*Of course it was Berkeley where it started and of course it was a college prof and his family of gestures. *The acoustic properties of transmitted legend has already blurred the edges on the actual  facts, somewhat,  so what we think we know has gathered the fuzz of embellishment. You don’t know the word “embellishment”?  Sorry, I’ll tone it down.  We don’t know the prof’s name but we think we know he was a sociologist.  It’s the kind of thing a sociologist would do. I sometimes ask myself if even a Writer would have thought up something as self-abneg… you … Continue reading THE FIRST FASTGIVING


written in 2010 eering into the open before his sunbrella went up was like having a frying pan in full sizzle put flat on his cheek. The bulging curve of the station wall had a sharp black collar of shade around it in which sat the gypsy with her accordion, playing the dolorous tango they all played within a wild range of capabilities, from grating to futile mastery. She gave him a frank look as he veered out into the unfiltered blast because she blocked the very narrow path the shadow protected, sitting cross-legged on a collapsible chair, shoe tip … Continue reading GYPSIES


We do not die but we forget and forgetting is like unto death, a death of tired associations and attachments, connections so weary they attenuate rather than snap, the rearranging of rearrangement that can only end in the erasure of particulate matter; not a break but an evanescence, a reduction of material memory to its finest single grain, which is not an atom but what this atom meant to itself and other atoms as it forgot itself into The Future. —Anonymous KIA of seeing Jeff with his new girl reminded me of being extremely young, when awkward occasions had gifted … Continue reading 4STORIES


THE DAINTY HAMMERS Petra Kronos of The Dainty Hammers stopped mid-block, near Rosenthalerplatz, across the street (on a diagonal) from Mein Haus Am See to enjoy the sudden sun. The sudden sun soaked slowly through her old silk blouse like a spreading stain or wound of light. Eyes closed Petra tilted her face to mirror the distant Northern sun. In the North the sun is self-evidently a star. Petra always thought my mother laid this out on the bed to wear it the morning she died before putting on the blouse with a melancholy sense of ceremony. Her adoptive mother. … Continue reading 3COUPLES

DEATHCAMP MEETCUTE (a very short story)

Pinnol, said Birte. Pinnol. I want you to really think about this question before you answer it. Will you? Will you think about this question really very seriously before you answer it? Pinnol smiled and Birte took a breath. Do you remember the first time you came to Deathcamp? What were your impressions? I remember the way I used to think before I came to Deathcamp. Can you remember the way you used to think before you came to Deathcamp? How childishly you probably thought? I thought very much like a child. I’m the first to admit. After all, I … Continue reading DEATHCAMP MEETCUTE (a very short story)

DON’T TELL CHLOE (a short story)

Henry was already famous for having used a logical argument to get out of church every Sunday and now look at him,  recumbent in the field beside his grandmother’s house at all hours and on this particular evening so late that most traffic of the day, no longer rattling untouched china nor rushing in either direction on 115th street, was by then elsewhere, at rest, while Henry fretted. Henry with a book in the tall wild grass of the ownerless field with a flashlight. “Our Father,” said the lady, his grandmother, over dinner. Of all the people who once sat … Continue reading DON’T TELL CHLOE (a short story)

SALTER’S LUCK (a short story)

In every way my second (and last) marriage is wonderful, my first marriage was a nightmare. A fruitful situation rich in fiction-producing toxins. This story and another  (and this chapter in my memoir) are the stories I got out of that dark, dark period. . . Salter woke up to Lola shouting there was oil fucking paint on her Jil fucking Sander. He couldn’t at first tell if he was having a heart attack or caught in an earthquake or both but Lola was so up in his face she appeared to have one long ice-blue eye in the middle … Continue reading SALTER’S LUCK (a short story)

TEAR US APART (a short story from 2002)

When Rafaella and I got off the plane, we were giggling, race-walking out of the fuselage, not even bothering to exchange phony goodbyes with the stewardesses but shoving so rudely through people in our mad dash for the ridiculous velvet ropes (was flying a magic act? a disco?) we could see at the end of the wobbly square tunnel. We dashed down the concourse like children and people glared at our leather coats flapping. I hopped onto a baggage cart and Rafi grabbed the handlebar and pushed it full speed and swervvy making folks scatter and I surfed it to … Continue reading TEAR US APART (a short story from 2002)

STELLA (a short story)

About a week after I went blind, my friend Dorman dropped me off on a bench in Funes Park, just exactly as he’d done the day before, so I could sun myself for three hours until the end of his shift. It was Thursday. Dorman said, “Now don’t you go anywhere until I get back, you impetuous kid,” and patted me on the head. He crushed the sharp grass and a beer can with his boots as he climbed the slope to the sidewalk that ringed the park like a crust. “What am I looking at?” I called over my … Continue reading STELLA (a short story)


Chapter One: More than Words Sylvie’s father was a writer whose time had come and gone, but he was fine with that. He’d invested the windfall with prescience. He had a house in a decent neighborhood in a city that scored with consistent impressiveness on all the quality-of-life surveys worth checking, along with some property a two hours’ drive up north. The property up north featured a rustic cabin he was going to write his comeback in, a cabin near a well he wasn’t allowed to drink out of, overlooked by the aerie of an endangered species of hawk he … Continue reading SYLVIE


1-the email from karla pepp and how to parse it “The heart of the mechanism of effective writing is the same, in essence, as that of the pithy, lethal, hilariously precise put-down…  as  executed in a heated argument between queens of a ripe old age. There is something “queer” about the intensity of observation required to shape a living description, or craft a lingering metaphor, so vividly apt that it can wound. Experienced Queens “bitch” well because they zero in on the weak spot, which is also where the chink in the armour is, aka Living Flesh exposed aka The … Continue reading COGITO ERGO DICKHEAD


I’m one of those implausible Parlor Trick Prodigy characters so popular in the ’80s and ’90s and early 2000s, a narrative trend driven mainly, I guess, by the vastness of Yuppie Self-Regard, which extended to the delusional misapprehension that the children of the very finest Yuppies stood a very good chance of being geniuses, given the proper (expensive) nudge. You know:  Suzuki violin lessons in kindergarten, preceded by speakers hooked up to CD players playing Mozart blasting the (pre)occupied womb. Does having a Chinese nanny the first four years help? My mother never missed a trick. People like her liked … Continue reading polari


If you asked Zarah Frayn about the scariest thing that had ever happened to her she could tell you without thinking but wouldn’t. It had happened the month after marrying Blake. She hadn’t thought of it in all these years. As though the divorce had suddenly opened her to thoughts like that again, or to people who would ask that kind of question. It’s true she wouldn’t have thought of it otherwise. Not now. If it was a flirtation it was a funny way to flirt, she thought. Was he trying to scare her? His English was weakly accented, but … Continue reading ZARAH FRAYN


Queer Fat Niggers ™ weren’t fat or Queer or Black, they were a duo of Transgender womyn who hailed from the wealthiest hostels of Long Island. Please touch the blue circle firmly with signing thumb to continue. QFN’s hook was butterscotch-plaid bellbottoms and waist-long,  candy-colored wigs. QFN were blitzed on stage by relentless strobe lights: that was their act. Purportedly, no one over 19 could bear to watch it. QFN are recognized as trailblazers in the exaggerated-breast-size  (EBS) movement of topless trans  liberation. This informational monologue is dedicated to Larry. QFN were known for one very catchy and groundbreaking original … Continue reading tophus

Bojovat za novy zivot

  Romy and I decided on impulse to make the four hour drive to Prague.  The next thing we decided to do was load up on bottled water and chocolate for the trip but we also needed gas. I told Romy there’s an Aral station just up the street from where I’m staying at Kurt’s flat and she said I knew that, I was born here, you’re so funny, we’ll pick up your things at Kurt’s and drive to the Aral and then to Prague. I met Romy through Kurt, who first hated her and then seemed to like her … Continue reading Bojovat za novy zivot

POEM of the WEAK (a short story)

  The drive up was tense not only because of the tritely appropriate drama of the rain but also because if he got lost on the way there was no one to call to for help. No safety net. He was forbidden from square one to store the information on a device or to print the directions on paper. * The directions appeared one morning in an audio loop that disabled itself after ten or fifteen minutes, a loop accompanied by a black screen, a loop in the form of a sonnet. He’d been chanting it to himself for forty … Continue reading POEM of the WEAK (a short story)


1. PREAMBLE A man approaches a microphone mounted on a canting stand in the beam of an unspectacular spotlight (the setting is possibly a high school auditorium or the basement of a well-funded church) and reads into that microphone with the stock cadences of a slam poet, a somewhat nervous slam poet, the sheaf of papers he’s reading from fluttering in his signet-ring-bearing hand… “Damned at birth, by the damnable accident of birth, he was born the stupidest, ugliest, least-civilized and most threatening kind of person there is, a boogieman to out-boogie all previous attempts, with the bushy hair of … Continue reading LIVES of the POET

THE REAL JIMMY DAVIS (a short story)

A Lit trend I’ve noticed, since writing this story in 2009, is that using an unreliable narrator, in a short story, has become as risky as using irony on Facebook. People are so used to identifying with the protag; so used to knowing exactly on “which side” the protag, or even the author, is; so sure, before reading the first complete paragraph of the story, what the “moral” is and even that there is one. I had an angry commenter dip in here a few months ago, brandishing her/his Virtue Signaling water pistol (I hope that was apple juice the … Continue reading THE REAL JIMMY DAVIS (a short story)


  This life is inconceivably beautiful. It is a life of the mind. It is always late summer, the blacks are inky-rich, the whites are milky singularities, the grayscale between is perfectly-judged. Satchmo, an immolated saint, has burned clear, finally, of all kitsch and his rehabilitation proves that we are capable of anything. T. and I are standing as far apart as two Bohemians can, while still holding hands, looking at different paintings, grunting or sighing our assessments, our cool contentments or stern critiques, protected by the gallerist’s approving leer. The gallerist is a friend; she lowers the volume of … Continue reading GRAYSCALE


Miriam with the curly blonde hair that when you looked closer was full of white and gray. Her point being that everyone knew she had two college-age offspring from a previous marriage. Who would she be fooling with a dye job? Robert didn’t want to seem timid or dull in Miriam Wallace’s eyes. Robert had first met Miriam during the Christmas season after his twenty-second birthday, the Christmas he flew back to Philly from Minneapolis to tell his parents he wouldn’t be going to graduate school. Turbulence on the flight had strengthened his resolve. Turbulence and his rotten stomach. His … Continue reading THE GRADUATE (a short story from DIFFICULT TEXTS)


… first published on January 28th, 2019 1.  “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”—H.G. Wells It isn’t widely known that H. G. Wells, the futurist, in the middle of his years, informally adopted a boy he called Kip, a boy of about 12, who Wells claimed was half-Hindoo, though the friends of Wells who actually met Kip claimed the boy looked more Negroid than anything else. In a letter to Cecil Rhodes, Wells wrote that Kip [was] “an experiment pitting Nature’s dithering melody against Nurture’s persistent drum beat.” Wells kept a fastidious journal of Kip’s daily … Continue reading TEH TYME MASHEEN


—– with apologies to Helen DeWitt Local hysterical-realist writer Donald DeLillo’s self-parodying novel, Cosmopolis, begins with an epigraph from a Zbigniew Herbert poem: ―a rat becomes the unit of currency But of course the unit of currency of our particular Dystopia is not the rat but the blowjob. So let’s get that straight. Picture my Eldritch with one eye like a recalcitrant dial with a hand twisting around it;  his big clean beautiful mouth agape;  his gelled hair a graphic representation of its bearer facing a hurricane. But I am not shouting. I am speaking in a reasonable voice. You … Continue reading THE GENDARMES OF MOROCCO: a Short Story


Like many young prostitutes in Berlin, Azura had a dayjob. Due to reasons too numerous to go into here (in which time is limited), the fees a prostitute could typically expect in exchange for the usual requests had withered, over the decades, to very stern figures. A young prostitute of some refinement today working in the strongest economy in Europe can expect the kind of money a milk-fed whore from a small country would have been disappointed to earn in the 1970s. Such whores were now limping up and down the Kurfürstenstrasse, the scraped habitat of tattooed white junkies and … Continue reading AZURA’S GIFT


  … a bedtime story for sophisticated insomniacs,  from the collection  NOT REALLY DIFFICULT TEXTS 1. Venal Cunt spread her legs like a vile temptation at the end of the night, face deflected, eyes unplugged. Long and elegant and platinum-haired and bone-white with her sexy puckering lisp. The only color is the childish yellow scrawl of her bush and her pupils like residue in cocktail glasses and the raised red chevrons where she scratches her right wrist incessantly like a fox in a fur-lined trap. Even her nipples are white. She says what do I need to read for, my … Continue reading THE MAN FROM ELEPHANT and CASTLE

LAKE ZURICH: a short story

  The last photo in the row of photos in cardboard frames on the windowsill was face-down on the sill and he wondered if this meant something or if the wind had done it, despite the fact that the window, for as long as she’d been living here, had never been open. The air was piped-in like music. He checked the seam between the lower half of the window and the track it was in and confirmed his suspicion that it was thickly painted shut, thick as a welding seam, seafoam green like a jail. Through the blinds the janitor, … Continue reading LAKE ZURICH: a short story


Moody’s path crossed Beverly Lund’s before they formally met. This encounter took place on the first day of summer in that drought year.  In hunger and to escape the heat Moody had gone into pricey Pickerling’s and stalked the refrigerated aisles. He furtively sampled toothpicked lunchmeats and cheeses and cake and ice creams from paper cups at unmanned displays and avoided the manned ones. There were old white men in commodore caps distributed evenly throughout the store. Moody was standing at a sample display festooned with flags when this tall, not-bad-looking woman eased her shopping cart beside Moody. She was … Continue reading THE EXCELLENT TASTE of OUR BENEFACTORS (a short story from NOT REALLY DIFFICULT TEXTS)

DR. RED: a short story

  I see someone has promptly raised a hand. This is very good. Because I want to ask a question. A kind of a technical question about law. You really are a lawyer, then, right? And so you’ve probably studied some law. Right? People are already laughing. Nice. Nothing easier. What a pleasure. And your easy laughter has nothing to do with the fact that you’re all here on complimentary tickets and the food and drinks are free, too, right? Nothing to do with that. I could be wanking into a blind old beloved school teacher’s half-good eye and you’d … Continue reading DR. RED: a short story


Goss slithered out of the hotel bed, careful not to wake her. This was not easy because she was the lightest sleeper ever. He hadn’t been able to shift a millimeter without getting an interrogative grunt from her and his escape from the bed had taken what seemed like hours of excruciating control. When he finally slipped into the bathroom he realized it must be suppertime back home. Sat on the toilet, seat down, lights off, with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands but he was smiling. Not quite laughing. Actually maybe he felt slightly … Continue reading OEDIPUS Rx (a short story from NOT REALLY DIFFICULT TEXTS)

ERYN; EDWINA (a short story from DIFFICULT TEXTS)

[Among my topics, as a Writer, are subtler manifestations of Racism and Sexism… but I always felt it was more effective to illuminate these matters from the inside out, to which end I sometimes deploy Liberal White Protagonists… ]   ERYN; EDWINA   Eryn said get this he unzips his pants and asks is it big enough. The waitress still hadn’t fetched their drinks. Eryn gave the room an orphaned look and continued so the dirty is done and I’m combing my ‘fro in the dresser mirror. Okay? And the bathroom door is cracked open yea wide. Okay? And I … Continue reading ERYN; EDWINA (a short story from DIFFICULT TEXTS)


I remember the day of the morning I found out that my father had died.  His partner in my creation, my long-divorced mother, said only  Another victory for Big Tobacco when I called her with the news. I grabbed a light jacket (it was Fall in Berlin) and left my apartment on Bismarckstrasse. I had the idea that I should find a park bench in the vicinity of a fountain and sit with my thoughts. It was one of those undecided days of blinding sunshine interrupted with maddening frequency by chilling clouds. The clouds would come suddenly and refrigerate the … Continue reading CONVERSATIONS with a REMARKABLE MAN: a Short Story


Women who have never been oppressed, who have always been deferred to and have, without exception, always gotten their way, never denied or undervalued, never told “no!” or “wait!” or “you can’t do that!” (not even in jest) are now getting a steady stream of hyperbolic affirmations meant to bolster the self-esteem of marginalized, voiceless, serially-abused women of the Third World.  These upper class females are intercepting the “you are a goddess!” and “no one can tell you what to do!” pep talks meant for much needier women and it is driving them insane, it’s turning them into monsters. As … Continue reading PET’S PROBS: A SHORT STORY

TALE of the BLACKEST GIANT (a long short story)

  he wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld           -James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man   Appearance is destiny. Just ask any born-blonde with double-d cup breasts. Ask any dwarf. My gorgeous biological mother spent most of my childhood on her hands and knees.  You could say she was scrubbing. Outside, Chicago’s Southside, there were scenes of shame and aftermath bathed in attenuations of rotten smoke on the wind and The Stockyards ruled the smells when this wind changed and thickened in the reversing, shrouding all … Continue reading TALE of the BLACKEST GIANT (a long short story)

Sarah Gold or Tempus Fuggit

  Snap. Mr Butler grunted and said, “You pick a woman, you pay a little attention to her, you figure out what she thinks she likes and what she really likes and if you do it right, pretty soon she’s yours, man, your very own honey. That plus a part-time job and some barbecue pork three times a month and you’re all set. Fuck college. You see what I’m saying?  You drinking yet?” Butler walked around the table, flexing his gardening gloves. He grunted again and got the legs off the rickety gurney and on to the slightly tilted stainless … Continue reading Sarah Gold or Tempus Fuggit


  1. -Ina says a dreamboat’s any man refrains demanding anal on like the third date. -Dreamboat’s mother’s word. -Mother’d pronounce it in-uh. -Daddy said Eee-nah. -Couldn’t even agree on that. -Ina burns her fingers on the water glass. -They served me coffee in a water glass. -My first sensation in Berlin. -A burn. -A Flashback: -Mother pretending drunk on balcony overlooking Mississippi. -A balcony as architectural trophy of amicable divorce. -Mother pretending drunk to make the saying… -Ina needing no such excuse. -…of certain things… -Hard as some things are to say. -…easy… -Excuses are for those who can … Continue reading INTRODUCING INA BOYD

ANOTHER COUNTRY SMELL (a short story from the collection EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TEXTS)

1. Every day of a school week, a yellow girl ran up the street toward the Chalfonts. She ran with a paper sack tucked under one arm, her black hair laid flat on the long March wind. It was a fine spring day, not long after Easter. Smells were blowing back up into Chicago from the South. Some good, some bad. The yellow girl lifted one corner of her white dress to run in it. The soles of her feet were as black as burnt pancakes as they slapped the sidewalk and black boys of the neighborhood, on the street … Continue reading ANOTHER COUNTRY SMELL (a short story from the collection EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TEXTS)


  The little bald citizen from an Otto Dix painting asks Veer ah yoo go-ink and Frederick shrugs so slowly the gesture becomes strange to him before he completes it. The last thing he came to Berlin to do is sit beside a panting homosexualist as the lights go down in a movie house. He doesn’t know what he came to Berlin for but he knows it wasn’t that. He knows so little so well. He can feel Herr Ludwig watching from the kitchen as he saunters up the street with his hands in his pockets under fizzy warm twilight … Continue reading THE BIRTHMARK (a short story from DIFFICULT TEXTS)

THE ELEPHANT EYE MYSTERIES (an allegorical horror story)

  Wednesday night they went and saw an arty Italian horror movie at the TLA and after the lights went up and they were climbing the gentle grade of the worn aisle-carpet to the EXIT, Bill said, with his teasing voice, “Did you see how that foxy girl was looking at you?” “What foxy girl?” “The foxy girl sitting in front of us. The curly-haired girl in front of us in the checkered Furstenberg wrap.” “The checkered what? How could the foxy girl in front of us be looking at me if she was sitting in front of us? Did … Continue reading THE ELEPHANT EYE MYSTERIES (an allegorical horror story)

RAVENELLA: a Fairytale by Steven Augustine

  RAVENELLA a fairytale by Steven Augustine   -Preamble- Eine frischvermählte junge Frau läuft vom Wasserholen aus der dörflichen Quelle durch den finsteren Wald nach Hause… A newly married young woman was walking home through the forest after a trip to the village well. She was blonde as straw and white as moonlit snow, with eyes more blue than a teapot. Out of boredom she took an unfamiliar path through the forest and glimpsed, over a high garden wall, a ripe red bunch of cherries. Seeing the ripe cherries, she realized how hungry she was, and, putting down her bucket … Continue reading RAVENELLA: a Fairytale by Steven Augustine

2 SAUL and WALLY TALES (two short stories)

  Few people are aware of the fact that Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison were chums. This unlikely twosome inhabited my imagination in a series of vignettes I channeled a “few years ago” (going on ten, I think), two of which I took the trouble to write. I love these projected confabulations but some readers, over the years, have been offended by them. Ah! What doesn’t offend them, if the conditions are even only slightly right…?   1. IF I DEALT IN CANDLES: THE LOST MASTERPIECE OF RALPH ELLISON   Constance thanked Wally profusely for his helpful critique and slipped … Continue reading 2 SAUL and WALLY TALES (two short stories)

PUNISH THE WICKED (a short story)

                                          -Bees are in this world to punish the wicked. Ma-Ma nodded as she spoke. Henry was sorry he had asked the question. Henry felt exposed as the wicked as Ma-Ma  pointed at God,  who was hidden in the sky,  before Ma-Ma knelt on a cushion in the flowerbed and resumed her muddy work with the trowel, stabbing the earth. They were going to make new flowers. The old house was nice but it needed more paint and it needed … Continue reading PUNISH THE WICKED (a short story)


YESTERDAY’S INSULTS ARE TOMORROW’S COMPLIMENTS   1592: The first printed appearance of the phrase “Once upon a time,” in its original German form, Es war einmal, is traceable to a village in the region of the Spreewald, via a press in Strassburg. The printing of the phrase was at the expense of Victor’s ancestor, Konstantin von Lehde, a wealthy brewer who published a dozen copies of his collected Märchen (fairytales), as well as later financing the printing of a pocket Bible ideal for itinerant tradesmen, who, although they may not have been able to read the little book, carried it … Continue reading YESTERDAY’S INSULTS ARE TOMORROW’S COMPLIMENTS: a short story from EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TEXTS


Six Quickies and Two Shorts from my Collection WE DO NOT DIE   ********   10             FLARCH   She always swore she’d never FLARCH. “You’ll never catch me FLARCHING,” she always said. She pitied people who had no minds of their own and she often said so. More and more of her friends were doing it, though. They were FLARCHING, which made her even more stubborn, more resistant, more categorically averse to the idea. She simply wasn’t a herd animal. She needed to make that perfectly clear. A sheep she was not. A lemming she was not at all. Show … Continue reading SCI FI FOR MODERNS

EHUD SAID TO EGLON (a short story from GERMANTOWN)

In 1966, the Murchesons moved to a better part of Golders Park, a lateral shift of no more than half a mile that made all the difference in the world. They moved from Mud Lane to the best street in the neighborhood, nicknamed “Fed’s Row,” because most of the original home-builders had been colored employees of the Federal Government (postal workers) or had worked the steel mills in nearby Gary, Indiana, under naval contracts during the war. Benjamin Franklin Murcheson Sr. had been saving for over twenty years, since the end of the war and the birth of his son … Continue reading EHUD SAID TO EGLON (a short story from GERMANTOWN)


  “Wait,”  said Mara, “I know this.” She turns it up. “This is Beethoven. Or Mozart or stuff.” It is perfect driving music. It is also a travesty. Dad is grinning in the rearview  but not at me. At his own teeth as bars and whips and Chinese throwing stars of sunlight batter us in an epileptically hypnotic frenzy. We follow the endless new ribbon of progress zooming from under the shattered roof of the covered bridge over the unpronounceable river and it is like ripping a hostage’s moth-eaten hood off. “Love it!” shouts Dad with his square-short hair. His … Continue reading JOY


Ruby-June  stood shivering in a cloud-shaped queue at what appeared to be a bus stop on the sidewalk outside the Frisbee-shaped terminal. Awake for endless hours already she sang  a song under her peppermint breath and every frosted word she crooned exploded like kisses on a Crossmaus wind.  And there and there around her other dim lanterns of human breath rose and blurred into the evening. Singing under her breath was always a sure sign that Ruby was nervous,  thought Ruby, nervously, but  what was there to be nervous about? Ruby sang  doot-da-doot-da-doot…  Remembering when floatels were silver puddings. Puddings … Continue reading RUBY’S LOOPS: A SHORT STORY

THE MIRACLE of the APPARITION in the CANDLE-ILLUMINATED CORPUS of the CRANBERRY SAUCE: a Christmas Story of Short Length, illustrated by ET

At the sagging table of the two-turkey dinner of ’92, Ahmed Collins heard his Aunt Nura say something that changed his life. Ahmed (Meddy) heard Nura say, in a stage whisper, out the corner of her mulberry mouth, which was shielded by a theatrical hand with rings upon every finger, “If women liked sex they’d do it with people they respect.”  Ahmed remembers the statement provoked laughter among the adults but his memory of the laughter sounds uncannily like canned laughter for the sitcom Cheers (amiable, knowing, coerced) so he wonders. Nura isn’t really an aunt: she had come to … Continue reading THE MIRACLE of the APPARITION in the CANDLE-ILLUMINATED CORPUS of the CRANBERRY SAUCE: a Christmas Story of Short Length, illustrated by ET

JULES: a short story

The night my uncle Chandler did grievous damage to his Beetle at a bend in the road in North Carolina the phone rang. This was before my mother got her own place, on the other side of town, with a little help from a loan, made to her by my grandfather, from part of the payout on Chandler’s life insurance. I was Chandler’s namesake. Everyone called me Chan. I can remember staring at my tiny brown hands and trying to will them to be bigger. Like Chandler’s. I was half-asleep in a summery way on a fold-out couch in the … Continue reading JULES: a short story


  Nanette Glitz referred to the mop-filled warren in the basement containing the janitor’s closet as “the physical plant,”  a grandiose term for the place where the boiler mumbled under the podium in Old Main. Old Main had a little auditorium for quick speeches and directly under the podium from which these quick speeches came was the boiler, claimed Nanette Glitz, who had nicknamed it Fat Man, fantasizing that it might blow one day and take the dean with it. Nanette Glitz worked in what she called “the physical plant” on a work-study program because she was poor and attending … Continue reading THURSDAY NIGHT BY THE LIBRARY

MR. GOOLD: a short story

  The neon artist, shit, I heard he’d been in a psychedelic band in the late ’60s when nothing was an easier cliché than being yet another itchy hippie pretending to have access to the infinite through rudimentary blues scales on an out of tune guitar in San Francisco. Who in San Francisco in the late ’60s wasn’t in a psychedelic band or supporting someone who was or getting Syphilis from the former or the latter? Now here he was in ’83 having an affair with one of his students and turning a sly old gradual eye toward his illicit … Continue reading MR. GOOLD: a short story

HELENS of TROY: a Short Story/ an Attack on Nationalist Sports and Athletes/ a Confession

Berlin’s normally rainy early summer has produced a drought, blowing a gritty breeze that powders the sweat before it beads. It vexes the eye with particles sluiced in camel-colored veils trailing from building sites where the progress is slow on a Mediterranean level. I sat down to a plate of very good falafel and watched a sirocco rise up like a Jinn from a dumpster under a scaffold up the street and it swept over me before I could leg it indoors. Minus the eye-irritants the breeze is quite pleasant in the evening. It’s a very light late-suppertime and the EM, or europäischer Meisterschaft, has … Continue reading HELENS of TROY: a Short Story/ an Attack on Nationalist Sports and Athletes/ a Confession

totally naked with wild dogs: an allegory

Barry lectures: One out of every hundred people, or perhaps one out of every two hundred, harbors the seed of a cardinal talent. By cardinal talent meaning: the extraordinary ability to write or write music or paint or craft technical inventions (and nowadays to write code for software) and so on. But only a fraction of that fraction will have the strength or unstoppable compulsion to bring the talent to any useful level of fruition. Many of the talented will dabble,  in school, at an age at which it’s safe to dabble, and then stop when society and hormones force … Continue reading totally naked with wild dogs: an allegory

Top 5 Patricides of Midville, Illinois (a short story from DIFFICULT TEXTS)

  [by request from a reader: one of the hairier old texts]   Top 5 Patricides of Midville, Illinois   With apologies to Ambrose Bierce   5. Lucius Nathaniel Calvin. “Luke” or “Lucy” to his friends. Good-looking boy with innocent sour milk breath. Dutifully unspectacular student. Never show-offy with hand-raising in class or sinister in the sophistication of his cheating. Reasonably popular within the limits of rural terms of popularity, which hinge on things like prowess with a hunting rifle. Unrealistically blue-eyed, farm-tall, short-lipped, with veiny hands and close-cropped, pale-wheat hair which he kept in a Cesarean haircut that only … Continue reading Top 5 Patricides of Midville, Illinois (a short story from DIFFICULT TEXTS)

THE INHERITANCE (a short story from the novel GERMANTOWN)

A cloud of noise from the far corner of Golders Park, a jangle of plaint and controversy. The vivid disturbance swelled as it swept the grass on abundant legs broadcasting the many-headed din of a thing so dirty-furred and spittle-spraying. It approached with all chains ringing and swooped its thirty four tails with snaggle-toothed grins proclaiming the man and his muttpack after all this time returned. The loudest runty ones fanned ahead like scouts yapping cocky and proud and the big ones and the old ones loped and trotted and limped behind with the prophet himself striding the rearmost calling … Continue reading THE INHERITANCE (a short story from the novel GERMANTOWN)

CAREER MOVE (a short story from CITY of AMATEURS and GERMANTOWN)

Wednesday evening at 19:00, Simon’s event at the North Coast Gallery, in association with Absolut Vodka and Virgin Records, is scheduled to open with a wine-and-cheese reception, followed by a learned discussion between Kahn-Meyers and five panellists, followed by the event itself. Simon is in competition for the lucrative and prestigious Stein Prize. The North Coast gallery is a handsome space on Sophienstrasse in Berlin’s gallery ghetto, where there’s an opening every night of the week in the last warm period before the soggy beast of winter’s stomping return. Openings which feature munching crowds on the sidewalks in commingled clouds … Continue reading CAREER MOVE (a short story from CITY of AMATEURS and GERMANTOWN)


  for Comrade EC, who’s happy in Heaven with Francoise Sagan now PROLOGUE: I am Born, Elvis Reports to Nixon, Primates and Bladder Infections, Fatidic Frank, a Schwinn is Taken, How Dietary Habits affect the Flavor and Bouquet of Mexican emissions, A Glimpse of the Primordial One in Pedal-Pushers, Hippie-Do’s Aflame PROLOGUE This isn’t one of those unreliable narrator jokes where the character talking thinks he’s god but really he’s some tragic sack in a coma. Really I am god and I am not in a coma. Really. I was a kid in a coma once, true. Well that was the … Continue reading HOMO ZERO

THE BAND (a short story from GERMANTOWN)

  [a short story from GERMANTOWN, a novel made of linked short stories following the intertwined histories of two families, from the early 1900s until the early 2000s]   **** A human being (who also happened to be property), born more than two hundred years before Benny Murcheson walked this earth, wrote: One morning, when I got upon deck, I saw it covered all over with the snow that fell over-night: as I had never seen any thing of the kind before, I thought it was salt; so I immediately ran down to the mate, and desired him, as well … Continue reading THE BAND (a short story from GERMANTOWN)

THE PATRIARCH: a short story

One of those little pleasures your subconscious gifts you with, from time to time: the rolled-up bills in an overlooked pocket you rediscover a few years after. Or, in this case, a short story I’d forgotten about. A perfect recreation of my state of mind at the age of 35, teetering on the queasy cusp of no-longer-young. I wrote it in a raw, accurate rush about the New Year’s Eve of 1994-’95 on the Reeperbahn; a failed (unmentioned) romance with a Bulgarian actress, Anna S., from a famous family of actresses, foiled by gossip and a jealous friend. I got … Continue reading THE PATRIARCH: a short story


There was a bear stretched to its full standing height, up on its tiptoes, shaking the branch of a tree. Zoey wished she could say exactly what kind of a tree but being a city kid she couldn’t. The bear was shaking the branch for whatever reason that would undoubtedly make utter sense to a bear but the thing about the bear that was truly noteworthy (and made her assume at first she was dreaming) was its t-shirt. The message on the t-shirt was clear in the early morning light, script arranged in three fat lines like a stoner’s haiku, … Continue reading THE RING

jizos av masi: a short story from GERMANTOWN

Every working day at 5:40 a.m., like a ninety six pound prize fighter in training, Bernadette Murcheson wakes up to the tinny bell of the wind-up alarm clock she got from her mother as a graduation gift at the end of high school. The little clock, after all these twenty four years, is the only thing left from that original windfall of dime store treasures she got to commemorate her big move into the world beyond Golders Park. The utilitarian nature of every one of those family-given gifts (alarm clock, stapler, can opener, sewing kit, compass, miniature crescent wrench set) … Continue reading jizos av masi: a short story from GERMANTOWN

ouroboros borborygmus: a short story

  1. Stock was just beginning to dwell on the fact that he’d been sitting alone in the waiting room for an improbably long while when something happened. The door to the waiting room opened and Stock walked in and grabbed an old magazine and took a seat. Stock stared at himself. It wasn’t exactly Stock but Stock at a much younger age, maybe twenty, stylish but poor. He looked relaxed and very healthy. He was sun-burnished and the smell of his health crossed the room. Stock wondered if this was his grown son. A mesmerizingly-pure and beautiful version of his … Continue reading ouroboros borborygmus: a short story


You expect a clockwork metropolis resembling dirty stacks of old wedding cakes. It’s a surprise riding into Vienna from the airport on the shuttle and seeing miles of heavy industry instead. Silver pipes and vast white tanks and smokestacks protruding from asphalt plants and refineries. There was a premonition of this already at the airport because the horizon is ringed with the rust-tinged edge of an inverted bowl of old industrial weather. The last thing you’d expect of the former heart of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire is to be reminded of pre-EPA Pittsburgh in its sky-killing heyday but life is just one long surprise for the … Continue reading SARAH IS FIVE-ISH: a short story from NOT REALLY DIFFICULT TEXTS