I am a Baltimore-based writer and Assistant Professor of English at Cecil College in northern Maryland. My interests include contemporary and twentieth century fiction, narrative form, literary and cultural criticism, urban space, gender identity and queer literature, among too many others. I have a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
My essays and fiction have appeared in American Literary Review, The Believer, Better: Culture and Lit, Chicago Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, Confrontation, Cream City Review, Joyland, Mayday, The Millions, n+1, The New Inquiry, Passages North and The Pinch.
Check out the boxes below for my stories, and the tabs above for more of my work!
the eternal life of dogs
On October 4, 2002, on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi and the annual Blessing of the Animals, a day not long after it had become known that at least 62 priests in the neighboring Boston diocese were accused of child abuse, Father Michael Phillippe Proudhon made an announcement.
At the memorial site, a grassy lot near where the Station club used to be, crosses sprung from the ground, their little wooden arms overlapping as if trying to grasp each other. The crosses were draped with things, beads and favorite necklaces and decorative chains dotted with stars or more crosses. It seemed an achievement that they held their arms aloft despite all the weight. Photographs, some framed, some warped and curling at the edges, littered the ground. They were school portraits, or family portraits, or pictures of friends with their arms around each other. Mourners with foresight had laminated their images against weather and time.
This was his life: in the summer he grew tomatoes on his apartment’s tiny balcony, pinning the vines to the iron balusters of the fire escape. He went to Mass on Sundays and holy days. He worked Italian crossword puzzles ordered over the public library’s Internet, which he had just learned to use. He was a marble cutter in retirement, but still a marble cutter: he went into the workshop maybe once a week to chisel away at his own projects, often vanity busts commissioned by his neighbors and friends. He lived on a combination of pension, social security and worker’s comp from decades of rock dust built up in his lungs. He had never married, but he had a great capacity to appreciate beauty.
His paintings grow more representational with age. Most parents would be pleased, but you can’t stomach what he’s representing. He paints naked little girls, girls with tiny breasts and enormous penises. Say it after me, you say, time and time again: Girls have breasts, Boys have penises. He repeats, not undutiful, then goes back to drawing freaks. He goes through tubs and tubs of acrylic. The girls amass into armies. He begins to draw them weapons. I liked it better when you drew shapes, you tell him. Already you’re afraid of his art.
I went to the arboretum almost every night. Sometimes they were there, sometimes not. When they were gone I sat under the Russian olive tree and thought. Its leaves carpeted the ground, silvery-gray and egg-shaped. Its shade was indistinguishable from the night. That summer it grew flowers the color of butter.
Soon he was staying overnight and in the mornings he forced himself awake early and out to the corner where he bought them Hostess Danishes and Styrofoam cups of instant coffee from the store that sat next to the auto-repair shop that sat next to the store that sold cash advances, Western Union wires to Central America, phone cards and scrubs for CNAs.
Later like all our parents my father asked, “How did it begin?” I understood that it was important to know, but I honestly couldn’t say for sure. I told him this much: that Drew gathered the supplies, that Jackson made Miles our model. “But how did you come up with the idea in the first place?” he insisted. I told him about the laundry chute, about what we’d heard. But how we got from that to the costume wasn’t ever going to be able to be explained by the part of my brain that formed the whys I later gave like an art class Sculpey pot to the adults. This was the truth: we just did it.
We changed focus. Instead of frat boys we targeted hipsters. We bought outdated Singer sewing machine models, pump-it-up Reeboks, packs of dehydrated ice cream, wheezy concertinas. We bought Pogo sticks, leg warmers, Polaroid cameras, acid-washed jeans. We bought eight-track tape decks, suitcases with metal clasps, music boxes, cruiser bikes, limited edition chocolate bars.
“We can just see where things go,” I said, so awfully reasonable, a reasonable dummy. But of course this was a lie, because I already knew I was in love with her and I wasn’t about to sit around and wait.