Doctor Kenworthy’s Jell-O Girl

At some point the orderlies had had to tranquilize Ameer. Not that he remembered the struggle—yanking tubes from his arms, attempting to bust his leg cast with a bedpan. Letting the Get Well Soon balloons out the window. Days later he awoke in his lumpy recovery bed for the second time. He whispered now what he’d screamed then.

“No, no, no,” he said. “Nono.” Continue reading “Doctor Kenworthy’s Jell-O Girl”

Happy Haunts

HAPPY HAUNTS

Hello,

My first memory concerns the Haunted Mansion. The Disneyland one. We were –Land People, my family. The -World people, we didn’t like.

The first thing about my life I can remember is screaming. Gramma’s pulling me by the wrist into the lobby of the Haunted Mansion. There’s loud organ music. Between that and all my screaming, my eardrums are crackling. There are candelabras and cobblestones and graves and about a thousand strange kids staring at me.

And there is Gramma. My father’s sweet old mother. In this memory, she has been twisted, distorted into a demonic thing. She is all limbs and peeling sunburn flakes. Shrieking “YOU’LL LIKE IT!” She drags my five-year-old, struggling, chubby body into the cartoonish manor. My feet are an inch off the ground. I’m screaming, “No! No! No!

But we are going in anyway. Continue reading “Happy Haunts”

A Routine (audio)

I’m taking a week away from “The Man Who Ran for God” to work ahead and allow readers to catch up.

In lieu of a new installment of that, please enjoy this audio version of my short story “A Routine,” from last year’s The Good-Bye Garden & Other Stories — which, incidentally, is for sale here.

Enjoy!

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(illustration by Emily Gable)

Implicated

Implicated

Imagine me, five years old, and scared to death to open my eyes — to take even the bitsiest peep — during prayers at the dinner table, at church services, or weddings. Was it some rule set by my God-fearing mother, a warning from a Sunday school teacher, or just basic intuition? Don’t look or God can’t do His work!

Wherever the habit came from, you’d bet wisely on me gluing my eyelids shut anytime the words “bow your heads” or “let us pray” were uttered by a grownup. Once, I didn’t hear the conclusive “amen” and so sat there, waiting, head balanced on the clenched hands in my lap, until I was shaken awake at the end of a sermon.

I was seven, I think, when it dawned on me: Since I’d never taken even the slightest peek, I had no idea whether anyone else was obeying the rules so staunchly. Or if God Himself ever entered the room and folded his arms, watching everybody as he twirled his white beard of cloud and chuckled at us oblivious mortals.

Seven, and no baby anymore! Rebellion and risk called out to me now, rather than repelling me.

So at Auntie Rae’s funeral, I decided I’d take a good look around when the preacher lifted up his voice to the heavens and asked us all to stand there, like good boys and girls, with our hands wadded up and our eyes tightly squeezed. Just this once.

Continue reading “Implicated”