Ghost Towns

There are 568 miles between Sacramento and Las Vegas. Google Maps tells me if I don’t hit any traffic, I can expect to make the trip in 9 hours and 3 minutes. I pack an overnight bag, throw my checkbook in, and yank the zipper up. I leave a dish of kibble for the cat. At the gas station where I fill my tank, I buy a large black coffee and a candy bar. It is one p.m., six hours since I received Sean’s call, when I head east on the 80. Continue reading


My tow-truck driver tells me his wife says this to him when he doesn’t want to—doesn’t want to go to work, doesn’t want to do the dishes, doesn’t want the Roku left on Once Upon a Time when there’s a new season of Voltron. I would never tell my husband this and he knows it. He knows I wouldn’t just make him act like a better person, I would make him be a better person.
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Keep Coming Back, It Works

Mr. McTeague has a coffee with his girlfriend in his kitchen every Sunday morning. Rodney watches from his car, through the kitchen window, as Mr. McTeague reads the Sunday paper, blurting out scraps of news to his girlfriend.
            Rodney comes to Mr. McTeague’s residence every Sunday, even though he lives on the opposite side of town. Rodney and Mr. McTeague have a routine, and they seldom deviate.
            Mr. McTeague’s girlfriend sips from her coffee mug—hers is teal, bought from some coffee shop, the fancy kind painted by some budding artist. At times, she seems genuinely surprised by current events. Other times, it’s rather obvious she feigns interest. Mr. McTeague sips from a plain white coffee mug, stopping at the third page of the Sunday paper. Continue reading

Time Capsule

After the wake, I crawled through town and opened it up on I-84. Free and clear to Harlequin. I was coming off a handful of pills my doctor prescribed. Little tabs designed to help me live through the service. “We see it more and more,” she said. “Male hearts do explode.” So of course I panicked when my pulse went haywire outside the chapel. I fisted the whole eight-day supply and choked it down with a bottle of Squirt. An hour later it occurred to me: Either the pills had performed as described or the gouged-out feeling inside me was real. Continue reading

A Four-Day Weekend

There’s something off-putting about someone placing a hand on a hip while they urinate. I am sitting in lukewarm bath water, soapy and scrubbed. And he turns from the vanity mirror, his fluffy bathrobe still open. He strolls his portly belly over to the toilet and, throwing back the half of robe nearest me and leaving his hand there on his tan-lined hip, begins pissing. His aim is weak, as is the stream which smells of asparagus. This is all easier to take in than his stubby sausage-fingers pressing and pulling on the loose leathery skin draped over his probably prosthetic hip. I stare. His phallus hangs discolored and veiny and he shakes the drippings from the tip. I bring my hands to my chest, aware in this moment of his gaze, feeling a brief instinct to hide. He lowers the toilet seat with a stretched grin and drops his fat ass on to it, the inevitable slap only muffled by the thick robe. I bring my gaze back up from the murky water, pausing between his knees. He’s now become devastatingly erect. And a look of muffled dismay must’ve snuck through my dark bangs, because he says, “I just want you to watch me, Bella.” Continue reading

Always the Lucky One


Things fell apart slowly. I knew my luck was going when I began losing at the card tables. It was a small shift. I’d been on a streak while I stayed in New Orleans. Every third or fourth day, I walked to Harrah’s. All I knew how to play was blackjack, and I didn’t know if it was a winner’s game or not. I’d heard that if you played the odds at craps, you could ensure a slow and steady income. But that’s not what I did. I followed the generally suggested rules of play, took chances when compelled to, and left the casino with two, three hundred dollars each visit. It wasn’t high stakes, but I’d known what it felt like to be a winner. After my streak turned, I walked out of the casino two, three hundred dollars poorer twice a week, and I knew things had shifted. I was no longer in the good graces of whatever spirits I’d appointed to guide me.
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In the Van

Last Halloween you splattered fake blood all over a sexy nurse costume and went as “Malpractice.” Your boyfriend didn’t think it was funny, but he doesn’t think anything is funny. He’s in his last year of college, studying psychology. You don’t understand how you can study feelings. You like to imagine him recording the salt concentration of tears. Your mother always tells you he’s the smartest man you’ll ever get.
            He asked you why you couldn’t just be a regular sexy nurse, why you could never just be sincere. Continue reading

Somebody Else in Kentucky

I was somebody else in Kentucky. Well, at least I tried to be. But traveling is always messy. I hate sleeping on a hotel bed; it’s like sleeping on an oversized Ritz Crackers box, covered with a paper towel. Yet, when you sign in at the front desk of a hotel you can be anyone, anyone at all, whoever you dream up. So, when my best friend Jackie asked me to tag along to Kentucky, I said yes. Continue reading