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Category: Stories & Essays

(“Godzilla vs. The Code” first appeared in Barrelhouse)

My husband has a favorite Japanese actor, and he can pronounce the man’s name. To-shi-ro Mi-fu-ne. At our house, Mr. Mifune appears in Samurai movies, mostly on Saturday afternoons. I’ll walk into the TV room and there’s my husband on the couch, reading subtitles. The men on TV are dressed in black, they huff out their lines.

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(“Mother Mary Commutes to Memphis” first appeared in The Pinch)

“Elvis Presley Enterprises shall exclusively own all now known or hereafter existing rights to the submissions of every kind throughout the universe.”

EPE Legal Notice

White robes squashed against blue-swirled upholstery, wads of chewing gum lined on a fuzzy armrest. The salty smell of boxed fried chicken mixing with diesel exhaust, music whining from a teenage boy’s Walkman.

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(excerpt from Model for Deception, a Vangie Street mystery, currently being shopped to agents)

The Next Step kitchen was abuzz with activity: one man was washing dishes, another removing clothes from the dryer, someone else peeling a cucumber. I walked through the room at a clip, not only because of the slightly unpleasant smell of leftover spaghetti. Truth tell, folks at the Next Step shelter made me nervous. I knew poor—half of Kurt Jamison’s clients were skinny white women in faded sundresses with a baby on the hip and a toddler at the knee. Clients at the Next Step were different. Not just because they were overwhelmingly male. My wariness was due more to the sense of isolation each seemed to exude. The men milling through the house came across as disconnected from the rest of the world, as if the Next Step were simply a way-stop on what was otherwise a long, solitary journey.

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The Dress

(“ The Dress” first appeared in Skirt Magazine))

In the Beginning was the dress. And the dress came up from New Orleans and lived in a closet in Memphis and waited for a party. One day, the husband said, “We have a party.” And the dress came out: the velvet-flocked, spaghetti-strapped, leopard-printed, spandex-induced dress. And the dress slipped on the gold bracelet and the gold necklace and the gold earrings. And the dress picked out the closed-toed pumps because the dress knew that one more inch of skin would be too much. And when the husband saw the dress, the husband said:

“You could stop a clock in that dress.”

And that was good.

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The Old Timers

(“The Old Timers” first appeared in River Teeth)

On August 7, 2001, I stepped into the 50th Anniversary celebration of the discovery of oil in Williston Basin, Williston, North Dakota. I knew no one. My family had not been back to the Williston Basin since the December night in 1960 when my father had run his car into a train—as squarely-hit as any the police had ever seen—and died.

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Held at Gunpoint

(“Held at Gunpoint” first appeared in Image; the story received a Special Mention from Pushcart Prize)

A new couple—a white couple—came to the funeral service, but Preacher Butler went ahead and told it anyway. “Morgan Cook served sixty-five years in this white folks’ pigpen and now he’s gone to the resting place.” Everyone nodded—they hadn’t seen the couple slip in, sit on the back pew. Preacher fluttered his robes, told it some more about Morgan lighting the white man’s world, then everyone listened to the stuttering tape to the grandkids.

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