Terrence Sheppard wasn’t sure why he decided to run in an isolated wooded section of Prospect Park that afternoon. Usually he jogged one of the paved roads that divided the park into sections, or else satisfied himself with a couple laps around an open field where people tossed shiny Frisbees and chased their hyperkinetic dogs back and forth. But he was in a more restless mood than usual—he could feel a ragged pulse in his blood—so followed a dirt path that turned increasingly narrow the deeper he ran into the woods. Soon the blood pulse weakened, and with it, his energy. After another minute of increasingly sluggish running, he slowed to a walk and then sat to rest on a roughly cut tree stump just off one side of the trail. The scribbles of sky visible through the trees were gray and overcast. An abandoned strip of yellow crime tape—Do Not Enter—hung in tatters from a nearby tree that had a couple of nails pounded into its trunk. Beside the spiked tree was a pair of
The inside of the freezer was very blue and the girl was very blue as well. Her eyelashes were silvered with frost and her pale limbs arranged over the bags of ice as if she were armchaired and sleeping. Julie came around the corner of the gas station, tugged open the heavy freezer door, stared down, and was dumb. The wrongness of it clattered through her like dice: how girls shouldn’t be in freezers, how they shouldn’t be blue, how they shouldn’t be splayed out like this, so cold… For a moment no one breathed but the freezer, panting mechanical huffs of frost into the April air, until finally Julie’s lungs unclenched with a ragged gasp, and she began to scream.
Word Brooklyn is a great bookstore that's launching its online ebook storefront. They've invited Joyland to put together a reading and talk this February 8 at 7PM. I'll be reading—maybe from The Consumed Guide, definitely from I, Tania—along with my co-publisher Emily Schultz and Joyland author Jim Hanas. We'll be giving away print copies of Joyland Retro to anyone who buys an ebook in-store. It's a fascinating meeting- halfway-point for anyone following the digital versus brick-and-mortar store discussion.
Two days before Halloween, Ernie stood in the men’s room relieving himself on break. That’s when the clammy gray face of Troy Festerling, grill master, loomed into view. Troy belonged to that breed of men who liked to banter over the partition, like neighbors over a fence. Favorite subject: the “snatch” in the chow line. Ernie kept his eyes on the urinal screen and its built-in cake of deodorant.
Despite himself, Ernie looked up. For some reason Troy’s face was listing toward his with a cocked grin. “I said, ‘What?’”
“Want to make some dough?”
Ernie bristled. He had only mentioned struggling with alimony once, in a rare moment of candor, yet here Troy was exploiting the knowledge. “How?” he asked resentfully.
There are only a couple more nights left of cable as Ernest, who paid for it, is no longer in his life. Angelo flips impatiently past Serengeti lions and Obama-arguing commentators to settle on a black and white courtroom scene from his grandmother’s generation, but it doesn’t make any sense as he’s ridiculously stoned.
The radiator bangs apocalyptically, his bedroom swelters, and he’s switching back to a reality show with Los Angeles teenagers when Leonora appears in the room.
Slithering slowly in through the half-closed door, she mews melancholically at the foot of the queen-sized bed. Looking at him with subtle recrimination, she pulls her enormous grey tabby frame up into the tangled sheets. Prowling across the bed to where he lies, she butts her proud face into his cheek, her snout cool and comforting against his face, unshaven since he lost his job the week before
He reads her poetry that he hasn’t written. He weeps as he reads it. The words loll around on his tongue like melting ice cubes. He says the first one needs more salt. That one’s just right. She likes to think of poems as food. As the hours pass, all that movement desiccates his tongue. “It’s feeling dry! That’s how you know it’s upon you!” she says. “I think how you know is your whole body feels dry, like your tongue seems to feel right now!” (There are things that make you fall apart so fast.)
Massimo was not weak. You could not call him weak. He was tough, mean, and shithouse poor, scrubbing toilets and cooking ragu in a sleazy hostel, but only because his brother owned the place and was doing him a favor. He’d done a ten-year sentence for selling drugs, but now in his poverty and miserable labor, society made him pay for a thousand more crimes they imagined he’d done, would someday do. He’d never had it good. His father, dying, had cursed him; his mother had slashed him with a kitchen knife; and his wife, pregnant, had screwed his best friend in St. Minerva’s confessional. But despite the loss, his whole being crackled with power, tremendous like fire from the black, hot core of the earth.
I can’t read Lucille’s smile. I know her name and that’s all. We only met a moment ago. Around us, the room is a small ocean of girls, rough, beautiful. It’s long after midnight and Lucille and I stand side by side, a sliver of space between us. We watch the dance floor, drinking hard, while girls hooking and pushers work the sidelines. Women’s voices slap and swing their laughter up against the music on the record player tended by the bartender, Elegant Ivan, who knows most of the patrons by first name. In the center, they’re dancing so close. The johns and dealers just come and go.
I drink deep and gesture with my hands, words spill away from me and I scramble to catch them, raising my voice, to hold this woman’s attention through the clamor, cat-calls, and sweet murmurs in the room.
Ever since I retired on the southern side of sixty years old, I have spent at least a couple hours a day at the Highland Park Historical Society, here on Chicago’s North Shore. My background in corporate law means that I am a research fiend at heart. I enjoy digging through old books, and piecing together scraps of narrative. I also enjoy art—maritime art especially—and have managed to assemble a tidy little collection that my wife, Tamsin, adds to each Hanukkah. Our arrangement is simple, if less than traditional: I forgo eight days of gifts for one sublime canvas that she picks out for me at our favorite Chicago art gallery. My requests never vary: the painting must be old, authentic, and it has to be put the smell of sea salt in my nostrils.
... a communiqué from Los Angeles editor Mathew Timmons and Insert Blanc Press.
The week Owen left New York was one of sweltering humidity reaching down to enrapture us, swaddle us, leave us all reaching for insufficient comfort. We assumed Owen was alone in the task of loading a truck, of carting boxes and disassembled furniture down flights of stairs and into a double-parked van. It was a week of sweat-stained shirts, of dodging brownouts, of foregone conclusions about the city and about what constituted comfort demolished. Owen was leaving us, and few among us were sad to see him go.
Roberta refused to move past the antiques shop, its grimy front window crowded with Korean furniture, ornaments and bric-a-brac. Anna protested her immovable mother; they were on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Seoul and en-route to Chanddokkung Palace, why delay in a creepy antiques shop? Roberta pulled Anna past the colossal stone creatures on either side of the shop entrance. Anna couldn’t decide if the bizarre-looking statues were supposed to be dogs or lions. She and her mother separated immediately, Anna drawn to the rustic urns and Roberta elsewhere.
Written in the Key of Cormac McCarthy: I Love You, Season 1, Episode 2.
Interviews Tommy Lasorda – Upstate New York – The War – Ally Takes Cookie –Asks “Where are you going with that cookie – Scares Tommy Lasorda because he was eating a cookie
A week after visiting the hair salon, Michelle saw her blue dinosaur again. She’d had trouble falling asleep, because she was unused to the coolness of the pillow under her bare neck at night. For twenty-three years, she had slept on her back with her long, thick hair as an extra cushion. It was all gone now. Not quite all of it, but the crop-cut the hairdresser had created when Michelle allowed his scissors free reign still looked more like absence than style when she looked in the mirror. And it felt like absence when she lay down, waiting for the blood in her neck to warm the fabric beneath her before she could fall asleep.
Kurt von Hagersfeld (b. 1963) was born and raised in a small suburb of Boston where he developed such a strong love for celebrations that he relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico to pursue studies in event planning and management. He remained there throughout the 1980s, then moved to San Francisco, relocated to Houston, spent time in Oklahoma City, and finally made his way down to New Orleans. He refuses to disclose the specifics of his current location since he believes that some details should be left to the imagination. Von Hagersfeld has said that the fact that he exists should be enough to satisfy anyone’s curiosity as to his whereabouts.
It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. My son Zack was a junior counselor, not even sixteen till August. The camp hired him at such a young age only because he had completed lifeguard training. Learn to swim, we’d told him. Learn to ride a bike! Deliver things! The wave pool is hiring. We told him so many things. Put your pennies in a piggy bank. Save for a car! All the little children, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight! Leather craft, BB guns, nature walks in the arroyo, what could be so hard about that?
And what if we don’t look? — Erwin Schrödinger
Señor El Gato
It’s everywhere now: the lampposts, the telephone poles. In every corner lot, stapled to wooden slats. Everyone gave permission. We’ll keep our eyes peeled! Smiling, happy to help. Jolly suburban adventure.
Let them bring home the news, then. Make the report. You can keep looking. Stay out a little later. All night, if you have to. Thinking like a cat.
Making lefts, skipping blocks. Spiraling outward. The neighborhoods getting strange: lawns greener, houses bigger. Equivocal, anonymous. Lights coming on now, televisions. Curtains open onto empty rooms. Dioramas. Fairy castles.
A wrong turn into a cul-de-sac: three girls your daughter’s age, conspiring under a streetlamp. Halters and flip-flops, hands on cocked hips. Sodium bulb sputtering overhead. Staring as you pass. The lamppost between them bare. The frontier, now.
Rob Ruskin put an ad for the job on Craigslist: Wanted attractive, intelligent girlfriend, who will love, cherish and respect me, tolerate my family, friends and bad habits. Salary: $5000 a month.
The firm’s receptionist, Adele, at once sylph, salamander, undine, gnome, was trusted with the task of sifting through applicants. That Rob was an attorney, a partner, and she not yet at the assistant’s level sought, made it risky and complicated. He told her it was an experiment in which these women would serve as a control group against those who would volunteer for the position.
The news that Joyland had three stories included in the other distinguished stories list in Best American Short Stories 2011 came the day we were relaunching the site last week, so allow me to revisit the news while not chasing down glitches and dead links. First, congratulations to our editors Kara Levy and David McGimpsey and the authors.