All tagged xo-illo


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.

Boselaphus Tragocamelus

In true life my friend lived in the backyard of my uncle the zoologist. He was a skeleton—my friend not my uncle—with two smooth black horns. I could really see him—really—but I didn’t tell anybody because they always laugh. Already they were laughing at me because my teeth were all falling out—so why more.

The Gravity of Giants

I built a casket out of cigar boxes. My neighbors stared as I brought in towers of boxes. They whispered to each other about my oddness and my half-baked eyes. It wasn’t my fault; the grief in me was bougainvillea, thorn-pretty, creeping. I keep repeating those little words, “Cigar smoking can cause birth defects, lung cancer, and it will, be assured, cause worlds to collapse. A death box a dollar at a time.”

Short Stories

When I was five my best friend Ruben Cabrera showed me the gun belonging to his big brother, a guy from an up-and-coming gang in the neighborhood that was gaining notoriety for its acts of violence against older, bigger gangs. In the toolshed, with the door cracked just enough for sunlight to slide in, Ruben brought the black gun up so that it seemed to hover over my nose and behind it in the dark an excited voice fired out, Cool, huh?


Four months after her mother set fire to a yellowing wedding dress and drove top-down to Florida, Liz Johnson began studying the mating patterns of hummingbirds, to the surprise of her husband who was expected to build a floral topiary on which the birds could mate. “I’m not getting rid of our furniture to move into an avian sex house,” he told Liz, but within the month their home smelled like lilac.


In my other life right now I have taken up Bedazzling. It starts when I fall asleep on the couch again, TV on, remote in hand. I wake to what I think is the voice of God commanding, “Go from dull to dazzling!”

Operation Desert Storm

Fadel was the brother who stayed the longest, the one who called my grandma “Mom.” He wore strong, spicy cologne, the kind that chokes and stings, lingers long after he has left the room. My mom told me that when he lived with them, he got a brand new car every six months and threw away his undershirts after he had worn them just once. He was a good friend to my dad, Curtis, the dad who I never saw.

The Ex-Mermaid Buys Chocolate Milk

The ex-mermaid is opening the door of the dairy case when she hears a voice she recognizes behind her, the voice of the ex-mermaid’s ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. The ex-mermaid looks quickly at the image of herself that is reflected in the glass, a transparency superimposed on bottles of one and two percent. She looks okay. Not as good as the new girlfriend, who has a pert nose and pert breasts and is generally very pert, pert all over. But the ex-mermaid looks fine, and she registers this as she grabs a bottle of low-fat chocolate milk, which is what she came here for.

On Being a Whiter

Did you always want to be a whiter?

Not always. But from a young age I did have a “creative spark,” or so my parents tell me. First it was drawing, then I wanted to make video games. In high school I wanted to white fantasy. But then I got older and I went to college and I was introduced to Hemingway and Faulkner and O’Connor and all the greats, and slowly I began to realize: I wanted to white literature.


The boy awoke, listlessly, without stirring; a mere blinking of his eyes until they agreed to remain open and seeing. He lay still with his head on the pillow, his dreams drifting up and away in locks of vapor and mist. The room was dark. The pale early morning light seeped in from behind the shut blue curtains, falling in rays and shafts about the bed. The boy watched the tiny dust particles drifting lazily in the light, unconcerned with whatever his business was.

Looking In, Looking Out

When he tells me to stop, I stop. When he tells me to leave, I leave. The blanket on my bed he likes is a blue shell, and he drapes it over his shoulders, a cape, a protection, a soft hard skin, and the late spring leaves glaze the window, outside but never in, the way Colin wants, and if he tells me to want, I want. 

Secret Message

After I take the secret message from the man at the door, the house becomes rife with codes. I pause at the refrigerator and note the conspiratorial way that Rebecca’s hand wraps around Henry’s shoulder in one of the photographs, as if on the verge of absconding. Her lips are pursed in the manner of a duck. It’s startling—unfair—that I remember her name, that this incidental character has blotted out such a significant portion of this photo, persisted in making her presence known across these years. 

What Happens Next

a)  Ray up and hits me because I said the bad thing about his girl. As I’m passing out, Ray catches me by the leather lapels and lowers me tenderly to the sticky floor. Basically he tucks me in.                           

Gas Money

Jim has a tattoo of Jesus. I kiss Tattoo Jesus on the lips and have an epiphany. I heard about epiphanies in church, when you suddenly know something big, and I knew I loved Jim and Jesus.

A Clue

That blonde may have charmed her way into the laps of every police officer this side of River Heights, but being a former teen detective only gets you so far. When you’re a strung-out 35-year-old asking the way to “The Hidden Staircase,” it’s not as cute.


Grandma has been sober twelve years, we think. She says it’s ‘cause family fucks her up plenty. She says that from her seat by the window—by the action, she calls it. As police cars and packs of teens pass, she comments on them, even when she’s alone, like she is the voice in their heads. We don't listen to Grandma too much because she already is the voice in our heads, from the second we are born. It is a real something to find your consciousness in the living room every day, decomposing, complaining about the orange juice.

How to Darn a Sock

The needle should be sharper than his tongue. Imagine your hand is a cat creeping under the covers for warmth, fingers whisker-tickling his toes before you strike. There. Pinning the biggest ragged nail to the biggest callused toe to the shred of trouser sock until he howls himself out of bed.

She Knows How to Use Them

I ask Judy if she’s ever heard the phrase “cutting your heels,” like when you’re first learning something and you’re not very good at it yet, but you sort of just have to get used to it. She says the phrase I’m thinking of is “cutting your teeth.”