At the age of thirty-one, I moved in with my mother. This was not entirely my fault. My apartment building was about to go condo, and I could no longer afford the rent. My lanky, bookish boyfriend took a job in Florida and unexpectedly moved away. My pet octopus caught a mysterious virus and died; I came home from work and found her bobbing sadly on the surface of her tank, her skin washed clean of color. The combination of all these factors left me listless. I could not cope with the hassle of moving, much less finding a new apartment within my price range, in a good neighborhood, within a matter of weeks. It was much easier to pack everything I owned into boxes and ship it all into storage instead. I liked the feeling of shedding my belongings; it seemed as though the objects that had pinned me to the ground were lifted one by one, rendering me weightless. It seemed as though my own personality could similarly be purged of excess baggage and rendered new.
Reprinted: New Stories from the Midwest
Winner: First Place, Glimmer Train Fiction Open
sounds. At the age of nine, I went through a monster phase, in which Mom indulged me.She and I would drive to the library and come home with books of real-life horrors, which she would read to me before bed, as though to guarantee I would not fall asleep until dawn. I loved them all: giant squids, alligators, and woolly mammoths, now extinct. But none could touch the majesty and strangeness of the beasts I was accustomed to.
Jack: My mother used to tell me that I was a changeling, born out of an ostrich egg. We lived then on an ostrich farm, so it was not as strange as it
before and spoke knowingly and loftily about what the rest could expect, the campfire songs, canoe races, and marathon games of Capture the Flag. There was the usual scuffle over who would get the bunks closest to the window and the counselor’s room. One or two girls had never been to sleep-away camp at all and were full of anxious questions about the latrines. Within an hour of our arrival, the cabin looked as though we had lived there forever.
The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr
There were eight of us in the cabin, all Jews from the north side of Chicago. A few girls had been to Camp Reeds
now—our mother, who believed in plants the way other people believed in God, had turned our old playroom and study into greenhouses over the years. Jolene and I let ourselves in and stood for a few minutes on the threshold, unwilling to take off our coats and face the rest of the afternoon.
In the Spirit Room
Crab Orchard Review
After the funeral, Jolene and I went back to our mother’s house. We had grown up in these same rooms, though the
place was somewhat altered
Dharma at the Gate
Reprinted: New Stories from the Midwest
Lucy wakes up with his smell on her clothes. Before school she
packs herself a lunch, putting in extra food for him—he will not bring anything from home, and she can’t abide his habit of getting by on nothing but sodas and candy bars from the vending machines. It is not yet dawn when she hurries to her car, the frost crackling beneath her feet. She has to leave early and detour south along the highway to pick him up. Xavier is already waiting outside the house when Lucy gets there. Despite the cold, he has no coat; he leans against a tree, posing for her, his ears and nose charred red by the chill. He climbs into the car and kisses her wildly, as though he has been drowning without her presence in the long hours of the morning.
crackling beneath his feet. In one hand he holds a spokeshave, in the other a bucket of varnish. His breath glazes the air. The sun has barely risen, outlining the high clouds in gold. Jesse can hear that the neighbors’ children are awake. They live down the long hill, but their flutelike voices carry on the breeze.
Winner: First Place, The Chautauqua Contest
On the morning of the first frost of winter, Jesse walks to the barn with the ground
rooms, unnerved by the density of the darkness. There are no street lamps here. No ambient city glow, soaking up the stars. Trees clack in the wind outside. Lila shivers inside her robe.
Porcupines in Trees
At midnight, she is still awake. The cabin is a noisy place, filled with the bang of a shutter, the groan of ancient plumbing. Lila wanders the
snoring grated on him. He flipped and wriggled inside my womb. He was ravenous, and he drank me dry every night, so that I woke each morning with a parched mouth.
I was carrying a son. I knew this because he would not rest, particularly at night, inside my stuffy bedroom. Eloise’s
of paper flowers hung from the ceiling. The diaper pail was already in place, gleaming beneath the bare bulb. Cosmo had brought a trash bag. He set about gathering up the stuffed animals and tossing them into the depths. His instructions had been specific—everything was to be thrown out, none of it given to friends or donated to charity. His wife wanted these things removed from existence
The Fourth River
After midnight, Cosmo found himself in the baby’s room. The crib was half-assembled, missing its front panel and the carved headboard. A mobile