Monument

My mom wanted to be buried under a boulder. It might have been a Jesus thing. Ma was unique, or trying to be. She picked it out years before she died and U-Hauled it onto our lawn herself. After we’d had the thing a few months, I sort of forgot about it. It was nice to sit and lean against for shade in our treeless subdivision, and it had a mostly flat side that you could sort of play wall ball with so long as none of the neighbor kids were stupid enough to miss. After a while, it was more or less a fact of life, and kind of pretty from certain angles.

Nothing But Monsters

I was passing through Fort Dick with a truckload of swine for slaughter, when I made a stop at a roadside diner, Lou’s Steak Shack or something. It wasn’t that long since quarantine, and I was still savoring every last breath of open air, like sea in those parts, settling on the skin.

Foreclosure

Sometimes I drive from downtown Grand Rapids to the suburbs. I like to return to the house I grew up in. At 7767 Hidden Ridge Court, there is a two-story brick home with a white balcony. Hidden Lake Estates is an affluent neighborhood. There is an association. Everyone has the same brown mailbox

Halloween Dads

When the alarms go off, we abandon our children on strangers' porches. Our Tigers, our Big Guys, our Champs watch from behind hollow eyeholes as we flee into the night, screaming and free. They cry out, "Daddy, daddy, wait!"

from Songs for Dead Girls

Zombie Girl can't cook. Can't look at the TV. Can't find the remote for all the singing in her head. The blankets singe against her skin. The thin membrane of her wearing away like a blister at her heel. The real beginning of the story not death, but disengagement. 

What We Expect To See

After snaking one-by-one through narrow passages, we come to what Felix calls a room. We’re sixty feet below Earth’s surface, and he says that this is it. When he turns out the lights, we will experience pure darkness. But first, we must sit, he says, so that we don’t wander and plummet to our deaths. 

Python Patrol

Dad doesn’t understand me anymore, so he volunteered us both for the last remaining slots on the Python Patrol. That’s what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission calls it, and each month it hosts a free workshop to help people in the Everglades identify and capture the python population mushrooming in our own backyards. 

Transit

Sarah still believed she could make it off the bus without pissing herself. The doors were right there and if she could somehow unclench long enough to propel her body to the front of the bus, maybe she could haul ass off of it in time. On nights like this one, after surviving the hellish shift that she had, Sarah figured karma owed her one. Shit, her whole life was already like one of those Cracker Jack prizes—useless crap getting in the way of what you’re really after.

The Tenant

He rifles through my garbage. He steals my newspaper and dozes in my Magnolia tree. He helps himself to the cat’s food, dipping his paws into the dish, his ears twitching. Last night, he stood off with a raccoon. When it dug its fingers into the food, the bear popped its head off. It was only that once, though. He was staking his claim. 

Wonder Women

They squeezed into red and blue spandex jumpsuits, Nishka’s with a glitter-glued lightning bolt down the front and Morgan’s a star. They’d found them in Gene’s Costumes a year ago, back when they didn’t tell anyone what they were doing, back when dressing up wasn’t terrifying, months looming ahead of them.

Cling

She climbs in my lap, cups my face, and lowers my head to the floor as we make out. It would be really hot and intense but her hair keeps getting in the way. She sits up for a moment to put her hair in a ponytail, and I feel something hanging on my cheek where she just touched.

Your Problems Ain’t Our Problems

Alex and I call it one of two things: “living in the bell jar” or “Sylvia Plathing it.” It was the way we described eating dipped handfuls of peanut butter for dinner, snaking the remains from between the pruney bits of our finger tips. 

The Kidnappers

Pretty sure the knife actually had peanut butter on it before he started. Pretty sure the waterboarding tasted like bubble bath. It’s actually kind of embarrassing how easy it was for him to get me. 

Adult Daughters of Hybrid Murderesses

We’re all ashamed of our mothers in this place. Mine’s the one chomping on fresh crickets, which isn’t nearly as bad as the things she did when I was in middle school, like tearing the wings off Lauren Fontaine’s yellow swallowtail costume at the science fair.

Where It Happened

The woods behind his house, past the gray barn with a dirt floor. Inside there might have been an old basketball hoop. I only went in once or twice, because I remember thinking, this thing is going to collapse any second.

The Bearded Lady

The Bearded Lady has dyed her beard blue and threaded it with pearls and tiny shells. Her hip sails out from behind a wisp of blue voile like the prow of a mahogany ship, and her heavy hair, clasped with silver, lifts almost imperceptibly in the wind.

Out of the Strong, Something Sweet

Always, the three of us. One brown girl, two white girls in the sun—those clicky striped vinyl lawn chairs from 1985-ish that Claire's dad still had in their garage for whatever reason. We were in the backyard, not the front. Last time we were out front, Mandy's asshole brother stopped in his red Stang and asked us if we knew what a pussy was before skeeing off and running the stop sign at the end of our street. Hannah had sat up and pushed her sunglasses atop her head. Of course we know what a pussy is, asshole. We were fourteen.