“Belief” (Short Story)

Wrote this in a Target Starbucks recently to get my creative juices flowing. Based on the following prompt from Writing Prompts That Don’t Suck:

All this stuff needs to go in your story. Do it now: a high school ring, a diary, a crashed UFO

An Unidentified Flying Object spiraled into the ground, leaving mounds of dirt and chaos in its wake.

Julie pointed at the television and announced, “That’s not real.”

Her brother, Max, lifted his feet up on the living room coffee table, crossing one on top of the other. “Yes it is, stupid. Don’t you know The X-Files is based on the Roswell government conspiracy? We’re being lied to and nobody gives a shit.”

“Aliens aren’t real. Aaron at school says so and his mom does science.”

“Shut up, Julie.”

Continue reading ““Belief” (Short Story)”

Starbucks Sights

From 642 Things to Write About:

“Go to a cafe and closely watch two people interact. Then write a scene about two people in a cafe.”

Where she notices little things about people, he notices little things about numbers.

They met in class on a warm Tuesday. She doesn’t understand chemistry, but she’ll fight through it to get to nursing school–that’s where he comes in. He’s been a scientist since he was mixing baking goods together in his grandmother’s kitchen at age four. He sees, with crisp clarity, the makeup of and abbreviation of Fluoride and explains it all to her, patiently. He doesn’t spend much time outside a computer screen, but for some reason, he’s here with her now  drinking a hot mocha and explaining magnesium chloride in between sips. He watches every stroke of her pen.

Every so often she interjects with a (wrong) answer or a (right) interpretation of just how insane their professor is. “She told everyone to shut up in class the other day,” she says, reaching for something to break the electron-induced silence that’s overcome them both after an hour or so of solid, dubiously productive work.

“I guess I missed that,” he replies, because people aren’t made of numbers.

She laughs at something she says–laughs at herself, which he’s never been able to do. He chuckles with her, and the sounds harmonize. They sit close. She leans forward toward his notebook, toward his arm. They latch eyes for a split second between balancing equations.

Perhaps chemistry is more human than either of them grasped until now.


Prompt: Write a scene where the only spoken dialogue is “Uh-huh,” “Umm,” “Urrrr,” “Mm-mmm.”

It has been a very long day. The two homicide detectives sit on their respective cheap motel beds (only after he’s checked for bugs. He’s paranoid that way).

She holds up a pizza delivery brochure and nods to him.

“Uh-huh,” he mumbles, leaning back on the headboard and closing his eyes. She calls in an order for delivery.

She’s in the middle of saying “anchovies” when he all but whines, “mm-mmm!” She should know by now he’s a pepperoni guy.

She gets off the phone and flops onto the comforter. It’s a cold winter evening–he can see her shivering a bit under her meticulously-tailored dress suit. He stands, goes to her. Knocks his hips to the side to tell her without syllables to move over on the bed. Body heat, all that.

“Umm,” she murmurs when he leans his head on her shoulder and lets his eyes shut again.

They awake only to the knock of the pizza delivery man fifteen minutes later–disgruntled, exhausted. But warm.

Excerpt from a short story I’m writing…

…called “Dirty Work.” Enjoy!

She was surprised to find, among the mess of leaking alcohol and fallen white pills, that death was a lot like life. Or at least it seemed to be, in that she awoke sitting in the exact same slumped position on the bathroom floor in which she last remembered finding herself. The difference was, there was a hunched elderly man in overalls standing over her that Eva distinctly remembered not being there before.

“Who are you?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Don’t matter none, girl. You’re comin’ with me. Got somethin’ to show you.”

It was odd—Eva, try as she might, could not pick up on the specifics of the man’s features. Every time she tried, his face seemed to blur right in front of her.

“I can’t,” she found herself saying, her voice unrecognizable to her own ears, “I’m dying. I’m supposed to be dead.”

The man snorted, holding out a rickety, tremoring hand. “Well. You ain’t dead yet. Obviously. So come on then. I ain’t got all day.”


Raphael Darstoff never told people what he did for a living.

That wasn’t true. Raphael Darstoff never elaborated on what he did for a living. When people asked, he always said, “I’m a driver.”

“A taxi driver? A chauffeur?” they prodded.

And he would nod at any and all suggestions, leaving his conversation partners befuddled and giving him an air of mystery. His effervescence diminished as he got older, though. Now a man of sixty-four, there were permanent creases in the dugouts of his skin and his eyes were a soft, unassuming blue. But even still, he never talked about work in detail. Not to his wife Ellie, to his children, to his friends.

In truth, Raphael Darstoff was a hearse driver. He was responsible for bringing the dead to their final destinations. It was he who led the slow, dreary processions down the city streets, paving the way for a chain of grief. It was a job like anything else, except it wasn’t. Not for Ralph. Continue reading “Drive”

Guided Epiphanies

From 642 Things to Write About:

You are an astronaut. Describe your perfect day.


Today when I woke up, the stars were no longer strangers to me. It wasn’t something I expected to happen. It wasn’t calculated. It happened, and now I feel as though my insides are glowing.

There were no reports to make or tasks to accomplish. What does one do with a day off in space?–Look out the window and understand. I cannot touch them but they speak to me the way my daughter tells stories, with long-winded tangents and big, bright gesstures. I don’t know why they were so shy before. But now I look at them and know each of their names (did you think constellations were the only ones that named themselves?), and in the vast darkness I can call them my friends. I told them about my family at home. (They know where Virginia is because they watch over it like they do everywhere else). I let them know my secrets. They won’t tell. But it’s nice to know long after I’m dead the energy in the sky can ripple my confessions through the dark blue. I don’t know. Maybe I’m one of them. Maybe rather than die one day I’ll burn out. Maybe up here is where I belong after all–

I will delete this from the official log.

Blue Coffee

From 642 Things to Write About:

What a character holding a blue object is thinking right now

She cradles the pill in her right hand, as if it’s a newborn and her fingers are the blankets between which it is gently nestled. It isn’t that she doesn’t have any other option. This is just the one she likes–needs–most.

The man she met on East 20th last week told her that all it would take is one of these tiny cerulean capsules to end everything. She hopes she’s getting her money’s worth, though she supposes she won’t really be able to figure out whether or not she has until it’s too late.

“Until it’s too late.” She almost laughs as she makes her way along the corridor. Her life, somehow, has become a picturesque movie trailer, the ending of a sad story. It isn’t a movie she ever would have been interested in seeing. Movies never capture her attention for long, anyway. She likes reality television a lot better. It is much easier to become invested in people who cried over losing an earring for thirty minutes, than to let a fictional character resonate emotionally with her all too well for two whole hours. Perhaps that is because she throws herself into everything, including her feelings. Her therapist told her she “feels too much.” Is that even possible? she wonders. She’ll never know.

Someone–Fred? Frank? whatever his name is from Accounting–shoots her a grin as she moves past him. She smiles back. She doesn’t know this guy very well, but she figures she may as well give him a positive last impression. The blue pill is clutched in the folds of her fist.

And then she makes coffee.

One of the other secretaries has just click-clacked away from the table in the corner of the front office, and the lingering scent of coffee beans fills her senses. She inhales slowly, exhales even slower. She will cherish every moment within these white walls now. She watches each drop of coffee enter the pot, and thinks of things that are hot, too hot, against her skin, and voices that are sharp, too sharp in her ear, and teeth that drag along her abdomen like those of a wolf. Suddenly she doesn’t like the smell of the coffee any longer.

She precariously carries the usual chipped #1 BOSS mug around the corner and through the first door on the left. She knocks twice first. Otherwise he gets snappy.

“Hello, hello, Miss Cherry Coke,” says Dan, standing as she enters the room. He calls her Cherry Coke because he said when they met that her hair, jet black with a tint of red, reminded him of the soft drink. She hates it. “Finally brought me my morning coffee, have you? Took you long enough. Jesus. If I told your dad what a shit secretary you are, he’d ship you out of here in seconds. But I don’t wanna embarrass the guy. Thank God for college roommates, huh?” He starts chortling, the kind where he has to grab his belly and lean over the desk. “And thank God you’re hot.”

She smiles sweetly. “Yes, sir. Thank God.” Last impressions are important. In her free hand, she squeezes the pill tightly. Placing the mug on his desk, she stands back and asks the usual question over the usual coffee trip. “How are sales looking so far this week, sir?” She is enthusiastic. She really is. She throws herself into everything.

And then she waits. She waits, patiently, hands clasped in front of her, for her big moment.

Dan’s eyes light up at the question, as they always do. “Well, if you’re wondering whether or not we’ve got those bastards on 5th Avenue beat in Facebook page visits this week, the answer is fuck yeah.”

She nods. She hasn’t followed the goings-on within the company for ages. He wouldn’t know, though, because she asks the same question every day and acts like she understands, or frankly cares about, the answer.

Then he does it. He turns around, spreading his arms wide as he overlooks his view of the city. “Let me tell you something, Cherry Coke,” he says, which is how he starts all his speeches.

She stops listening then, because now is the Moment. In a shaking right hand is the blue pill. In one fluid motion, she leans forward and drops it into the coffee mug. It hits the liquid with a soft plop. Dan is still talking.

She waits some more with a smile. Dan keeps talking. Turns around. Turns again. Gesticulates with wild hands that have too-long fingernails. Takes a sip of coffee. Repeat.

And then suddenly, the broken record stops.

Dan clears his throat once. Twice. Coughs. Starts to say, “Cherry, get me a drink of water,” but only makes it past the first four words or so, because then he’s wheezing. Wheezing, stumbling backward into his leather swivel chair, the force causing him to spin back and forth in it slightly.

She stands and smiles. Spittle sprinkles his fine mahogany desk. And then his face is blue like the pill, and she can stop waiting.

She turns around and walks out of his office, and keeps walking and walking until she is out of the building, and out of the street, and out of the city, and out of a world to which she no longer belongs.

Dialogue Exercise

Just a short dialogue exercise to get my creative juices flowing.

Two share a bed. One is tall and the other is not. One has a love for words equivalent to the other’s love for equations. What they both have in common is that they have been silent for a while. Until now.



“That was…nice. Really nice. I…I missed this. I missed you.”

“I missed you too. It feels like I’m…”

“Like you’re…?”

Pause. A shift under the sheets. “Nevermind.”

“No. I want to know. I want to hear your voice, and see your lips move and your hands gesticulate you while you speak. We haven’t done that in a year. Seen and heard each other at the same time, I mean. Have you ever thought about that? How all the senses combine to form a complete understanding of a person or thing? The five senses orient us as humans to our world, but also connect us to each other.”

“I did think about that. I thought about that a lot. Being without you was…not great..”

“I know. It wasn’t very fantastic for me either. So…this? Being together now? What does it make you feel?”

“You sound like a goddamn therapist.”

“I like to think I sound like a concerned boyfriend, but that’s cool, too.”

A sigh. “I just.” Uneasy break, crack in the sentence. Then: “Like I have to…I don’t know. Like if I make any sudden movement, or turn my head for just a second, you’ll disappear again. And this time I won’t be able to get you back.”

“That’s ridiculous. I’m right here.”

“But you weren’t. A whole year, you weren’t. I counted days until I started mixing up the order of the numbers. I stayed up nights trying to remember how you smell after a shower, or that really particular way you comb your hair–”

“–I think that might be a tad impossible to forget. It’s a pretty elaborate routine.”

A small chuckle. “Stop distracting me.”

“Sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t mean for just now, I mean…for everything. I could have called more.”

“And I could have called less. I knew how much it was hurting the both of us to smother you like that. But I didn’t want to lose you.”

“Is that really what you’re scared of?”


“After a year of nothing but phone calls, I’m lying right beside you now, and I’m…” Shuffle under the sheets. “…I’m holding you, and I’m kissing the side of your head, and I’m here. If you want to lose me you’re going to have to shake me off. Vigorously so. Okay?”



More silence, painted warmly in contentment this time. “Hey.”


“Don’t let go for a little while, okay? I just need…I need…”

“I know. I know. Me too.”

The one who loves words falters at them for now, but the other understands. Neither moves for a long time. The sun rises on their together-limbs.

A Favor

From 642 Things to Write About:

Your friend calls to say she saw you in the back of a police car yesterday. What happened?

“A Favor”

“…You’re fuckin’ kidding me.”

I leaned in through the passenger window of my brother’s police car. “No,” I said, “What’s it to you, anyway? You’re off-duty!”

Joey–as if I’m gonna call him Officer DiMarco like I didn’t see him shit the bed when he was four–shook his head. “I ain’t doin’ it, Lina. I’m not supposed to.”

Crossing my arms in front of my chest, I looked him up and down. I have to say, he did look pretty sharp in his uniform and everything. First month on the job. Not a single stain on his shirt yet. Considering he eats like a fucking vulture I was shocked about that one. “I’ll tell Ma,” I whispered.


“I said.” I leaned in again so I was practically falling into the car headfirst. “I’ll tell Ma that you’re ignoring your big sister who practically raised you when she’s askin’ you a favor.”

“You raised shit. Your ugly-ass Barbie dolls, maybe.”

“Hey. Watch it. I gave them great hairstyles. You gonna do this or not?”

Culo.” He rubbed his hands over his eyes. “Fine. Just around the block. Get in.”

I tried not to look excited when he unlocked the back door and let me into the car. There was that little fence thing blocking the front seats from the back and everything. Instead I tried to look really sad. Like in those slow-mo montages they do at the end of crime shows when the criminal knows he’s getting locked up and all the regrets he’s ever had flash before his eyes. Joey started the car.

“Hey,” I whispered through my teeth while I continued to attempt my dejected persona, “Can you turn on the sirens?”

“Fuck. No.”


“You want me to throw you out of this goddamn car?”

“Okay, okay. Jesus.”

We rode around for ten whole minutes. Everytime we stopped at a light, I hung my head really low and sighed. But in between, Joey told me about the guy who sits at the desk next to him who’s a real stoo-nad and never fills out paperwork correctly. I told Joey that I think Alex is cheating on me. He didn’t like that very much and said if Ma hadn’t raised him never to hit girls he’d be marching over to me and Alex’s right now.

Anyway. He let me out in front of my apartment. I wanted to tell him I miss him and we should see each other more often or something, but instead I stuck out my tongue at him and he flipped me off (but more discretely than normal because he has a reputation to uphold now, or what have you).

And then I got a call from Gina the next day like, “Jesus, Caroline, I saw you in the back of a goddamn police car! What the fuck happened?” and a text from my friend Danny at work who saw me too, and also a Facebook message from Auntie Laurie but I didn’t really mean for her to see. So anyway, that was my chance to talk about the big drug heist I was framed for, which didn’t actually happen; I just haven’t heard from Gina lately and I think she might be sleeping with Alex, and now I have a lot more interesting stuff to say than Gina does at the water cooler, don’t I? And now Gina looks all sad and supportive when she sees me, but she can go fuck herself, that bitch. She thinks I’m brave and a badass now and all I had to do was ride in my brother’s car. Pretty sweet deal, right?

Anyway, I didn’t tell Joey about this part of the plan, but when I tell the story I make sure I mention the officer was real handsome and good at his job, so I bet he’d thank me for it if he knew.

I had a LOT of fun with this one.