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Greta on the A Train

published in 2016 in Able Muse, print edition #22

 

There were no free seats on the A train, so the actor got a firm grasp on a pole, shrugged his daughter a little higher on his hip, and willed her not to squirm. Next to him, the dancer slipped her hand around the same pole, her pinky finger not quite touching his thumb. The temporarily unemployed bartender, who had gotten a seat at the previous stop, glanced up from the magazine article she was reading, about a “relentlessly self-critical” movie star, and caught the worried look on the dancer’s face. As the subway doors slid shut, two notes of music sounded weakly from the far end of the car. ...

 

 

High Traffic Area (Snapshots)

published in 2013 in The Idaho Review, volume XIII

along with stories by Rick Bass, Kent Nelson, and Yasmina Madden, among others

 

On his way to Africa, drifting through a lay-over in Paris, John Seaver stood in the Sunday afternoon sunshine and stared at a young man on a ladder. Balanced near the top of a small bicycle shop’s roll-down gate, a corner of which was already fresh black, the man reached his brush into a metalwork crevice and stroked. Seaver leaned against a lamppost and watched him work. He watched the rhythm of practiced, fluid strokes. He watched the painter come down off the ladder, shift it a few feet along the sidewalk and climb back up, and heard him whistle as he did so. He watched as shadows crept down the street and the glistening black turned slowly dull. Twenty years earlier he would have reached for his camera, attempting to turn what he saw as banality into what he saw as art. Now his camera was in his hotel room and the banality looked like peace.

...

Then in one deft motion the girl pulled herself straight and looked around for the goats. That was when she saw Seaver, crouched motionless in front of his tent. She had clearly not known he was there, yet she didn’t start. Across the hundred yards of dung-scattered dirt, the pre-pubescent Borana girl held the gaze of the greying foreigner. There was a regality about the child, an elegant reserve that took his breath away. He didn’t move. He knew that if he reached into his tent for his camera, she’d be gone by the time he looked back. He wanted the moment to last.

But without even a nod, with no further sign of recognition, she turned, gathered her goats, and led them out through the ring of thorns, stranding Seaver without the first photograph that he had wanted to make in longer than he could remember. He watched her go with a searing, ripping sense of loss that came out of nowhere and made no sense.

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The Swimmer

published in 2008 in The Idaho Review, volume IX

along with stories by Alyson Hagy, Melanie Rae Thon, and Mark Jacobs, among others

 

Vera Ivanovna had serious doubts about this new plan of her daughter’s. A gym they called them here in America. She had seen what they were like, these gyms. She had seen them on television--in advertisements and on various apparently humorous programs whose dialogue she couldn’t exactly understand, but whose stories, such as they were, were easy enough to follow. Gyms were bright rooms full of rock and roll music, electronic machines with columns of blipping red lights, and flirtatious young men and women in tight shiny clothing. They were nothing like the sport halls she remembered from her youth--cavernous echoing under-lit spaces infused with decades of sweat and desperate ambition.

...

Makesha showed her where to get a towel, where to toss it when she was done, and where the showers were. Past the showers, Makesha pushed open a door, and the smell of the next room hit Vera Ivanovna with the full force of memory. Makesha’s voice disappeared; the sweaty men and women with yellow earphones tucked inside their ears disappeared; her daughter, her granddaughter, America disappeared.

Vera Ivanovna stepped through the door and breathed in, as deeply as she could, through her nose, filling her lungs with the acrid chemical smell, holding it inside her chest, sending it deep into her belly, into the small of her back. As she followed Makesha across the slippery tile floor she could feel in her shoulders, in her thighs, in the tips of her toes, the rhythms of that young man in the lane marked “fast.” She could feel herself pulling, kicking, pulling, slicing through the liquid, could see its surface sliding past as she turned to breathe. She felt the smooth controlled sustained rhythmic power flowing through her legs, felt the palms of her hands against the water, the water her element, her enemy, felt her body straining to overcome its resistance with perfection of form, perfection of power, perfection of will.

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by bicycle across Mongolia, China & Vietnam