Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flash Wednesday.8

Here's one last June installment of Flash Wednesday! I made a broadside of this story, which is the title piece for my art show this Friday at James Rowland Shop. Check out the broadside here


My shift starts at 8:30. Belladon’s starts at 11. Sometimes we trade shifts, but always, always, we stay within the realm of our own.

The way Belladon does his job is like this: he struts. He’s majestic in his brown paper briefs, a grease spot marking the very nose of their slope. My uniform—which I wear even when I work the 11—my uniform is more modest: a burgundy velvet cloak. The way I do my job is still unclear.

Sometimes working the 11 makes me feel foreign, Belladon tells me. And when we trade shifts, it feels like I’m coming home. Belladon lies a lot. That’s how he gets me to take his shift.

The cook is sorting through tubs of coleslaw with a Sharpie, hastening their expiry dates with crunching strokes of his wrist. Is it a wrist? No. It’s the graceless place where his hand meets his arm, a collision.

Lately, we’ve noticed groundcherries poking out from between the tubs of coleslaw, finishing off their growth with husky bobs. Belladon says it’s because we’ve stopped ordering sauerkraut. The stink kept the weeds at bay.

I’ve never felt foreign, exactly, here inside my cloak, but then I’ve never felt the urge to strut either. Whether I’m the 8:30 or the 11, it’s always been Belladon’s body that explains my own.


Belladon has stopped wearing his briefs. Are you working the 8:30? I ask. He tells me no. We’ve created a new shift, he says, to fill in the gap between the shifts that already exist.

And there’s no uniform?

More like there’s no copyright. We’ve bumped up its expiry date. The sight of a naked man has finally surpassed being embarrassing.

I shuck a groundcherry and pop it in my mouth. I study Belladon’s penis, which is thin and craggy, like a long shred of cabbage. The cook unloads chestnuts from a grease-stained paper bag. The place where his hand meets his arm crackles.

I reach around inside my cloak for my penis. All I can feel is forest, cicada shrieks, the lusty smell of dusk. I stagger, I tear at the night. I brush past a halo of pubic hair, push into the thicket, further until I trip on a freshly cut stump. Horror is lush in my throat. This, I think, is the nature of doom: the restless mortar between plastic tubs of slop.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Broadsides on display this Friday at JRS

I'm moving to Iowa this fall to study at UI Center for the Book, and so am getting ready to say goodbyefor nowto the Bay. If you're in the area this Friday, June 29, come say hi/bye at James Rowland Shop in Berkeley, where, for one night only, they'll be showing a collection of broadsides I letterpress printed. Each one features an original short story or poem, is printed on re-purposed office supplies, and will be selling for cheap! The show, titled             SH IFTS, will be up from 7-10 pm, and there will be pizza and drinks! James Rowland Shop is located at 2447 Dwight Way at Telegraph. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Taco Group now posted!

I finally posted my short story "The Taco Group," along with all its bells and whistles from a performance I gave last year at Headlands Center for the Arts. The piece tells of infighting among the members of a sinister kaffeeklatsch, a group whose goal is to build a utopia out of the remnants of the post-functional city in which they live. As I wrote the story, I realized my aim was similar to that of my characters': I was doing a lot of scavenging in an attempt to make something perfect. I processed this a little in an artist's statement, and used recycled materials to construct slides of the utopian city's streets, as well as fixings for a taco buffet. I also letterpress printed the Taco Group's progress report. All these elements came together to form a not-quite-reading/not-quite-installation. Is it something we could call a book? See for yourself!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flash Wednesday.7

If last week's Flash Wednesday was (allegedly!) about Tom Cruise, this one's (allegedly!) about Lindsey Lohan. To see a letterpress broadside of this story, click here!

I Am So Alone

When I walk, my feet squeak between the balloons that form the surface of this earth: blue and pink and milky yellow. Squeak. Sometimes I fear I’ll fall right through, and feel the slime-coated grit of the stone in the middle, the cherry pit to which the balloons are tethered. I work my tongue around inside my mouth, trying to make myself a map. What else can I do, when beyond each step lies a bog—cleavage squeaking—a bog that longs to absorb what’s left of my career? Squeak.

Toothpaste. Sometimes I find it clinging to the ground, dulling the colored mounds as I stumble my way toward the club. I wonder if I forgot to rinse. My gums taste dry: some blood, maybe, a speck of cocaine. But no sign of mint. I work my tongue around some more. I run my fingers—squeak—along the chalky gunk on the ground. Tastes like melted ice cream. Wait. That’s not the club I’m headed toward—it’s the soda shop. And who’s that outside smoking? Fuck, it’s Drea de Matteo.

BAM! She puts out her smoke on a pink balloon, right at its apex, where all its color gathers in a nipple. It shrivels and gasses down a crevasse, and the whole front corner of the soda shop—which was built on this pink balloon—the whole front corner crashes, fizzes, crumbles in a pile. I wait for her to say Come at me, bitch—this is what she always says when she sees me. Instead, she sneers and tells me the power’s out. I watch the empty calories—sorbets, goo ripples, sickly speckled mint—flow out from the rubble in rivulets, pastels veining out across the blistery land.

The thing is, I think I’ve almost got it. My tongue learns from its mistakes, working nonstop, cartographing a path of minimal humiliation. Come at me, bitch, Drea finally says, and to stall for more time, I tell her I’ve been approached by JC Penney to create a fashion line. What the fuck did you just say? She’s so quick to judge. Just like every other person on this earth, she’s planted herself between my happiness and me. In a flash, I envision the pulp, the place between the pit and the skin, the mantle made up of thousands of tautly white strings. This is where the vitamins are. I place my lips in my palm, pucker them so as to birth a map. As Drea claws at my hair, I hold out my hand with a look of triumph. Lying in my palm, cradled by the graceful swoop of my lifeline: a cherry stem in a perfect knot. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Video from WTAW!

There is video up on Vimeo of me reading at WTAW in Sausalito last week. I read several short stories: "The Drift" (which I posted on Flash Wednesday week before last),  "The Hare" (which first appeared on BOMBlog), and "Tammy and the Amaranth" (which first appeared in The Collagist).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flash Wednesday.6

During June I'll be posting a piece of flash fiction—500 words or less—every week. 

No One Is Perfectly Cast

The Order decided he would be the one. Short in stature, sadly, but loved by many, the glare of his teeth blinded them to the shit on his breath. Funny now, from where we stand: a midget sock-sliding across the floor in his briefs. But it’s hard for us to fathom the temporal nature of influence. In his own maniacal minute, he was god.

A wife, ordered the Order, and this is where they faltered. Model after long-legged model, each surpassed him in her glamour, clawing up fame with nails like shrimp tails until she had enough to make it on her own. And the irony: the least towering of the prototypes went solo from the start. Shortly after she hatched, the Order watched her stagger away into the night. She settled in a mossy northwestern town: mysterious villagers, weird diner, a possibly esoteric past.

Years later, a location scout stumbled on this town. Perfect, he told the casting director over a slice of pie. But when she showed him a headshot of the actor she’d picked for the part of the werewolf, the location scout balked: He reminds me of the one. A synthesizer riff hit them both at the nape of the neck, lovingly shoving their faces toward the stage. There she stood, the least successful of the one’s potential wives. She’d found work at this roadhouse as its chanteuse. And even now, from where we stand, her song is wax, is isinglass, is wary.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reading at WTAW this Thursday!

Why There Are Words is a monthly reading series at Studio 333 in Sausalito, and I'm part of the lineup this Thursday! Organized by Peg Alford Pursell, the theme for this month's WTAW is Animal. I'll be reading very short stories about several of the following: an iguana, a possum, a complicated tortoise-and-hare relationship, and an undetermined beast. Other readers include Justin Torres, Dani BurlisonAllison Landa, Bruce Genaro, Tami Anderson, James Tipton, and Carolyn Cooke. The event starts at 7 pm and is 5 bucks. See you there!

Friday, June 8, 2012

THREE #3 hot off the press!

I just got THREE #3 in the mail, and it looks beautiful! Edited by Rob Kirby, the third issue of this Ignatz-nominated anthology was funded by a grant from Prism Comics. It has three main features: a high-school memoir by Carrie McNinch; a hilarious all-star jam featuring Ivan Velez, Jr., Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Diane DiMassa, Ellen Forney, Joan Hilty, and Rob Kirby; and a glimpse at three Wuvable Oaf characters' lives by Ed Luce (who also designed the cover!).

This issue also includes guest features by the fab MariNaomi, Marian Runk (no relation!), and a tribute to Dolly Parton by Janelle Hessig and me!

You can order yourself a copy postage-free here before June 10! OR, if you're in the Chicago area next weekend, Rob will be hawking copies at CAKE (Table 47). Stop by and pick one up!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flash Wednesday.5

It's the return of Flash Wednesday! During June I'll be posting a piece of flash fiction—500 words or less—every week. This one's based on real-life work experience selling tee-shirts.

The Drift

Try to think of something different, Hazel said.

We’d been surrounded by the same slogans for so long, calling out the same prices, answering the same questions, it was really the tallest sort of order.

At this point, as you can imagine, the tee-shirt stand seemed about the extent of the world, let alone the fair. The two of us weren’t a big enough staff to allow for breaks.

I tried to describe to Hazel the former planet of our lives: a cheap, uncrowded coffee shop; a landlord willing to wait till mid month; bi-weekly unemployment checks. As I remembered this planet, though, I began to doubt we’d ever walked its terrain. This, I decided mid sentence, was the planet we hoped to get to, the one that would spin up to meet our feet in the instant we finally got paid.

As I manned the table, fetching sizes, engaging in chatter, my feet became wet with carnival muck. The soles of my boots, I realized, had split.

On the sixth day, the air began to purple, the shadows curled in a fetal sort of way. The rides were being dismantled, tents were sinking in on themselves as if starved. All potential shoppers shifted their interest to the sky.

They should’ve thought of this before, Hazel said. They should’ve manufactured us some pinholes to sell.

I must have known somewhere deep that the moon was now in front of the sun.

Hazel sighed as, for the first time all week, she sat. It felt strange to not be working, the sun now so dark and bright. Like a bomb had gone off, like going blind. I echoed Hazel’s sigh and also sat. I could hear the prize-winning chickens, the only sound now in the otherwise silent weight of the eclipse. I could hear their voices gather in the chambers of their beaks.

I thought about buying a corndog, a bag of roasted nuts. I thought about the golden way such things give upon first bite, the satisfaction when they split. I thought about how much of my check would go toward a new pair of boots.

Boots be damned, I thought, the carnival muck by now such a normal part of having feet. Because: as our new planet spun into view, I began to have time to mold its continents into temperate shapes.