Monday, May 25, 2009

Supply and Demand

“No way she can go to camp this year,” her dad said. “Not until I find work.”

“What about canceling the fishing trip with your brother?” asked her mom. “Or at least postponing it for now.”

“Christ, Shel. One weekend a year. One fucking weekend where I own my life. That’s all I ask anymore.”

Melanie watched the vein in her dad's forearm bulge as his fist squeezed atop the kitchen table. Grass tickled her calves.

“She’s been looking forward to it all spring. It will crush her not to go.”

“Great. I’m the ogre again,” her dad said. “Can’t do anything right.”

“I would do it in a heartbeat,” her mom mumbled a moment before throwing the garbage disposal switch. “And I’m the one who actually—”

The racket chewed up the rest.

“What’d you say?”

Nothing,” her mom said, flicking the switch back off.

The long silence grounded Melanie’s insides like the banana under the blade. She picked a paint chip off the windowsill, and touched it with her tongue.

“All right, Shelly. All right.”

She saw her mom’s mouth pick up a smile before she moved to hug Melanie's dad. His fist slackened back into a hand, before falling to his side.

Melanie dragged her knuckles along the house’s wood siding, and ran for the field. She stumbled, snatching some wildflowers on the way back up. Her nose dipped into their velvety fragrance as a bee buzzed her ear.

Melanie smoothed her shorts. And then the hair.

Her shoulders pulled back an inch.

“Yes, Prince Phillip, I will do you the honor of becoming your wife,” she said, and curtseyed to the air. Her eyes spotted the floral archway and widened. “It’s perfect!”

She ducked under the blossoms and sighed.

“No, no. Mummy and Daddy will just have to understand, that’s all.” She put on her best approximation of an English accent. “It’s simply out of the question now.”

Melanie sank to her knees and started to twist the stems of a flower crown. She twisted, and twisted again. When she placed the crown upon her head, she forced her mouth to pick up a smile. A princess bride's smile.

“Camp is for babies,” she said, folding her hands demurely in her lap.

Her jaw tightened.

“Not me.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bit o' News

I just wanted to let you guys know that my story, Jackpot, was a Runner-Up in the Winter flash-fiction contest sponsored by WOW! (Women on Writing). The winner's announcement is here, while my piece and pearly whites are featured here (with a couple of typos, including my name!). Literary Agent Janet Reid was the distinguished guest judge for this season, which fielded 300 entries.

I'm pleased!

I'm also sorry for not getting around as much as usual lately, and for posting less here. The other side of that coin is that my new novel has really taken root, which also has me very pleased. :)

Now to find more hours in the day...or to use them more efficiently! But I look forward to catching up on your blogs very soon.

For the Birds



Pick the lock of time
and slip into
the crevasse
where a mouth
of silence sups
music’s hand

There is nothing
I can tell you
that your mind
hasn't already

So let us drop
language like
bread crumbs
and never turn

The first words
to be lost--




Thursday, May 14, 2009

I Lost Something In The Hills

“How are you holding up, Ellie?”

“I hardly know.”

“It’s understandable,” her friend said.

“I-I’m so ashamed.”

“Of what, dear?”

“That I feel such anger. That if he were still here, I’d want to hurt him for leaving me. For not asking me if he could die.” She strangled on a laugh. “Pretty messed up, huh?”

“That’s normal, though. Remember the stages of grief—”

“Yeah, I can’t listen to that shit now."


“I know, in my head, that it wasn’t anyone's fault. But this pain . . . this pain . . . ”

“It’s possessing you. Filling the hole he left behind.”

“Pretty fucking big hole.”

“Listen to me,” her friend said.

“I’m so tired . . . ”

“I know, but just listen.”

She grew still.

“If you could go back to the beginning, to the concert where you two first met. Would you sit somewhere different today?”

Her hand shook as she brushed the hair from her eyes. “I might.”

Her friend sat back. “Really.”

“You said, “today.” In this moment, I might, yes.”

“And one month from now? One year?”

“Ask me then.”

Her friend squeezed her hand. “I think you’ll answer differently.”


“And yet . . . ?”

“And yet I’ll mourn that, too. Because if the pain is lessened, then the hole is getting shallower. He’ll have started to slip away from me in a very dear and precious way, in spite of it all.” She paused. “Just like I’ve slipped from him.”

“Maybe that’s a mercy,” her friend said.

She looked out the window, toward the hills.

And squinted against the brutal blue of a sky with no shields.



My husband, knowing my penchant for
moodier music, turned me onto Sibylle Baier,
a German folk singer whose haunting songs from
the 1970s have only recently been recognized.
Her song, I Lost Something In The Hills,
inspired this piece.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Mother's Day

Often, I look at you and my eyes well, but I have to hide it lest you think I’m sad.

You’re not yet aware that emotions can be as vast and complex as a country, or as small and specific as the freckle on your leg. That each tear has a different DNA.

I wish, like all mothers, that I were a better one. More patient and giving. Selfless. That I didn’t have to fight so to give you all of my attention, my time. That I enjoyed cooking dinner, taking care of the house. Those aren’t empty words. I know I could do more.

I sometimes think I’d be more that way if I hadn’t discovered writing. Or if it hadn’t found me. Then I remember my own mom, and wish she’d taken a little more for herself when I was your age.

I’m still searching for the right balance of you and me.

But here’s the thing: I know you love me. And you know I love you. We say it, we buy cards that brocade it, and we give big bouquets of sunflower hugs and forget-me-not kisses that require no spring or holiday.

You are more than me, more than your Dad. You are the baby I nursed, the toddler he swung, the child asking, “But why?”

You are the breeze in my heart, the anchors to my legs, and the ocean of love that is the source of those tears.

I love you both. And thank you for letting me by your Mom.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Everything is more
dramatic when looking up,
or so film class taught me,
so maybe that’s why
this horse and rider strike
me as the bravest thing
two could hope to be—
one charged beast
pressed to the gremlin
of a nightly fortune,
with the doves of clouds
kissing its shanks