"An Baile na mBan" now available in Hidden Youth!

My first professional-rate short story is now available in print from Crossed Genres! "An Baile na mBan" is just one of 22 tales of fantastical diversity in the pre-1930s world, all featured in Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History(Perhaps not-so-surprisingly, mine's about pucas, Travellers, and abortion during the Irish Civil War.)

Publisher's Weekly said, "The offerings are solid, entertaining, and generally fascinating, conjuring up voices and experiences not often heard. This collection is well worth checking out for all fans of speculative fiction."

From the publisher...

“The sequel to the World Fantasy and Locus Award-nominated anthology Long Hidden, Hidden Youth focuses on children: underage protagonists marginalized in their time. 22 excellent stories ranging across nearly 2,400 years and spanning the globe, Hidden Youth reveals the stories of young people whose lives have been pushed to the margins of history.”

Disjunction Junction

I’d like to say that the picture surprised me, but that sentiment would get us off to a bad start. It would make me sound dishonest, and that lack of trust is hardly the kind of thing on which to build a healthy relationship (we’ve got to at least get past the introductions before I start lying to your face, and there’ll be plenty of time for that). No, the centerpiece of Carey’s opening was really more vapid than anything else. Sure, it was violent and surrealist, and this was all good and shocking at the exact moment that I laid eyes on the frame, but after that, it just felt stodgy. Mundane. I went from “Oh my God!” to “oh,” in less time than it took to blink. It was just the kind of thing you’d expect her to do.

“I really wanted to do something personal this time,” she explained at the gallery. “There’s such a disjunction between the artist and the art, and I wanted to find a way to bridge that gap.” Disjunction? Who says that? “Even with self-portraiture, there’s this like, disconnect, because you frame the shot, but the camera actually takes it—but it’s automated, ya know? It’s a machine—and then you have to develop the film, and I wanted to find some unity in the process, and explore what it means to be an artist in a post-analog society.”

She went on to explain that the whole idea came about when she accidentally cut herself in the dark room. She was struck by the idea of a photograph thatliterally bleeds, so after the film was developed, she decided to make it happen. From what I understand, she made a solution of epoxy and her own blood and applied it directly onto the finished photograph with a paint brush. She then sealed the picture in an airtight frame just as it begin to congeal; rather than allow the mixture to harden, she wanted to capture it while it was still fresh and alive and actively bleeding. Apparently, this now qualified her as a multimedia artist.

The picture, she said, was intended to illuminate the violent discordance between youth and adulthood at the onset of puberty. The childish subject of the photograph epoxy-bled from dozens of small holes on its back, while long green grass blades penetrated its rough, synthetic skin. This was supposed to be phallic in some way, something about nature and rape and nurturing matriarchal conceptions in an otherwise patriarchal something something. I don’t know.

I decided to ask the question that I think was on everybody’s mind: “So…why’d you take a picture of a Chia Pet?”

Afterward, I apologized, and told her that I’d had too much of that free champagne they were passing around so readily. This was a lie, of course; I didn’t have a single thing to drink the entire night. Mainly because I didn’t want to sleep with her again, but I lied about that part, too.

Dr. Feelgood, Meet Dr. Strangelove

I asked him how he felt about Motley Crüe and he asked me what that was. I bit my bottom lip to keep mouth shut because I didn’t want to say something mean and ruin the interview — nothing kills the mood like a missed metal joke. Wait, that was a lie; Crüe kills the mood much more violently (unless you’re Pam and it’s 1995, but I’m not and it’s not).

I took a few moments to collect my thoughts; he took the silence as an invitation, and told me that I smell like an arboretum, which I suppose was flattering, but still. Is there a more un-sexy word than ‘arboretum?’ Even ‘syphilis’ is sexier; it’s smooth, and sibilant. I said “Thank you,” as he twirled my hair around his finger and looked up at me with puppy dog eyes. Except you know those little tiny dogs that hump everything they see? It was those kind of puppy dog eyes. I reminded him that this was strictly professional.

“Of course,” he said. His eyes narrowed as his brows raised.

“Um, so, what else do you have in your uh, medical bag there?” I asked, hoping he would stop touching me. He didn’t.

“Do you want to see?”

“Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point, right?”

A moment of hesitation. “Right,” he said, and got off the bed to grab his bag. It even had a red medic sign on the side. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so afraid that his cologne might suffocate me.

“Lie back,” he said. “Trust me.” So I did, and he tied a blindfold around my eyes and bound my wrists to the bedpost. But I wasn’t nervous. “You know, it’s difficult for me to…truly demonstrate what I can do if you won’t remove your clothes.” I got nervous.

“That’s alright. I just need an example to get the idea of it. So I can write about it later.”

“As you…desire,” he said, and by the sound of it, went back to his bag of tricks.

” So women let you do this? Find a stranger on the Craig’s List, and let him tie them up and blindfold them? Really?” He pressed something cold, hard, and smooth against my arms. As much as I hate to admit it, I felt kind of nice, like metallic fingers tracing lines along my skin.

“There’s nothing strange in what I do,” he said, with a lonely trail of reverb in his throat. “I offer them pleasure. Release. An escape from stress. And I ask nothing in return.”

Nothing at all? I pondered this for a moment, but my thoughts were interrupted by the realization that he was using a spoon to turn me on, and that it was actually kind of working. I asked him, with a distinct tone of urgency, to take the blindfold and the handcuffs off. And he did. He wasn’t offended at all; in fact, he was remarkably sweet about the whole thing.

We ended up lying in bed, just talking for a while, about his loneliness, and his search for true intimacy, and how this hasn’t worked but he keeps trying anyway. I couldn’t decide if he was noble, pathetic, or just plain sad. And then I couldn’t tell the difference between them anymore, so I fucked him. What else was I supposed to do?

The Sound of Silence

Carey always had a sharp ear — her mother was an opera singer-turned-voice instructor who raised her girl to always stay in tune with the sounds of places and words and the world around her. As she grew older, she found comfort in the lingering baritone reverb of a man’s voice, and the sultry sounds of thoughts sneaking past pursed lips and hanging softly in the air, leaving a trail of audible bread crumbs behind. Even her own mezzo-alto echo could glide with the weight of a hummingbird’s song.

It was the complete absence of an echo, however, that made Ben’s adverse reaction to her news so shocking. The cavernous boom of his refusal was hardly a tickle in Carey’s mind compared to the sight of him catching her words in mid-air and crushing them in his hand, letting the syllables sift lie sand through his clenched fingers. There was nothing more haunting to her than the absence of sound; nothing more isolating than the feeling of still, silent air on her skin. Carey felt asthmatic; without the vibrations of soundwaves and frequencies, the air tasted thin and dead. She looked down and saw every plosive and sibilant shattered like glass fall and sprinkle the ground. That was when she knew that she never taste the resonant tones of Ben’s sweet voice again.

Bottles & Cans

I set the box down, turn my back to it, walk to the door and hear CRASH! CLANG!, the harsh, concussive orchestra, the echoing collision within glass walls/aluminum chambers, anticipate a soft plastic pop but find it’s drowned out/overwhelmed/consumed by that abrasive cacophony born of late drunken beers, breakfast cans of Coca-Cola Zero, jagged-edge pull-lids still covered in chowdah, all of which feel this crushing urge to prove their worth.

She keeps one hand on a cart/a tank—a prop from some post-apocalyptic time, with ruined treads and bulging sacks of scavenged somethings strapped to its flank—while she squats and sifts through the box. She plays the drum major, conducting a loose percussion section as her hand shuffles through the box/blue box/green box with its tri-angle’d arrow design and the sound slays a single cilia in my eardrum. She looks up at me with sunken, slanted eyes that bleed to jaundice at the edges and offers a glimmer of graciousness, an uncertain/empty smile from behind her dry, sagging lips. Not empty in that vapid way that other people offer—empty in her mouth, where nearly all her teeth have rotted out.

“Sankiyu, sankiyu!,” she slurs excitedly.

I respond with a slight nervous smile. You’re welcome? I never did much worth a welcome. I didn’t realize beer still made folks giddy three days late, especially when there’s nothing left to drink.

No, wait, there’s a little bit left, dripping on her fingers, flowing with the age’d, weather’d patterns/grooves cut into her sandpaper skin/making a medley of sugary juices, mold and soup in the base of the box/puddling on the curb/coating her frail old hands. They looked like latex gloves, her hands, six sizes too small—more like a finger condom used for five and a palm—stretched out, weathered nearly to the breaking point, worn down to a weak, translucent film of thin plastic, filled with pebbles and stapled to her sleeves.

I stand still and silent on the front steps, watching while she finishes her task, tossing empties into her cart with ardor and zeal; the steady clamor of the clinking cans hypnotizes/keeps my attention like raindrops. When she’s finished/when the box is barren, save for the sickening puddle of purée inside, she turns back to me and waves/mumbles “Sankiyu,” again as she pushes her cart up the hill and away; it must weigh 300 pounds, or more, but her fragile, 80-pound frame is determined. She conquers gravity and somehow makes it to the top of the hill. How did I not hear her approach in the first place? I tighten my velvet bathrobe belt. The sharp, discordant jingle/jangle of bottles and cans reverberates down the corridor of rowhouses on the street and I’m amazed it doesn’t wake the neighbors. With one hand, I grab the newspaper; with the other hand, the box/head back inside/wonder if the seven dollars and thirty-five cents she’ll make from the bottle deposit is really worth it.

Flamingo Pink

It always starts out with an excuse, a justification, something to alleviate the guilt and awkwardness. “Are you sure you’re okay?” or, “I’ve never done this before,” or “Does that feel good?” A voice that spills in hushed whispers, wearing a sexy disguise of low decibel tones and airy breath that tickles the other’s ear. Subtle, revealing secrets that manage somehow to advance the foreplay to another step when choreographed and dubbed to the nervous grope of fingertips that dance across her skin.

“You like that, baby? Yeah?” fumbled Andy from his lips as he worked his hand down her thigh. He stood above her, looking down at her with slotted eyes as he bit his lip and pulled the skin of his cheeks tight against his teeth. Her thighs were thick like watermelons, with the texture to boot—skin like vinyl, recessed beneath incongruous ridges of razor burn and rashes trying desperately to clear.

He kneaded her flesh with a hard sensuality until his first finger reached the ridge; his hand stopped at the cliff, like a bungee jumper paralyzed with a sudden fear of heights. His trembling fingers tried to recover and sneak back up her leg, but she grabbed his hand with hers and placed it back on her raw, severed flesh.

“Wassamatah, baby,” she squeaked too loudly. “Ya neva bin wit’ a amputee befoah?
He fumbled for a suitable response—“What? Sure, I…”

“Or ya neva bin wit’ a prah’sitoot?” she growled, less like a cat and more like a lion devouring it’s prey. “Why’nt’chu c’mere n’ gimme yer cahk, baby?”

Andy quickly pulled his hand from the stump of her leg and held the armrests of her wheelchair with a kung-fu grip. He clenched his muscles tightly as pushed up on the armrests and lifted himself onto her. “Uh, yeah. Are you-are you ready for my cock now, b-baby?”

“Mm, yeah.” As she slid down in her seat to give him better access, Andy’s fragile left arm buckled at the elbow, unable to support his weight. He flailed backwards, his nervous leg kicking frantically, fumbling for grounding but finding instead the brake release of her wheelchair. With one wheel still stabilized, the chair began to pivot until the other wheel spun off the edge of the stairwell landing. Gravity pulled her viciously down the stairs like an angry beast grasping for his meal but still confined to his pit.

Sprawled out on his back, Andy couldn’t see her topple down the stairs—but the war drum rhythm was unmistakable and deafening as it echoed throughout the stairwell.

After a moment of shock and gathering senses, he leaped to his feet and bounded pantless down the stairs. He could hear the warbled torque of her bent and twisted wheel, still spinning in an oblong route, cutting through the air the whole down. As he got closer, he could make out another soft, liquid sound that kept a steady beat beneath it.

“Baby? You okay?” he asked with a waver in his voice as his eyes scanned the wreckage with the excitement of a driver going past a motor vehicle accident on the interstate. But he didn’t lost his erection until he saw blood from her head dripping off the ledge of the bottom stair and pooling on the landing below.

When The Bomb Drops

They don’t teach children how to deal with bomb scares anymore. No one tells them how to hide underground, under desks, or in doorways these days when they’re dropped. We don’t drill them how to move or stay calm when that shrill sound like air raid sirens spills from her mouth. No, these days they don’t have to learn what to do when that tommy gun hidden in your leftest chest lays down a spray of bullets from its chain that makes your hand tremble like an alcoholic, or how to best recover when your upper lip warbles and turns concave, leaving you to stutter-spit your words. Just like no one builds shelters with six-feet thick cement filled with fine, silky sheets, dessert wines, fancy flowers, or another hundred pick-up lines, unrivaled and original, with a back-up generator fueled by scented candles, Marvin Gaye on vinyl or the Postal Service mp3s. If only we had spent those awful gym class hours learning how to keep our hands from sweating, feeling clammy when they’re clasped in one another, or if health class taught us not to taste her tonsils with our tongues but rather nibble on that soft and tender spot behind her ear, maybe then we would survive when the motionless air of an impending Armageddon implodes all around us, pelting us with a flurry or a hail of sensation that undermines—overwrites?—every social scripture that they’d taught us up ’til then. Unfortunately, it has proven quite difficult to evaluate a student’s mastery of mix tapes on standardized tests, or to establish an objective criteria by which to judge that attentive child who eliminates the gaps between the songs and leaves no awkward silence but those select few fleeting moments when the pause is deemed appropriate.

Sure, they can teach you how to take a test, but never what to say, nor the ways to respond, when she finally drops the bomb.

Life Support System : : Please Reboot

She jabs a thumb drive to her neck, feels the motherboard whir and warm as the OS takes control.


//INSERT: libation = drive-D

160,000 nanobots in every ounce of syrup. Consistency like motor oil; never quite as sweet but she drinks it all the same. Oozing over tongues, the nanobots release a shock at the back of the throat, electrical impulses cued when the horizontal journey comes to an end, jolting user


before the vertical descent into Central Processing Unit. When it hits, they release inhibitors inside her, consuming RAM, slowing syntax functions as they integrate her motherboard and stimulate her light-emitting diodes, obstructing image render full pixel view. Corrupting, arousing them just enough to crash.

Runtime error: motor function impaired.

Force Quit?// yes : : no

System reboot imminent.



// systemcheck = please press C//

12% . . . 34% . . . 67% . . . 84% . . . 90% . . . 97% . . .

Data loss :: 16%. Processing image — input :: pupil. Render:

Everything is pixelated, unclear. Oversaturated, or at least too much to process.

This system was not properly shut down. Run Diagnostic check?

Warning: spinning disks. Do not move

and the system struggles like a chain ungreased. Oxidized, slow and clumsy, a rocky ride with quick fumbles forward, tripping over stubborn links and failing again.

Warning: Too many connections. Audio input: none.

Warning Not enough space on hard disk. Unable to complete function.

Additional 3 GB required.

function :: MOVE files=ALL -> f::// toilet

Are you sure you wish to delete all items in folder?// yes :: no


//Eject: liquid//drive-D

Recalibrating balance . . .

Calculating gravity . . .


Please quit all other applications during this process

ERROR::drive override//ignore

//Re-routing RAM to CPU//

disk check complete




She had tattoos of photographs. It was the first thing I noticed. And they weren’t Polaroids either. But her body art was framed like pictures, mostly in landscape, collage’d across her calf like a scrapbook. Frozen slivers of light and time, divided by the rule of thirds. You could tell that whoever took the originals knew a thing or two about composition. Or was it the artist who arranged the images in just that way? I thought perhaps that they were photographs that she had taken as a child with a cardboard Kodak camera. The pictures came out sloppy, clumsy, but the memories were true. In this way they were immortalized with the Lichtensteinian precision of a needle by a steady hand. These instants that once left their scars within her, now scarred her from without. Sure, the details of the moments may have changed as she looked back at them, but they were frozen now the way she knew them, the way she wanted them to be. If the pictures changed in the translation from celluloid to ink, did the moments change, too? Did her memories, or more, like a butterfly in time? Did the essence, or the purpose of the pictures change? Once they were honest and real, specific instants of light, captured and kept and then brought back to life in a chemical bath. Now in this new medium, they had become something else entirely. Did the tattoo artist play the role of translator, or adaptor? Both rely heavily on interpretation — it becomes his perception of her moments, of her memories. Of her life. The back of her leg had become a strip of film, unrolled and exposed, and I couldn’t help but wonder where the negatives were, and what they looked like in their sepia tinge. I tried to read their story the way that I read comics, a sequential narrative postulated in the panels, but she walked away too quickly and so the page was turned. I finished my lunch and went back to work.

The Last Happy Meal

She lurched into the room on legs like Roman pillars — large, coarse, and grooved, speckled with the dying glimmer of glass caught in sandstone that struggled to remind you of its more majestic time some thousand years back. Even her hair was done up in a style reminiscent of the plume of a gladiator’s helmet, dyed red and wild, erupting out like a volcano at the top. She stopped in the doorway to smooth her dress and check the elevation of her hair before adjusting her position for presentation. Chin up, back straight, hands crossed together and resting on that horrible front-butt that women like her develop around the age of 43. Women like my mother.

I hate my mother.

I kept my head down, focused on the paint-splatter of paperwork that littered my desk. Of course I noticed her; her existence alone was intrusive enough. But I have a strict rule against stopping before I’m done. Even though it was just paperwork — at this particular moment, an invoice for fryalator repairs — I knew it would be impossible for me to re-acclimate myself to this exact line item, whether it was 5 minutes from now, or next week. I had to finish the line, then I could help her. There was no time or space to say something politely dismissive — even, “One moment, please,” would be one moment too much and distract me from ultimately more important things.

But she didn’t have the patience for that. She cleared her throat by coughing into her fist and advanced towards me, one lumbering pillar at a time. With her come a wafting wind of out-of-code baby powder and a long-forgotten flower shop that over-fertilized its ancient products in the hope of salvage. As she approached me, the scent of fries and Big Macs from the meat locker disappeared, completely and utterly consumed and destroyed by her presence. That smell, and all its selfish power, reminded me of my mother.

I fucking hate my mother.

I scrambled in a panic to finish the line item on the invoice sheet, but it was useless; she finally spoke, and my managerial instinct made me inclined to respond. “Excuse me,” she bellowed in a baritone.

My pencil tip snapped on the paper three-quarters of the way through the last zero. Dammit, I thought. So close. I looked up at her and forced a smile — the way you always do with customers — and opened my mouth to respond. I took my first deep breathe, prepared to speak, but found myself choked by the perfume that billowed down my throat. I spit out shrieks and gasps between my efforts to find oxygen somewhere in the air. Meanwhile, she just stood there, awaiting my response, with nothing on her face but selfish apathy and 4 pounds of Mary Kay make-up, the kind my mother always wears.

I really hate my mother.

30 seconds passed, and my fumbling hand finally found the cup of water that I kept at my desk. It was only a Medium, but it would have to suffice. I pulled it to my lips and slammed it back, wishing it were whiskey. No such luck. Still just warm soda fountain water. I swallowed deep into my gut and took a moment to collect myself before I finally addressed her.

“Hi, ma’am. How may I help you?”

She stared me down against the bridge of her nose, sat silent for a moment, and then responded: “I lost my purse.”

Not what I expected. I grabbed my manager’s visor from my desk and placed it on my head. “I’m very sorry to hear that. How long ago did you notice it was missing?”

“Last Thursday. The 17th.”

I hesitated again. Why would she wait so long to ask about it? “I’m sorry ma’am, but nothing’s been turned into us from the restaurant.”

“Then I’d like you to find it.”

“….Excuse me?”

“As a paying customer, my satisfaction should be your priority.” She wasn’t wrong; at least not according to the manager’s training video. She reached her large, tacky, faux-leather purse, pulled out a wad of cash, and threw it on my desk. “But this might serve as some incentive.” She turned her nose up again and awaited my reaction.

I counted the bills: $2,000 in twenties. I could feel the golden arches smiling along with me. With money like that, I could move out of the basement. My mother would be proud of me.

I hate my fucking mother.

Yes, I Know It's Cold; It's Fucking Snowing. Now Take Your Pants Off.

“I really can’t stay…,” I told him, biting the left side of my bottom lip. Which, you know, wasn’t untrue. Sam Vallas was having an end-of-the-semester party, and I told Jackie I’d go with her. But Eric was right — it was freezing out, and the snow was falling harder every minute. He wore that same sardonic smile, tight-lipped and crooked, the way he does when he thinks he’s being just so fucking clever. Still, it was cute, if a little smarmy. He looked at me with narrowed eyes as he swept the shaggy brown hair out of his face like some kind of rock star.

“But baby, it’s cold outside. And your eyes…your eyes are like starlight now,” he whispered.

“Thanks. I really had better scurry…” I looked down at my feet and smiled nervously as I took the two pink gloves out from my left hand coat pocket. I always kept them in the same pocket together, one rolled inside the other. But before I had a chance to put them, Eric cupped his large, rough hands around mine.

“Are you sure? It’s pretty bad out there. And your hands feel like ice. Come on. I’ll put on a record on, we can have a drink. Just one more. It’ll be quick. You can tell Jackie you were stuck waiting for the train or whatever.” He played this routine in precisely the way that both Sarah and Meredith told me that he would. Every line rehearsed, every action carefully choreographed.

But I still went along with it. “Well…maybe just a half a drink more,” I answered, finally looking up from my feet and re-connecting with his shit brown eyes. Sure, there was a part of me that knew what was going to happen, or at least thought it did. But I played dumb against myself, or else I was just stupid all along.

“Great. Here, let me take your hat.” I tried to hold it on my head — the knit wool hats always messed my hair up, and I didn’t want him to see. “I think your hair looks cute like that. And gosh your lips look delicious.” And again, he had me, though I’m still ashamed of falling for such an awful line.

He went over to the iPod stereo dock and turned on the Postal Service, then left for the kitchen to fix our drinks while I fixed my hair in the mirror by the door. He returned with two full pint glasses that looked like rum and coke.

“I thought I told you half a drink?” I said with a flirtatious smirk, cocking my head to the right.

“You did,” he said, again with that stupid smile. Every time I saw it, it looked a little bit seedier, and a little bit sexier. “Cheers.”

When I took my first sip, I noticed that something was off, but I couldn’t quite place my finger it. “Say, what’s in this drink? Is it — ” I took another sip. “Is this Coke Zero, or Vanilla Coke, or…something different about it.”

It wasn’t until I woke up in his room the next morning that I realized it was rohypnol.

The Winning Ticket

Sharon kept her sunglasses on and paused to straighten out her dress, a white knee-high covered in blue and yellow flowers that she had originally bought to wear to church one Easter Sunday. Walter, her husband, told her it was too short. When she protested that it fell below the knees, he told her again, and made her buy a brand new dress that better matched the swollen bruise on her upper left cheek. Shaking the memory from her body, she clutched her purse tightly to her chest and walked through the metal detector. “Follow me,” a guard said, and she did, walking as slowly as possible with her shoulders straight and her stiletto shoes stepping one foot in front of the other, trying hard to maintain the appearance of confidence and delay her destination for as long as possible.

As they entered the Visitor’s Center, Sharon turned her nose up towards the ceiling and pretended not to notice the man on the other side of the glass holding the receiver up to his ear and forcing a smile through his crooked, toothy snarl. The skin on his face looked more worn and leathery than usual, the pockets in his flesh accentuated by the accumulated prison grime.

Sharon thanked her escort as she took a seat across the man. The prison guard stepped back, but remained in the room, hovering nearby. The man across from her began screaming into his end of the receiver before she even had a chance to pick hers up. She waited until he was finished, and then picked up her own receiver with clammy, sweaty hands, and slowly pressed it to the side of her face.

“Good afternoon, Walter,” she said. Her face read no emotion.

“Fuck you, you fucking whore. I saw the fucking news. Where’s my god damn money?”

Sharon took a deep breathe and tried to steady the shaking hand that held the phone receiver. She spoke after a pause: “I just came by — I thought I should tell you in person, that I’m not giving you anything. I’m not splitting the money.”

“Wrong again, ya stupid bitch,” he growled, leaning into the glass that divided them. “You think I don’t got time to read in here? I’m still your husband, means I’m still entitled to half. Besides — it was my numbers that won. You still play ‘em, and it’s my fuckin’ numbers that hit.”

Pause. He waited for Sharon to respond, but she said nothing.

“Maybe if ya hadn’t been in such a rush to throw yer man in jail, you woulda thought’a that first. Even if we got a divorce now — and baby, I’m okay with that, just so you know — I’d still get half a’what you got. And what’s half of, uh…”

“Forty-five million.” Sharon swallowed hard and placed her free hand in her lap so that he couldn’t see it shaking. “Forty-five million dollars.”

Sharon took another breathe, dropped the telephone receiver, and for the first time in her life, she stood up and walked away. She was certain that Walter was screaming at her through the phone, telling her what a useless whore she was, and detailing all of the terrible things he was going to and all the drugs he would buy with her money.

But this time, she didn’t have to hear him.

Creation Myth

In the beginning there was a Story
And the Story was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Tradition of the Story moved upon the face of the waters.
And the Story said, Let there be God: and there was God. And the Story made God in its image.
And the Story saw God, that God was both wrathful and loving: and the Story divided the good from the evil.
And the Story called the good and evil into conflict, and the light against the dark.
And the Story set this in motion through Time
with only God to guide its words.

She's Asking For It

She slides along the aisle in stilettos, a sexualized wave that parts the sea of sweaty, sordid lepers like the goddess embodied in her physique. A familiar emblem bulges from her bust with a voluptuous gravity that curves with the earth, drawing everything towards her with the density of a supermassive black hole. Symbols have power, as all magicians know, and the double stacked double-you that frames her clavicle easily indoctrinates the masses. Her lips, lavish and ambrosial, stay pressed in a tight line across her cleanly shined face, which effortlessly reflects the flashes from camera phones and men. Still, she keeps on stalking, never stopping for a smile, as if on a vaguely detailed mission full of danger, sex, and spandex heroics.

A man fumbles towards her, tripping on the laces of his ill-fitting sneakers. When he finally recovers and returns to stand erect, his hands are already deep in the pockets of his oversized khaki cargos gripping for something for something hard about four inches in length. “I love your costume! She’s my favorite superhero. Can I get a picture?” he asks, spitting excitement as he whips out his iPhone and readies it in his hand, pausing eagerly as he awaits her response.

She sighs, rolls her eyes in an arc like her hips and turns to face her fan. She lets out an exasperated “Fine,” keeping her eyes glued toward the skies where such a super human form was surely born, and strikes an exhausted and uncommitted pose for the briefest moment, just enough for him to snap a single picture.

I subtly suggest that she’s not in the mood for photographs, to which he responds: “But she dressed up in a superhero costume! Of course she wants her picture taken. I mean, look at her — she’s asking for it!” He turns his attention back to fire and says, “Hey, can you do the —” but she’s already turned away, escaped into the shadows just as swiftly as she came.

And They're Off!

“Alright folks, it looks like we’re just a few moments away from the main event. We got the last of our contestants lining up on the raised portable dance floor. Jerry, what’s the competition looking like?”

“Well, Bob, as always, we’ve got tons of beautiful talent out there, but it looks like the real matchup’s going to come down to Aunt Vivian, Cassie, and Cousin Beth. Now Aunt Vivian is an established veteran of the bouquet toss, having just gone through her third divorce, so she’s especially anxious to get in there and give it a go. Now, that being said, Aunt Viv has already pounded about seven glasses of wine so far today, so her reaction time might be a little off. Of course, being the Maid of Honor, Cassie is looking to be the crowd favorite tonight, everyone’s really pulling for her. But my money’s on cousin Beth. The girl’s got a reach on her, not to mention some bony elbows, and she’s small enough to slip between the competition and really get herself in there.”

“Not to mention, she’s better dressed for the occasion. Her dress flows enough so it won’t restrict her leg span. Not to mention, she’s the only girl smart enough to change into a pair of flights.”

“Right you are, Bob. It looks like the bride’s getting ready for the toss —”

“See, right there. Cousin Beth’s already getting down low, ready for the pounce, well before the whistle’s blown. She’s effectively boxed out all of the girls from Table 12 already.”

“She’s not messing around, Bob. Wait — looks the bride’s getting ready — she’s squatting down to give the toss more height — and they’re off!

“Now you see, Jerry, poor Aunt Vivian’s overeagerness is gonna cost her this time. She didn’t expect the bride to get that extra leverage in the toss, and now she’s too far up front and — OH! Did you see that? Cassie, our Maid of Honor, digs her bony elbow right into Sarah Jones, the Best Man’s amicable college Ex. Oooh, that’s gotta hurt!”

“Cassie pivots on the end of her stiletto heels and —”

“Oh no! A surprise from the front as Aunt Vivian recovers and launches her ape-like arms through the air and right towards that bouquet. She might get it after all!”

“Don’t speak too soon there, Bob. Looks like Beth has already snaked her way around the Girls from Table 12 and —”

“Wait, it’s looking like Aunt Viv might —”

Oh! Boxed out by Cassie!”

“Beth takes the lead as Cassie plays defensive. She throws her arms up and —”

“Whoa! Do you see what I’m seeing, Bob?”

“I think so, Jerry! Interception! Who was that —”

“I think she came with one of the cousin’s on the groom’s mother side, Bob.Bam! Outta nowhere!”

“That was an impressive snag from a total wildcard.”

“I’ll say. Well, folks, there you have it. Another successful bouquet toss.”

“Which means that lucky lady and some other gentlemen are heading into the next round. And that’s where the real competition begins.”

“Heh, you said it, Bob!”

Stranger in a Strange Year; or, All-American Spirits

She said it was something about the cigarettes. “There’s a lot you can tell about a person, they smoke American Spirits,” she told me as I pulled the pack out from my jacket and offered her a stick. “I’m Kara.” I was only wearing a light zip-up hoodie, despite the fact that it was December 31. The evening was unnaturally warm, which I took as a good sign for the new year still to come.

We talked and shared a smoke as we admired the swiftly melting ice sculptures that adorned the Boston Common. Turned out we shared the same affection for Flemish sculptors. She told me that she’d moved here a just few months ago and didn’t know many people. Her friends had ditched their plans for the evening, leaving her with no one kiss, and even less to drink, so I invited to a friend’s party out in Davis Square. Looking back, I think she may have invited herself, but I was in no position that night to turn down some company.

There was a loud explosion from the east, and we turned our attention towards the skyscrapers of the Financial District, heads tilted upwards towards the sky. It was barely even 7 o’clock, and the city’s firework spectacle had already started, ringing in the Irish New Year with booming Chinese lights.

We stood and watched the fireworks together and shared another cigarette. She thanked me with a sly, crooked smile, a curve that cut up the left side of her soft cherub face. She was coy about her age, and whether she was 16 or 36, I could have believed it. Butts burned out and stomped to the ground, we finished our loop around the Common and hopped the Red Line train at Park Street.

On the ride over, I started asking her questions about herself, tried to get to know her some. She claimed that she had grown up abroad, around, but wouldn’t tell me where. Her mystery was irresistibly alluring, and we shared a kiss on the Longfellow Bridge as the train crossed over the Charles River, the brilliant lights of an excitable city celebration glowing across the horizon behind us. I’d have sworn I saw more fireworks but my eyes were closed (it’s not polite to peek or stare).

Shortly after we arrived at the party, she started dropping hints that she wanted to leave, go somewhere else, preferably with me. That’s when I told her I’d been living with my parents on the South Shore after my girlfriend and I broke up, so I was actually staying with a friend that night. It didn’t seem to bother her, but she wouldn’t bring me back to her place either. She was giving me mixed signals all night — no physical contact, but she kept saying she wanted to leave with me, and so on. But still, I couldn’t tell where we stood, and I didn’t want to ditch my friends, so we ended up staying at the party until around 2am, although we kept to ourselves for most of the night.

Eventually we hopped a cab and got a hotel room out near Alewife which she talked me into paying for. We were both pretty drunk so I don’t remember the sex very well, but I know it happened, because afterward she told me to pay up. Eighty bucks an hour for the company, plus another hundred for the sex. Apparently prostitutes in this state don’t take American Express.

The War on Marriage

The War on Marriage won’t be waged with fighter jets or green platoons. Instead we’ll see soldiers suited up in homogenous suburban camouflage, blending in to raid their gated communities. There will be suicide bombers entering into self-destructing civil unions; dirty bombs that poison minds, infecting them to branch out to something more than Missionary style; bazookas that blast through yards and scorch the earth of our otherwise pristine lawns, shattering our picket fences; and billowing clouds of chemical warfare, suffocating our souls until we love who we can’t help. POWs contained, tied down with wedding rings, and tortured well beyond the limits of the Geneva Convention by daily household chores and a mortgage; those who refuse to cooperate are forced into a 401k. The fear that fills our hearts and minds will be justified once it turns to nuclear warfare, when loving, functional, nuclear units are dropped from the heavens to lay waste to the idyllic lives that previously plagued the neighborhood. Once those nuclear family bombs detonate, it will only be a matter of hours until the war comes to an end, and those of us who survive will be forced to rebuild, digging ourselves out of the apocalyptic ashes of this post-coital wasteland.

Manic Pixie Dreamgirl; or, a Post-Postmodern Prometheus

She came to life on a cold, flat slab, a thin slice of pulped plant flesh cut down to 8.5×11 inches and college-ruled with blue lines and pink borders on the edge. Her master made her through an ungodly alchemy of other fictional females, the edges of their words stitched together like skin. Her fingers came from Garden State; her left leg from Elizabethtown, while her right came from The Perks of Being A Wallflower; her luscious lips were culled from High Fidelity‘s Charlie; her fashion sense was stolen from one Holly Golightly; and her voice was ripped straight from the throat of Zoe Deschanel herself.

In short, she was perfect. So he flipped the switch and brought the page to life — his beautiful, monstrous bride, unnaturally thrust into reality and forced  to do his bidding. He cackled wildly as the little black inkjets spit her out upon the page in all her bubbling two-dimensional glory. “Arise!” he screamed, “Arise!” as the thunder clapped behind him, its cavernous boom breathing life into his creation.

When her eyes sprung open, he saw that she had a heterochromia — one green eye, one brown, a subtle quirk that brought her unrealisticness to life. She looked at him with those sparkling, mismatched eyes and said, “Where am I?”

“New Jersey,” he replied. “Or, maybe LA, I don’t know, I haven’t really decided yet. Williamsburg? That’s kind of in the middle, right?”

“Williamsburg, wow! I’ve never been to New York City,” she said as she sat up on the table and peered around his office laboratory. She saw posters of indie rock bands tacked up to the walls, and fraying composition notebooks building wood piles in the corners by the sagging full-size mattress that he pretended was a bed. “Do you have any tea? I could really use some organic honey chamomile with ginger, one Stevia and maybe just a splash of almond milk. Have you heard the new Arcade Fire record? I haven’t, I don’t listen to music released after 1973. Oh!Let’s go dancing! I’ve never danced before. Is there weather outside? It should definitely be raining, unless it’s sunny, which is also good, too. Do you have some kind of whimsical pet name I should call you?”

“Jesus Christ, shut up already,” he said.

“But…I don’t know your name,” she said with a sparkle in her smile.

“You can call me ‘Master’,” he said. “But just don’t talk right now. That’s not what I made you for.”

“What do you mean? A free spirit can’t be made like this. I’m independent, a free woman. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Well, yes, but you’re not supposed to…I don’t know, want things. You shouldn’t have like, opinions or whatever. Jesus Christ!” He crumpled up the paper, crushed it smaller, smaller still, until it turned into a little ball that fit inside his fist, then he threw it at the trash can and stomped out of his bedroom, slamming the door behind him for dramatic effect.

But what he didn’t realize was that it was already too late. He had already let his creation out into the world. In all her quirky wonder, in all her hypomanic majesty. And it was a world that she could never understand, a system of rules that she could never truly fit inside. So she grabbed the nearest hoodie, crawled out his bedroom window, leaving the curtains flapping behind her in the evening breeze, and she escaped, setting out to find a place where she could spread her manic pixie madness and be free.

Anywhen But Here

I shuffle my feet across the shag-woven wind as Karen drags me by the arm down the hoverhall. The glow of the solar-flo lights make the white walls glow like a doctor’s office in soft focus, the way the world looks right before or right after you pass out, probably from blood loss but maybe, embarrassingly, just from the sight alone of Nurse Moller clearing out the air from the tip of an intravein as she saunters towards you with the sultry, menacing poise of a large jungle cat even though her floppy, wrinkled skin hides any sign of muscle underneath and you know that she knows that you hate needles and she knows that you know that she’s going to miss the vein three times just because she’s thinks it’s funny.

Which more or less describes the feeling that I have towards realtors. At least with Nurse Moller, I know I’m bleeding because I’ve been stabbed repeatedly, but at least, one assumes, the ultimate outcome is beneficial, some sort of antivirus or brand new trait that lets you breathe underwater for the weekend while also protecting you from the harmful effects of sexual transmitted infestations that you may or may not acquire from a dolphin. No, realtors sell you on the perks of breathing underwater and then smooth talk their way into letting you sign your prints off on some lengthy, incomprehensible, legally-binding clause that allows them to flay you alive while sodomizing you with blades cut from the bones of said infected dolphins.

Karen pushes me through the Grand Oak door with platinum highlights and pushes down into a spinning egg-shaped chair. “Now please, Walter.” She looks at me like a pet chiahualla that doesn’t understand English. “Just give her a chance. This could be a really great opportunity for us.”

I make a pouting sound and spin around and round in my egg-shaped chair until a plastic-faced woman in a power suit with chin-length red hair walks into the room. She’s the supermodel version of Mrs. Potatohead. I hate her even before she hits the button on her desk that abruptly stops my chair from spinning and gives me whiplash. I swear to None I see her pull a smile out of her desk and attach it to her face.

“Welcome to Tachyon Properties,” says a pre-recorded sound from behind her shining teeth. “Where Realty meets Reality. My name’s Barbara. What can I do for you today?”

“Pardon my husband. He has a…slight prejudice towards property brokers,” says Karen with a condescending glare.

“That’s fine,” it responds, unphased. “Here at Tachyon Properties, we’re more than your traditional brokers. We deal exclusively in Unreal Estate.” Then she feeds us the company line: “Because it’s not just where you live, it’s when.”

Cue robotic staccato smile. I can already tell that Karen is hooked. By next week we’ll be moving to somewhen awful like 17th century France. The women talk, and I spend the rest of the meeting wishing I could still spin in my chair.

My Nonlinear Birthday Party

Tuesday night it’s 1972 and Karen invites me back to her hotel room outside of D.C. after some angry political rally for a cause I never bothered to find out. Wednesday night it’s 1985 and Samantha is whipping her hair in my face while we screw in her parents’ living room. She has awful blowout hair but an amazing ass, which makes me feel better about not seeking her out in 1987 when she’s actually legal. I Afterwards, I decide to check out 1987 anyway, and I wake up Thursday morning with three Eastern European blondes on a ski trip in Colorado. Even if I knew their names, I probably couldn’t pronounce them. Friday night it’s 1963 – or it’s 1967, and I’m on too much LSD – and despite the fact that “Moonflower” hasn’t shaved her body in years, she has the most perfect pair of tits this side of the wonderbra. For a moment I wonder just what “Moonflower” means, anyway, but then she’s howling like a werewolf on top of me and I stop caring. Saturday night, I’m with Daisy in 1998. The sex is so rigorous that I have to excuse myself to the bathroom to go back to the present and rest for a few hours before returning back to her a minute after I left to continue the marathon. Daisy knows how to handle things like no woman I’ve encountered. Sunday morning, I eventually fall asleep and forget to leave.

When I wake up, Daisy tells me that her name is Walter Lancott, and that she grew up in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I’m never going to 1998 again.

By Sunday night, I’ve returned to the future, my present, hardly looking chronologically towards the impending work week. I’d skip it entirely, but I have responsibilities. People throughout history who depend on me, and the services we offer. I go upstairs and open the door to hallway closet where I add seven marks to the wall. I keep a running tally of the women that I’ve slept with because it lets me know how long I’ve been alive.

Wouldn’t you know it. Happy birthday to me.