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.
(illustration by Emily Gable)
(art by Matt Helfrich)
Listen to my short story “Stolen,” as read by me:
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”
An Alan Smithee Joint
Ryan Everett Felton
As press junkets go, this one was just anemic, Val thought. She’d been to smart phone video game tournaments, e-zine release parties, hell – even a Brad Garrett book signing with higher attendances. Judging by the other half-dozen reporters’ attire and appearance, she figured she could’ve gotten into the lobby without her freshly-minted Press Badge.
It hung prominently around her neck all the same, dangling lamely, its cheap laminate never really catching the light.
A PA or agent or somesuch – more glasses than face – leaned out of the door to the conference room. “Ms. Harris, we’re ready for you.”
Val nodded and stood, tucking a pencil behind her ear and smiling at the cluster of sad-sack bloggers who didn’t even have Press Badges.
At the door, Val squeezed past the PA or whatever, who stood unmoving with her mouth open just long enough for it to get weird before snapping out of it and saying, “Very good!” She showed Val to her seat and hugged a clipboard to her chest. “He’ll be right along,” she said. “Just snuck away for a little fresh air.” And she pantomimed puffing a cigarette.
“That’s fine,” Val said. “I won’t need long.” Continue reading “An Alan Smithee Joint”
Ryan Everett Felton
I shift the car from park to drive the requisite number of times. I count along in my head, as the ritual demands.
Then I lick my lips seven times and back out of the driveway. It is 7:00 in the morning when I leave for another day at the office, and I will time my arrival so that the digits on the other side of the o’clock colon can be divided by the magic number. I do this every day.
I do this to protect the world from certain catastrophe, and you’re welcome. Continue reading “A Routine”