Category: Realistic Fiction

My contemporary and historical fiction that tries (and I mean really tries) to sound like it really happened.

Fiction — “When Men Came”

“When Men Came” was published in the college mag Writ in Water in 2018. Enough time has passed that rights to the story have reverted back to me. Since the publication was only distributed on the Houston Baptist University campus, I thought I would share the story here to the internet. Spoilers: The narrative is about an oak tree in the Middle Ages.

When men came, they scratched against my brothers, kicking up a dust of innards, until I was surrounded by stumps. Then men removed the stumps.

I waited for the cutters to strike my knees but men must have feared the look of me. My gray shoulders, my nine arms, my armaments of acorn.

They burned the land.

I smelled the screams of grass—that fragrant wetness—before smoke. The fires ran up the bowl of the valley, and behind it men with long poles turned over char and removed the stones. If it reached me, the fire would burn across my flank, mutilate my face, but not kill me.

The fires stopped before the crest, and I was spared.

(more…)

Poem — “Elephant Statue”

The elephant statue, dark colored coal,

a kingly pet bought by a kingly toll,

the remain of days of foreign conquest,

put here to attend to an age of rest.

Now defenseless from a people irate,

who seek to call ruin on the estate.

An axe scrapes a toe to heartless good cheer.

Drunk now, a farmer attacks the veneer.

From a rotten wound in its side outbreaks

the rat-bit scholar who lives in its legs;

shouts at the mob every curse that he knows:

“You anarchists, anti-Christs, and assholes.”

Below callous claws, skin peels away clean

to release beneath a summerset gleam;

a chest, trunk, and tail made of despot’s gold,

dissolved into dust – the marketplace sold.

 

Short Prose about Teaching (Part II)

“During the day, the door remains unlocked—the lights flicked on by a sleepy department head and flicked off by a custodian whose back vac makes her a ghostbuster.”

Read more of “Once there was an empty classroom.”

 

“Mrs. Whittaker paused from grading papers to appreciate the room. The kids were engaged in what’s called Flexible Learning, working in what is called Flexible Groups, to accomplish Flexible Goals, based on a Flexible Curriculum.”

Read more of “Flexible Groups.”

 

“When I wake, the cats are at the door—they want to slip into bed and lie in my warm vacancy.”

Read more of “Snakes and Spiders”

Short Prose about Teaching (Part I)

“I open the year with a joke. ‘My name is Mr. White, like the color of my [the students look expectantly toward my skin] walls.’ Cue enough laughter to sustain the joke next period.”

Read more of “Starry White.”

 

“Today, I had a rather innocent and ill-informed student inspect an atlas on the wall (one with only the boundaries of countries but no printed names), point to Cambodia, and say, ‘I think that’s South Koran.'”

Read more of “Geography and Centipedes.”

 

“My classroom is a block like those you stack in first-grade.”

Read more of “Teaching Tapas”

Nonfiction — “New Territory for Old Slavery”

In 2019, New Territory is concentric circles of green grass cloistered by brick houses, brick walls, brick veins. The streets have pretty names like Whisper Ridge and Rippling Creek and Silver Lake, imagining a lost era of folkishness, only this is the knees of Houston and there never was whispering, rippling, or silver anything, only marshland turned to farmland turned to homeland.

The suburb wears a coat of trees which make the residents hostile when the government cuts them down, arguing that the trees have history, roots, are more than shadow-makers, but no one mentions that they were planted, full-grown, in the late nineties alongside the people. A militia of invisible gardeners marches through the parks, and when the trees are bare-limbed, none can tell if the leaves were individually picked or if it’s Late Winter.

An aerial photo in George Memorial Library shows a different New Territory.

(more…)

Nonfiction — “Teaching Tapas”

(One)

My classroom is a block like those you stack in first-grade. Desks stand like lines of British soldiers, and students shout and throw rulers and text each other in a war of attention. My desk is the general’s tent—to the side of the parade grounds and barracks, capable at a moment’s notice to survey the ranks (all I have to do is lift my eyes from my screen to review a regiment using phones to redo eyelashes).

From this distance, it’s difficult to tell if a student is passing notes digitally or using a calculator to complete physics problems. With a war weary sigh, sans mustache, cigar, and epaulets, I rise from my command to remind the infantry that the assignment is due in five minutes.

(Two)

Sometimes I’ll see a student staring out the window at the end of the hall. But what does she see out there that holds her attention? I know from experience there’s only a gray lot, cars, the track field, the tennis court—all yellow and hazy behind the dusty glass.

But I don’t think she’s looking at anything in particular.

Maybe it’s a mood she senses on the other side of the pane. Across the gold beer plains, coming from distant mountains.

A feeling she won’t find among white walls that slide into a maze of locked rooms and lockers. Halls guarded by ceiling cameras and attentive teachers.

Out there? Streets and side-streets. The brown roofs of suburbia. Highways weaving with the hills like little gray veins. And patches of trees binding shadow-flooded plains to the homes of coyotes.

Sometimes I know what she sees.

Uncategorized Short Prose

“Not having anything to do, or to stave off the heart attack forming in my chest (it turned out to be gas), or to hold off a walk to the gas station for cigarettes, or to creep away from the wife awhile, ornery ever since she noticed a carpet growing on her chin (it happens at this age), I turned on the light in the garage.”

Read more of “Seven Days.”

 

“Look at the sympathy and bravery of the Wheelbarrow Queen. Look at the tattoos of endless scrolls that unfurl down her arms. These signs carry murderers and lovers, boring summers and drunken falls.”

Read more of “The Wheelbarrow Queen.”

 

“I will never forget it. Blue as the Kelley Blue Book, a proud white belt, dual headlights like plates on display and squinting taillights.”

Read more of “That Chevy Impala.”

 

“Leagues ahead, as if justification for the old man’s suffering, was a boat. How could refuge exist out here in the abandon? The red dust and crags. Would he find whale bone, and coral, and mermaid skulls, and impossible Lemuria?”

Read more of “Above the Snakes.”

 

“Their hands are spiders on my scarf when I’m not looking. They pull the cornice in the back until my forehead is uncovered and I notice and hiss. They untie the knot by my right breast or pinch the cloth, leaving wrinkles.”

Read more of “Saamiya.”

Published — “Cuidado”

Forgot to mention this when it came out. Life gets busy sometimes. One of my poems published at the end of August.

Rue Scribe is a magazine devoted to “Small Literature”—to “micro fiction, flash fiction, tiny fiction,” and to, eh, what the hell, “short shorts.” This cigarette drag of story is about the “small but powerful,” about the smoke that lingers. That’s why I’m honored RS chose to publish “Cuidado,” a poem condemning global violence on women through a life-changing encounter that lasts no more than five seconds.

Published — “Boar Song”

My poem, “Boar Song” published in Ink & Voices, an online publication devoted to “unapologetic expression, unedited art.” The magazine seeks to provide a space for “humanness” and has a predilection for the “honest, raw, and original.” Meanwhile, my poem, about my wife who turns goblinesque when I tickle her, was an attempt to express my adoration without praise-filled language.

I couldn’t have found a better venue.

EDIT: Or could I? As of 2019, the website seems to have disappeared. Ah, the fickleness of internet-based publications. The editors sent me a screenshot, however, as some form of compensation. Here it is. Proof that this piece was published once.

Published — “And We Who Never Died” & “Scarabaeidae”

My pieces “And We Who Never Died” and “Scarabaeidae” were published in the Spring Issue of The Tishman Review, a well-respected quarterly magazine devoted to prose, poetry, and people. Behind the paper’s philosophy is the idea that literature’s “value to humanity is beyond measure.” Editors must “remain open to the possibility that an individual work may take us beyond the boundaries known today.”

“And We Who Never Died” began as a metaphysical conflict. What if when we die, our souls don’t abide the afterlife, or face annihilation, but transfer to the objects around us? What horrors would arise? What fears? The story—about a mother sending her children to search the house for their dead father—is one of many scenarios that might result.

“Scarabaeidae” is an ode to my wife, to us. I try to write without goo, mush, doggerel, singsong, cockamamie, and all those wonderful descriptors of poor poetry. But then, “Scarabaeidae” does have a line that begins with “shall I compare thee to.” Maybe it works since it ends in “a dung beetle.” Glimpsed here is the failure and mundanity of the struggle to love another.

You can pick up a copy of The Tishman Review from their website or order it from the source on Amazon.