top of page

Short Stories & Flash Fiction

Writing short stories on Red Bubble (a creative community that used to supported writers and graphic designers, but is now mostly just visual) was my gateway drug to fiction.

Here are some old stories from back in the day (my 20s!) and hopefully a few new ones (though most "short stories" I set out to write have a way of blossoming into novels).

Please click on a title below to read more. 

OJECT LOVE

OBJECT LOVE

Object Love is a character study that was created for (and won) a contest for writing from the perspective of an inanimate object.Word limit: 250 words.

I collected what she’d salvaged in the flood. A record-breaking snowfall had seeped in the basement windows. She invited me upstairs. I consoled her by the fire. She calculated her loss.

 

But you can’t put a price on memories. For a while I held onto everything she couldn’t. I opened my arms to her after the break-ups; comforted her when she lost her job, stumbled home from the bar, confusing me for someone else upon passing the UPS man.On frantic nights she’d look for me everywhere, half expecting to find me at the pub. I’d be where she’d left me. She’d run to me, but only wanted what I held inside.

 

For years we were caught between what she needed and what I wanted to give her. My feelings weren’t a consideration. She’d empty me and offer something much less significant. I couldn’t take it; she didn’t make me try.

 

I moved back downstairs.

 

My walls were thick, but eventually shriveled up in the cold. In the summer I’d wither in the heat, welcoming hurt from something other than her. Bandages she’d forced on me peeled away in the humidity. I didn’t smooth them over.

 

Because in the end I was only a marker-covered box thrown into the U-Haul with the rest. It was bedding she gave me, after all; taking back the photos, journals, and memories we’d shared by the fire. I wrapped myself in her smell and suffocated. Cardboard killed by thousand thread count sheets. Freedom.

THE SURPRISE

THE SURPISE

“Mama, you told me I was getting my surprise today.”

He sat at the kitchen table, feet just over-hanging the chair’s edge, chin barely clearing the table-top. To say he was small fell well short of accurate.

 

“Mhmm… Paul, eat your breakfast. We’ll be leaving as soon as you’re done.”

 

Distraction permeated her tone, but Paul was unaware. His eyes grew wide in anticipation of their destination. What Paul lacked in size he made up for in heart; a more genuine boy had never lived.

 

“Where are we going?”

 

“You’ll find out when we get there.” She turned from the sink to look at him. “You know how much I love you, right baby?”

 

“Yes Mama. Are we going to get there soon?”

 

“As soon as you’re done eating baby.”

 

They drove past the toy store, Paul craning his neck to see in the window; past the book store where the newest Harry Potter book had come out, Mama had just finished reading him the last one; past Deborah’s Chocolates, where Deborah would always have his favorite fudge ready for him when he walked through the door; past the soccer field where Mama would take him to play; past all the places where he thought his surprise might be.

 

When they finally got there Mama led him into a big square room that had white walls, a few chairs and tables, and a big door at the back. It was filled with lots of toys and children; some bigger than him, some smaller, some playing, some not, all sort of sad.

 

Paul tried to take everything in, tried to remember if he’d ever been in a place like this before.

It felt a little like Dr. Flynn’s office, except there was no cat clock hanging from the wall, no eyes and tail going back and forth as it ticked to distract him from the shot he might be getting, which his mother wouldn’t tell him about beforehand because she wouldn’t want him to be scared.

 

He wondered where his surprise was, if this is where he’d be getting it. None of the other children looked like they were getting surprises. They all looked sad or scared, like they might be about to get a shot from the doctor. He hoped this was a good surprise.

 

“Where are we Mama?”

 

Now Paul noticed that she looked different, a little like the children, a little like she might have a doctor’s appointment today that she didn’t want to go to. He wished he could make her feel better like she always made him feel better. Maybe they could go to McDonald’s afterward. Paul was still considering this when his mother’s broken voice interrupted his thoughts.

 

“Can you listen to me Paul? Look into Mama’s eyes. Right here baby.”

 

And with a hand on each of his shoulders, she crouched down to his level, looked into his big blue eyes and, as her own filled with tears, told him what she’d been holding back for months.

 

“Paul, your Mama’s going away today. I’m in trouble and I have to go away for a while.”

 

“Like when Mr. Reese put Hannah in time-out during recess?”

 

“A little like that baby.”

 

“What’d you do?”

 

“It’s kind of a secret, but if I don’t go away for a little while, they might take you away from me.”

 

“You gonna come back soon?”

 

“I don’t know baby.”

 

“What about my surprise? Do I have to wait till you’re back?” Her tears spilled over at this.

 

“No baby. You’ll get your surprise today.”

 

“Okay, Mama. Don’t be sad, Mama. Mr. Reese told me everyone messes up sometimes. And I

can wait for my surprise if you want.”

 

“No, it’s okay. Turn around baby.”

 

Paul turned around. Paul looked up. Paul looked into eyes as big and blue as his own. Paul reached out to a hand that clasped his tiny one in a grasp that felt familiar.

 

“Hi Paul. I’m Simon.”

 

Simon looked over at his mother, who was still crying, and Paul wondered why he hadn’t met him before. Since Paul’s money was at home in his piggy bank, maybe Simon would buy his mother McDonald’s. He seemed nice. He was so tall.

 

“Hi Simon.”

 

“Hi, Paul. You’re going to be staying with me for a little bit while your Mom’s away.”

 

“Okay Simon.”

 

“We’ll have fun, alright buddy.”

 

“Okay Simon. Do you like Harry Potter? There’s a bookstore on the way home that’s got it.”

 

“We’re not going back to your house Paul, but I am sure we can find it somewhere.”

 

Simon looked up at his mother again, and Paul followed his gaze. He thought she was trying to smile. Maybe she wasn’t so scared after all. Maybe she was trying to be brave.

 

“I love you baby.”

 

“I love you too, Mama.”

 

Simon took Paul by the hand again, and led him through the other children, toward the big double doors at the back of the room.

 

“Bye Mama.”

 

“Bye Paulie, I’ll see you in just a few years baby.”

 

Only this time she was crying so hard he didn’t hear her. He was watching the children, watching Simon, and still waiting for his surprise. When they reached the double doors Simon opened one and ducked his head down to pass through it. At the last minute Paul remembered something and turned around with all the force his little self could muster.

 

“Mama! Are you going to be back for dinner? I wanted to invite Tommy over later. Could we set another place for Tommy? Please, please, please!”

 

His big blue eyes fixated on her mouth, waiting for a response, till the final second the door closed, but it was too late.

 

“I’ll just ask her again later.” Paul said to the man named Simon.

“I’m so sorry baby” Mama said to no one.

BEIJING: BETWEEN PEACE & HAPPINESS

BEIJING: BETWEEN PEACE & HAPPINESS

Beijing: Between Peace & Happiness was inspired by a piece  by Bill Powell that I read in a 2008 issue of  Time Magazine.

I remember standing with one foot in Colorado and one foot in Utah when I was ten years old. My body was literally in two places, my physicality crossing borders made visible only by a sign that read “Welcome to Utah.” That same year I started training for the 2008 Olympics.

I never made a point of holding onto the memory of that place. There was no personal significance for me at the time. Neither Utah nor Colorado was home to me, and I was barely a thought when the Olympics were held in Salt Lake City.

 

Yet the memory comes back to me every once in a while when I find myself in two places – when my body is in one place and my heart is in another, when my home is in one country, but my competitions are oceans away, when I’m studying for a math exam, but running through a routine in my head. It comes back to me every once in a while.

 

It comes back to me now in Beijing, at Jianfu Palace – the formal name of which literally translates to mean the Garden of the Palace of Established Happiness – while celebrating the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics at a dinner party. It comes back to me as I watch Henry Kissinger shake hands with China’s former Vice Premier Wu Yi. It comes back to me as I look at my teammate, in her formal dress, so stunningly different from the red, white, and blue warm-ups we wore earlier that day. It comes back to me as I take a glass of sparkling water, as I nod my head in acknowledgment to the Chinese server who seems so practiced, so perfect in his task; practically Olympian himself.

 

And as it comes back to me, I feel out of place here, but a bit like I belong more than ever before. A hazy feeling envelopes me and for a moment I lose my presence; in my head, in the enormity of it all, in the meaning and hopeful significance that I can’t even begin to grasp. And yet I try…

 

Jianfu Palace – the Garden of the Palace of Established Happiness. This not only translates my current place, but also the relationship between the United States and China. This is not a happiness that has come naturally. It has been established by contracts and handshakes, by money and technology, by businessmen in suits and ties. It is an established happiness, a man-made progression. It is happiness, nonetheless, and out of that happiness, eventual peace.

 

As I look around the room I don’t see the hardships that have been placed on these people or the weight of so much expectation on one culture. That may have defined the state of China for me yesterday, and it may still be true, but it’s not what I see today. Today I see millions of tiny olive branches forming the foundation for what’s to come. I find myself in one place and yet once again standing between two states. I find myself in Beijing, standing between happiness and peace, and I remember when I began this journey at ten, standing between Utah and Colorado.

 

I grab onto that hope and, this time, I make a point of holding onto the memory of this place.

LOVELY SHAME

LOVELY SHAME

Lovey Shame  was written in response to a challenge to write from a perspective that you could never imagine holding. For me this was writing as a sister and as an adulterer.

I wonder if part of the thrill of being with you is in knowing you aren’t with her. She has your bed and your eternity, but I get to enjoy the passion and the cinnamon kisses in the storage closet in the basement. I get to run my fingers through your sweat soaked hair while you push my skirt up to my waist and whisper “shhh baby” in my ear. I get to be part of the secret, part of something she’ll never know.

 

I run to work with the wind in my hair and a smile on my face, pushing out of my mind the thought that you’ll never leave her, that the baby that’s waiting inside her to meet you will only make you love her more. Thoughts like that make me want to vomit, and all I want to do is enjoy you being with me.

 

I’m late. I run past the coffee shop where I first saw you look at me with something more than admiration, past the bar where you pressed me against the wall near the bathroom and said “you’d better be careful or you just might get what you’re looking for” and where we later shared our first kiss in the parking lot after she’d left with her girlfriends. I run past the restaurant, where you always go together. There you are, with her. I look at you, smile and wave. Then I look at her; like looking in a mirror, only she’s not smiling. There are tears in her eyes, down her cheeks, and I know all too well. I blow her a kiss.

 

Oh what a sister I’ve become. From the innocent tow-headed toddler to the shameless adulterer; and she's still perfect. Straight As, straight teeth, straight laced. I’ll never measure up. But I’m the one smiling while she's sitting there crying; wondering whose hair she's found on her husband’s coat.

 

One of these days maybe she’ll learn competition isn’t always healthy.

HOME IN THE END

HOME IN THE END

Even though we had big back yards and parents who were too rich and busy to notice or care what we did in them, we would hang out in parking lots. We’d smoke cigarettes and talk about cars (well, the boys would and the girls would listen) until we got kicked out by the cops for loitering. We were too young to really know what we were doing; we just did it because we knew we weren’t supposed to.

 

Sometimes we’d drink from old coke bottles filled with whiskey, or whatever other liquor we could grab from our parents’ cabinets. Mostly though, we’d smoke cigarettes. Or weed, if we could get our hands on it.

 

We’d usually go to the Duchess parking lot first. It was big and we could get food there till 11 pm. When the cops drove us out we’d cruise around town looking for somewhere else to go to. I’d ride in the middle between you and Drex. I still don’t know why we called him Drex, but at the time I remember thinking it had something to do with his huge mouth and even bigger teeth. I’d ride between you two, high off the cigarettes (I almost always got high off the cigarettes because I never smoked them, which you found hilarious) or the weed, and giddy from the feeling of your arm against mine, hoping your hand might brush up against my knee.

 

We sat in the very back bench seat. Jody, Megs, and Bryan sat in the middle. Torbin and MJ sat up front, changing the music constantly, challenging my mind to keep up with the lyrics, the beats, anything to keep my focus outside of my head but not too far removed from the situation to get paranoid.

 

During the day in the summers we would go to Mickey D’s or the movie theater. We’d have to drive all the way to Danbury to do either one but, since half the fun of it was driving anyway, we didn’t care. You’d always get the value meal and give me your Monopoly pieces (that was back when McDonald’s had Monopoly). I was trying to win a million dollars so that I could buy the two of us a mansion in St. Thomas. We’d joke about it all the time and, to this day, I still don’t know if I ever told you how much I really wanted that. I came close one summer--I got two Boardwalks, but no Park Place.

 

Of course we flirted, somewhat harmlessly, or so I assumed you thought. One night we got really drunk at a house party. You asked me to come out to the car with you to listen to a song. U2. You leaned in and kissed me and it was better than I’d ever imagined. You fumbled with the zipper on my Carharts and I had to keep pushing your hand away because even though you told me you loved me, and I was pretty sure you meant it, I couldn’t be too sure.

 

Right before that, when we were listening to the song, you’d been talking about middle school. Your breath in my ear was hot and butterscotchy. You reminded me of that day after school at the Grand Slam, back when we’d first started “going out” and had held hands for the first time. It still sounded so innocent coming from your lips six years later. Your memory of it was playing tricks on my mind, so, of course, I couldn’t be too sure if you loved me. Besides, I’d forgotten everything you’d said apart from that, as a result of your lips hitting mine.

 

Every time I smell butterscotch or hear “With or Without You” I think of that night.

That was our senior year. After that I went off to college in Virginia and you stayed behind to help your dad with his shop. My mom thought it was ridiculous that I'd become enamored with one of the eight percent of students from my high school that didn’t go to college--why did she even know the percentage?!--but nothing could stop me from talking to you.  Not 400 miles, and not her.

 

During, and even after, college I used to get angry and defend you when people called you a “townie.” Just because we’d all gotten out of town didn’t mean they had any right to judge you. You’d done something with yourself, kept up your family’s business, and they didn’t have any right to judge you.

 

We never got as close as we did that night of the U2 song, not physicallyanyway. People go home for strange reasons after high school and none of them are really conducive to rekindling a flame: Holidays, funerals, too many emotions and way too much family. I’d wanted to sneak away with you at our ten year reunion, but you were there with your girlfriend, and I was there with a then friend who would later become my husband.

 

In fact, I think the closest we ever came again was the night of Jody and Torbin’s wedding. It was after you’d broken up with your girlfriend and just before my “friend” became my husband. We were celebrating after the reception at Aaron’s Rock Bar on the water in Norwalk. I was wearing heels and the ridiculous pencil skirt bridesmaid dress that Jody’s sister had picked out for us. In between Oyster shots you leaned in and asked me if I wanted to go to the bathroom (you were always so romantic). Your breath was still hot and butterscotchy in my ear, only this time with a hint of Tabasco in place of the cigarettes.

 

We locked the door to the girl’s bathroom, too eager, I think, to even look to see who was aware of us. I remember looking at you with that rotating lighthouse light coming in through the small bathroom window, illuminating your face every thirty seconds. I remember thinking that you hadn’t changed at all since high school. I must have been drunk. I jumped up and tried to wrap my legs around you in a passionate moment, only to rip my dress up the middle. Nothing like wrecking a three hundred dollar dress that you already hated to kill the mood. We sulked out of the bathroom; you holding your jacket up against my backside, while I checked to make sure the coast was clear.

 

Needless to say, after we snuck back to the bar I didn’t leave my stool for the rest of the night. You fed me Jack & Coke to keep me preoccupied from my embarrassment, and we people-watched and made bets on who would couple off to their hotel rooms together that night.

 

That was three years ago, the last I heard from you.

 

Even though we had big back yards and parents who were too rich and busy to notice or care what we did in them, we would hang out in parking lots. And that’s how I remember you while kneeling next to your coffin twenty years later. Sitting at your funeral, I remember you in the parking lot leaning into me to light your cigarette from mine. I remember trying so hard to not lean in too far and put my cheek against yours, to whisper in your ear that I love you and have loved you for as long as I can remember.

 

I talk to a God whom I hadn’t wanted to believe in up until that point. I say a prayer, asking him to take care of you, to be better to you than anyone else in your life had ever been, including me. I apologize to you and, like that night in the parking lot, I try so hard not to lean in and put my cheek against yours, to whisper in your ear that I love you and have loved you for as long as I can remember.

 

I can’t keep the tears from streaming down my face as I walk back to my husband; this man who I all of the sudden realize knows nothing about me. I take his arm anyway, and we walk away from the funeral and back to a home — a home that is so far from the one I’m leaving behind.

THE SOUND OF SETTLING

THE SOUND OF SETTLING

She felt him get into bed; the familiar weight, the shift of the mattress, the desire to roll into him and hold on forever.

 

“Just got an e-mail from Ana’s teacher. She’s in trouble again. Fucking nightmare.”

 

She heard the words, but her mind wandered. Rain on the skylight reminded her of their wedding. It came in sheets, pelting against the stained glass windows of the church. It carried her to their honeymoon where they’d slept in hammocks on the beach, sought cover beneath a palm frond during a storm, and finally gave into the torrents to make love in the wet sand.

The baby cried. Like a lightning bolt she was back in their bed. Her chest tightened, not wanting to let go.

 

“Arghhh… Christ! For one second of peace…” his frustration was palpable, occupying the air around him. Neither moved in hopes that the cries would subside. She could still feel the sand on her back, in her hair; see his perfect face in the glow of the moonlight; hear the waves crashing against the shore. Her love filled the space of his frustration.

 

“Ben?”

 

“Mhmm…”

 

“Say it.”

 

“Say what?”

 

“You know…”

 

“It’ll be okay. I love you,” he whispered.

 

But as soon as he said it she knew it didn’t matter. It was a game of Chinese Whispers by now—only in their game it was the meaning that altered while the words stayed the same. She sighed. After a while it all lost its meaning.

bottom of page