Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fifty Flavors of Frostine

Queen Frostine sits on the Candy-Coated Throne at the end of a long corridor in Candy Castle while an epic battle rages outside. The young prince sits upon her lap.

Do you want me to tell you a story? Did I ever tell you about the bite-sized candy bar who lived in the forest with his mother?
The Candy Cane Forest?
Yes. But there were rotten things living in the forest, too.
What kind of things?
But lollypops are delicious!
…And gummy bears. The mother told the bite-sized candy not to fear, because one day he would become king-sized. She said that someday he would be the king of the lollypops, the gummy bears, the peppermints, the Swedish fish in the sea, and the cotton candy in the sky. (She produces a tube of toothpaste labeled “Essence of Fluoride”) The little candy bar asked if he would be as crunchy and satisfying as his father, and his mother said he would be. (She uncaps the tube and produces a toothbrush) Then she told the little candy bar to brush his teeth and go to sleep. (The Prince tentatively opens his mouth)

The door bursts open and several armed gingerbread men enter the room. They all step aside. Lord Licorice enters.

It’s all over. We’ve won.

The toothbrush clatters against the floor and a minty gel dribbles out of the toothpaste tube.

Click here to read another scene from Game of Scones.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Where Is Olive?

Olive may appear in any place at any moment. She gnaws my feet as I nap and she hangs above my head as I do the dishes, prepared to face-hug at the slightest provocation. As invasive as Japanese knotweed, she squeezes into the sink while I wash my face and waves her claws under the bathroom door if I try to shut her out. While I kneel over a coffee table strewn beads and wire, Olive crouches between my calves. I wake up in the morning to Olive gazing down at me with a curious expression.

Olive is watching. Olive is always watching.
Not one surface of this apartment remains undefiled by her paws. Neither fruit bowl nor funnel nor open mouth is safe. She wants to penetrate the plastic boundaries of the water filter and curl herself up in the clammy reservoir like a catfish. Mortal illusions like “walls” and “window screens” and “impossibly small spaces” are beyond Olive’s conception, for her mind lives beyond the Matrix.

Poker-faced and twitchy-tailed, she stares at me on my tapping away on my laptop and swats my ankles with her paw. Olive wants to beat me into submission until I enjoy her illustrious company, but she will not win.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


My neighbor is a twelve-year-old girl with a Venus flytrap. I have other neighbors, but they are not important.

This afternoon I called her to the bushes that divide our residences. She was riding her bike back and forth in the driveway, the pompoms on the handlebars rustling in the breeze. I inquired about her Venus flytrap, Tito, and she fetched the darling little hydra from her porch. Tito is a boy, she explained, because no girl would ever eat flies.

She won her carnivorous plant with a golden ticket at a school raffle. Her plant is far more intimidating than mine ever got before it was scorched to the root in a tiny, contained brush fire. As far as my neighbor is concerned, her plant is as good as a pet.

She found some black and yellow caterpillars on the porch and dropped one into each hungry mouth, which snapped shut like a bear trap. Two days have passed since the barbarian feast and the siesta continues. You can still make out the outlines of the little yellow caterpillars gurgling in acidic juices. The mouths are all still shut. Venus flytraps, the politest of predators, never chew with their mouths open.

Tomorrow morning, the carnivorous plant next door may very well explode into butterflies. Who will prevail, the predatory plant or the very hungry caterpillar?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Phantom Limb

My story "Phantom Limb" recently appeared in issue 2 of The Golden Triangle. You can read it (as well as lots of other scrumptious literary morsels) by clicking the poorly drawn hand below.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Operation: Turtle

Today I took my first bike ride of the season. I discovered my bike hanging upside-down in the garage, so I hijacked my mom’s bike and pedaled into the humid highway haze before me. As I followed the road around a small lake near my house, I whizzed past what appeared to be a typical mass of mutilated road kill.

But, no! Upon closer inspection, it was not dead at all – the mass in the middle road was a turtle with no common sense. It parked itself in the line of fire, calmly waiting for the next log truck to flatten it out.

“Are you mad?” I asked the turtle, but it would not yield to reason. Unfortunately, reason was the only turtle-removing tool at my disposal. This was no ordinary turtle: this was a snapping turtle. I considered picking it up by the shell and whisking it to the other side of the road and determined that the risks of losing a finger or a portion of my face were too great. I abandoned my bike and stood awkwardly in the middle of the road, a safe distance from the immobile reptile.

Soon, a car approached. I indicated the suicidal turtle and the car slowed to a stop at the side of the road. A man and woman stepped out of the car. The woman had been a regular customer at the supermarket I used to work at, but she barely recognized me under the shadowy visor of my dorky bike helmet.

“No one on this road is going to slow down for a turtle,” she said.

The man dug an ice scraper out of the back of the car. He prodded the turtle and it leapt about a foot in the air with hits neck outstretched. The turtle curled his neck around like a little brontosaurus to take a vicious bite out of the ice scraper.

“Maybe we could find a large stick,” the woman said tentatively. After a quick scavenger hunt in the woods, the man and woman returned, each with a large prodding stick. The turtle resisted every attempt to prod it to safety. It kept trying to dodge the pokes, uncertain which stick to kill first. This snapping turtle might have been a ninja turtle.

“Maybe if you poke it a little harder it will leap across the road by itself,” I suggested.

“I’m going to get the shovel,” the woman said. She climbed into the car and drove away.

Meanwhile, I abandoned my bike and the man and I appointed ourselves as traffic guards at a wild animal crossing. We stood like traffic cones around the turtle. An SUV pulled up beside the tranquil turtle, which was content to meet its gory death. The window opened.

“Look, a turtle!” the driver said, lingering in the road. Then he sped away and another car pulled up from the other direction. It was the woman and her mighty, red snow shovel.

As she tried to scoop the protesting turtle into the deplorable groove of the shovel, another man arrived on foot. He deftly swept up the turtle and carried it, with its claws waving about frantically, to the lake.

“The snow shovel is good for this because you can just pick up the turtle and move it,” the woman said.

“The shovel is perfect for turtle transportation,” I agreed.

“That’s why we bought that shovel. You should keep one in your car,” she told her companion.

The second man lowered the shovel into the lake and set the turtle free. I’d like to say that it swam off into the glowing sunset, but the turtle didn't swim and it was still midday. It turned abruptly and looked like it was going to sprint for the open road.

“It looks like it wants to come back,” the woman observed.

“Check back in five days and if it’s back in the middle of the road, just bring back the shovel,” I suggested to the turtle removal experts.

Maybe the turtle didn't want to live after all. Perhaps it was suffering from a midlife crisis or severe existential angst and decided that death was the answer. Perhaps he had a superpower that was not so much a gift as a curse. We did all we could do, anyways.

With the turtle safe, I bid my goodbyes to people I will not likely see again and rolled away down a winding road sprinkled with the corpses of tiny orange moths.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Interview with PANK

I did an interview with PANK Magazine about my short story "Babymaking." You can read all about my deepest, darkest secrets involving babies and R&B singers here.

There's a lot of love in this interview. I don't think I can handle it.

Of Monkeys and Monasteries

On Sunday morning Christine and I roused ourselves at seven in the morning for a long drive to the Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York. We planned to spend the day chilling with Buddhist monks and nuns, trying to be mindful. It was an hour and a half trip fueled entirely by peanut butter smoothies and adrenaline, with only the robotic whispers of a faulty GPS and a blazing sun to keep us from dozing off on the Tappan Zee Bridge.

We arrived at nine, just in time for the impending day of mindfulness. Christine and I rushed into the meditation hall, past granite boulders announcing, “You Are Home.” We were greeted by a calm, soft-spoken monk in a brown robe. He told us that we could sit down, or we could go for a walk in the woods. Or walk the barren garden. It didn't matter as long as we enjoyed the silence. For all of our rushing, we seemed to be the only people in a rush.

Christine and I lingered stiffly in the doorway of the enormous meditation room, barefoot and unsure. It smelled delightfully like wood and campfire. To our right, a circle of monks and nuns were chanting with some people in regular clothes. Ahead of us, empty chairs and cushions were lined up in rows on the floor and a nun was misting orchids with a plastic spray bottle. Another lit up sticks of incense that made me sneeze. One monk noticed us creeping by the door and suggested we sit down in the empty arena of cushions until a question and answer session with the teachers began.

We took a seat on some cushions in the sunlight and soon the seats around us filled up. After a few minutes, I turned around and every cushion and chair was occupied. In front of me, monks struggled to pull the tail ends of their robes over the back of their meditation cushions.

A few nuns lead us in a Buddhist-style sing-along that reminded me of my days in Vacation Bible School. They sang songs about how we are all part of one tree, one sea, one sky. I smiled wryly and performed some of the hand motions. Christine hummed along.

A gong sounded and a line of teachers walked to the front of the room. They sat on their cushions and adjusted their robe tails. Sunday was the end of a retreat for members of the Order of Interbeing and a question and answer session was scheduled. (Something I found out later: Everyone is a member of the Order of Interbeing.) Since half of the overflowing room consisted of people who were visiting for the day, there were a lot of questions that had nothing to do with the retreat. Someone asked if pain and suffering are the same thing, another asked how to control feelings of “specialness.” One woman asked the best way to deal with a rogue contractor.

A teacher tackled questions about what young people should know about the practice and how to control a certain syndrome called “monkey mind.” She especially wanted young people to know that they should take care of their bodies. When you wake up in the morning, you should massage your face and thank your eyes for seeing and your mouth for taking in food. Massage your abdomen and thank your organs. If you have a hangover or ate a lot of heavy food the night before, you should apologize. The mind is important, but when you feel sick you only think about how much you would like to feel better.

Then the teacher talked about monkey mind, which is a problem that everyone has. (Also known as “monkey nucleosis.”) There’s a monkey in your brain that wants to grab things and hold onto them, not unlike a real monkey. The trick is to catch it in the act and stop yourself when you want something. She caught the monkey’s wrist in the air and held onto it. “Ha, I caught you,” she said, smiling at the monkey. “If I want something that badly, I probably shouldn't have it.”

Photo courtesy of For all of your monkey image needs.