The Thing That Broke Him

It looked odd, using the big gutting knife to clean  his nails. I guess he did it to put a scare into the man, scare him without threatening outright. Speers is smart like that, doing just enough that you get your imagination working against you. He told me that a man is always his own worst enemy, […]

They Just Don’t Know Him

By the time he turned eighty-five, the old man was done with marking the day and would have none of it. His granddaughter called herself a “party person” and tried to organize some kind of surprise celebration in spite of his wishes. When he got wind of it,  he called the local paper and told them he had died, disguising his voice on the […]

Not Our War

Pa insisted I come along with him to see Pake off. I didn’t want him to go at all. Jefferson doesn’t have a proper bus terminal like a real town, so we stood out in the parking lot like shoppers. “Just  always do what your sergeants tell you to do, but remember you’re a Barnes and don’t take shit […]

Not This Again

Aunt Anne had spent the prize money many times over before she even entered the contest. Mother was worried about her. “She’s always been like this,” Mother said over breakfast. “The cart before the horse.” “Hmm hmm,” said father. He had his face in the paper, clearly not listening. Dottie knitted her brows. “What’s that […]

Maybe I Always Knew

He’s not coming out. Not tonight, anyway. I must have known. I think I did, anyway. It’s such a cliché. Late nights. Straight to voicemail. I haven’t told anyone. Not my sister, not my mom. What would they say? Tell me that they saw it right away, that they saw what kind of man I […]

You Start Out Wanting Everything

The black bag over his head was bad enough, his breath moist and uncomfortably hot. Funny how he’d never noticed before just how hot the air in your lungs really was. You saw it on a winter morning, of course, the jets of steam coming from the children as they waited for the school bus. But you […]

Big Enough For Flying

Every year the prize-winning hog just gets bigger. At last year’s State Fair, he weighed over 1900 pounds. It is always the same hog, Junior. Lying next to him is Queenie, younger and a few hundred pounds smaller. Waiting in the wings, you might say, since one day Junior will die and it will be Queenie’s turn. I squeeze […]


It was a different city than the one I left in September,  when the desperate final heat blanketed the roofs and buildings and filled the town with odors of diesel fuel and rotting trash. This was a crisp city, the wind cold on my cheek and wafting scents of wood smoke, coffee, baking bread.The trees along the streets and in the parks had reached […]