IN THE RED ROOM

Published in: The Intima: A Journal Of Narrative Medicine

When my father and I lifted my sister into the front seat of the Windstar, I understood we’d lost winter. It must have died mid-way between Thanksgiving and the early days of the month, giving people the acquiescent first shovel of the season, the inaugural whirring sound of the snow blowers. I expected a sudden resurgence – a foot-fall makeup blizzard – but the storms and ice sloes stilled, then stiffened, until a few warm days drained those final white patches into the hard ground.

SCAVENGERS

Published in Night Train I

Paula was so insanely hot she stuck to the vinyl seat. She smelled. The Dart smelled. Neal leaned over the engine and the way he slowly tipped, with dull misunderstanding, made Paula want to kill him.

It was August 1987 in Detroit, ten months after Black Monday. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard splayed out: a raw nerve of dry grass patches, a liquor store, and rows of one-story projects. In a cement court between the projects, a girl jumped on a metal sheet wedged between a pipe and a parking block. A woman with white hair, maybe the girl’s grandmother, watched from a folding chair.

Neal let the hood drop and it slammed like a shot. He took off his wet T-shirt. He wiped his face with it and then threw the shirt onto the back seat. “I’m calm,” he said. “We are all calm in this car. Anyone who isn’t calm is going to have to walk.”

GODS OF JACKSON

Published in The Penman Review

That summer, when the lawns burst into flames, I packed some clothes and my Irish mythology books and rented a room from a farmer’s daughter in Jackson, Michigan. I was hired as an intern at a newspaper, where I wrote stories about a drought that scalded crops and ravaged family farms. A week after I moved in, Eunice and I ate dessert in front of the picture window, and Eunice told me how she had left her husband.

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