A GALLERY OF STORY EXCERPTS & IMAGES
"ROCK SALT AND RABBIT"
COLORADO REVIEW - FALL 2016
There it is again. The sound of the mortars, fired overhead, hitting the target, this time a nearby village, sending red earth, fire, and smoke into the air. We are too far away to hear the cries. vc meet there at night, though intel is not always exact on these things. Especially when most of our information comes from the children—surveillance in return for sweets. I wake to the sounds, small-weapons fire marking the silence between blasts. A tracer sighs and I breathe in red dust and I’m up and out of my bunk and through the door, and only then do I realize where I am. In the backyard of the Florida lake house that once belonged to my grandfather, and now to me.
The air is not as heavy here. The scent is not thick with the nascent trace of powder that lies everywhere in Nam. And there are no cries, except my own. I wake myself now. There’s no one else to wake me.
READ ON... Colorado Review / Rock Salt and Rabbit
RAPPAHANNOCK REVIEW - WINTER 2015
“Sleep, sleep, sleep,” my mother says. But I cannot help thinking about waking the next morning. To the white and pink light, to the green-winged pigeon’s murmuring, to the breathing of my brothers, to my uncle already speaking his mind to the pig. To rolling from my sleeping, my twisted covers, my corner mattress. To touching one toe to the floor, my own luck for the new year.
"SOMETHING FOR NOTHING"
WACCAMAW JOURNAL - FALL 2014
On the drawbridge that crosses the Halifax River, we have to wait for a shrimp boat to pass, its nets raised, its deck littered with lines and the gleam of the thundering rain. My little sister, LuLu, leans out the back window of the VW bus and yells at the tanned deckhands to hurry up. They call her “sweet baby thing” and blow kisses. A shade past fourteen, my half-sister is more like a flat-chested ten-year-old, small like our mama, tough like her daddy. I tell her to put her head back in the window, the bridge is lowering.
READ ON… Waccamaw Journal / Something
"THE PETERSON'S FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS"
STORYSOUTH - FALL 2014
Alan was a good boy. He grew up when things were easy in the world, and he kept up his end of that easiness. Good grades, chores done, friends that stayed friends. Up to the very end. Up until the day he died.
He wasn’t so different from most boys back in the 50’s. Tall, lanky, with dark brown hair like his father’s and light brown eyes like mine, and a grin that lit him up. Like the Walbright men before him, he liked to follow the rules, not for lack of curiosity, but out of respect for those who had already paved the way. He didn’t cheat; he didn’t lie; he didn’t steal. He laughed at his father’s jokes when I didn’t; he kept his elbows at his sides and off the table at dinner; he leaned into me when we watched My Three Sons, once surprising me, asking why he had no brothers. I didn’t answer, not wanting the truth to sit like a wedge between us...
R.KV.R.Y. QUARTERLY LITERARY JOURNAL - SUMMER 2014
Hoa leaned down and snatched another stem. Her fistful of flowers was leggy, tattered, but brilliant. Gold, orange, red. Just seven years old, she stood in the center of the path, her toes sunk into the fine pale dirt. She waved the flowers at me.
“Jaymes-man,” she called. “You take picture?”
READ ON… R.kv.r.y. / Roadside Flowers
ANIMAL LITERARY MAGAZINE - SUMMER 2014
In the Berlin Zoologischer Garten, I stare at one gorilla. Her fur is dark, beyond black; her gaze is dark as well, a gaze that moves past shadows into sad, deflated corners. Beside me, my daughter Alice kicks at the stray popcorn and leaves, which have blown in through the entry doors. It is March and still very windy. We have come inside the ape house to rest, to be out of the wind for a while.
READ ON… Animal Literary Magazine / Gorilla
"SURREY WITH THE FRINGE ON TOP"
THIS LAND PRESS - SPRING 2014
A black bear has come out of the hills to the highway. He lumbers along the shoulder and throws a great paw out. A gesture, not a plea. I stop and offer him a ride. He crawls, front feet first, into the cab, and sets there, smelling of undergrowth, of the banks of the Neosho River, of the dank cave he once called home, and stares through the windshield.
READ ON… This Land Press / Surrey
"THE LAST I SAW MITSOU"
POST ROAD MAGAZINE, GUEST FOLIO - FALL 2013
The last time I saw Mitsou, she was crying into an embroidered handkerchief that belonged to my mother. Mother believed in things that lasted. Linen, perfume, clothbound books.
Newlyweds, Mitsou and I lived in the fifth-floor walkup. Small rooms with enormous views. Below us, the courtyard, mottled with pale brown stones. Our windows faced the pianist, swaying over his black-and-ivory keys, the small child, her mouth wide for more porridge, and the old man, alone except for a stuttering television.
Three months into our marriage, the books appeared in corners of the courtyard.
READ ON… Post Road / Mitsou
"ONE NIGHT, ONE AFTERNOON, SOONER OR LATER"
GRIS-GRIS - SPRING 2013
In the uptown Canal Villere we are standing in front of the wine shelf, looking for the Bolla Valpolicella. It’s late on a Saturday night and we’ve nothing better to do. Micah says his brother’s out of town, so we can go to his apartment and watch movies. Jude has already walked to the checkout and is picking out a soft pack of Camels. We are all bored, and so we smoke too much.
Outside, the night is drenched in New Orleans’s wavering city lights. Above are clouds of muted lavender and copper. I reach out to touch the sky and realize the drugs are already working. We fly down Claiborne Avenue with the Volkswagen’s top down. Jude likes to drive fast and we pass everyone else on the road. I watch from the backseat as people in Monte Carlos and Mustangs blur past, and my eyes start to sting and tear.
“Slow down, Jude,” I yell.
“No way, sister.” He takes a corner and the VW seems to lift sideways for a moment.
Then again, maybe it’s the drugs.
2012 WAASMODE FICTION PRIZE WINNER
"WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OF A HORSE"
PASSAGES NORTH - WINTER 2013
Tulsa by night shines like a shattered gold watch.
We arrive in the pitch of early morning, that time after midnight when the world is sheathed and unspeaking. We start out late in the day and head straight into the sun, traveling black and grey roads at double the speed of racing horses. Hills and curves and rain and green, green fields of soy and corn lift themselves to us. Cherokee lands shout as we fly by. Loud and glowing, tines of pink porous light reach up to the sky in a giant sunburst, a glorified crown of gold. Somewhere in the distance are hills, or the illusion of hills, that flatten as the sun settles on the horizon. The tree line widens out and it looks as if we could drive on forever. Then the sky darkens past layers of gauzy violet into a backdrop of black cast with a thousand stars and blinking casino signs. “Angelica just won $84,138!” repeats one of the neon boards. Against the quickening night the neon is so bright that I have to look away, back to the road, to keep from driving astray, out of my lane.
Now there are smaller signs—white words on a black-green background—which advise,DO NOT DRIVE INTO SMOKE. Further on, very small road signs, most too small to read, mark the guardrail every few miles. HITCHHIKERS MAY BE ESCAPING INMATES—the words blur as we race past. I wonder about fires and prison jumpsuits, both orange and out of control. And then in the distance the city begins to glow. Here is the orange light: the signs have warned of the wrong things.
READ ON… Passages North / We Are Here
WINNER OF AROHO's SPRING 2012 ORLANDO PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION
"THE GEOGRAPHY OF FIRST KISSES"
THE LOS ANGELES REVIEW - FALL 2012
The first was Leon. A small, muscular boy. A midshipman at the academy. He knew about compasses, easterly winds, how to bring the boat about on white-capped seas. I went for his blond hair and his deep voice, both like honey, thick and golden and crowded, the waxen chambers, the echo in my chest.
Summer grew brighter, and I refused to go back home to New Orleans, nearly sixteen, without that first kiss. Sweet sixteen and never been. We never said it aloud. Those of us who stayed in the corners at dances, at our own tables. All girls, all the time, not too shy, but not quite pretty enough.
For the month of August I was away from that southerly place, where algebra notebooks got left behind and streetcars rumbled past and boys sat on the cafeteria steps, smoking because they could get away with it, and girls sat by them, the kind of girl I wanted to be. In that northerly summer spot called Castine, where the great aunts played games of Hearts and Gin in the afternoon, where the berries were small and bright blue, where the beaches were covered with rocks and sea glass and broken pottery, the rules seemed different. I dared myself to walk near the academy and its giant ship, moored by the town’s public dock, and when I did, the boys appeared.
READ ON… AROHO / Geography
"IF YOU ASK THEM NICELY"
SAW PALM: FLORIDA LITERATURE & ART - SPRING 2012
Minnows. Fat, green minnows. Lizzy tries to grab a smaller one and misses. The lake water is clear in the shallows. She stretches too far past the minnows, and sand swirls up, a milk-white cloud. The fish disappear for a few seconds and then reveal themselves below cypress roots, out of reach.
Lizzy squats by the roots, and water inches up her bathing suit. The roots are like smooth, brown, tangled fingers. Reaching between, she doesn’t think of the water moccasins that might be hiding, the ones that her cousin May says are there, waiting to bite with a fierceness beyond any ever known. Lizzy just wants a minnow.
NEW DELTA REVIEW - WINTER 2011
What’s round on the ends and high in the middle? Chloe remembers only this. Her first inkling that Ohio even existed. To her, the smell of sugar and sweat, the days bathed in humidity, backlit with pink and yellow light, and measured by how long James Booker held that one eye closed, or that note on a beat-up piano—nearly forever—these were the familiar things. Louisiana knew nothing of Ohio. Surely Ohio knew nothing of Louisiana. But now, years later, she looks up the gray-blue sky, scarred by jet trails and the burden of clouds, and it is the sky of Columbus, not New Orleans. She traces the trails south as if they could send her back home.
PRIME NUMBER MAGAZINE - AUTUMN 2011
Mr. H has a hard time getting up in the morning. His wife has gone on permanent vacation. The press is always outside his door. They wait with coffee and sticky buns, the kind he likes. Dark roast, a venti, and the blackest of bourbon vanillas.
Mr. H finally makes it to his shower. He scrubs and scrubs with ten different blue soaps, but nothing removes the sheen from his arms, legs, his nearly hairless chest. The hollow of his throat holds a shining pool of oil and, as he shaves, it rolls down his breastbone. When he dries himself, the towel turns several shades of black.
Mr. H stands in front of the open fridge. It is the best of refrigerators—spacious, stainless, restaurant-ready. Inside there are lemons and limes and stacks of dead pelicans, dolphins, a pair of Kemp Ridleys, and glass bowls filled to their brims with oiled seabird eggs.
READ ON… Prime Number / The Cap
"THAT BITTER SCENT"
PRIME NUMBER MAGAZINE - SPRING 2011
Still upstate in Tonawanda, working the counter, wearing a pink apron and a pin with my name printed on it. Evangeline—all spelled out in fancy letters. Sure is different, Aunt Lillette, than with you and Uncle Auguste in Terrebonne, but the customers keep me going. The church next door gives us good business: seven dozen glazed, three dozen crullers, and several boxes of bear claws every Sunday. And the church ladies keep trying to get me saved, but I work the double shift on weekends. Funny how that goes.
The photos you sent show there’s a lot more oil up in the marsh grass than anyone’s letting on. The church ladies say they’re praying for all the fish. I didn’t say, “How ’bout praying for the fisherman while you’re at it?”
READ ON… Prime Number / That Bitter Scent
"ELIZA, IN THE EVENT OF A HURRICANE"
NEWFOUND JOURNAL - WINTER 2011
When your sister, Eliza, stands in front of the TV dressed in her rain gear and shrimping boots with hands on hips, get out the masking tape. El will fiddle with the volume control and stare at the screen and then shout, “This is going to be a good one!” Once she does this, it will be clear that the tropical storm has become a true hurricane. At the end of August this is nothing to question. Start taping the windows with wide X’s and pray for rain over wind, though you know you’ll get both.
IMAGES THAT INSPIRE
PAINTINGS BY SUSAN PARISH ADAM
CLOCKWISE: "Morgan 13" - "Dress # 2" - "Dockhand" - "Boots to Fill"
AND THEN…The Sweet Life - Julia on Our Minds - Neptune in NOLA - Cinéma: La Nouvelle Vague - Baby Truck - Townes
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MORGAN 13 - by Susan Parish Adam - The Adam Gallery