Al, Off the Grid

Gabriel Houck

The security camera at Morrison’s Party Rentals is lonely. Its job is to document its own solitude. Or its job is to enforce its own solitude, and the record of this job becomes a movie that no one watches, hours-long footage of an oblong square of concrete. The star of the movie is the beer can that cartwheels across the sidewalk in a gust of wind, or the frantic shadow of the hornet building its nest in the lee of the drainspout. The tapes get downloaded each morning, stored on an old hard drive collecting dust in the manager’s office. Eventually, at the suggestion of a drinking buddy, the manager buys a motion-sensor trigger for the camera, ends up saving hours of empty footage each night. Now the movies become vignettes. The story of double-bagged garbage and a persistent raccoon. The story of Dale Perkins’ little brother learning that a Sharpie doesn’t keep a straight line on brick façades the way he’d imagined, and the sequel in which he edits the giant penis he’s drawn with a can of Rust Oleum so that it looks more like a giant penis. The story of rats, of falling ice, of pigeons startled by lightning storms in summer. The stop-motion details of the seasons creep by in the background, motifs about the patience with which nature plays the long game.
       The robbery footage begins with Al crossing the parking lot from the south. He’s hooded and dressed in layers, his gym bag tied with a bungee cord across his back like an arrow-quiver. He cuts a tangent across the lot between Parkview Baptist and the Hardee’s on 7th, then when the motion sensor trips again he’s back, licking a hamburger wrapper and looking at something through the windows of Morrison’s. A pair of headlights sweeps across the lot and Al bends over to tie a shoelace. Once the darkness settles in again, he stands up straight and looks around. The hamburger wrapper flutters off in the breeze. Then he drops into the posture of a boxer, his knees flexed, his arms extended forward and rotating in little circles in the air. He lifts a knee and sweeps gracefully backward, tiptoeing in a pattern, his hands striking invisible enemies that approach him from each side, his lips moving like he’s counting out the steps of a dance. Finally, he leans back and puts his leg through the plate glass window. The camera flips off during the time he’s inside the store, then clicks on again as he emerges through the empty window frame with a Spider-Man suit tucked under one arm.
       Insurance covers the window. The register and the safe are untouched. Bits of glass wedge into the cracks in the pavement, flickering like stars in the light of the Hardee’s sign. Sometimes late at night, when his mind won’t let him sleep, the manager gets up and makes himself a drink. He’ll sit at his basement table in the dark, turn on his desktop, and watch the footage of the man in front of his store window. The man will do his dance in an endless loop. The manager will feel the bourbon hug his heart, think about the journey that Spider-Man suit is taking. On his way back to sleep, he’ll catch himself moving his hands in slow circles, sweeping aside the ghosts in his hallway, swimming himself back to the warmth of his bed.

When in public, Al occupies himself with the invented errands of the lonely. Several slow walks downtown to mark the time, with stops at Java Junction on each way for some shade, some spare change, and the sounds and smells from inside that he’s come to associate with one another. He’ll leave his gym bag in a public locker at the YMCA and wait around in case he has a chance to grab a shower. If it’s too busy at the Y, he’ll hike out Route 6 to the interstate junction and angle for a shower at the Flying J truck stop. The days are a steady orbit around town, with tangents into alleys every so often to relieve himself. Over the course of the summer, Al shows up in four videos and twenty-six pictures.
       In two of these pictures he is in the shade of a massive cottonwood near the border of Oakland Cemetery. He likes to sleep under that tree if he didn’t get to sleep the night before. In the first picture he is doing just that, a reclined silhouette on the rise behind a couple from Davenport who have stopped on a drive west to their son’s graduation from the Air Force Academy. In the second he’s awake, his chin in his hands, watching from an eastward angle as a man in his mid-40’s poses a teenage girl with dark lipstick and a leather collar beneath a weathered statue of an angel. The man recruited the girl online, posing as a photographer interested in the erotic and the occult. Unbeknownst to the girl, the man takes an extra picture through the foliage when they’re done, with a vague inkling that he’s witnessing something else worth seeing: here now a stranger with stringy blonde hair and travel-worn clothes, stooped over where the girl had just been, one hand hovering above the grass where the girl had knelt, one hand on the blackened skin of the angel, gripping the statue’s robe until his knuckles shine white.

There is security camera footage of him in an Arby’s drive-thru, riding in the back of Dale Perkins’ black Mustang. Strangely, this footage comes two minutes prior to a daylight robbery in which the cashier is shot in the hand with rock salt when she tries to close the service window on the barrel of a shotgun. The robbers drive a red pickup, idling behind the Mustang in which Al is nothing more than an outline, his head lolling back onto the seat, cradled by a carpet of decaying jeans that have accumulated in the Mustang over the years.
       For a little while, police who review the security footage entertain the notion that the black Mustang was a part of the robbery. They note how the driver of the Mustang keeps checking his rearview, and at one point seems to give a thumbs-up out the window towards the pickup. When questioned later, the robbers deny this, saying that one of them had inadvertently struck the horn while loading his shotgun. In a separate interrogation room, the accomplice claims he’d even waved an apology to the car in front of them, and when the interviewing officer laughs at this, the accomplice laughs too, each of them trailing into a cough that tastes of smoke-spit, neither of them entirely unhappy.

Because Jahvid has been robbed before, he has a camera in his taxi. He wasn’t robbed in his taxi, but his taxi is where he spends most of his time. The camera was a gift from his wife, along with some car-wash coupons and a memory foam cushion for lumbar support. On late nights, with bar-time winding down and the university kids doing their stagger-dance into Clinton Street from the pedestrian mall, Jahvid begins to feel like everything that’s ever happened to him has happened to him in his cab. Sometimes he lets this line of thinking wander outward, just to see where it goes. His cab is a spaceship. The lumbar cushion is a storage device for his pain. The surfaces that hold him are haunted. They are like his socks, thick with the residue of idle hours and nervous energy.
       It’s late summer, early evening, and right now there is a drunk girl in his cab. She is singing, and Jahvid is watching her in the rearview. She forms her words with an underbite, like she’s dipping tobacco. Her voice is beautiful. Her eyes are closed, her baby-fat face a silver moon. Jahvid checks to be sure his camera is recording.
       Suddenly the dome light of the cab flicks on. Frantic motion in the back, and now a man, lean brown arms and sharp elbows pressing against the cushions of the driver’s seat, climbs in next to the girl.
       “You’ve got to follow that car,” the man is saying. “There, there, the black hatchback turning out.”
       Hold me tight, the girl sings, hug me into your heart.
       Jahvid turns his head, takes in the man’s wild mane of hair, his patchwork beard, the drifter’s wardrobe of layered shirts and jackets. His scent fills the cab.
       “You’ve got to get the fuck out of my cab,” Jahvid says.
       The girl opens her eyes, stops singing.
       “Not you, honey—” Jahvid starts, but the drifter has pulled out a wad of crumpled bills and is unpeeling them onto his lap. Jahvid guesses forty or fifty bucks in all, guesses panhandling, glances from the money back to the windshield now flecked with rain.
       “Please, man,” the drifter says, “he’s taking her right now.”
       Outside there’s a scuffle between groups of students in front of a bar. A bouncer in a black polo has someone pinned on the pavement, and war-whoops erupt from the gathering crowd. Cellphones come out, pale blue squares bob in the shadows.
       Please mannnn, the girl sings.
       “The black hatchback,” the drifter says again. “It just turned onto Washington. I don’t know where he’s taking her.”
       “Buddy, if you need a cop…”
       Follow that carrrrrrr, the girl sings.
       “It’s everything I’ve got,” the drifter says, taking his money and dropping it onto the seat next to Jahvid. It’s closer to one hundred than fifty. The man’s eyes are electric in the lights of the dash.
       “City limits only,” Jahvid says finally, shifting the cab into drive. They round the corner and come to rest several places behind the hatchback. Al fidgets, slumps back into the seat. Cellphone cameras flash on the sidewalk behind them. The girl pats the edge of Al’s sleeve affectionately.
       “We’re going to rescue that girl,” she says.

The call from the hotel is initially listed as a domestic. Officer Marona is supposed to be dropping a juvenile delinquent back at his home, but he takes the call anyway, leaving the boy in the breakroom with a soda and the Brewers’ game on TV. He pulls up to the Rodeway Inn a few minutes later with his lights off. There are two trucks with local plates in the lot, and a shiny black hybrid hatchback that he assumes is a rental. When he steps out of his cruiser, Marona is greeted by the roar of a jetliner, sees the contrail underlit from somewhere far to the west. The sky is a heavy purple, the horizon a gas-station glow. The air is sweet with pesticide. Cicadas hiss and fields of corn ripple in the wind. A pair of raccoon eyes glitter from the alcove behind the dumpster.
       “Go away,” calls a voice behind 214 after several knocks, “Everybody’s fine here.”
       The manager, who smells of sweat and floral body spray, is fumbling with a key ring next to Officer Marona.
       “Come to the door please, sir,” the manager says, turning his bald head after speaking to listen for voices inside. After a minute, the bolt pops and the door opens, a girl’s head emerging beneath the security chain.
       “Like he said… oh shit, Chance, he called the cops.”
       The girl’s mascara is streaked, her cheeks powdered a skeletal white. She wears a leather collar and her hair has been pulled back into a braid, little wisps by her ears spinning in the breeze from the gap in the door. Her eyes take in Marona’s posture, the tilt of his head towards his shoulder-mounted radio, the pale reflection of light on the lens of his body camera.
       “Ma’am, do you mind if we come in?” Officer Marona asks.
       “Everything’s fine, Officer,” comes the male voice from inside, in a tone that Marona recognizes as not fine at all. “We just had the television too loud.”
       Marona positions his shoe at the door’s edge, relaxes his shoulders, and tries to make eye contact with the girl in the doorway. She’s young.
       “It is,” she says uncertainly, “fine—that is. We’re sorry we worried you.”
       Marona stares at her until her eyes shift to his. Inkwell pupils, the mascara like tiger stripes on the curve of her cheekbones.
       “You’ve been crying?” Marona asks.
       “It’s hot,” she says, pulling her braid tight with the palm of her hand.
       “The AC in this room is shit,” calls the male voice.
       Marona slowly lifts his hand, points to the security chain, nods, pats the air as if he’s petting the tension out of the moment. He keeps petting until she sighs, ducks, pushes the door closed and then re-opens it, standing to one side to reveal a disheveled king bed, jewelry and high heeled shoes scattered around the floor, a tripod and an empty camera bag on the table by the window. A thin man, white, maybe in his 40s, pauses from stuffing a backpack with leather lingerie. He’s wearing a green short-sleeve polo, khakis, an unbuckled belt. His hairline is thin and combed forward, his forehead shiny. “What the fuck,” he says toward the girl, then again toward the room, like he too had just opened the door and found them both this way.
       The girl reaches for her purse. “Officer,” she says, her voice now shifted to something a little huskier, a little more practiced, “I’m eighteen; here’s my license. I’m here because I want to be. Everything really is OK.”
       Marona flips over the ID in his hands. “You guys having a photoshoot, Miss Wasjeski?”
       She glances around the room, ending at the tripod and the table where the camera bag lies open, but says nothing.
       “Where’s the camera?” Marona asks. The girl sighs. The manager retreats to the stairwell, speaking angrily into his cellphone.
       “I see liquor bottles on the dresser,” Officer Marona says in the clipped, casually-direct cadence of law enforcement, “and one of you has just identified yourself to me as being eighteen.”
       The AC in the window rattles to life.
       “Failure to restrict access to alcohol with a minor present is an arrestable offence,” Officer Marona continues, talking past the girl. The man groans and flops backward onto the bed.
       “So, does someone want to tell me what’s going on, or do we need to take a ride?”
       “Officer,” the girl says after a pause, her voice almost a whisper, “you’re never going to believe us anyway.”

{tape rolling}
       Miss Wasjeski approached me. Online, she found my website. I do tasteful erotica, artistic burlesque, other kinds of model-focused photography. I made her no promises.
       Eventually to Salem, Massachusetts. It was a quest we planned together. We share an interest in death and spirituality. I see her gothic self-expression as an act of empowerment, embodying how the feminine mystique frightens ordinary Americans, how it…
       Ah, um, all over really. Doom Town, Nevada; Barker Ranch; The Clutter family home in Kansas. We just stopped in Iowa for the Black Angel. That’s one of the places she wanted to do a shoot.
       I’d prefer not to discuss that without a lawyer present.
       Divorced. Several years now.

Earlier that same afternoon, Officer Marona is dispatched to Southeast for kids roaming in the street, “looking for something to get into.” When he approaches Mercer Park, his dashboard camera picks up a trail of baloney slices slapped against windshields of parked cars, their skin glowing iridescent in the heat. The trail turns to eggs, then briefly to slices of pizza with some bites taken from them. Marona blurbs his siren when he turns the corner, and ahead of him shirtless boys in jean-shorts scatter. A chubby kid with overalls stays behind, his hands clutching a now empty grocery bag.
       “PopPop gonna be mad about his baloney,” the kid says when Marona pulls up. Officer Marona motions for him to get into the cruiser. Then Marona floors it, catching up to one of the shirtless boys in the roundabout of Memory Gardens, the bumper clipping the boy’s legs just as he makes it to the cemetery grass. The boy flails as Marona gets to him, his pale goblin-belly flashing in the sun.
       “Tell him the eggs was your idea, piggy!” the shirtless boy shrieks as Marona pulls his arms behind his back.
       “None of it was my idea,” the chubby kid says.
       “You said they was rotten!”
       The chubby kid’s eyes drift up to Officer Marona, then back to his lap. “They was past the date is all.”
       The shirtless boy swears colorfully for several minutes from the back seat. Marona waits for him to finish, his eyes on the rearview. He knows he doesn’t have to try to look angry anymore. All he has to do is just look. At home, or at the house that used to be home, his daughter’s 3rd grade family portrait is still taped to the cupboard—a smiling woman, a smiling child, a smiling dog, a smiling sun, and then just a face, a circle with two dots and a line, a mouth as flat as the land, as dead as the heat of August.
       “I can make a deal if you let me go,” the shirtless boy says, once Marona drops the chubby kid off. “My brother is into all kinds of shady shit.”
       “We’re going to call your folks at the station,” Officer Marona says to the rearview.
       “Ain’t nobody to call.”
       “You live alone?”
       “With my shady-shit brother. Dale Perkins. Y’all know him.”
       Officer Marona keeps driving.
       “But others too,” the boy says.
       “Oh yeah?”
       “Dale picks up the Mexicans down by Home Depot, takes ’em out to wherever they doing work each day.”
       “They live with you too?”
       “Nope. Just some Jesus-looking drifter Dale picked up. Does a karate dance every morning by the window. Pays Dale rent, speaks Mexican to the Mexicans.”
       “I’m not interested in drifters or Mexicans,” Officer Marona says. He makes a noise like a laugh, but it comes out as a sigh, and once it’s out he doesn’t add anything more. The boy seems to be waiting on him, but Marona’s train of thought has suddenly switched tracks, and now he’s imagining a different scene, one where he stops at Arby’s instead of Iowa City Police headquarters, where he buys Dale Perkins’ little brother a milkshake and makes him eat it, where he gets one too, because he’s hungry and there’s no longer anyone at home now to tell him he can’t or shouldn’t or that he needs to think about what kind of example he’s setting when he comes home with no appetite for casserole. Marona imagines the frozen ache in his temple, the squeak of the chairs, the stories the boy would tell him. In this scene, he believes there is something he could say to the boy. There are words he knows, if he could only think of which ones to pick and how to arrange them, but he can’t. He feels this lack like he’s always known it, like he hates himself for thinking otherwise. Behind him, a car honks.
       “Green light, asshole,” says Dale Perkins’ little brother.

Several weeks earlier, Al’s sunburned legs appear in the background of a video chat in Dale Perkins’ living room. There isn’t much furniture, save for a computer in the corner where Dale Perkins’ little brother is sitting, spread-legged with his hand down his pants, pleading with a girl in Hungary to do the same. Behind him there is a high-backed green couch and a shin-level coffee table, a rat’s nest of wires that snake back to the television.
       Dale Perkins and Al are sitting on that couch. Dale is drinking a beer and talking to Al, and as far as Al can remember, it’s the first real conversation he’s had with another human being in months. In this calculation, he doesn’t count the cops who’ve moved him off park benches, or the stories he’s made up on street corners for change. He doesn’t even count the first work crews he did with Dale, where all he did was translate orders into Spanish, affirm or shake his head, say “thank you” when he got his cash at the end of the day. He’s actually gotten good at saying nothing. Good enough that saying something worth saying takes time.
       Where do you come from? Dale Perkins wants to know.
       Al thinks about his answer, but he guesses Dale doesn’t care. He’s asking because he’s drinking, because he doesn’t want to listen to his little brother sex-chat in the corner, because there’s an hour to kill before it’s time to hop back in the Mustang and pick up the day-laborers.
       Who were you before you got here?
       This is a question Al feels more than hears, a question he has felt before. It’s the kind of thing that hums in the air of each new city he comes to. He feels it as an absence of itself, a certainty in the eyes of strangers that he is only these clothes, this beard, this bag, and the black cracked road.
       If he were to answer, Al would want to do so in a way that places him alongside our wishes for his good fortune. He’d want words that color him this way. He’d try something about self-discovery, about waking up to the smallness of one’s life and leaving it behind. But these words would be fiction, and below them would be darkness. There is a chance that he is not a good man, and that walking away from a divorce, a friendless poker game at the VFW, an outstanding warrant which sits like a landmine in the police computers of Los Angeles County—that these are the salient details of his life. There is also a chance that this constellation reveals a deeper violence, the plot from home movies he’s now forgotten. How funny, he thinks, that he now mixes up the recollection with the dream of things. How funny that memory and imagination are verses of the same song.

{tape rolling}
       I mean, Chance probably thought he was fooling me, but I got out of California, you know? Even if it ends today, I’m half a country away from Riverside.
       {1st Detective, inaudible}
       Easy—older guys are always the ones with all the needs. What gets him off is the wanting. When I let him have it, he’s all over the place, gibberish and baby talk. He’s got this whole other voice he uses…
       {inaudible, coughing}
       Sorry. I just meant that the whole thing is about him, his needs. He doesn’t want to fuck me so much as he wants to want to fuck me. That’s why all the pictures. And now, some pyscho kidnapper has the camera…
       That’s what I told the officer who showed up at our hotel—it didn’t make any sense to us either. Chance was in the shower, and the way the guy knocked, I thought it was the hotel manager. He seemed real suspicious, the manager. Doesn’t get a lot of father-daughter road trips I suppose.
       {2nd Detective, inaudible}
       Sometimes, yea, but literally nobody asks. Anyway, when I open the door it’s not the manager, but some beardy motherfucker with a gym bag. He’s got a Spider-Man suit on, all except the mask, and he starts pushing his way into the room whisper-shouting at me and trying to grab my arms.
       Fuck yes, I screamed. This guy is talking about helping me escape, about taking me back to my mom and dad, which is insane because my mom has been dead since I was thirteen and my dad is conning a bitchy cosmetics executive out of her fortune in Vancouver.
       Where would I recognize him from, a gas station? Our dinner downtown? He was probably some pervert who saw us pull up at an empty motel. I told Chance no more roadside shitholes, but every time that comes up it’s all about his money problems and then I just want to stick a pencil in my ear…
       Maybe six-one, super thin, blue eyes. Odd, though. He lets me see his face, like he wants me to see it. When Chance comes out to see what’s up, the guy pulls his mask down. What do you think that’s about?
       Well, I didn’t. I got him with pepper spray while he was distracted with Chance—not that Chance was going to do anything physical—even welterweight Spider-Man could probably kick Chance’s ass. But the spray drives him crazy, and he’s shouting why why why and I keep spraying until he grabs the camera off the table and runs.
       Chance wanted to. It was his camera. But that guy was over the fence and gone before either of us knew what to do.
       I don’t know yet. Things happen for a reason, you know? You gotta look out for signs, read what the world is telling you. It’s been an adventure. I’m still going to see Salem, assuming you’re not arresting me…
       {2nd Detective, inaudible}
       That’s good. If my word counts, Chance is creepy but harmless. But he doesn’t have to come with me either.
       You’re sweet, but I’m OK. I will take one of those cigarettes, though.

That night, Officer Marona’s dashcam only gets the basics. There is the hypnotic scroll of the highway centerline, a long tunnel of trees spreading out from the darkness, the twin beams from the cruiser painting briefly over Dale Perkins’ mailbox. Then there’s Marona walking around to let Dale Perkins’ little brother out of the back seat, and, while he’s occupied, a blur of movement on the porch behind him.
       While reviewing the footage later on, Marona is pretty sure of three things. He’s pretty sure the movement isn’t Dale Perkins. In the grit of the footage, the guy is skinner, taller. There’s a frame where the guy’s eyes pick up the headlights, suspended in the gloom like a deer, like a ghost. He’s pretty sure Dale Perkins’ little brother sees the whole thing too, though at the time, the boy didn’t say a word, just spat in the leaves when Marona asked if he had a key to get inside. He’s also pretty sure the guy drops a bag, though it’s hard to tell exactly if this is true given the angle of the camera. Something falls over the rail of the porch, landing in the hedge by the steps, a long strap hanging just in view.
       Officer Marona gives some thought to that bag. He gives some thought to the ghost-man too, and to Dale Perkins, to his migrant work crews and his shirtless little brother tossing old eggs and baloney onto parked cars. He thinks of the blankness of the boy’s eyes in his rearview mirror. He thinks of his daughter, scrolls through the empty inbox on his cellphone. Then he takes a cigarette from his drawer and chews the filter for a long time in the dark.

The manager of Morrison’s Party Rentals tucks his wife into bed with the same routine every night. He brings her a glass of water, which she’ll sip with each pill, and if she asks, he’ll rub her neck with his thumbs, up to the soft spot behind her ears that he will later kiss when he comes to bed. He’ll flip the white-noise machine on—a vestige of her time working night shift—and flip off the lights. Then he’ll slide into bed and hold her body. His knees will fill the space behind hers, the noise machine whooshing softly. After a minute, he’ll squeeze her, say you’re my love. She’ll reply, you’re my love, with a stress on the my, and he’ll slide back out of bed, feeling the smile of her words.
       Tonight, once he’s finished, the manager heads down the stairs, through the kitchen and the lingering smells of hot-dish and old salad dressing. He takes the basement steps slowly, feels the air change as he gets to the bottom. The monitor of his desktop bathes his skin a deep blue. He pushes in the DVD from Morrison’s security cameras, presses play.
       Around his computer are stacks of library books—mysteries, mostly. The manager likes a good mystery. He feels like there’s something comforting in their promise, in the way that the giddy chaos of their early plots eventually funnel into line.
       On his screen, the vignettes in front of Morrison’s flicker past, the time-stamp winding along in the right-hand corner. Headlights from cars exiting the parking lot at Parkview Baptist scroll past in the background.
       The manager remembers how a pastor from a church he’d attended as a boy used to say, “it is God’s will,” when fielding impossible questions—why kids get cancer, why there is so much suffering in the world. Though he has long-since lost his faith, the manager remembers himself feeling jealous, a strange ache in his heart at the confidence of those words.
       On the screen, a small figure, spray-can in hand, appears. The manager winds the video back and plays it again until the figure steps into the frame. Dale Perkins’ brother, he guesses, though the boy is wearing something different this time. Something he recognizes. A spandex Spider-Man suit, fit for an adult but hanging off the boy’s knobby frame, its skin webbed with red and black and blue.
       Sometimes, after he’s been drinking, he imagines a camera that has recorded his whole life—that has recorded all our lives. The camera has no blind spots, and it spares us none of the gritty minutia of our bodies’ needs. It knows the meaning of our deeds and the truths of our hearts. He interrupts these thoughts often, but they return to him all the same, and like the parlor-scene at the end of one of his mysteries, they comfort him. Not with the truth, because he isn’t sure he knows what that is. Not with answers, but with the possibility of their presence, of their infinite collection, saved up somewhere, just beyond his view.

First published in the Sewanee Review, vol. 125, no. 3, Summer 2017. Reprinted with permission of the author and the editor.

Gabriel Houck is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. He has MFAs from the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he is currently a Lecturer in the English Department. His first collection, You or a Loved One, won the 2017 Orison Fiction Prize, and will be published by Orison Books. His short stories, “The Dot Matrix” and “When the Time Came,” were selected as distinguished stories in the 2017 and 2015 editions of The Best American Short Stories, respectively. Other stories from his collection have won Mid American Review’s 2014 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize, earned 2nd place in the Glimmer Train 2016 New Writer Awards, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and earned finalist honors in StoryQuarterly’s Fiction Prize, among others. Gabriel’s fiction appears/will appear shortly in Glimmer Train, The Sewanee Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Mid American Review, Western Humanities Review, New Delta Review, Grist, PANK, Moon City Review, Fourteen Hills, Bayou, Fiction Southeast, Lunch Ticket, Sequestrum, The Cimarron Review, and The Pinch.