Wave @ The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts

You’ve started talking through the picket fence of your teeth. Drawing me closer with every lisping word. Your breath smells of wilting dandelions, a sugary spike that pokes at the nerve endings in my toes. Your pleas like broken cartilage wrapped in cellophane, as you decide if this is the last time you’ll leave me.

Say it, I beg, but your nose only whistles the tune we haven’t yet placed on the map of your soiled emotions.

I beat at your chest, but the birdcage only rattles, keyless, fragile as plastic fork tines, yet unyielding. Anything unbreakable I find endlessly irritating. Maybe love is one knob turn of agitation away from complete surrender, but that would be too easy for people like us.

I’ll say it then, my mouth opening, teeth bridging the gap between object emptiness and the sated timbre of intimacy decoded into language, but, and here the fuel needle of my need for you dips, trails, hitches, like a hiccup never expressed, because your tears won’t stop the goddamn door from slamming shut or the echo that reverberates into space, a place where all I can see is the backlit shadow of your back, bent like those unbreakable combs given away on picture day, boys like you worrying them until they snapped.

You push my head to your chest, but keep walking until we’re outside, night-vision lit, my blood vessels traitorously flowing toward you, an Earthly gravity I regret. I start to yell, but you say, you only want the quiet parts of me. I stomp I clap, I shout, dancing in the off-rhythm way that follows the earthquakes of your departures.


Every month, I take down a new door, leaving them on the curb for the trashman, small offerings to the spirits of unnamed barriers. Cabinet doors pop from their hinges, exposing industrial cleaners and solvents, cups from shuttered restaurants, plates with scratches from your overzealous stabbing of beef and potatoes. The Disney cups bought at garage sales for nickels, while we joked about needing them for the children, the ones this second marriage was supposed to provide, the cartoon faces twisting toward garish impressions of joy you obviously never felt.

When you stand on the porch, your hand pushing through the empty doorway, I think of snorkeling in Jamaica, how you almost drowned, your lungs mistaking water for air, your arms retracting away from the fish below, sure you were about to be bitten.

I want to give you a tour of my obsession, but you’ve always hated mania, and I won’t apologize. You’ve come back, I say, but you’re still working out how I can dare to live in a state of unprotected bodily harm. I’ve gotten rid of the alarm too, the baseball bat hidden under your side of the bed.

You’ve come back? This time the question closes to the frequency of a liquid metal being struck by the bow of a violin.

And you wave and you wave, and you…

We’re Trying to Tell You @ Bull Magazine

My dad says he’s tired of turning off the lights, that he works too hard to be nickel-and-dimed by the energy company, that if we’re only going to move from room to room, eyes pivoting from screen to screen, then the least we could do is flip a switch every once in a while, that is if we want to continue to have Wi-Fi and HBO, and Xbox Live, and soda, and pizza every Friday night. A little respect is all he’s asking for, but of course we ignore him, it’s either that or tell him to go fuck himself, but in our last kids-only family meeting, Jett said we had to keep Dad on the even keel, that if we wanted to avoid counseling and a barrage of new medications, if we wanted to avoid the screaming and the threats, we’d better lay low, that turning up the volume on our iPads was a better way to go about ignoring Dad’s new crisis. Besides it kept Mom from getting her headaches, from binge-watching those trashy Housewives shows.

Hinge @ Star 82 Review

Overcast, cloudy pupils stare at scenes in pictures unremembered. Risqué, her daughter says, with a pointed finger at the loose bathing straps and jilted leggy pose. Who took the picture, the family wants to know. It’s black and white, curled, proof of a life torn from the pages of a calendar. She doesn’t know, a half-truth, lies like medication stuck beneath her tongue.

Everything in Nature Longs for Safety @99 Pine Street

“I guess there are some things I’m supposed to say.”

“What can anyone say?”

“About life. And death, too.”

“We could pretend. Pretend we already have. I’d be okay with that.”

How the Music Died @ The Offing

They started with the bells. The men who cared to follow orders took out the ringers with a precision that created only a twinkle of a sound as though a child’s breath across the combs of a harmonica. For those who were there, it was the last sound of music they ever heard.

The Ache of Sound @ Magnolia Review

“The hall was dark, the pictures on the walls glassy museum exhibits she was learning to ignore. She no longer ran at her age, but she stepped quickly, feeling as though too many children were grabbing and pulling at her shirt sleeves, frantically needing her attention. Her students had been overeager, mouths open, yelling and bawling, working themselves into an anxious state over the smallest things, a broken pencil or a misspelled word.”

God’s Eye @ Split Lip Magazine

After supper, we took the kids down to the road next to Bryson’s Pond to see the body. Picture ran in yesterday’s paper of the accident. The kind of thing that makes news in our small town: smashed up car with the hood rammed through the interior and door sheared off, its body leaning against the telephone pole like a drunk too afraid to take another step.

Flash Fiction: The Defining Sentence @ Fiction Southeast

One of the things I love about reading and writing Flash fiction is that a story can turn or pirouette in one sentence from a standard narrative to something that floats off the page and impacts the reader. These texts only become stories when they’ve been lifted by this sentence, as if given the breath of meaning. The story that I want to use as an example is “The Canyon Where the Coyotes Live” by Bobbie Ann Mason found in The Best of Small Fictions 2015 published by Queens Ferry Press.

A Scheduled Visit @ TINGE Magazine

Stuff had a way of accumulating, until each item became a part of a pile, and each pile became a part of a mound, burying and compressing the items into the carpet until her things lost their individualness and became a shape of debris pushing against the walls of the house.

Out of the Dust @Spelk (June 13, 2016)

A tornado emerges out of the dust from the middle of the baseball diamond. It starts small, but threatens to swallow the six of us that refuse to give up our childhood game.

Continue Reading:

You Said @Wilderness House Literary Review (June 2016)

So you have to wear glasses, you said, holding out a pair with rimless
lenses. I left with bold frames and you said I’d better become a writer or an
account, as if those were the same thing.

Click to access TommyDean.pdf

Finding Fame on Cautionary Billboards @The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts
(May 2016)

“I’m leaving these cigarettes here, because my dad said I can’t have them in the house anymore. I used to leave this kind of stuff with you, but now that you’re gone, I guess I’ll just leave them here…”

My Grandfather is a Pilot @The Writing Disorder  (September 2015)

“What the hell are you looking at?” he asks, his voice weak at first, but filled with piss and vinegar at the end. A phrase he taught me when I was four, at a Fourth of July parade. I remember the look of horror on my mom’s face while I ran around in circles, shouting “piss and vinegar, piss and vinegar.”

Alone at the End of the World @Boston Literary Magazine (September 2015)

“Tonight is their last night, but they pretend it’s the beginning of their love affair. “

“Arriving” @r.kv.r.y

“Oh hell, you know what I’d love?” she said. “I’d love to wake up tomorrow and look out the window and see them gone.”

“Baby, Alone” @ Watershed Review

It’s much too cold for a baby to be alone in a car. I tell this to myself, as though, there are a set of perfect conditions where a mother or father might be allowed to leave their child, an infant almost from the look of its tiny fingers, in a parked car in the parking lot of one of the largest shopping centers in town.

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