Towards the end of spring, when the air is still cold and bites at your cheeks, and a thick blanket of mist covers the ground, a large black truck approaches a small Danish town. When it reaches the town limit, it stops and a man jumps out. He’s in his forties, wearing a creased, high-end suit that looks as though he has slept in it. His hair, dark and sprinkled with gray, stands up from the back of his head like on a baby heavy with sleep. He runs his hands through it as he squints at the bright morning sun, which is beginning to penetrate the clouds. Then he waves at the truck driver, shuts the door, and turns to face the town.Read more.
Once upon a time, I met a girl.
Now, you’re probably thinking two things. One: Jacob, for God’s sake, you’re a writer. You’re really going to begin the story with ‘once upon a time’? What is this, a Grimm fairytale? And two: a long, extended groan followed by, another story about a boy and a girl?
But it’s not like you think.
She’s not like you think.
I want to start from the beginning, but right now she’s next to me, and I’m reminded of why I haven’t been able to write a single thing for the last six months.
Thomas leans his head against the fuselage and looks down through the Lexan window. The homes remind him of a town model his father had once made in their attic when he was a young boy. The streets, like small veins, separate the cluster of suburban Floridian homes. Their peaked roofs are all two-toned from the sunset. He imagines his house, empty and distant, buried beneath the cover of an elevated train in South Queens, and how the sun will peak from behind the steel columns for that brief moment outside his kitchen window, and how he won’t be there to see it.Read more.
The Leather Satchel
Muriel decided to catalog the desiccated remains herself. Her heart raced. Her fingers tingled. Electric lanterns placed every few feet illuminated the cave. Layers of dust and the neglect of time conspired to make it all but unrecognizable. Was it female or male? From when? She studied it, looking for signs. So much anticipation. So much hanging in the balance. Her doctoral students and undergraduates gathered, hushed and eager. The small team of researchers, on the twenty-ninth day of a thirty-five-day dig, had made little progress until Guillermo, a first-timer, found what looked to be a canvas jacket from the First Common Era baked into the wall of the dry Nevada desert cave.Read more.
Here it was, the opportunity of a lifetime to finally have everything that I wanted. No more of the desperate longing to look like the images I saw on Instagram. My self-doubt would be gone, replaced by an inner confidence that only I would know about. I had done everything possible on my own to pass and fit into what society deemed presentable but had always come up short. This long- awaited advantage would even things out for me and save me years of wasted time and money. So when it was my turn to order, I didn’t berate myself.Read more.
The Rules of Improv
Lainie emerged from her shock, lying on her side in the driveway surrounded by a black wreath of cleft-chinned superheroes in boots and helmets. She noted the gravel in her hair before wincing at the tenderness of two small broken bones in her left hand, various bruised ribs, and shrapnel-inflicted gash above her ankle.
It was a mistake any mortal could make, exploding her gas grill by forgetting to open the lid before turning on the gas.
For Whom the Hands Clap
The ventilator whirred mechanically, patients’ chests rising as the oxygen pumped through their lungs. Donna stood by the man she had seen intubated hours beforehand. His breath at times steadying momentarily was a forced gasping rattle. She wondered who he was.
A middle-aged man with greying hairs amongst patchy brown. Quite possibly handsome, aside from the current predicament. His youthful face now drained from the sensation of drowning. He was in the throes of acute respiratory distress syndrome, as a result of the virus. Watching him, Donna’s own breath belaboured beneath her mask.
As Zach flew over the handlebars of his mountain bike, his body a rigid missile parallel to the ground, he figured it’d be bad. He’d been going pretty fast. On the good luck side, nothing too serious broke save a couple of ribs – those hurt like a mother, though. On the bad luck side, he landed next to a rattler who promptly bit him in the shin. He hollered to holy hell, rousting a couple of homeless guys who had been squatting peacefully not ten yards from the trail. A small but vigorous debate ensued.Read more.
When I was sixteen, I took organ lessons from a dour, quick-tempered, talented British man named Mr. Williams. No one else I’ve known, either before or since, was as self-sacrificing for his instrument. Nor as old-fashioned. In the nine or so months I was his student, I never saw him dressed in anything other than a three-piece suit that had long gone out of style, a tie with what appeared to be a school crest on it, and horn-rimmed glasses dating back to the Kennedy administration. A gold cross was invariably pinned to his lapel. He was the only man I knew who still used Brylcreem in his hair, so much so that it looked like a solid, shiny mass. Not that he was an especially old man. Rather, he seemed ageless somehow, as if caught outside of time, belonging neither to the present nor to some earlier era.Read more.
The Serpent Papers: Echoes of Sunshine
Christmas break arrived, and I elected to stay in the city. Without any school or family obligations, I could explore the landscapes of Gotham, a student on furlough, looking for random adventures flowing with women and rivers of beer. Nebraska was gone—God knows where—and I had the room to myself, sleeping at any hour, traipsing naked if I wanted. I could have women without any concern for Nebraska’s rights to his space.Read more.
One Silent Moment
I found Dad’s typewritten manuscript in his filing cabinet three days after his funeral. It lay flat and about an inch thick in a 9×12 envelope. The flap had been sealed, the metal clasp spread open. It was in a drawer that also contained insurance documents, the title to his car, and his honorable discharge certificate. The envelope had my name on it, written in copperplate pencil.Read more.
“Demure,” “My Ode to Lovecraft and Dickinson” and “Tomorrow Isn’t All We’ve Ever Known”
The rumors ever forever true
our tombs and fate entwine
the looming absinthe pearl
we’re hardwired nigh plagued
the minds of the masses now jaded
plugging the hole as crevices swirl
one day we’ll displace
likened to lemmings to gorges
“Weren’t We Known?,” “My Father’s Shirts” and “Reflections on Hwy 66”
Running out of ourselves urgent
anxious we were spirits of some kind
ghoulish forgotten ones
living in half-light we could barely peep in
and never found ourselves in photographs
we found nothing made by our own handsRead more.
“In the Dentist’s Waiting Room” and “Near the Thunder Hole”
“Talk to me!” it’s the woman in the dentist’s waiting room,
in a pre-silenced state.
“If you like couscous, how d’ you prepare it?
Are you following the Russian news?
Do you personally know anyone who had COVID?
What’s your stand on DNC, BLM?
Speak your mind!”
“The Ritual,” “Setae” and “Elegy for Ernest”
Classic rock crackles around a half-lit room,
scent of sweat exhaled by thick cotton
work shirts, denim salted with cigarette breath.
The bar’s low lights shiver on the skin
of his black leather coat. I linger
on the small god tapping at his chest.
“Salt,” “Like a Foolish Man” and “Skipping Stones”
All the salt in the world comes from the sea.
That’s why we tunnel under the Great Lakes,
To chip away a seabed that now flakes
Beneath hydraulic steel machinery.
That’s why our salty tears eternally
Burn our clenched eyes.
“STILL (Upon Awakening),” “New York Times>Wedding Notices” and “Discovering Magenta”
Magic will not save us.
when you dream
you’re in Vegas
with your ex
doesn’t that mean
life’s a gamble?
Learning German in Central Pennsylvania
“I thought of you last night,” Professor H says nonchalantly, studying me as I drape my houndstooth printed coat over his office loveseat. A Tetris of stacked papers, folders, and CDs make sitting on said loveseat impossible. Except for that one time when he cleared it off so I could sleep while he worked on his book about Schumann and Brahms. Even after the innumerable hours we’ve prized in this office, I still don’t always know how to read his particular kind of strange. Taking my usual seat across from H, I feel a flash self-consciousness, wanting to hide the shape of my body.Read more.
The Sum of Our Differences Equals Mom
Just as a person may have unexpected contradictions to his temperament, two very different men can each mirror an individual they know well. My oldest sibling told me he sees himself as being a lot like our mother. It’s not that I didn’t believe him, I simply thought I was the one who wore the analogous traits. Since my brother and I practically live opposing lives, I hadn’t thought we both could carry on Mom’s personality. Mom died in 2014.Read more.