Published Stories

The stories listed here, I think, demonstrate some success with publishing short fiction. For over a decade, I averaged one publication a year (although the final publication dates may suggest something less consistent.) In addition to submitting the individual stories, for several years I submitted a set of stories as a collection for publication, titled Stupid, Stupid Men, and although the manuscript received some accolades, it never found itself a publisher.

"Something Resembling Normal". Published in Raw Writing, October 2015.
I wasn't ready for any of it. The hurricane snuck up on me the way it did most people, so by the weekend, we knew it was on its way and could do nothing but ride it out, wait and see what would happen. Having spent my first thirty years in Chicago, I'd never given hurricanes much thought. They were someone else's problems, things I might hear about on the news and feel bad about, but I didn't care about them.

"Green". Published in Red Savina Review, Spring 2015.
We were at that old dining table, the one I'd been dragging behind me since college, having finished our first annual St. Patrick's Day dinner. I had a half pint of green-tinted beer in front of me; she had half a plate of corned beef and cabbage in front of her.

"Goodbye, Mr. Wonderful". Published in The Xavier Review, Spring 2013.
Sally has come over for her morning cup of coffee again. I don't know when this became a regular thing. When does a routine become routine? When I was working, I had all sorts of routines: getting to my desk fifteen minutes early; taking two laps around the parking lot during lunch. Now I've got none.

"When Will It End?" Published in 971 Menu, September 2011.
I'd stayed in Mississippi so long because the money was good and I was greedy, because so many old ladies had missing roofs and collapsed trees, and because so many legitimate contractors had more work than they could handle.

"We Have a Safe?" Published in The Journal of College Writing, Spring 2010.
With Dad dead for twelve hours, Mom, Cindy, and I sat in the living room not eating despite the food overflowing from the kitchen. People didn't bring cards or flowers but food, trudging through rain and snow and mostly ice to bring us casseroles and vegetable trays.

"The Man Who Shot Henry McCarty". Published in Fiction Weekly, July 2009.
During the third day of a late October rain, I stood on the saturated riverbank and watched my two dumb deputies, Aaron and Abram, try to bring the body on shore. My instinct had been to ignore the story of a body in the river, to leave whatever it was alone and to hope it went away on its own. Then I remembered I was sheriff.

"This Is Where". Published in Southern California Review, Winter 2009.
This was Billy and me out in his yard, the pale yellow headlights of our cars not making things bright enough, and Sarah sitting on the hood of Billy's car counting off three-minute rounds. This was two old friends beating the hell out of each other because they were bored. Sometimes drunk. Often drunk.

"Not Josef". Published in Paradigm, Fall 2007.
Tonight Josef stands where he always stands for the train—on the thick yellow line of paint at the platform's edge—but he doesn't want to get on the train this time. If he gets on the train, it will take him to Pappagallo's, and if he gets to Pappagallo's, he'll see Anna, and if he sees Anna, she'll break up with him.

"Horatio". Published in Phantasmagoria, Spring 2006.
Going out of town always messes up my routine. I'd been in San Diego for a week's worth of training on the company's new accounting software, and all week all I wanted was to be in my own house and in my own bed.

"Goodnight, Reilly". Published in Chicago Quarterly Review, 2006.
Even after ten months of marriage, Reilly sleeps alone every night. Her husband doesn't sleep. Every night after sex, Luke jumps out of bed and disappears down the hallway. Reilly describes him as energetic, but energetic is too subtle. He is raw energy. Sometimes she worries he will burst into a blinding flash of white light and disappear.

"Outside Evansville". Published in The Armchair Aesthete, 2004.
In his rear-view mirror, RT watched the sun rise in pink and orange as if he could out-run it. His eleven-year-old daughter Cass slept in the passenger seat, her head pressing the pillow against the window, her blond hair hanging over her face. She'd said repeatedly that she wouldn't be able to sleep in the car until she dozed off around midnight, around Pittsburgh, her snoring just loud enough to be heard over the radio, the air conditioner, the tires, all the noises of driving eighty-two miles an hour.

"Still". Published in The Muse Apprentice Guild, Spring 2003.
February 7 and we are sitting on the front steps of our apartment building. The concrete is cold, so deeply cold that the steps won’t warm again until May. I came out here for a cigarette and to avoid a fight. This could have been our daughter’s eleventh birthday, Kay told me at breakfast. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I understood the general topic. We decided years ago not to have kids. Every now and then, Kate seems to reconsider.

"Cleaning Out". Published in The Muse Apprentice Guild, Spring 2003.
This time the fight started with her saying: “You were supposed to vacuum today."

Unpublished Stories

The stories below have been revised and submitted and rejected and revised and submitted and rejected and so on. Two have been circulation so long they've become dated, and all may simply need to put in a drawer and forgotten. I put them here primarily to demonstrate that the pause in my publications is not the result of non-effort but a combination of a lack of success and a focus on my current work-in-progress, a novel that has been my primary effort since June 2020.

"Throw Me Something, Mister".
Here they were, two lost schoolgirls, in the growing heat, the April sun bouncing off the concrete, the humidity thick enough to make breathing a chore, in their short shorts, their tank tops, their flip-flops, still too much clothing to be comfortable, their skin already sticky with sweat, trying, most importantly of all, not to look like two lost schoolgirls. These girls hadn't been in New Orleans for twenty minutes before losing themselves. After making Mary Nell drive up and down Esplanade a few times, Jaime had told her friend to park next to a nice looking brick building, telling her they were just outside the French Quarter, even though she did not know what the building was or how far, exactly, they were from the Quarter. Everybody knows Esplanade, she figured, even people who have never been to New Orleans.

"Walking Is Easy".
Luke McGee has only known about it—this six­month affair between his beautiful wife Reilly and their unassuming neighbor Alan—for eighteen hours. Since April, she's been sneaking over to Alan's house most every night. She and Alan don't always have sex, she said. They often don't have sex. Some nights, though, they do have sex. As she told him this, Luke had tried to do the math: some nights of most every night meant twice a week? She wasn't doing it for the sex, she told him. He knew that, didn't he? She and Luke have sex every night, honeymooners who have forgotten the honeymoon has ended. The sex was for poor Alan, whose wife up and left him with an empty house and a stack of bills and nothing else. She gives him what he needs because he gives her what she needs. Reilly does it for what Luke takes from her every night after they make love, when he gets up, gets dressed, and goes to do whatever it is he does in the garage; she does it for the companionship, the comfort, the embrace, she tried to explain to him, but all Luke could think about as she confessed was how it could have happened without his knowing.

"Southern Living".
I had made a quick and possibly illegal u-turn to stop by the local Sears Hometown store. I'd been on my way to Home Depot to look at dishwashers when I remembered that the Sears store was being shut down as a part of the company's last ditch effort to avoid total collapse. We'd just bought a new house, something in the country because we felt too confined in our suburban subdivision and something we couldn't really afford, and within a week of closing we had discovered that the dishwasher worked fine except that it was so old and so poorly maintained that it sprayed a layer of grit all over the top rack. I'd tried to clean it after watching a few YouTube videos, but had only managed to break some of the plastic pieces.

"The Truth about Trolls".
The trolls made their presence known slowly, a brilliant marketing technique, especially coming from a species that claims to have no understanding of Capitalism. The first documented revelation was reported by Sharill Aikens, a ten-year-old girl visiting Tennessee with her family last June. While hiking the trail to Mingo Falls within the Qualla Boundary, Sharill saw a large boulder move "like it was shrugging … maybe shivering." This description can be heard on the now well-known video she recorded using the iPhone of her older brother, Malik, even though the video itself shows no movement whatsoever. The 3-minute-and-22-second recording looks at a rock that appears to be about eight feet high from a variety of angles. The rock does bear some resemblance to a humanoid back, being somewhat narrow at the bottom and almost twice as wide at the shoulder-like top. Running down the middle of the formation is a jagged line that could be a spine. Throughout the video, we hear young Sharill arguing with her brother — at first about helping herself to his iPhone — and then her parents about what she saw. Although her brother and parents repeatedly reject her suggestion that the boulder is alive, none of them ever attempt to touch the rather imposing formation. Isn't that always our way? I don't believe what you're telling me, but I don't not believe you enough to not be afraid. Due to the Mingo Fall trails being located within the Qualla Boundary, there is no National Park Service presence near the trailhead, so the family could not easily report Sharill's claim. It would not have mattered had there been, though, for as the family has repeatedly explained, by the time they reached the trailhead where they had parked their car, they had all forgotten what it was that they wanted to report. Only the video itself preserved the experience. The family could remember hiking up the trail, and they could remember taking some pictures and making some videos, but of what exactly they couldn't say. Even after watching the video repeatedly, they had no memories of the experience. What they've been able to tell us has been based on their memories of watching the video, much like a child insisting that he remembers his first birthday. The child's memory is not of the event, but of the stories he has been told about and the media he has seen of the event.


My current scholarly project is a novel set in southeastern Louisiana during the summer of 2020, just as Louisiana was moving into Phase Two of the governor's reopening plan following the state-wide COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Emerging from the pandemic lock-down, a struggling private investigator is hired by an old friend to discover what happened to her father who disappeared during the collapse of the tech bubble in the early 2000s and who was last seen in a small Louisiana town shortly before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While stumbling through his own attempts at life in a world upended by COVID and making progress in the mill town of Sadie, Louisiana, the investigator falls deeper into a fifteen-year-old mystery that no one knew was a mystery.

I was doomscrolling on my new Galaxy S20 when the Twitter notification came through, a slight sharp ping cutting through the scratchy distortion of guitar and through the predawn darkness and isolation of the pandemic, a sound that would pull me back a quarter century to a simpler time. Love and Rockets was playing on all the smart speakers I had scattered around my small house, noise I barely noticed as I lazed at my desk bathed in the blue light of my phone scanning headlines and witty commentary I also barely noticed. The direct message was shorter than need be, yet said enough: _Is this you?_ In the sender's handle, @EverywhereGwen, I recognized neither the name nor the joke; however, the picture, the profile picture, was like one of those photoshopped portraits of historical figures — Caesar as Silicon Valley executive, Elizabeth as New Yorker editor, Napoleon as divorced dad of five — a person extracted from the past, too accurate, too unchanged. I could see the girl I'd known, a girl I had tried to forget, in the face of the woman.

I do know that the Nineteen-Nineties were not a simpler time — it's so easy for a guy like me to forget that. The Nineties was a shitty decade, like every one before it and every one after it, shitty in its own unique decadal way. The Gulf War, the LA riots, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Mississippi floods — when I challenged myself to think about those years, those ideas took shape out of the emptiness of my memory. Was this what they meant by COVID Fog? Was this middle-aged forgetfulness? Was this a fool who wanted to pretend the past didn't matter? As I remembered those times, I understood there was so much more that I wasn't remembering. What does the past matter if you can't recall it? They say now that memory is another survival function: to avoid becoming their food, our ancestors had to remember that sabertooth tigers were dangerous. The truth about tigers had to be preserved. Now that we have nothing to fear — some of us, at least — what good is memory? What good truth? Some of us dwell on the past, linger in it, not to survive but to bask. Others reimagine it, remake it, twist and distort it until it means what we want it to mean. Still others of us have chosen to not remember. We have no need to remember the past or the truth, for we have no use of it anymore. And yet sometimes, the truth does emerge for us, something indubitable crawls out of the void of the past. Greer Gallagher's unchanged face had that effect on me. I hadn't considered her in a long time.

Dropping my feet off my desk, I pulled up her profile page on my computer. The two pictures — the smaller profile picture: professional with perfect lighting, neutral background, a candid but not candid shot of her laughing when she should be looking serious — the header picture: her sitting at a table covered with stacks of books and a line of people snaking out from it — the pictures were Greer Gallagher, even though the name wasn't.

The content on this page was last modified on Fri 24 Feb 2023.