Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Lacie had only been married for three months
when she suddenly noticed
the way that her husband—
the love of her life, 
the man of her dreams, etc.—
chewed his food.
His jaws working
pulverizing, tearing,
crunching, grinding,
lips smacking,
brief gulp of a swallow,
slurping at the lid of a can,
then the next bite of food
shoveled in
to begin the process
all over again,
his eyes blankly
staring at the television
blaring across the room.
Lacie stood up then
and shouted,
to her spouse’s utter bewilderment,
“Stop! Stop it right now, goddamnit!”
“Wha?” he asked,
wounded puppy voice with a mouth
half full of food.
“Sorry…I’m sorry,” she replied,
eyes cast downward.
“It was nothing…must just be
that time of the month, ha ha!”
He eyed her suspiciously,
then resumed dining,
and Lacie realized then
just how long
happily ever after would be.


Everything Cheryl had ever worked for
was culminating in
a short walk across the stage
and a hearty handshake
with the Dean of Students—
a PhD at last!
She had dreamed of this moment
as far back as high school,
taking every advanced class possible,
cultivating all the right after-school activities,
even volunteering at a hospital for two years,
loathing every minute,
but all in service of the goal
of getting into the right college.
Then, when she attended the right college,
she studied through the night,
instead of drinking
and sleeping with her classmates,
and she double-majored and double-minored
and cultivated the right GPA
so that she could attend the right graduate school.
Then when she was in the right graduate school,
she studied through the night,
and courted all the right mentors
so she could be admitted to the right PhD program,
and when she was a PhD student,
she performed menial tasks,
studied through the night,
ate ramen for dinner and wore threadbare socks,
and had a brief affair with the wrong professor,
but despite all that,
she finished her dissertation,
and here she was,
and she didn’t have as many friends
and hadn’t had as much fun as some,
but she had achieved her goal,
and the achieving of the goal was the thing,
not the low-paying adjunct teaching job
that was waiting for her in Oklahoma City,
and after her name was called,
she took one step onto the stage
with her right low-heeled taupe pump,
joyful tears glistening in her eyes,
when her progress was suddenly interrupted
by an impossible sight.
Some freshman frat boy named Brad
or Chad or Thad or similar
had been coerced by his so-called brothers
to ride a bicycle across the graduation stage
while dressed as the Cat in the Hat.
The audience gasped, then many laughed,
and the furious dean of students
was demanding the young man’s capture.
Brad/Chad, as we will refer to him now,
ditched his bicycle once he was offstage,
ran down the steps,
was aided by guffawing accomplices,
stripped off his costume,
and disappeared into the crowd.
Meanwhile, Cheryl stood onstage,
her moment shattered,
her mouth gaping open,
her heart pounding in her frozen body.
The dean apologized for the interruption.
Someone ushered Cheryl across the stage.
They never announced her name again.
No one placed her doctoral hood over her head.
No one applauded her accomplishment.
She walked down the stairs back to her seat
and exhaled.
The ceremony continued without further incident.
Afterwards, her parents bought her a late lunch
at Applebees
before they drove back to Kalamazoo.

Break Up, Junior Year

Grace stared ahead of her,
through the front windshield,
to the end of the driveway,
wearing a stony expression,
determined not to lose her composure,
because he didn’t deserve it.
She turned to him with a smile.
Of course, she agreed.
Of course he wanted to date other girls.
She was just a junior
in high school,
and it was a silly thing.
He insisted on a hug
before she got out of the car,
so she leaned over awkwardly,
and it felt good there in his arms,
but she couldn’t stay there.
Such a silly thing.
My heart is breaking into pieces,
she told herself,
but that thought made her want to cry,
and she still had to turn back to the car
and wave goodbye
before he drove away.


Kelly signed up online
for one of those charity fundraisers
where you run up and down
the stairs of a skyscraper.
This particular skyscraper
had 94 stories.
Kelly was not what you’d call athletic.
She’d stop on the second-floor landing
of her apartment building,
coughing and panting.
God, I need a cigarette,
she’d think when she opened her front door.
She registered for this stair run
while drunk
after sending several very embarrassing
and unwelcome texts
to her ex-boyfriend.
When she awoke in the morning,
she saw what she had done.
What on earth?
she asked herself.
The registration fee had not been cheap,
and it was unrefundable.
Well, maybe?
She had three months to train.
I’ll start tomorrow, she decided.
First thing tomorrow.

Thursday, September 5, 2019


The storm appeared out of nowhere,
tossing our ship back and forth
like a shuttlecock batted by sweaty young boys
in their junior high gym class,
gray t-shirts emblazoned with their school logo
and embarrassingly tiny red shorts,
and this simile brought Jacob to mind,
and I wondered what he was doing now,
so many years later,
with his pretty blonde wife and two kids.
When I dream of him,
does he dream of me too?
Does he ever think about me?
Ever wish he were with me?
Probably not now,
with the salty fingers of the sea
slapping my face,
blinding my eyes.
I try to walk across the slippery wet deck,
staggering like a drunk,
wind shrieking in my ears,
loud thunder cracks I can feel right in my stomach.
What am I even doing here?
I could be safe on shore, sipping an iced tea,
watching the brutal storm
terrorize the sea,
wondering what kind of idiots would be out
in this weather,
their boats taking on water,
men shouting,
the heaving, the rocking,
too terrifying to make you sick,
the lightning striking just behind you,
all your hairs standing up on end,
all this for a fish
that probably went extinct thirty years ago,
long before I even met Jacob,
in a junior high hallway,
and I couldn’t open my locker,
and he laughed at me,
but he showed me how.
I always told him that I would be
a marine biologist.
Every girl in our school
wanted to be a marine biologist,
inasmuch as they wanted to ride dolphins
and hug the seals,
but you’d have to go somewhere with water
to live the dream.
So the other girls who went to landlocked colleges
and married landlocked men
gave up,
but not me.
I am hunting the ugliest fish
that ever swam while dinosaurs rambled
and volcanoes erupted and meteors tumbled.
And if I find it,
I might wind up briefly named in some textbook,
and it will make absolutely no difference
in your life.
So here I am,
sitting on the deck,
dirty orange rescue vest over my shoulders.
The storm passes overhead;
the ocean’s anger dims.
The bullets of rain turn into a mist,
and I close my eyes.
When the sea is finally calm,
I can feel it breathe
and remember that I can too.