I Need You to Stay

We drove home late from the concert–

brother and sister

–into a dark quiet rippled only by streetlights

and our excited talk.


Half-past midnight, you strongly contended

one of the songs was a cry to God,

but I felt you’d overthought the lyrics.


To me, the words

referred to nothing

more than a girlfriend


–both of us fixating,

I realize now,

on whatever ideas

felt furthest away at the time.


A Standoff in the Shop of my Employ

Yesterday, a young man on a date

approached the register and asked,

“What are these?”

and I said,


because they were cookies,

but that was only partly true.


“Cookie sandwiches,”

I elaborated,

“They’re gluten-free.”

I knew that because I worked there,

not because of the disease that makes me know things.



he scoffed, stepping back from the counter just a hair,

“so they’re probably terrible.”

He waved his hand over the cookies,

denouncing this title upon them.


“They’re actually pretty delicious,”

said I in the cookies’ defence, still smiling.

I had eaten several

over the course

of my time working there–


chocolate chip

cookie sandwiches,

somehow delicious while


free of dairy, soy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and GLUTEN (!),

that toxic bane!

that demon in the dough!

that kraken of the cracker

that had plagued me six years hence!


The standoff could have ended there,

with a recommendation for cookies,

except the man parried.


“But what IS gluten?”

he asked, adjusting his stance,

stepping forward again.

“Can you tell me that?”


He asked, “Can you tell me that?”

as though this knowledge

lay beyond the realm of human thought,

as if gluten were a sentiment

only vaguely considered

toward breadlike effects,

with no real physical existence.


“Can you tell me that?” he asked.


And I could, because of the disease that makes me know things.


And I did.



without hesitation.



I gladly replied.

“It’s a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley!”


“Oh,” he said,

deflating a little,


I didn’t think anyone actually knew that.”


There are few victories won

for those

with intestinal maladies

–most of them involve staying alive,

and eating food

that tastes semi-normal.


But every now and then,

you can make a dude look dumb

in front of his girlfriend.

Prose Fiction · scripts

Paint No Rest for the Wicked



X: I think I downloaded a virus.

Y: A virus?

X: (affronted) Yeah, I mean, not on download-a-virus.com. I don’t go looking for these things.

Y: What were you looking for?

X: The old Microsoft Paint.

Y: For…

X: Nostalgia. Back in middle school I had a computer with no internet connection – for homework. So I became the master of Paint. I learned all the tricks. (beat) But this version’s too flashy.

Y: (beat) Wait, we’re talking about MS Paint?

X: Yeah, look at this new garbage. (motions to computer) See, I liked the garishness of the old Paint, the kind on Windows XP. The brush strokes didn’t fade or blend like this.

Y: (non-committal) Uh-huh.

X: So you could make these bold, solid, ugly lines. And, as long as you closed your strokes correctly, you could fill the shapes with any garish, bright color you wanted. Complete fill. No fuzz or matting on the edges.

Y: I’m not sure I…

X: Gosh, I had so much fun. Painting edits of my friends’ photos. They were so cartoony, but I loved using the eyedropper and pencil tools to blend in microscopic patches of colors, pixel by pixel sometimes. The clicking got tedious, but I was drawn to it, this idea that with enough patience I could construct the Mona Lisa. It felt like I was interacting with the smallest possible unit of art.

Y: (beat) Don’t you…have a paper to finish tonight?

X: I’m waiting for a page to load in another window.

Y: Dang. That’s a slow connection.

X: Yeah, I think it’s from the virus.