Dirty Orphans

“The year my twin and I turned eight, we vowed to kill our neighbor’s cat. Buster was an enormous marmalade and, a couple times a week, he left the heads of decapitated songbirds in our front yard. He belonged to the girl across the street, Liza Parker. Liza was in our grade but not our class. She wore button-up dresses every day and had her mother drive her to school each morning because she thought the bus was too dirty. When we saw her outside, she’d turn around and go inside; or if Buster was there, she’d bend over and pet him and whisper “Dirty orphans” in a singsong voice we could hear from our side of the street.”

My story “Buster,” winner of the 2014 Meridian Editor’s Prize, is now available to read in print and online. Here’s a link!

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Meridian Editors’ Prize

I’m so happy that my short story “Buster” won the Editors’ Prize at Meridian: the Semi-Annual Journal from the University of Virginia! Here’s the first paragraph.

“The year my twin and I turned eight, we decided to kill our neighbor’s cat. Buster was an enormous marmalade and, a couple times a week, he left the heads of decapitated songbirds in our front yard. He belonged to the girl across the street: Liza Parker. Liza was in our grade but not our class. She wore button-up dresses every day and had her mother drive her to school each morning because she thought the bus was too dirty. When we saw her outside her house, she’d turn around and go inside, or, if Buster was there, she’d bend over and pet him and whisper, “Dirty orphans,” in a singsong voice that we could hear from the opposite sidewalk where we stood.”

Read the rest of the story  in Meridian’s May issue, which will be available in print and online!

Gravesend

I interviewed William Boyle about his stunning debut novel Gravesend.

“I used to sit out on my grandparents’ porch with a cassette recorder and tape them talking. And they were always talking about the people passing by, the people parking their cars. So I had a pretty early obsession with the rhythms of what they were saying but also with the wonderful gossipy content. My grandfather would say things like, “Look at this bastard. He lives around the block and he’s gotta park in front of my joint.” 

Check it out at the Los Angeles Review of Books!

My Childhood Espionage

My essay “Suspecting The Smiths” is up at the Oxford American.

“From the ages of nine to eleven, I worked as a spy. No one paid me, nor did I report my findings to any higher-ups. I discussed my cases with my partner, who went by code name Mountain Chicken Mother of the Buddha. Mountain Chicken also happened to be my identical twin sister, and during morning recess or summer afternoons at the neighborhood pool we let lifeguards, teachers, and stray dogs in on our findings. Eventually, the Department of Labor, the U.S. Postal Service, the Virginia State Police, and the State Corporation Commission got involved. Our next-door neighbors were indicted in September of 1998 by a federal grand jury, Joe Bob on eighteen counts and his wife, Jeannie, on fifteen.”