What She Didn't Do
What she did: went to see a movie alone, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. She left school and rode the bus downtown. She was fifteen years old. This was sometime in the spring and it was not warm yet, so she had a coat. A poncho, to be exact. And boots and a hat and gloves. Black tights. A sweater. Short skirt. Her hair was short then, too—mod-style. She pierced her ears because sometimes people thought she was a boy, which wasn’t very observant of them. An old woman, a clerk in a department store, peered at her and asked, “What can I do for you, young man?” which shocked her, though she didn’t protest. She was wearing jeans then. And a sweatshirt. She had been looking at toys... Read the whole story HERE
This isn’t even a house, strictly speaking. It’s just an old rundown shack in the woods on the creek, passed down from father to son to son to me. A getaway from the feminine constraints of duty and decorum, a place where a man could be a man, my dad said, having heard this from his dad who had heard it from his dad first. Play cards. Fish. Hunt. Drink. The jolly old camaraderie of all that. I held onto it more out of laziness than anything else, never guessing that Jimmy’s change of heart would one day provide me with the privilege of calling this place my home. Read it in Verdad Magazine, Volume 14, Spring 2013
Authors were asked to contribute one short story of their choosing. Each anonymous story was given to an artist who was asked to create a piece inspired by what they read. The result is a collection unlike any other.
Sex. Death. Resurrection. features seven established and emerging authors and seven multidisciplinary artists coming together, disparately, around love, loss, hope, and rebirth.
Read "Resurrection" HERE
Maybe it's true what they say, that accidents happen more often to people who live alone. Maybe there's a clumsiness that sets in, as you climb up out of your body and into your head. No one is there with you but the dog, the cat, the bird. A telemarketer on the phone. The television in the kitchen. The radio by the bed. You speak to all of them, but you're really only talking to yourself.
Read the whole story HERE
Yes, I knew what was wrong. And I knew what had happened, and I knew my name, and I knew where I was, and I knew who you were, and I knew what you wanted from me. I would have said so if I could. Not that I had anything to prove. Not that I wanted anything from you. Just to put you at ease, to let you know I was all right. The words were there but I couldn’t get to them. They were trapped somewhere beyond me, and somehow they formed and floated, but when I tried to catch them with my tongue, they dissolved. I know what that must have looked like, me flopping my mouth open and shut like a landed fish. You would have liked to conk me on the head and be done with it, I knew that too. I could see it in your smirk. You’d have liked to give me a good kick. At least a good rattle—the way you used to shake and shake your dolls. You see, I was still there. No matter what it might have looked like to you.
What had happened to me was only a failure of body; it was not a problem of mind...
Read the whole story HERE
The Great Disappointment: A Confession
“Dow’s ambitiously imaginative debut novel questions the very nature of reality… [a] diverting exploration of metaphysical concepts. Winsome and smartly playful.” —Kirkus Reviews
After being kicked out of her home by her mother, 17-year-old Mollie Mifflin travels from Nowhere, New York, to the home of Emily and Deacon Molene in Brevity, Iowa. Emily is the author of Mollie’s favorite novel, Forevermore, which tells the implausible story of a pair of goblets that will grant any couple their fondest shared wish. Over the summer, Mollie insinuates herself into the Molenes’ lives—cooking and cleaning, and otherwise making herself indispensable to them—even as they are unaware that she has made their attic her home.
After the Molenes meet John and Sarah Steele, a successful but unhappy young couple, Mollie begins to blur the boundary between reality and fiction, coming to believe that the Molenes have used magic goblets to exchange bodies with the Steeles. Is it possible that Mollie’s suspicions are correct, or is she merely a very troubled teenager? And if this fantastical story is true, is it too late to undo the spell?
The Beginning of the End of All That
I will say nothing about what I know. When John comes in, emanating winter in his wool coat and his scarf and his cheeks rosy, his nose bright, his eyes, as always, like ice. If I didn’t know it yesterday, then I will still not know it today. By the time I see my husband again, I’ll have already put it all out of my mind. And he can continue to rest assured...
If you were above it all somehow, at a window, say, and high enough over the street to be able to see what happened, but not so far that the details would be blurred. Many floors, or maybe just a few. Six, say. If you were in a room on the sixth floor of a ten-story hotel and you were at the window, having a smoke, say. In a nonsmoking room. With your morning coffee and the newspaper waiting. The bed still warm. The sheets a mess. Your hair a mess too. His shirt on your back. No, not his shirt, because he was already gone by then; that's why you were at the window, not for the smoke, you don't smoke, not anymore, not since you watched your mother gasp her last...
You can read the whole story HERE
Dear Mr. Fantasy
Memory is a funny thing, not because of what comes to mind, but because of what doesn’t. All the moments, all the faces, all the places we’ve forgotten. They’re in there somewhere, aren’t they? Is it only a matter of access? The right word said, the exact scent, the taste, the touch, the sound.
Take Isabel Cooke. Here she is, in her house in her town in her world as it is now, with her husband dead a year. All the friends and colleagues who came around at first, to honor him and comfort her, have slipped back into their own lives again, leaving Isabel to fend for herself, supposing she must be over her grief by now.
You can read the whole story online at Necessary Fiction: Part One and Part Two
Winner of Folio's 2012 Fiction Contest. Judge and award-winning writer Alan Heathcock praises this story as being “steeped in a kind of temporal beauty, unfurling the mysteries of family and self, and culminating in a moment of clarity, a portrait of a woman deemed shallow but filled with the rich inner wisdom of a dreamer.”
The Truth About Paula O.
Murder as Memoir: an ongoing blog ruminating on my personal involvement in the investigation of the unsolved murder of a girl I knew in high school, whose life vaguely paralleled my own.
What Happened to Paula
Documenting my investigation into the unsolved murder of Paula Oberbroeckling, who disappeared in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the summer of 1970. Her remains were found four months later, by a couple of brothers out on a hike in the woodlands by the river. www.whathappenedtopaula.com
The View From Here
From such a height, clear of the trees and rising toward a silent, floating seven hundred feet, the humps and creases of the rolling Iowa farmland below the hot air balloon look to Leo Spivak like the folds and fur of a beautiful girl, and a young one at that, a virgin untouched and untried, his for the taking, lush and firm and full. She is posed in lazy recline across the lap of the land. A bank of clouds billows against the far horizon, completing the picture with its plume of white against blue, like her cast-off taffeta gown, silk panties, lacy bra. He can't help it that this is what he sees. Leo Spivak is a pilot and a poet and a ladies' man.
The Most Terrible Thing
Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. There were the roses. And the guests. And a rainstorm drove them all away. Thunder pounded the air, smashing it like glass; lightning cracked the sky. The next morning there were snail tracks on the rocks, shimmering like magic; I told William they were fairy trails.
When Jackson Bale crossed the line to collide head-on with a ten ton semi-trailer truck on a Tuesday evening early in November, I was the one who stood up first at the emergency meeting and volunteered to go out to the farmhouse to feed the dog and bring it to the school for Jack's widow to take with her, back to the hometown in Iowa where his mother was waiting, where the funeral services were to be held, and where he would be buried in a plot near the ground that already held the remnants of his grandparents and his dad. Although there might have been some murmurs of doubt that floated around the room, no one had the nerve to flat out look me in the eye and tell me no, I was not the one to go.
It's Not About the Dog
My younger sister Daisy lives in New York City, and big whoop. You can tell she thinks that fact makes her special, like she believes she's risking her life just by getting up in the morning every day. She's an actress, but nobody that I know has ever heard of her... Read the rest at Guernica Magazine
New Year's Eve, A Knee-binding Tight Dress, High Heels, Two Martinis, A Bookcase, and The End of the World
Or, What Happened to My Face
THE STORY OF ANNIE D.
A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR
In the little town of Wizen River, Nebraska, a woman called Annie D. lives out her widowhood in a kind of peace, tending her beloved garden and observing the world around her like people do everywhere. There was a time, when Annie D. was a girl, when Wizen River was about the simplest, most innocent place a person could live. But even small towns change – and not for good. In Wizen River folks have taken to locking their doors at night for the first time ever.
Annie D. can't help but wonder and remember and search her soul for a key to what's long buried and forgotten. And the things she has to say could fill a book…
This novel of love and adultery recounts the story of Clodine Wheeler and the small Midwestern town where she was born and raised. As Clodine tells of her upbringing, courtship, and marriage, her narrative circles ever closer to the troubling secret and shocking death that stand at its center. It is a tale of passion and domestic violence – and their incalculable consequences. No one knows exactly when Lilly Duke, wife of a convicted killer, arrived to seek refuge in a cabin on the shore of Harmony Lake, but her arrival changes Clodine's life forever. At first Lilly finds no friends except Clodine – and Clodine's wayward husband, Galen. But after her child's body is found drifting on the lake, the town crowds to Lilly's aid. Still, no one can explain what Lilly was doing when her baby crept out of the cabin.
DANCING ON GLASS
This novel is a tale of illicit passion, transgression, and retribution, set once again in the very heart of middle America. Bader Von Vechten's marriage to Katherine Craig unites the leading families of Cedar Hill and promises to heal the wounds of three generations. But when Bader commences a love affair with a beautiful young man, Katherine is goaded to the desperate act that will change their lives irrevocably, setting in motion the series of tragic events that will play themselves out over two generations. Only twenty-five years later, in the wake of death, murder, and disgrace, can Bader, changed almost beyond recognition, return to Cedar Hill. There a chance encounter affords Bader his last hope for human contact - and redemption.
Set once again in the heartland of America, this novel pairs two unlikely friends in a dark tale of seduction and murder. It is May Caldwell's sixteenth summer, and life couldn't be more dull in Linwood, Iowa. Vaguely suicidal and haunted by half-remembered scenes from her early childhood, May is a girl waiting for her life to happen. And happen it does with the unexpected arrival of Frances Anne Crane, a.k.a. Frankie, a girl with too much past and nothing to lose. Together they seduce an older man as Frankie awakens all that May has been holding inside: the mystery of her uncle Brodie's illicit past, the painful truth of her grandparents' slow dissolutions, and her own emerging sexuality. Where Frankie leads, May follows, and what's left is a murder no one can pin, a family's buried past resurfaced in a wild night of mayhem, and May's safe world blown to smithereens in this unforgettable of betrayal and desire.
Madlen Cramer has come back home with her two young children to be reunited with her childhood friend Rafe, the sexy drifter who has abducted a four-year-old girl from an abusive foster family, leaving the parents for dead. During this hot Iowa summer, the past will refuse to stay past as painful truths begin to emerge: about Rafe's own foster family; about Madlen's marriage, whose bonds had begun to unravel in the months before her husband's tragic accident; and about her beautiful self-absorbed mother, whose passions bring about the devastating entanglement of two families in an embrace that cannot be undone until Rafe has gone on the rampage that will destroy everything in sight.
DON QUIXOTE MEETS THE MOB: THE CRAFT OF FICTION AND THE ART OF LIFE
"Fiction – what is it? how does it work? and what is its place in the world, for the writer and for the reader? These are the questions that I want my students to explore with me not by merely reading and analyzing others' works of fiction, but by writing and coming to understand our own – finding ways to render the 'real' world of perception and memory and time, translating experience into words, capturing character in narrative, and heightening emotional and material awareness with techniques of point of view and voice. We write, and then we write some more, and it is by way of our writing that we learn about our work and our world and ourselves." Weaving together stories from life with down-to-earth instructions on how to write fiction, DQMTM searches for a workable theory of fiction, covering its basic technical elements and offering insight and inspiration on the subject of revision, before going on to examine the place of the fiction writer in the world and of fiction in the fiction writer's life – including world-view and self-image, research and personal relationships, and braving the critical storm.