Friday, April 13, 2012


“I hate mushrooms,” Francis said, and dropped his fork on the table. “Why’d you put mushrooms in it?”

He pushed his chair back from the table, walked across the kitchen, and scraped the omelette into the garbage. He reached for a box of Raisin Bran.

“They were going bad, and I wanted to use them up,” Janine said. “I’m sorry.”

“Just warn me next time.” Francis sat back down at the table. He had just brought the first bite of cereal to his lips when he jumped and spilled the spoonful down the front of his sweatshirt.

“What the ...”

A tornado siren slowly but forcefully rolled 120 decibels of panic high and then low through the morning air.

Francis looked out the window. It was cloudless. The morning sun threw long shadows from the suburban trees. Some children drawing with chalk on the sidewalk across the street stopped and looked up at the sky. They ran into the house.

“What the hell?”

Janine went to the living room and turned on the TV. “Honey! Come here. Oh my God! Can you hear what they’re saying?”

Francis turned just as the sky lit up in a bright, brief blast of white. Then another, dimmer, but still brilliant.

He looked back out the window, just above the horizon.

“Mushrooms,” he whispered. “I hate mushrooms.”

This was a writing assignment for a workshop I took recently. Write 200 words or more about the end of the world. The first and last line must be the same.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Secret Rebellion

Jason laid his outfit on the bed: a tan two-button Hugo Boss suit, a sky-blue Brooks Brothers dress shirt, a navy tie and brown Florsheim Welles Oxford shoes. He tossed a pair of brown socks and a tank undershirt next to them.

Jason was not a man of means, but he knew how to dress a notch above his station in life. It had been ingrained in him. His mother demanded order, tucking and primping and tying up the freedom and chaos of his childhood into a neat, presentable package each day.

Now well into his 30’s, he still looked sharp. It was certainly his mother’s look … almost.

Jason opened his underwear drawer. It was brimming with color, wild designs, fire and ice. It looked like a clown had stumbled into his bedroom and vomited in his dresser after a night of drowning happiness in mango mojitos.

He selected a fuzzy beige banana-hammock with lolling blue eyeballs on each side and floppy ears sewn into the side straps. Jason shivered and smiled as he pulled it up over his thighs.

He put on his suit, tied his shoes and straightened his tie. And as he walked out the door, Jason wished what he always wished to start his day: Please let me get hit by a bus and have to go to the hospital.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fatherly Advice

Autumn covered the pink blemish on her cheek with concealer. She put on eyeliner and lipstick, then tilted her head and kissed at the mirror.

“Hi,” she whispered in a smokey voice.

Sophie laughed. “I’ll meet you down there,” she said.

Jim, her boyfriend, had been waiting 20 minutes. Just long enough. She took one last glance at the mirror and saw the blemish still peeking through. Her teeth clenched; she always had a clear complexion, and now she was getting a zit on prom night, of all nights.

It was a special night, worthy of something special, Sophie had said earlier as they got ready. “Clarity,” she called it, in a pill shaped like Snoopy the dog.

It felt incredible; popularity through chemistry. She had been excited for prom before the drug, but now, oh my, she couldn’t wait to see her classmates. They were all so wonderful, and she was wonderful, and everything was going to just be … wonderful.

She applied more concealer, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. The zit seemed to have grown. Maybe the concealer is making it worse.

As she wiped the spot clean with alcohol, she noticed another pink spot on her forehead and one on her chin. She grunted in frustration.

The zit on her cheek formed a whitehead, and Autumn placed her fingers on each side of it.

Before she could squeeze it burst on its own, splattering the mirror and deflating with a trailing whine.

She squealed and watched in horror as more pimples emerged. Little fizzes burst and sizzled and pocked her face.

Her stomach cramped, and she doubled over in front of the mirror, letting out a deep fart. She wiped her face with a towel. It was damp with puss and left her face streaked in oily white.

Another bellowing fart. Then she heard a deep voice from the doorway. “Autumn, what’s … Oh my God!” Jim rushed back down the stairs and out the door.

“Wait!” she wailed, then doubled over again in pain. She lay on the ground with her knees to her chest, weeping. A crumpled corsage lay in the doorway.

Another zit popped and sighed.


“That's a bad story, Daddy," the little girl said, covers up to her nose.

"Well, don’t do drugs,” the father told his 10-year-old daughter, “Sleep tight.” He bent and kissed her forehead.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Five-Hour Charisma

Phil knelt in the dust on the black and white checkered tile. Tiny bottles lay scattered around his knees.

He took another from the shelf, checked the label. Five-Hour Energy. He dropped it and grabbed another. Five-Hour Energy. Another. Five-Hour Energy.


The clerk fidgeted with his green vest and watched with concern from half around the corner.

“Are you sure, sir, I can’t help you find something?”

“No. No. It’s fine. … I’m sorry. I’ll put them all back when I’m finished.”

Phil felt him hovering.

Five-Hour Energy. Five-Hour Energy. Five-Hour Energy.

A few minutes later, he had cleared the entire row. He sat in the jumble of vials and leaned back against the shelves, his head in his hands.

He looked up at the boy, then down again. His face flushed.

“It was here last week, but I guess you’re all out,” Phil mumbled.

He traced a crack in the tile.

“What are you looking for? We might have some in the back.”

“It’s … Five-Hour Charisma. It was here last week.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Her Neighborhood

Evelyn stirred the lemon wedge in her iced tea and watched through the window from her wheelchair. The dewy glass left her fingers damp. She wiped them on her dress.
It was hard to superimpose her childhood memories over the neighborhood today. She closed her eyes and pictured Betty skipping rope on the sidewalk across the street.

I went downtown To see Ms. Brown, She gave me a nickel To buy a pickle, The pickle was sour, So I bought a flower. ...
Evelyn opened her eyes, and three teens sat on the steps where Betty had lived. They passed around an amber bottle and catcalled at passerbys. One bent to pick up a chunk of asphalt. He hurled it - hard - at a group huddled on the curb below her window.
His aim was poor: It sailed wide and slammed into the apartment next door.

Friday, May 13, 2011

First Kill

Joe had visited the pawn shop every day that summer to make sure it was still there. He had done extra chores at home, odd jobs for the neighbors, mowed every lawn in a one-mile radius of his house.
Now it was his. He sat on his bed and ran his hand along the polished blue metal barrel. Finally. The Remington 1187 Upland Special. He fingered the swirling leaves engraved on the stock.
“Freaking awesome.”
His mother had forbid him from doing anything but look at it within the town limits, but she promised they would visit Uncle Steve’s farm that weekend.
Thursday and Friday crept by heartbeat by agonizing heartbeat. At 6:30 a.m. Saturday he was dressed and ready, two hours before the rest of his family finished breakfast.
As they pulled into Steve’s driveway, Joe bolted from the car, brandishing his shotgun above his head. He met Steve at the porch.
“Hey! Whoa! What you got there? Lemmie take a look at that.” Steve grinned and turned the weapon over in his hands. He looked down the barrel. “Pow!” He shot an imaginary bird out of the sky.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not a Succubus

“Chet, listen to me.”

“I am listening to you.” Chet jackhammered his index finger on the “B” button. The Gatling Stake Gun roared.

“No, Chet. Put down the controller and listen to me.” Jason picked up the TV remote.

“Turn that off and I will END you.”

“Goddammit Chet, this is important.”

“I’m listening to you. Talk.” He tilted the controller to the right and hit a rapid combination of buttons. “Shit.”

“Fine. Whatever." He ran his hand through his hair. "Listen, Janine is a succubus, Chet. She’s a damned succubus.”

“I know. She’s a real bitch.”

“No, she’s not a bitch … I mean, yes she’s a bitch, but she’s also a succubus. An honest-to-God succubus. I went over to Chris’s apartment, and I saw them on the couch through the window, and I thought they were making out. She looked like she was kissing him. But then I saw his face, and he just had this glazed look in his eyes. She wasn’t kissing him, man, she was literally sucking … something … out of him. She pulled away a little, and there was like a mist, a blue mist or something, coming out of him, and she was sucking it out.”