Excerpts, Flash Fiction

The Island of Disappointment

My flash fiction piece, The Island of Disappointment, has been accepted into the next (and last!) issue of Diverse Voices Quarterly. You can find the issue here. The story follows a young boy as he struggles with his sexuality and crumbling relationship with his father. He views his living room couch as his “island of disappointment”- the site of all his worst memories and experiences.

This is a grim one. Below is a short excerpt.

He called me names behind my back and mom cried in retaliation. I heard the words; I felt them cut. Faggot. Fairy. Pussy. Some of the names sent shocks through the walls and electrocuted me so I’d jump out before I got burned and went off to the couch. Island of Disappointment. Command central. Welcome back, kid. I’d lay down and try to sleep. Their voices weren’t so close anymore. We had a heavy quilt that hung over the back of the couch and I pulled it down and wrapped myself inside tightly. I put it over my head. That was good. Almost silent. Doug the Dog would jump up and sleep on top of my legs. I’d wake when the sun came up and streamed through the window. My tears were dried to my cheeks. My nose stuffy. Doug the Dog was still there with his raspy breathing.

Other times, dad would take the couch. The fight got too bad. He hit mom’s head a little too hard. She got headaches a lot and wore an ice pack for the swelling and clogged her pores with make-up to hide the dark circle under her eye. Dad called her a raccoon.

Dad was too big for the couch. He slept with his eyes shut in this hard, pained way. The wrinkles on his forehead were always present, always distorting his face and twisting it up. A sleeping animal. His feet and hands hung over the edges of our island and plopped onto the carpet. In the water. I wanted a shark to bite his fingers. Doug the Dog never crawled up on dad’s legs. Dad’s island wasn’t big enough. Besides, he’d probably hunt Doug the Dog on the island. Kill him. Skin him. Cook him over the fire. He’d chant as Doug the Dog’s flesh burned. He’d drink out of a cut open coconut or pineapple. Then he’d rip off a leg or tail or tongue and eat it. He wouldn’t worry about sharing because nobody came near him on his island.

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Articles and Essays, Excerpts

Dear Cork… I Love You

A piece I wrote about my time in Ireland was printed in Cork’s newspaper, The Evening Echo. You can find the article on their website, too. Just click here.

I think travel is extremely important — and I think listening to your heart is the best chance you have at a happy life. This article chronicles my time abroad and what I learned…and it was so much more than I could have imagined.

Largely, I don’t think people understand the beauty, the necessity, and the fundamental importance of getting a little lost. Surprise yourself. Do whatever speaks to your soul. Something incredible is waiting for you.

Below is a small excerpt from Dear Cork:

How do you say goodbye to something you love? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you can’t. No matter what, you probably won’t ever be able to let go completely. Last week I landed in JFK and it felt more foreign and shocking to me than when I first arrived in Cork. Everything was bigger. Louder. I cried during my connecting flight and cried in the airport when I hugged my partner as he kissed my forehead and handed me flowers.

I’ll be hurting for a long time. Adjusting back to life stateside will be hard, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it fully. How could I? Everything has changed and so have I.

All I can do is welcome the pain and remember the source. I’d rather feel and hurt over having had a wonderful year than be stunted, numbed, and too afraid to try anything new. Life is for those who think and search and chase and try and feel and worry and cry and attack the days with all their heart. I think every day you should wake up with the intention of falling in love all over again. Cork, you taught me that.

If I could give you one piece of advice, readers, it would be to submit to your dreams. I did, and it was more than beer and music and writing and even travel—it was a year of investing in myself, of making lifelong friends, and being free.

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Excerpts, Short Stories

Ghosts in a Small Town

I am very happy to say that Ghosts in a Small Town has been published by The Rose Magazine.

Below is an excerpt which follows Walt, a grieving father, as he deals with his daughter’s untimely death. If you’d like to read the story in its entirety, click here.

***

Our only daughter, Annette, died on prom night. After the dance, after she broke curfew and got drunk with Jeremy out at Gudgeon Bridge. Trains don’t come around there too often anymore, but sometimes they do. Late at night.

Annette and Jeremy were standing too close to the tracks as the train approached from the dark tunnel. She tripped. Jeremy was too wasted to react quickly. Her classmates, her friends, were sitting on the hoods of their cars getting high and laughing. Laughing even as the train came rushing down the tracks like a bat from a cave.

Some of the kids said they saw her head spin all the way around before popping off like a cap on a bottle of soda after you shake it. They didn’t say this to us, but we heard the whispers, overheard the low, secretive conversations when we walked by. Fairvale is like that, so small everyone knows everything as soon as it happens. The stories of her final moments varied depending on who was talking, but there was one unwavering detail: she didn’t scream. Before it happened, when the train’s whistle was shrieking in the dark, the wheels scraping on the rail, the smoke billowing out of the stack, she stayed quiet. Even right before impact. She just lifted her head and watched it charge toward her. Everyone said the same thing.

And then the crunch of bones, the enamel pounded to dust. Her thoughts, her ideas, her soul, dashed and obliterated as her skin tore and blood smeared and her brain popped on the greasy metal. The coroner said it must have been a nasty fall – that it might have knocked her out for a moment or two, leaving her with no time to move out of the way. Later, when we looked at what was left of her, I noticed there was a rip in the fluffy, tulle fabric of her yellow dress. I imagined she snagged it on a rusty nail.

She got a page in the back of the senior class yearbook. A big, blown up picture of her smiling in her cheerleading uniform with Jeremy’s Letterman Jacket draped over her shoulders. She sat beneath the football scoreboard, frozen in time, with wild, red hair blowing all over the place. It was windy that day, and cold. R.I.P Annette Hughes, the text beneath the photo said. Only the good die young. And then some quote from a song Kate and I didn’t know. Her eyes stared out at us from the page and I told Kate if I looked really hard, I could tell what Annette would have looked like when she got older. She just had one of those faces. Kate started crying and left the room and I ripped the goddamn page out of the book and threw it into the fireplace.

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Excerpts, Short Stories

Winter Green Gorge

Good news!

This piece, a short story entitled Winter Green Gorge, has been published in the second issue of the Quarryman Literary Journal in Cork, Ireland. Below is a small, introductory excerpt. Enjoy!

My father’s hands were a hundred times the size of mine. They were rough, calloused, tanned. I noticed them most of all when he took me fishing. He’d grab worms out of an old coffee can and stick them carefully onto our hooks, his huge fingers expertly stabbing the poor bastards to ensure that they would not fall off even if the current was strong.

We would rise early in the morning. I’d put on old jeans and a sweatshirt, then grab my gloves and the blue fishing hat that was too big for me. It used to be his. It hung down slightly over my eyes so I’d lift my head and look up high so I could see. Dad had started to pin tackle pieces to my hat after every trip. He gave me blue and pink feathers, striped and silvery minnows, white and red fishing bobbers. They all represented my skill as a fisherman. Or fisherwoman. My hat of honor, he’d say. Each time I caught a fish, he’d stick another piece of tackle into the fabric. It become a trophy.

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Excerpts

Mountain Song

Mountains pull at us in a romantic, magical way. We marvel at their foreboding nature. Silent watchers. Protective friends. They have seen so much over millions of years and we just pass through — a blip on their radar. A blink of an eye. For a moment, we are strange neighbors.

Each time we are surprised by the beauty of it all. Of simply being out there. We do not stop and think that this experience is wholly natural. Recognizable. It is life itself. The mist in the air comforts and soothes us. Lush, green trees and wet, pine scented air whisper their hellos. We feel at home, even though our houses and apartments are left empty as we walk. A certain peace hums below everything. It calls from the rivers and the trees, down in the valleys and up on craggy summits.

All we need is in front of us; we are reminded of beauty at every turn, from the people and the mountains and the trails and the rivers. If we strip it all away—the pressures, the goals, the career—if we just listen to our hearts and ask what is true and real—it’s there. Outside. The answer is carried on whispering breezes and falling leaves. The mountains are a love story millions and billions of years in the making, between man and nature. Fire and water.

We are haunted by the rolling, gentle, green hills that have existed long before us, and will exist long after us. The men and women and animals that have touched the ground and walked the paths leave their marks in the soil and on the rock. Pay attention. Feel them there. Stoic, eternal explorers. Breathe in. The smoke. The water. The fresh air. Breathe out.

Let it wash over you. A wave of wild renewal.

 

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Excerpts, Scripts

Out and Away

Below is an excerpt from my play Out and Away (hey, that rhymed).

Rose, an elderly woman, has lost her husband, her son, and her will to live. One night, a mysterious man comes to her door. He knows impossible things about Rose and tells her he has come to “take her away.”

This man could be death; this man could be a figment of Rose’s troubled imagination. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Rose, as a result of talking to this man, discovers that she might have something to live for.

The attached scene was performed by two professional Dublin-based actors in 2015. A complete honor.

 OutandAwaySample

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Excerpts

A Family of Painters and Poets

My family is full of poets. We are poets because we twist our words. We make things sound better than they actually are. What’s the word? Tricky.

We are the Grants, a multi-talented family. We are also painters. If there is one thing we are experts in, it is the art of the cover up. We develop ideas and splash color on the colorless – a canvas, a carpet, a wall, a roof, each other. It never matters. All that matters is that things appear beautiful, like dad’s landscape painting of the rocky, green shore. It’s so vibrant from the distance, so alive. But get closer. You’ll see the mud. The grainy, itchy sand. The birds and their waste. The trash in the ocean brought in by the waves. Then come the cracks. The cracks in the rocks, in the foundation of the Earth itself.

It’s the tricks, remember? It’s all a trick of light.

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