can tell, not a single soul exists. Were others ever alive? Are they a part of me?

I’m also mindful of a feeling stirring inside of me, but I’m unaware of its nature and what that means. Is it Awe? Bewilderment? Surprise? Grief? Fright? If so, are these feelings acceptable? Or is there something wrong?

Suddenly, a voice booms overhead out of the nothingness. Its abrupt approach startles me; my knees buckle and I’m on my rear, crawling behind a smoldering mass. My new heart operates well, though I’m certain it’s about to leave my chest and break my breastbone.

There’s the sound again. I could just be hearing my own hammering pulse through my perked ears, although bits and fragments of words sputter alongside static. I’m focusing on piecing each one and stringing them together to make some sense.

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Amazing Man Has Lived Sixteen Times

Lately I can feel my heart in my chest and it feels light and weak.

It feels like it wants to be held by strong arms, to be carried into the shade for kisses and cool water.

I’m in bed and my feet are cold.

I guess I’m going to be alone for a little while.

I shaved my girl­-parts two nights before you left but then we didn’t have sex so I guess it was pointless.

I feel the prickly hairs growing in, feel heavy, think of masturbating but move my hand away.

Without you it is harder to make decisions.

Should I go outside today, should I wear this dress with this sweater, should I go buy groceries?

I stay in our little room on the laptop and watch movies I’ve already seen.

I take my antibiotics when my phone tells me to.

It’s nice to not feel sick anymore but I miss sleeping in big twenty-­hour blocks.

If I could sleep twenty hours out of each day I would only have to experience twenty-five hours alone here without you.

Downstairs our roommate asks another roommate if we are here and the roommate responds that I am here and you are not and then they talk about something else.

I don’t spend much time downstairs without you here and nobody seems to care much.

I decide to call in sick to work again even though I can probably make it.

A mini vacation.

I can’t sleep so I get up and make tea.

My throat feels like someone has taken a razor and made a thousand tiny incisions basically everywhere.

I sit on the couch and think of cleaning up the room on my new day off, maybe doing laundry.

Remember when I almost started reading again and read a whole book and felt excited and read twenty pages of another book but then I stopped?

Getting out of bed makes me feel faint and fevery again.

If you were here I would ask you if I feel fevery because we don’t own a thermometer.

You would put your forehead to my forehead and say they feel the same temperature.

Un-Home.

Sun-stabbed newspaper on blistering sidewalk. Starched heat upon Hannah. She likes camping out. She is a bum. Homeless. Beggar. Tramp. Archaic scum in sleeping bags in the summer. She’s at the bus depot, eating bread rolls she stole from outside a delicatessen this morning. She’d seen the delivery truck drop them off in a plastic crate. She decided to steal first, talk about it afterwards. Scooping bread rolls into her coat, she left the sidewalk to the plastic crate and ran to the bus depot. There’s another homeless guy at the bus depot. He hangs around the ticket desk, scratching his index finger against the door.

“Faith doesn’t want any help,” he grizzles.

Hannah’s not sure if he’s talking religion or someone’s first name. Hannah stares at him. She chomps on the last bread roll. The taste of flour and all its furriness. A bus pulls into the depot. Pulls up opposite a big stone wall. Passengers alight. Some have big prices on their heads. No bargains in that milling lot. Into the street, blue skies of impossibility. Time for Hannah to hustle. Her father was once a night-watchman in a place similar to this. Silently into retirement, sweeping dreary ash and cellophane wrappers. Where did he hide his gold?

A station agent comes out to the homeless guy. They hang around the ticket desk. The homeless guy shuffles his feet … backward … in an instant. The station agent says something, but Hannah has difficulty distinguishing the words. From hand gesture she thinks there’s a problem, something about money being made dishonestly. The conversation is getting fiery. An argument based around the ruin of other lives. Station agent pulls the homeless man’s shirt sleeves. Hannah thinks there’s no cause for alarm. Speculation on the station agent’s behalf, talk of jail, but that’s questionable.

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Things I Wrote On Various Social Media After You Didn’t Want To Eat Breakfast With Me At 4 A.M.

“It’s to the point where I thought that I was writing a tweet but actually I was composing a new message on Gmail.”

That was both an accident and a reflex. You do not follow my Twitter but your Pikachu Google+ photo is in my inbox for professional reasons.

“There are a lot of bad things that can happen to you if you don’t sleep for a few days but at least none of them is Freddy Kreuger.”

That is bad grammar. Correct it with your teeth.

“CONGRATULATIONS EVERYTHING IS OKAY FOREVER”

That one is a shot in the dark, isn’t it? Self-effacing is your favorite hyphenation.

“I’m not sure exactly how long it is until I have to be in class but this day-old pancake is terrible”

Come make fresh ones with me and sleep through your 8 a.m. class. The snow is up to our throats but that’s even better — a reason to nap during the day. Nap on my sheets. Dig holes in the paper with your toes.

“Sorry for being terse.”

But if you come, bring me some skim milk. We need one and one-quarter cups. We can take hours to figure out what that is in metric units. I will stare at your forehead while you try to do math. I will stick my fingers to it like linoleum toes.

“Show a neglected friend you still love them by texting them insane ideas for tattoos every hour on the hour between 11 p.m. and dawn.”

Know that I love people.
Not loving people is for sociopaths.
Being a sociopath is for meteorologists.
We are not meteorologists. We only pretend to know which way the wind blows.
I will put a finger in the air and then you can lick it. Like a stamp. This is pure business. I am pure business when it comes to you and to weather patterns.
We are in a polar vortex and the only way out is three blocks down and one door up.

Example: “Power hour the witching hour” on knee-back.
Example: A tube of lipstick (but only if I ever write an essay about the politics of lipstick) near my armpit.
Example: “Rhymes with brick wall” on my elbow.

I will write jokes on my body and you can laugh until they fall off.
Ha ha ha ha
the joke is on you because that is never, Peter Pan

“No sleep.”

Is this a sext?

“Someone cover over and eat the strawberries in my fridge before they mold. This is not a sext.”

This is me saying “this is not a sext.” Compared to you, I am three-thousand times the virgin, baby boy.

Baby boy, compared to you I am a doll house that is a grown woman’s art project and no child’s toy.

Baby boy, please don’t think I rhymed “boy” and “toy” on purpose.

“My self-inflicted 48 hours of solitary have made me really good at entertaining myself in my mind.”

I once watched you fall asleep while whispering “fuck you” over and over and forgive me, I thought you were serious.

“My smoke detector literally always thinks I am committing a fire but really I am just committing grilled cheese or too long of a shower or chain smoking.”

It is actually a particle detector and I am spraying Christmas perfume into its lungs. Come rescue me from Victoria’s Secret and I will pink polka dot your spine.

“Facebook, turns out, believes that I am interested primarily in two things:
1)     proactively designing my own engagement ring
2)    eating a lot of Sara Lee products at a reduced price”

I think you watch 30 Rock. Liz Lemon is a babe.

“I think you need a nap, Satan.”

I probably saw that on Tumblr but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

“Let’s be real. As opposed to what? Let’s not be robocops. Let’s never be robocops.”

Let’s be real, I don’t love you like Romy loves Michelle.
Let’s be real, I only love you like Michelle loves muted metallic lipsticks. But god, that is enough for right now.
God, that might be enough for fucking ever. Do you know how great lipstick is?

Let’s be real, I would probably sing a Paramore song to you like a white girl.

Let’s be real, I am a white girl.

Let’s be real, I would sing a Paramore song to you like a white girl who had not yet developed a hatred for being a white girl

I would sing “I SHOULD BE OVER ALL THE BUTTERFLIES” like I didn’t hate myself for sharing your skin color, you hegemonic piece of shit.

Let’s be real, I don’t think you’re a piece of shit I just hate your hats and all of your friends.

Let’s be real, I looked up your high school band and I think I could love you better if you still wore a cardigan unironically.

Let’s be real, I don’t love you, I just like saying your name.

Call me “Kiddo,” so I can pretend you mean Beatrix

Call me “cunt,” so I can pretend you mean Beatrix

Call me “b,” so I can pretend you mean Beatrix.

or Beezus.

Call me by name, so I can pretend you mean “once your mother was infatuated with something Irish and I am something Irish and I am infatuated with you — it is because of your sweater and your lipstick which is something with either the word ‘rose’ in the title because of your middle name or something with the word ‘plum’ in the title because of a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie”

Call me for fuck’s sake.

Some things about oxford commas, I can’t remember.

We Should Have Fucked
When We Had The Chance
(before we got involved with other people)

I am texting you. I am walking through Golden Gate Park with Thomas and the sun is just going down.

“I’m sorry I told you, but I had to tell someone in person,” I say. “It makes it more real. Makes me feel like now I have to do something.”

We get to a corner and wait for the light to turn. I look down at my black boots and touch the smooth plastic of my flip phone inside my jacket pocket.

“Do you want to hug?” Thomas asks. I nod and feel myself crumbling into the weathered fabric of his denim jacket, crying and melting like brown sugar. Thomas holds me for what seems like the amount of time I try to brush my teeth and I’m holding his shoulders and looking up at the fading light streaming through the big branches. I step away to wipe my cheek with my index finger and take a deep breath, letting the misty saltiness of the air hang in my throat.

I flip my phone open and let my thumb glide over the smooth keys forming letters and words with t­9 technology. “Please pick me up. Please. Take me anywhere.” I type to you and press send.

“Is it really that bad?” Thomas asks. “I know he’s… weird, but can it be that bad?”

“I’m texting someone right now to pick me up, to run away with me,” I tell Thomas, fidgeting with a dusty tissue in my pocket.

“What about your job,” he says.

“Who fucking cares,” I say, staring at nothing in the distance. “I can’t keep doing this. I can’t breathe.”

“Let’s sit down,” Thomas says, plopping carefully onto a park bench. I root through my carpet bag for nothing in particular and feel the fog moistened wood through my sundress. I flick my phone open again and see the orange envelope on the screen indicating that I have a new message.

I read and smile.

“Let’s get married and start a publishing company and we can be the opposite of Tao Lin and Megan Boyle.”

“Maybe make out first” I type back and send. “We’ll be better than everybody.” Send.

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A Brief History of Sent and Received Notes

1.

When I was eight years old I was playing in a church gymnasium—one of those indoor basketball courts attached to Baptist megachurches—and found someone else’s note.  It was against the wall, crumpled up, in lined notebook paper and heavy blue ink.

I uncrumpled it and it said:

“Dear Chad, I like you.
Do you want to be friends?  Check one:
[ ] Yes  [ ] No.”

It felt as if I had stumbled upon something terribly important.  I knew who Chad was (one of the older kids—I liked him too) and so I walked to him, at the far end of the gym, and said, “I found this note.  It’s for you.”

I held it out.

“I know,” he said.  “I read it.”

“Don’t you want it?”

“No.”  He turned away from me.

“Why not?”  I asked.

“Just don’t.”

I put the note in my pocket and walked away.  Later, still convinced I had stumbled across something important, something vital and significant, I showed the note to my dad.

“Oh yes,” he said, “The old check-box note.”

The idea that this note belonged to a whole genre of notes, that there were others like it, that they were sufficiently prevalent, and sufficiently established, that my dad had been aware of them from his own childhood, simultaneously robbed the note of its mystique and added to its significance.

I kept the note for years in a shoebox where I kept letters.  While I knew it didn’t belong to me, it felt too fragile to throw out.

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I Want To Be Ugly But In Your Way Not Mine

The first image result when you Google “Sid Gillman” is a picture of Sid Gillman holding a replica of his own head. I ask you if you want to play the “Random Wikipedia Article Game” and you ask what that is and I say you should infer the only rule of the game from its title. Sometimes I forget that your emotions are very real and very serious and not just unabridged versions of your facial expressions.

I wonder if anyone has ever made a replica of the inside of someone’s head, inside of a replica of the outside of someone’s head. If I replicated the inside of your head and put it inside a replica of my head I wonder which one of us it would be. I Google your name and there are no images of you holding your own head.

Your flight is in an hour and I walk with you to the bus stop even though I said earlier that I wouldn’t. You look smaller with your big backpack on your back. You’re like a hermit crab, and I think: We’re all like hermit crabs. I want to tell you that it’s stupid that you’re moving because of something Carlos Castaneda said, but it really just makes me feel boring and small. I will probably start reading Journey to Ixtlan (see: only Castaneda book at the library) once I lose the feeling that you know and that you wish I would “do my own thing.”

A group of drunk carolling teenagers stop at the bus stop and sing to us. Some of them are laughing, probably because they’re hyper-conscious of how in-your-face they are being. They’re wearing sweaters like the ones my dad wore in pictures taken when it was cool for him to wear them. I wonder if some of them are sweaters my dad donated to Salvation Army. I wonder how I would feel if my dad’s sweaters were on the backs of a pack of drunk teenagers in the city.

Your bus comes and you smile really sincerely at me before you get on. The carolers stop singing when they pay their fares and one of them looks back at me when I don’t get on the bus.

I turn around before you find a seat because I wouldn’t know what to do with my face if I had to wave to you through the window. I cut through Davisville Park, and walk like a weird injured bird across the “Natural Ice Skating Rink.” I almost step on a dead squirrel in the snow. It’s curled up like it’s asleep, and I would probably think it was if not for its one milky white eye. I take a picture of it with my iPhone and send it to you.

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Criminal Mischief

Action is the only definite value of essence as Sartre says. Thus when the bell rang and I got up, my action was giving value to the essence of the school and all that it represented: authority, boredom, nullification, confinement. These things were made more burdensome when they were held against my own will, singular and individual versus an organized system of operation. Alienation naturally settled in. So when I scrawled upon the naked bathroom wall “The Dean is dead-Nietzsche” I was fully aware of my own involvement. I knew this would provoke the administration into something. I knew it would alienate me further, a fact which I somewhat relished. I saw alienation as a gateway to freedom, to do without others as I please. In short, the weight of my own essence, with all of its implications, was plainly felt and this petty act of rebellion had the importance of a revolution for me.

The rest of the day was spent in a cathartic haze, anticipating being called down to the office to be doled out punishment. Near the end of the day, a woman retrieved me from my math class and escorted me to the Student Affairs Center. I saw my friend who had been with me in the bathroom being escorted by the Dean himself. We had expected this since he was often seen reading Nietzsche in class, but that it would be plain I was the culprit.

They separated us into two rooms. I sat there, having accepted whatever it was they wanted to do already, for about forty five minutes. Finally, the principle, a fat blubbery lipped fellow with a Texan slur entered, demanding me to empty my pockets. I had done this for the women already but I obliged him, resulting in the discovery of a Metrocard, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, headphones, and several pens and a Sharpie. The Sharpie, along with my other writing utensils, was confiscated. He left and soon entered the Dean himself, a ratty man with the raspy voice of a used car salesman, asking whether or not I had written the phrase in question. I told him I had and he left, saying we would discuss it further later. I made the assumption the matter would be settled within the context of the school.

The next scene in this drama is one that was entirely unexpected and one that could be described in numerous ways from irrational to outright duplicitous. The Dean reentered accompanied by several police officers and a detective. The situation had been severely escalated. In turn I escalated my defensive tone. I was confused as to why they had been brought into this and angered that the school chose to deal so foolishly with something that could have been as simple as a few questions. Admittedly, two days previous in Arizona, and on the same day in Massachusetts there were instances of school violence involving a student and a gun. I was vaguely aware of the former and completely unaware of the latter.

A cop searched my bag and then I was told that I was going to be taken down to the station. This was no longer in the hands of the school I was told. The cop asked me if I had any weapons of any sort on me which I denied rather incredulously. It was at this point I became very defensive when she informed me I would be patted down. I refused to consent. This was ignored and I continued to verbally resist the pat down at which point the detective told me that if I kept resisting I would be arrested under criminal charges. Again I refused to consent to the pat down, which was met by a twisted arm and handcuffs. My body was roughly shoved against the wall face first and the detective who had twisted my arm and handcuffed me told me that I was a threat to the people around me.

The logic of this was beyond me. I thought it should have been clear I was just some discontented youth who had chosen to vent her frustrations through the medium of Sharpies and bathroom walls. The pockets of both my jacket and my shorts were emptied, including the hall passes that I had swiped two weeks earlier.

This all took place in view of several administrators including the Dean, whom I berated for allowing one of his students to be treated in such a manner on the way out. The good man was courteous enough to make sure the halls were clear before I was taken away. The detective and the cop escorted me out, warning me that if I made any attempt to harm them or escape I would be “taken down,” I could only imagine writhing on the floor after being tasered. Students who were sitting out front watched as I was put into the cop car, still berating the Dean. I spit on the seat next to me for good measure.

From there it was the police station. The room to which I was brought was gray and overwhelmingly oppressive, bringing to mind the world of 1984. My shoes were taken from me which, when I asked, was for my own protection. The cell that was to be mine for the next few hours was a little rat cage situated next to the much larger cell with iron bars, which disappointed me terribly, being denied the romance of an actual outlaw.

I could hear the cop going through my bag once again and I realized she was probably going through my notebooks. I cringed with embarrassment at this. They were later taken into evidence “in case of a need for a handwriting sample,” After she took all the basic information we got into talking and she turned out to be pretty decent.

Eventually at some point, after being told several times that I was going to be let out, the detective came into the room and told me I could be “interviewed” if I wanted. The confiscated belongings were returned to me, sans notebooks and writing utensils, and I was led through the plastic tiled police station to the “interview” room. This was not, unfortunately, the room of cable crime dramas with the one way mirror and a desk with a swinging light bulb. It was more akin to a conference room with several office chairs around a long table.

The detective sat down with the cop across from my parents and began asking questions. Eventually he asked me why I wrote on the wall. I explained to him that it was supposed to be a parody of “God is dead,” which he didn’t recognize (surprisingly few people did), and that it was a conceptual attack on the idea of the Dean as an authoritative force. Certainly not a threat of bodily harm. This was all recorded and I was then informed of the charges against me: threatening in the second degree, criminal mischief, breach of peace, and interfering with police officers

I was released into the custody of my parents about four or five hours after being brought into the office and expected some sort of lambasting treatment from my father who I never saw eye to eye with. He always came off to me as authoritative and harsh but in this instance he was calm and compassionate. He sympathized with me to some extent, I think, because he used to be the vice principal of a school back in the day and he understood how much this had grown out of proportion to what it should’ve been. My mother, who has always been a lovely lady, was equally well composed.

This whole thing seemed to affect them more than it did me. I considered this to be a farce and a display of opposing ideas, the fault of bureaucratic underpinnings and a world gone mad. It was assumed that I was going to kill the Dean, presumably with a gun, yet no one bothered to simply ask my intent, what I meant by that, why I did it in the first place. Not until I had been arrested and been charged with several misdemeanors was I asked any of that

This reactive tendency is wreaking more havoc on the lives of students in America than it is protecting them. Arresting and then expelling a kid for writing on a wall, in the name of protecting other students and faculty, is bullshit. I’ve come to the conclusion that the school system doesn’t give a shit about kids like me. They’d rather toss us under the carpet and forget about us.