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blue-bird

This is one of the first pieces I wrote for my flash fiction project Small Stories. It’s about seagulls (this story, not the project).

Two seagulls stand on a bench, looking out over the water.

“I think Janet is going to leave me,” says the first gull.

“Why?” asks the second gull. He focuses on the first gull’s eye, yellow and black-flecked and taking in the better part of the bay. Or maybe the worse part, depending on who you ask.

“She’s been acting strange,” he replies. “I don’t think she’s happy.”

Read “South” on Medium
Read 100+ flash fiction stories at SmallStories.me

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The end of the world from the inside of a corporate office.

When the sky turned red and space rocks started falling from above, and the seas all rose and hurricanes started buffeting the shores, and the forests were consumed with flames and all the nuclear missiles started counting down, there wasn’t really anywhere to run. Instead we all laid on our backs on the conference table and looked at the ceiling.

“How many ceiling tiles do you think there are?” asked Sheila, from accounting.

“I don’t know,” said Jim. He turned his head. “Do you mean here, or in the whole building? Or in the whole world?”

Read “Meeting” on Medium

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A new story on Medium about the power of advertising, or something.

He heard Whug coming before he saw Whug. While Ogg had spent years becoming accustomed to the rhythms of the forest, able to track an animal for miles or disappear from a predator’s path in an instant, perception was not Whug’s strong point. Ogg stared at a wall of dense foliage on the other side of the stream until Whug emerged, sporting a fresh mosaic of bright red scratches on his face and torso.

“Ogg!” he said. “There you are!”

“Here I am,” said Ogg. “And there you are, though I heard you coming all the way from Big Mountain With The White Top. Are you trying to get eaten?”

“Oh, you know me,” said Whug. He grinned, then leaned over and cupped some water in his hands. “Not trying as hard as I could be.” He took a sip of the water and wiped the rest on his cheeks and chest, wincing slightly.

Ogg took another quiet sip and sat back on his haunches. “Might as well sit,” he said. “The animals will all be hiding for a while now.” He shot Whug a look, which Whug either ignored or failed to pick up on completely.

“Good,” said Whug, “because I have something I want to discuss with you. A proposition, if you will.” He leaned over the stream. “There’s not anyone around, is there?”

Read “Entrepreneur” on Medium

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New story on Medium about OUTER SPACE!! (andfeelingsoflonelinessanddissolution)

“You stink,” he said, and started to walk away.

I stopped him with a hand on his chest, I think. It was somewhere in what I’d call the upper torso region. “Woah,” I said, “I do not stink. If I smell like anything, it’s your ship.”

“You smell like the Earth,” he said. “You haven’t been through the Cleansing.”

“The Cleansing,” I echoed. “Is that like a bath or something?”

He scratched something on the top of his head. “You’re really the one your planet sent to travel with us?”

Read “The Ritual” on Medium.

Commute” is a piece of interactive fiction I wrote to test out the capabilities of Twine, a program for writing interactive stories. I only scratched the surface – there are some spectacular games out there, like “KING OF BEES IN FANTASY LAND” and “Depression Quest,” and many more – that tell really great stories and play with the form and capabilities of interactive fiction. I don’t think this story does anything big with the form, but I’m happy with the way it came out.

You wake up.

Maybe that’s a little charitable. Your cell phone alarm goes off, and you have that panicked moment before you open your eyes where you realize that, yes, it is Monday morning. Whatever was left of your weekend energy drains out of you, and you feel like a limp piece of meat lying on a serving board. Well, tangled on a serving board, in wonderful, warm blankets. So soft. So comfy.

You roll over and squint at your cell phone. You have just enough time to shower, make coffee, eat a bagel, and get out to your car.

Read/Play “Commute”

“This Native of Randolph Center, Vermont, Quit a Job as an Auto Mechanic to Return to the Family Farm” by Jane Cooper / National Archives at College Park (via Flickr)

This great story by Karin Tidbeck in the speculative fiction magazine “Strange Horizons” introduces into the lexicon (or my personal lexicon, at least) the concept of a “Sadgoat” – a literal scapegoat for all your troubles.

Dr. Andersson was in the office already. She took a chair in what was supposed to be the cosy corner: two armchairs, a little table with a box of tissues, a vase of flowers. On the wall hung a painting of a moose cresting a hilltop. Dr. Andersson looked like she usually did. Today, her bowl haircut and shapeless green muumuu were complemented by a necklace of wooden zebras. She was holding a leash. At the end of the leash, standing beside her chair, was the goat. It was small, reaching up to my knees, and jet black with floppy ears. It was nibbling on the armrest. I sat down in the opposite chair.

“This is your new treatment,” said Dr. Andersson. “It’s the latest in experimental therapy. I thought we might let you have a try, seeing as you’re a bit hesitant about ECT.”

“I see,” I said.

Dr. Andersson adjusted her glasses. “Do you know the origins of the word ‘scapegoat’?”

“Sure,” I replied. “Old Hebrew stuff. A goat sent out into the desert for everyone’s sins.”

“Exactly.” Dr. Andersson scratched the goat behind the ears. “This is a Sadgoat.”

I looked at the goat. It looked back at me, its horizontal pupils narrowing.

“I’m confused,” I said.

“I Have Placed My Sickness Upon You” by Karin Tidbeck

Simon Rich reads from “Center of the Universe,” which
will appear in his new book The Last Girlfriend on Earth

I racked up a lot of my early writing clips in college writing humor pieces for websites like Yankee Pot Roast, Points in Case and CollegeHumor. I just recently started actively writing humor again, so I was delighted when I received an issue of The New Yorker last month that featured a story from Simon Rich titled “I Love Girl.” Back then, when I was writing and pitching humor pieces daily, I picked up Rich’s first book Ant Farm at the college bookstore. It’s a book I still flip through regularly, along with Jon Stewart’s Naked Pictures of Famous People, Steve Martin’s Pure Drivel and McSweeney’s Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans, whenever I need inspiration or just a good laugh. There seems to be a trend among comedians towards publishing more memoirs and confessionals, but I’m still a fan of the short humor collection above all else.

“I Love Girl” is the story of a caveman who is in love with a girl:

I have been working on Girl’s path for many years, picking up the black rocks and carrying them away. I never throw her rocks off the cliff like normal rocks. Instead, I put them in a pile next to my cave. I like to look at the pile, because it reminds me of how I am helping Girl. My mother, who I live with, says the pile “has to go.” (I worry that she will move the pile, but it is unlikely. After all, she is an elderly thirty-two-year-old woman.)

“I Love Girl by Simon Rich

Somebody sent an article from Fast Company’s co.create blog around the copy department last week, and I saw that one of their writers, Joe Berkowitz, had recently conducted an interview with Rich. He offers some great insight into his process and how he jumps between different genres and forms (Rich has written for Pixar and SNL). I found this tidbit about generating ideas particularly inspiring:

I find in general that if I don’t have any ideas on what to write about, I just research whatever at the moment I’m extremely interested in. I read a lot of nonfiction on subjects I’m interested in, and that usually knocks something loose. A few months ago, I was stuck and I wasn’t really sure which of my projects to work on, and I was kind of bored with some of the stuff I was doing, so I just spent a few days reading books about monkeys and sign language and teaching them how to talk. Nothing came of it really, but by the time I was finished reading about monkeys, I was ready to jump back into my novel. Reading a lot of nonfiction helps. Wikipedia is also a big help. There’s always something interesting on Wikipedia–the random article button is great. When I was writing Free Range Chickens, I had just discovered Wikipedia and one of the ways I came up with ideas was to just keep refreshing, and keep clicking the random article until a premise occurred to me.

“How to Write For Any Medium (From a Guy Who’s Written For “The New Yorker,” “Saturday Night Life,” and Pixar)” by Joe Berkowitz