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Short Fiction

Burying Angel O’Malley

Published in The Sun magazine., an excerpt from a novel in progress, All the Home I Have. “Burying Angel O’Malley” was chosen for a notable by Stephen King in The Best American Short Stories 2007. It’s not a true story, but was written in memory of my friend, Tom Smith, who was buried in the woods in back of his home at Tenmile Creek, and a little girl named Mer-lyn.

We buried Angel in November. She was laid out in the living room of her house, in a casket her father had made of cedar. She was wearing a blue dress, and she was barefoot. I walked inside the house, and the only thing I could see was the casket, with her in it. I walked right over and stood there. I made myself look. Not looking wouldn’t make it any less than what it was. It was just Angel, dead, in a blue dress I’d seen her wear a dozen times. 



Trudy Deere Goes to Heaven

Excerpted from the novel, Pretty Is As Pretty Does (MacAdam/Cage, 2001) also published in The Sun Magazine


I’ve been in the hospital four days when they put an other woman in the room with me--- an old farm wife from Beardstown, Illinois, by the name of Trudy Deere. Trudy Deere has been in a car accident. She’s recuperating.

I don’t say a word to her. I don’t have nothing to say that people want to hear anyway. So I keep my mouth shut. Besides, I hear her tell my sister that she has five children of her own, so I know what she thinks of me, lying in my bed with my face to the wall when the nurses bring the baby in. It’s nothing against the baby in particular, but nobody sees that. I’m a bad mother is all they see. People like to speculate, I guess by now everybody has speculated about me.



The Man at Table Five

A version of this story was published in The Sun Magazine. It was taken from an as yet unpublished novel, Like a Little God.

I was working at Fanny’s Cafe in Newport. I worked the breakfast shift.  I came in early and made the coffee. I served eggs and sausage, pancakes and waffles.  I had to walk up to people, ask and answer questions, look them in the eye, be friendly and relaxed. I remembered the regulars and what they liked: coffee black or with cream, eggs over easy or hard, wheat toast or white. Maybe they liked the table by the window or no ice in their water. They wanted quick service or they wanted to linger, they wanted peace and quiet, or they were lonely and wanted conversation. I had to be a good sport, laugh at their jokes, sympathize with their small problems and smile. I was used to speaking my mind, saying fuck or goddamn it, saying go get it yourself, do I look like your maid.  I wasn’t used to being careful.


They Always Call You "Miss"

A version of this story was published in The Sun Magazine. It was taken from an as yet unpublished novel, Like a Little God.

There's more to waiting tables than you might think. It takes courage, for one thing. You walk up to a table, and everyone turns to look at you, as if you’re about to deliver the opening line of a play. You have to look happy all the time too. You have to look happy but concerned, bending forward while they talk, listening carefully, asking, “Ranch or thousand Island?” You have to act as if you know what you’re doing and everything is going according to a plan. You can’t think of all the things happening in the kitchen. You have to remember: Gin and tonic to table ; man at  is late for a meeting; nut allergy on . You have to remember it all and not get overwhelmed.


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