Category Archives: fiction

A White Male Writer

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The literary journal Your Impossible Voice has just published my story, “A White Male Writer,” which I hope that you’ll read either on its website or in the print edition. Here are its opening lines:

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He was a white male writer, and—despite having kissed a few boys at a Halloween party last year, even letting one stroke his bare chest, despite the occasional fantasy in which other boys featured — he knew he was for all practical and self-image purposes straight. So there it was: he was a man with light complexion and heterosexual leanings who wrote fiction, and he often expressed this in the cultural language of his day. Straight / White / Male he wrote in the margin of his notebook during class. Then he added, Unwanted.

Of course he wasn’t really unwanted. If he wrote something genuinely good, beautiful, and interesting, others would read and enjoy it, and he would eventually find a way of getting it published. Likely his path to print would even be easier than most. But his writing wasn’t genuinely good, beautiful, or interesting. He wrote a winking parable about a vendor at a gun show, a venomous parody about two lovers at the Student Center’s Tuesday Karaoke Night. He wrote a thinly veiled piece of autofiction about an unpleasable boy who had sex with the same girl as he had last year, in the same bed covered in stuffed animals. They were bad stories; unequivocally they were bad. Some of his professors thought they saw here and there the germ of good writing, perhaps in his ear for the names of fictitious groups like “Sudsy Studs Carwash,” “The Union of Back-Up Singers for The Tone-Deaf,” and “Melancholy Celibates Anonymous.” It’s more likely, however, that they were searching for something nice to say, some morsel of praise to cantilever their very constructive criticism. He noticed that his creative writing teachers, resolute in their practice of crossing out every last intensifier on his drafts, nonetheless used them in great quantity when prevaricating about what they liked in his stories. “It’s a very, very believable scene.” “I’m extremely impressed by the name of this group, really.” (Click here to keep reading)

The Body Is an Object

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I’m happy to announce that Juked has published my story, “The Body Is an Object.” Here are its opening lines:

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We grow marijuana in the summer and smoke it in the winter. It turns out it’s a lot of work to grow good pot, but we offset the difficulty of harvesting by hiring friends to come up from the city and help. They like the extra money, and we enjoy their company, seeing their tents out the window over the sink, if only for a few weeks.

Some nights I stand outside the cabin, staring at the stars. It’s lonely out here. I know that Venus has set. I think that that one orange-twinkling star might be Mars. There are only a handful of rocky chunks circling our sun, each impossible to reach. The distance to the next sun is unfathomable. How big the universe is, with its trillions of stars in their little clusters. How big the world itself, and us all spread across the surface. Why are Annie and me a couple? Fate seems cruelly deterministic right about now, and I dig my bare feet into the cool soil.

I want to fuck Carolina. She’s Jasper’s friend; I’m not sure if they were a couple at some point. I don’t know why, but it’s just been burning through my head since they came up to trim for us. Her round cheeks, wide hips, big butt, her belly. I edge around her in the kitchen, and I feel her life force right there up against me. Nothing happens, but I smell her fruity cologne and she is a whole other world. I get turned on, making my toast as she washes out her mate cup next to me, and I have to take myself into the bathroom, splash cold water on my face. (Click here to keep reading.)

The Blood-Sex Iconostasis

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I’m thrilled to announce that my story “The Blood-Sex Iconostasis” was published today in Joyland San Francisco. Here are its opening lines:

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Night falls over town. The fog doesn’t recede. Sodium lights flicker to life. Some hold steady; others strobe on and off in lugubrious, neurotic cycles. The sky takes on the sickly orange glare of their light. The parking lot at Safeway empties. Cats are fed and dogs put inside for the night.

Benjamin lowers the blinds and wanders from room to room with a candle on a drip pan. Beneath a bag of tealights in a box he packed before college, he finds his compass. It still has lead in it. He reaches deeper into the dark square and feels the triangular prism of an engineer’s ruler, pinches a stiff parallelogram of eraser, pushes away the flimsy plastic cylinder of a cheap kaleidoscope. He pulls the ruler and eraser out, then finds his old clamshell phone masking-taped to its charger. He plugs the phone in and swipes his smartphone off. After almost a minute the ancient one flares on, screen glowing blue against the dark.

He sits cross-legged on his one nice rug and constructs a heptagram. (Click here to continue reading.)

A Brume of One’s Own

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“At this moment, I expel a minor traveler’s flatulence (sorry), and with it, I experience the same chivalry he’d offered when putting Kate to bed, as he pretends not to notice. We escape its subtle brume, and I join my colleagues inside the bungalow.” — Sean Penn, Rolling Stone, January 9
th, 2016.

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elchaposeanpennhandshake.
Joaquín Archivaldo ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, Altiplano Prison: “Subtle? That is the very last word that I would use to describe what happened in that room. When I was a boy I sold special birds at the market every day, because we were very poor. The men would take these into the mines to test for poisonous gas. If I still sold those birds then Mr. Sean Penn would have destroyed my business. But I don’t sell those birds anymore. Instead I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines. Let me promise you this: Mr. Sean Penn will never be allowed on one of my submarines.”

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Kate del Castillo, Mexico City: “I was asleep, but Sean woke me up. I knew he was a powerful man, but I never knew how powerful. Mr. Penn’s special talent will be an important tool in the coming revolution.”

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El Chapo’s Head Caterer, In The Hills of Sinaloa: “Everyone knew something bad was about to happen. The gringo ate ate too many tacos. It seemed like he didn’t want the enchiladas or the steak. He unfortunately ignored the first rule of Mexican food: don’t eat more than six tacos. But there was no stopping this American. He ate one after another while he gossiped with El Chapo. I estimate he ate seventeen tacos. There were none left for anyone else! Soon the gringo’s stomach swelled and his face turned the color of two-day-old blood. The first person to notice was El Chapo, I think, when he came back from escorting the actress to bed. He made a signal, and all of his soldiers went to get their guns and put on bulletproof vests. I don’t believe the gringo had any idea how much damage he would cause. Only yesterday I burned the down hut where it happened. The priest said an exorcism was out of the question.”

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DEA Agent Moslin Rorby, Reykjavik: “It was a matter of the first importance that we locate and neutralize El Chapo, by whatever means necessary. There was a good lead: we had tortured a known associate of his, who told us that El Chapo liked his carne asada from a specific restaurant in Mazatlán. We arranged for the latest shipment to be laced with Polonium-210. Then we waited. But no one expected Mr. Penn to eat all of the tacos, and I think we all can say it was some kind of divine intervention that caused his body to isolate and expel the poison. Roughly forty minutes after the offgassing our sensors detected and were able to pinpoint the source of the isotope. You could say that Mr. Penn’s unique gastro-intestinal powers provided the final piece in the puzzle of locating El Chapo.”

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Barack Obama, The Oval Office: “Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States in co-ordination with Mexico has conducted an operation that captured Joaquín Guzmán, also known as ‘El Chapo’ or ‘Shorty,’ the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Or as Sean Penn would say, a simple man from a simple place.”

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Alfredo Guzmán, El Chapo’s Son, Mexico City: “After my father’s capture, some people in our organization reached out to Mr. Sean Penn. They explained that El Chapo wanted to do a follow-up interview from inside prison, and of course Mr. Penn agreed and promised to cross the border as soon as possible. Before we go to visit my father, though, I will take Mr. Sean Penn out to a big taco lunch. I have every reason to believe my father will be a free man once again.”