The Girl Who Knew Shit

The group home is where I hear Pink Floyd: The Wall for the first time. There are 10 of us. Two teenage girls have their own room next door while the rest of us younger girls sleep in the other room with four bunk beds. The teenagers don’t usually talk to us, except to bum cigarettes or laugh at us for Not Knowing Shit. They dress in black with torn jeans and 80’s hair. They only want to hear bands with 80’s hair on MTV. They’ll ruin our game of Skip-Bo if we don’t let them control the TV. Nancy has the big black hair, and Susan has the teased up blonde. Their laughter is mean and screechy, like metal eating another piece of metal.

I keep quiet and warily study them. There were teenagers where my mom lives, too. They’d hunt us from carport to carport, and if they caught us, they threw us in the dumpsters. So I keep my distance from these teenagers, just in case they also want to throw me somewhere unpleasant.

One day it’s just Nancy and me down in the basement where the foster kids live. I’ve given her wide berth, but she flits around me like I’m a power source she can’t resist. Finally, she’s like, “Hey, kid, over here,” and motions for me to follow her into her room.

I’ve watched Susan and Nancy work magic with their Don’t Fuck With Me faces, and I do my best now to imitate the angry eyes, the “whatever, man” frown. I saunter toward her, not too slow, but not too fast, either.  For all I know, Nancy’s in her room waiting to shiv me with a sharpened, un-sanctioned toothbrush.

Their room is smaller than ours and finished in white brick. A dumpy dresser with a boom box sits against one wall, a flimsy bunk bed on another. Nancy waves me toward the bottom bunk. “Here,” she says, pulling back a ratty blanket. She points down at a wet stain on the sheet. “Look,” she says, “It’s cum.”

She waits for my response, head cocked, coal-lined eyes fixed on mine. I sense a make it or break it moment. “Wow,” I say, dead serious. “Impressive.”

Nancy throws her head back and cackles. “We had two dudes here last night, and nobody knows!” She struts over to the boom box and turns it on. Crude rap lyrics tumble out. “Have you heard 2 Live Crew yet? This shit’s nasty.” She jumps around the room and shouts lyrics.

I listen, quiet, as my face turns red. The lyrics are disgusting. So disgusting they’re funny. I giggle, laugh, and after a few minutes, yelling just as loud as Nancy.

Me: Suck! My cock! And I’ll eat yer pus-sy!

Nancy: Eat! My Pussy! Eat! Eat! My pus-sy!

When the tape is over, Nancy looks me over. She flings a Metallica t-shirt from the bedpost to my chest.  “Here,” she says, “wear it.” She reaches over to the dresser, picks up an opened pack of Marlboros. Places them in my hand. Appraises me. “Smoke these.” Pauses. “And listen to this,” she thrusts a cassette tape at me and smiles at her own generosity. “Now, get out.” She pushes me into the hall and slams the door. Just like that, I’m banned again.

Late that night, when everyone is asleep, I pull out the lighter and the ashtray the younger girls use to secretly smoke in the house and lay it on my bed. I rummage through my dresser drawer until I find my Walkman.

Back on my bed, I pull out the cassette tape and study the cover. “Pink Floyd The Wall” is splashed like blood across a white brick wall. I put the cassette in and place the earphones against my ears. I expertly light a cigarette—I’ve seen my mom do it millions of times—and suck in. When my eyes stop watering, and I’ve mostly stopped coughing, I hear the first faint lines of a pained, angry voice surmising the next decade of my life:

“So ya, thought ya, might like to—go to the show.

To feel the warm thrill of confusion—that space cadet glow.”


That’s Not How Any of This Works

I’ve learned today I need to work on my literary citizenship

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Vintage black and white photo of man and woman in Victorian dress on penny farthing bicycle with square wheels.Pedal harder, I think we’re going somewhere!

What do we mean by “literary citizenship”? At Salon, Becky Tuch sums it up nicely:

…most agree that good Literary Citizenship entails buying from local bookstores, attending readings, subscribing to literary magazines, interviewing writers, reviewing books, reading a friend’s manuscript, blurbing books, and so on.

And while Tuch (and I) agree with the spirit of these activities, she questions their hidden purpose. Why must we be literary citizens? Because publishers barely market mid-list and literary authors. Because Amazon has radically changed the bookstore and Wattpad has disrupted the publishing pipeline. But as Tuch points out,

the burden to ameliorate the negative effects of these industry changes falls not upon those responsible for said changes, but upon writers.

We must market. We must build platform. We must generate enough profit that the publisher will ask us to make more money for them…

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My Mom says she named me Amy because it means ‘beloved.’

“I could’ve named you Laura,” she says. “Would you’ve liked that better? Laura?” Her arms rest slightly crossed, one hand holding the pipe in the air like a magic wand she might presto over my head at any moment. She‘s high enough to take the question seriously as if she’s still the 19-year-old girl long ago, holding names up to a theoretical baby.

I shake my head no, but secretly mull it over. “I’m no Laura,” I snort. There’s a Laura in my class, and she has a mole on her chin. The last thing I need is an association with a mole. “But I’m not really an Amy, either,” I amend. Amy is a cheerleader. A lively, popular girl who curls her hair and wears make up. An Amy makes straight A’s and is every teacher’s favorite.

I was a teacher’s favorite once. Mr. Sanger, the Geography teacher. I could tell he liked me well enough. At the end of the semester, he pulled me aside and peered into my eyes. “Amy, Amy, Amy. You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.” He’s really impressed with me, I thought, leaving 9th grade flattered Mr. Sanger named me a being heroically burdened by the plight of humanity.

“No?” she tsks. “I think it’s beautiful.” She tilts her head and frowns, sighing at her construction of this beauty. This potent meaning she’s bestowed upon me.

I always wanted a name like Samantha or Alexandria. A feminine name easily cut down to strident, masculine syllables. Sam. Alex. A name separating me from all the Amy’s and Laura’s. Something tough and possibly androgynous. Sam handles shit. Alex kicks ass and makes edgy, volatile art.

I want all my soft parts safely contained beneath the bravado of dude names ending with consonants. My pretty lady name only said aloud in moments of anger or passion.

“Beloved,” my mom murmurs. Her voice is a soft sing-song medley of pot and nostalgia. “Because you are beloved. I wanted you when no one else did.”

I sit at her feet and choose to ignore the accusation lacing her words. I don’t want to interrupt her reverie. I may not like the name Amy, but when she tells my origin story this way, I almost believe it. Perhaps I am beloved and just don’t know it. She put thought into it, after all. Picked it out just for me.

So I ignore her jab. Instead, I picture my mother young and expectant, funneling a culmination of hopes and dreams onto a vision of a child she will surely love.  She isn’t yet bitter or disappointed by this child. Her guts aren’t churning with anger. She hasn’t yet lost control of her temper or slipped into depressions so deep no one can wake her. There is still a fertile future ahead, an abundant world full of beloved possibility.


The Home {Chef} Break-in

When I was six, I lived next door to Jude and Justin in a sleepy but central neighborhood in Boulder, Co. The brothers weren’t allowed in my house, but sometimes their large and boisterous family would invite me into theirs, which was always an exciting thing: to get to play INSIDE. It was the early 80’s and children were still expected to run around outside from morning ‘til the streetlights turned on.

Their cluttered house stored so much stuff and people, I never knew where to look first. Every space occupied something. Toys lay scattered on the kitchen floor. Heaps of laundry piles dotted the living room like small fabric volcanos. Babies in droopy diapers ran around sniffling and sticky-fingered, while their mom and dad yelled and laughed, laughed and yelled.

One sunny day I wandered over to Jude and Justin’s to see if they wanted to play. Their house stood eerily quiet that afternoon. The porch slanted at an odd angle. The whiff of poverty normally hidden hung more noticeably over the barren yard without the frenetic bodies there to obscure it. I climbed up the steps to knock on the door anyway. Maybe they were all asleep on some giant family bed, like the Walton’s. No one answered. I tried the knob, and it clicked open.

A person doesn’t just walk into another person’s house. I knew that.  But I figured, hey, I’m no stranger. If they’re napping, I could say I’m merely looking for them, which I was. And no one ever told me I wasn’t welcome there when the family was gone, so…

The chaos inside absent Jude and Justin’s family was like a movie set without its characters. Like walking in on the aftermath of an alien abduction. All the blinds were drawn, and the air was cold. I stood in the middle of the kitchen, shifting from one foot to the other. Now that I was in, I wasn’t sure what to do.

I’d visited during breakfast before and watched as Jude and Justin’s dad cooked scrambled eggs, bacon, and buttered white toast. Now, I peered into the cavernous refrigerator. Tubs of unidentifiable foods were stacked next to vegetables in various stages of decay. A plated stick of butter lay atop an inordinate amount of eggs. An idea popped into my head: I’d make scrambled eggs.

I pulled out the butter and set it on the counter, grabbed a dirty knife from the sink and chopped off a corner to put in my mouth. The mixture of salt and fat tasted horrible on its own. Not like when slathered on a piece of white toast. I looked around. No bread. I went back into the fridge for the eggs, grabbing about five or six.

I randomly opened cupboards until I finally found the cast iron pan I’d seen their dad use. I placed it on the gas stove and stood back. Now that I had committed to the task and had my items assembled, I felt pretty confident I could remember how to make the eggs.

It involved a lot of stirring, I recalled, so I searched drawers for a fork and pushed the whole stick of butter into the pan. I turned the stove knob closest to me up to two.

Standing on tiptoes afforded a better view of what might be happening on the stove top. So far, nothing was happening. I cracked six eggs into the pan and stirred, mushing down the butter as best I could. The eggs coalesced into an orangish, gloopy soup, while chunks of butter floated on top.

It wasn’t cooking. I turned the knob as far to the right as it would go. A loud clacking sound filled the kitchen, surprising me into dropping the fork into the slime. I quickly turned the knob back to two and fished the fork out, getting sticky egg all over the stove, the counter, and my hands.

Suddenly, things weren’t feeling so good. Eggshells peppered the entire area, including the floor. The fork was already gluing itself to the counter. And the damn eggs in the damn pan sat there, uncooked, accusing me.

Why the heck had I thought I could get away with this, making scrambled eggs at all, much less in someone else’s house? I wasn’t even allowed in there! The entire kitchen exuded incriminating evidence. I was gonna get caught. The adults would want to know why and I wouldn’t have an answer.

What I needed to do was clean up the crime scene, hide the evidence. I grabbed a dirty sponge from the sink and halfheartedly scrubbed the stove top.  My chest tightened, and the sponge fell to the ground. I slowly stepped away from the stove, panting.

I took three more steps backward. Slowed my breath down. The egg-filled pan didn’t really look that out-of-place compared to the rest of the kitchen. In fact, it fit right in.

There’s nothing saying they didn’t leave those eggs there on the stove, I decided, walking toward the door. It’s possible that they left them there, and didn’t care to clean up their mess. Look at the rest of the house. What a pigsty.

I stepped on the porch, considering. No one would ever think that a person came in, made eggs, and left. Because who would do that? It didn’t make any sense.

No sense at all, I decided, locking the door behind me.




Check out this daily prompt: egg 

(Listing) Fears of My Life

The red book with the scraggly drawings on the cover which is prominently displayed on my living room bookshelf is called Fears of Your Life, and it is written by Michael Bernard Loggins, list-maker extraordinaire. Inside is page after page of Loggin’s fears, plaintively laid out in a simple, bare-bones script that accentuates the earnestness of his endeavor.

I am so enamored by Loggin’s raw truthiness, I decide to make my own list of fears. I start late one night, after several beers and a few slices of pizza.

  1. Fear of drinking until I become an alcoholic
  2. Fear of this nightly tickle in my throat growing until I wake up one morning realizing I have emphysema
  3. Fear of a drone outside my living room window recording and posting candid nose picking shots of me onto
  4. Fear of realizing that in jail, I am the bully, or the kiss up, or the sodomy instigator. That I am not the convict with a heart of gold

Mr. Loggins is considered to have a developmental disability. He has found an outlet for his art and writing at Creativity Explored, a visual arts center in San Francisco. They cultivate a platform for artists like Loggins, people that perhaps would be overlooked in a more conventional setting.

There are the usual suspects on Loggins list, like:  42. Fear of Death or 26. Fear of Bees and 13. Fear of Being Lost. Then there are the fears of a more particular variety:

50. Fear of being spank by a principal when a parent give an permission

Fear #2: I fear that those tv. People would take off my favorite cartoon. The Rugrats off the air and wouldn’t be able to watch them anymore for a long long, long time. “Please let well enough alone.” Please don’t take my Rugrats cartoon off the air because I love that cartoon. Let there be a possibility that life with the Rugrats stay put means leave my Rugrats cartoon on tv. Michael said.

I can certainly relate to that. When I heard a (false) rumor that Better Call Saul wasn’t going to be given a second season, I seriously considered writing a letter. Or, Jesus Christ, all the shows that get preemptively cut, and we never get to know the end, the creators ending vision?!? That’s the absolute worst.

  1. Fears that my mental illness holds my husband back and that he would be more successful if I killed myself
  2. Fears of my husband dying before me and I won’t be able to tell him what it is like to live without him
  3. Fears that instead of our lives getting better, our lives will get worse and we will have to survive an apocalypse in our sixties

Sometimes Loggins will tag his fears with “Michael said,” or even write out his entire name. It’s almost like there are just some fears one has to super-double claim.

Loggins lives and moves around in the city, so a lot of his fears involve transportation issues, like:

Fear #5: I’m afraid of my fear of crossing the streets of San Francisco when there are so much safety rules of streets for people to go by the laws and not break those safety rules….

  1. Feared that the bus driver is driving much too fast like if he don’t know how to stop it or he tries slowing it down some so that he wouldn’t hurt bunch of passengers

Fear #7: Only dangerous thing about stop lights they don’t stay on long enough for you to change your mind about crossing the street…

It reminds me of a recurring bad dream where I am driving up a long windy mountain road and can’t stop myself from plunging over the cliff and into the ocean. Cars and transportation are easy access to anxieties about control, and the loss of control, so I can see why such worries take up so much list space.

  1. I fear time will freeze and I will use that opportunity to pinch someone’s nipple, Amy said.
  2. I fear I will fail so many times at the same thing that people will stop believing I am capable of change says Amy Bee.
  3. I fear there is more bad to me than good, more dark than light, more selfish motivation than compassion. And everyone already knows this except me Amy Bee.

One of my favorite fears on Loggin’s list comes at the end, and I find it so sweet and touching and achingly universal:

Fear #45: Afraid this is the last thing that ever occur to me. This is the end of Fears of Your Life page in my book. Tuesday February 19, 2002 is when Michael Bernard Loggins finishes these pages up. So there be the last to be done for Michael Bernard Loggins. Congradulation! Michael my Buddy buddy! Pal you did it you got it done.

Loggins knows fear, and therefore, Loggins knows people. It’s as if he has his fingers on the crux, the tender spot of what is us, what it is to be people, what it is to be the same and connected, and yet unique and alone.

So alone.

Fear #?? One night  I finished the beers, I wrote a list of all my fears, and it occurred to me these may be my last thoughts. Oh well, Amy Bee! You did it! You got it done! The End!

*All fears in italics are the words of Michael Bernard Loggins, from his wonderful book, Fears of Your Life

Grievances, INC.



Mary was the one who told me about Grievances, Inc. It was lunch break, and we were in the courtyard. Mary ordered the Rad Na from the ‘Noodles to Thai For’ food truck. I had my usual tuna sandwich. I was griping again about David from accounts receivable. Today, instead of leaning his arms against my desk so that his elbow brushed my breast, he was now ‘accidentally’ bumping his groin against my hip at every given opportunity.

Mary slurped away at her gravy covered noodles, listening as I bitched. “What you need,” she interrupted, “is a Grievance Counselor.” She fished in her purse and plopped down a card in front of me.

“A what?” I picked up the card. It was entirely gold, with a single phone number etched in the middle.

“It’s a new program I recently joined,” Mary said. “It’s in beta. My friend Frank is one of the creators, so he invited me to test spin it. He said to go ahead and recruit a few friends, too.” She dropped her voice. “Dianne, this program is gonna change your life.”

“But what’s it for?” I set the card between us. Mary was always trying new things, sometimes with negative results.

“Your grievances,” she said, leaning closer to me. “From your smallest quibble to the outright objectionable. You call this number, tell them your complaint, and they will dispatch a grievance counselor to take care of it.” Mary laughed. “It’s quite ingenious, actually.”

“Take care of it?”

“Sure. You remember when my bank was charging me all those extra fees? I called those fucks like thirty times, and they did nothing except give me the runaround. But when I called this number,” Mary tapped her red fingernail on the gold card, “Shit got done, Dianne. Not only did they stop over-charging me, but a thousand dollars was added to my account!”

“I see,” I said. Not seeing at all.

“You’re not getting it,” Mary lowered her voice again. “They do bigger complaints, too……you know, think asshole Dave and his passive-aggressive almost groping.” She pushed the card back at me.

“Do they take care of mother-in-laws, too?” I joked.

She winked. “Just call. Tell them your gripe.” She swung her purse over her shoulder and stood up. “Back to the grind, darling,” she paused. “Just remember to ask for a Maya counselor, not a Jefferson. A Jefferson can be somewhat over-enthusiastic,” she frowned, then laughed. “You’ll figure it out. Ciao!”

That night my husband and I were having dinner with his mother for the fourth consecutive evening. Now that she lived closer to us, she demanded more of my husband’s attention. Pressuring him into these nightly dinners, for instance. Ethel never liked me, and never tried to hide it. If I brought Lasagna to heat up, she said it had too much sauce. If my husband remarked that work was stressful, she berated me for not doing my wifely duties. Whatever I said, was wrong. Whatever my husband said, was my fault. I spent dinners trying to be as quiet as possible.

Her constant complaining got me thinking about the gold card with the enigmatic number. From the smallest quibble to the most objectionable, Mary had said. If I called and lodged a complaint about Ethel, what would they do? Give her a good talking to? Shove her head into some pot roast? I laughed. My husband and his mother stared at me. I excused myself and went outside.

If I was going to see what Grievances, Inc. was all about, I should start with something, someone, other than Ethel, just to get a feel for the whole thing. Asshole Dave was the perfect starter.

I called the number. A thin, dry voice picked up.

“Name,” it said.

“Um, Dianne. Dianne Stevens.”

“Complaint or gripe you wish to issue,” said the voice.

“Well, there’s this guy at work, Dave,” I said. “He’s always brushing up on me, you know, to touch my butt, and my, um, bosoms. I’m sick of it. Why do men think they can just get away with shit like this? And I can’t expect my boss to do anything because he—“

“Sexual harassment has been noted. Please indicate counselor Maya or Jefferson.”

I suddenly felt nervous. “Maya.  But, don’t you need to—”

“Preference for Counselor Maya has been noted. No further information is necessary. Expect initiation between 2-4pm tomorrow. Thank you for calling Grievances, Inc. Your account will be billed accordingly.” The voice clicked off.

The next day, when I saw the tall, stoic-faced woman dressed in black, wearing a silk fedora and Morpheus sunglasses, I knew it was Maya.  She strode out of the elevator and headed straight toward Dave’s desk. I hid behind my computer and watched her come up behind Dave. He was talking to his two buddies and holding his hands palm-up in front of his chest as if he were holding two large cantaloupes. Maya reached around Dave’s paunchy waist, unbuckled his belt, and pulled down his slacks and boxers in one swift motion.

“Whoa,” Dave cried out. She grabbed Dave’s hand and folded his arm behind his back. His shoulder popped and the office went quiet. Except for Dave, who began to shriek. Maya held Dave in a choke hold and kicked his legs apart, stretching his arm back toward his ass. Co-workers collectively gasped as she began to plant his balled up fist into his own anus.  First, his fingers disappeared. Then his palm. Then his wrist. His arm finally separated from his shoulder and hung from his ass for a moment, like a morbid monkey tail. Then he crumpled to the floor, screaming.

The whole encounter lasted maybe a minute. It took much longer for someone to think to call 911. By that time, Maya was long gone. All I could think was, holy shit, Maya was supposed to be the less enthusiastic one. Imagine what the other one would’ve done to Dave.


Later, I cried all the way to Ethel’s. I couldn’t believe I had called that number, let Dave get hurt like that. And to think I almost unleashed Maya on my mother-in-law. I parked and rifled through my purse, looking for that fucking card to rip up, but it was gone. I probably left it on my desk and promised to burn it at work tomorrow.

Once inside, I heard Ethel murmuring in the dining room. “In here, dear,” she called. I bristled at the word dear.

The dining table was adorned with several lit candles. The rest of the room was shrouded in darkness.  Ethel sat at the head of the table. Only one other seat was set for dinner. She had an odd look on her face. A cat-ate-the-canary look.

“Where’s Robbie?” I asked, squinting my eyes. I thought I saw a movement in the corner.

“He’s been sent on a business trip. Never you mind, dearie,” Ethel patted the chair next her. “It’s time for you and me to work some things out.”

I saw the gold card on the plate first. Then I saw the man emerge from the shadows. A heavy bat hung in one hand. A pair of pliers in the other.

“Who’s that?” I asked, knowing.

“Oh yes!” Ethel exclaimed, clapping her hands. “I met the most wonderful man today. I invited him to dinner. His name is Jefferson.”


















Lady Parts in Revolt

That’s what my essay which recently appeared at Salon should’ve been titled. But I didn’t think of this perfect title until my essay was already turned in and on its way to legendary viral status. Some of that last sentence is true.

Instead, the essay was published with my placemark name- “The Menopause Checkup.” Right? Cringe. Who knows how many people missed my awesome story due to a lame title?

I hope you’ll go ahead and read my essay Lady Parts in Revolt over at Salon, and forgive me the title. In it, I discuss a surprisingly personal interaction I had with a medical technician as we tried to figure out why I’d been bleeding for months and months with no end in sight.

Thank you!


Spaces with Men

*Friendly advisory: domestic abuse*

A Job

I’m an assistant manager working the graveyard shift. Every night I organize the aisles, count the cigarettes, stock the cooler. They hired Gary to help me out; to take care of customers and clean the store while I make orders and reconcile the register. An assistant for the assistant. Gary is an old Harley guy who will smile when I ask him to make the coffee and call me a bitch once I’ve turned my back. He is a man who whose ego is easily bruised, so I humor him the way all women have learned to humor men. I play distraught by tasks so that he can think he is saving me rather than taking orders from me. If he can portray not just daddy, but sexy, virulent daddy, he is temporarily soothed, and I can get my work done. If he catches any whiff of actual competence from me, it’s back to calling me bitch.

We are in the middle of this humiliating dance when a neighbor calls to say she saw my Ex climbing into the bedroom window of my apartment. I cradle the phone with my shoulder, watching Gary’s face grow red as he takes apart the nacho cheese dispenser, angry at doing women’s work, I suppose. His fingers leave cheese prints all over the steel counter, the nacho trays, the backroom sink. Like a little boy waging petty revenge against his mother.

I thank my neighbor and hang up. I’m sure my own face is raging red now, thinking of my ex, sitting in my apartment. Waiting. Maybe with the T.V. on. Maybe smoking my pot. The fucker.

“Gary, I have to run to my house,” I say. “You are gonna have to do the rest of this yourself.”

Bitch, I’m sure I hear as the glass doors swoosh shut behind me.


A Home

How could I have fucked this guy, this asshole. Sitting on my couch. Watching my T.V. Smoking my pot. How could I have let him move in with me. What was I thinking? Things are going well, so let’s throw a bomb into the mix. And he is a bomb; a dirty bomb ready to spray chunks of metal and hatred onto anyone standing in the path of his kamikaze suicide. And here I chose to be the one standing in the blast range.

There are half-eaten nachos on his lap.  Nachos from my store. A greasy drop of cheese hangs from an arrogant grin. He knows. He knows he’s pushed me too far, and he likes the feeling. I reach for the tray; I want to spill that shit all over his weasel dick. But he is faster than me, up and over the coffee table; shoving me against the wall before I can even begin my tirade. He’s been ready, waiting for this moment, who knows for how long. Maybe forever.

I fight back at first. I bite his arm when he throws me to the carpet. He grinds my face so far into the beige shag that I can taste the litter my cat trails into every room. I struggle, but he isn’t just angry, he’s crying, wailing, waging war against demons much bigger, much older than our measly affair.

I go as slack as I can; I will wait him out. I will let him call me dyke and bitch and cunt and whore. I will stay as silent as can be. His hands wrap around my throat, holding on for dear life, repeating like a prayer: “I hope I gave you AIDS.” We are frozen in our embrace until the cops come banging on the door.


A Place

Only drunks get put in holding cells. The rest of us sit on the kind of plastic seats that plague DMV’s or waiting rooms. A sort of purgatory where time is suspended, and you are left with only your dark thoughts and your stupidity to keep you company. The walls are white, and there are no clocks. There are no windows, and there are no friends. We wait. For our mug shots. For our fingerprints. For our onesies the color of processed cheese.

The cop that arrested me was apologetic. The domestic violence laws in Colorado, he tsked. When I gave him the weed from my back pocket, he seemed to care for me a little less. When I said I lived alone, paid my own rent, and the fucker over there broke in, his face grew stoic. When I admitted those were my teeth marks on that asshole’s arm—but I was defending myself!—he took my tears as supreme female manipulation. In the eyes of the police officer, we are both culpable. He will let the system sort it out.

It’s not my first time in this place. It’s not my last. There will be many more times than this one where I will undress in front of someone I’d rather not. I’ll try to look tough. Unaffected by my circumstance. Too far removed to really be touched. Chin up, as they say.

If you’re quiet and follow their direction, chances are good they won’t pick you out. Don’t bother with logic or question their motives. It’s safer to shuffle along; keep your wrists slack so the cuffs won’t bite. They will be unimpressed by your story or your narrative or your traumatic history that led you here. They’ve heard it all before. You’re not new or unique. You’re just another woman in jail.



This is What the Trail Teaches Me:

Enjoy it now, it only gets harder, I think twenty, thirty times a day. The dusty ribbon of dirt I follow winds through dry, prickly plants intent on leaving faint tracks of blood along my shins as I pass by. Fist sized rocks appear, scattered on the trail as if spilled from some impetuous child’s toy box.  I climb rugged hilltops while tiny black flying monsters loiter between my sunglasses and face. I picture shade. I manifest ‘downhill.’ But no. The trail brazenly slashes up a cliffside. Perilous switchbacks zigzag toward a horizon determined to leave me burdened, awed, humbled.

*For NewshoundToNovelist new  Prompt Pot feature

Independence Day

*This flash fiction was published by NANO Fiction Issue 10.1 in 2016


What is it about small towns, I wonder, eyeing the girls in daisy dukes, cautionary tales of meth and boredom. It’s Utah. It’s hot. The tow-truck drops us off at a roadside Motel. A dusty parking lot full of cracked up cars. A forlorn tire swing listless in the weeds. Our home for the night.

It was supposed to be an easy goodbye. He’d drive me to Vegas, and I’d be gone, into the unknown. California, probably, then north. North is the new Wild West; I told dubious acquaintances. He understood. No messy farewells, we agreed. Now we are stuck, I guess. Stuck here, with too much time.

Our room has a stench. The swamp cooler sputters and clicks off. Through the window I see people at the park. I see checkered picnic tables and potato salad. I see women with aprons and men in uniform.  “Looks lame,” I say.

“Let’s go,” he smirks.

Our feet kick up dust as we cross the street; our faces collect an instant sheen of sweat. We want to laugh at these people, to pity them and enunciate all the ways we are not like them. We want to tsk-tsk their backward ways: their homogeny, their apple pies, their flags. We study the brittle aged, the angry teenaged boys, the flies on the melting watermelon. We want to feel superior, but it’s too sad to ridicule.

Back in our room, we take off our clothes. We are sad, too. As sad as the shabby carpet. We move slow, as to not startle the other.  He is long and slender, arrogant and clever. Too beautiful for me: my best friend. Outside I hear bottles clinking. The methed out girls have found the angry young men. Together we all stifle in the deadlock heat.