An excerpt– Joanna

bench-1190768_1920Corporate headquarters is located in an unforgiving, airplane-reflecting office building perched on the edge of a lake. In the fall, it’s gorgeous. In the winter, it’s gorgeous. In the spring, it’s gorgeous. In the summer it’s insufferable, but so is most of Minnesota. Because it was October, I had begun to eat my lunch at my desk so I could take longer walks around the path by the lakeshore. At the halfway point, where the path gradually goes from paved to unpaved, there’s a little bench close to the water. It’s wooden (and crumbling), is always slightly damp, and it seems pretty old. I always feel connected to the Earth when I sit there. There’s even moss on it, but I scraped off a Jo-shaped section last week and it’s stayed pretty clear. I sat down.

I curved my neck around the top of the backrest and stared up at the fading greenery. It was getting sparse up there now, I thought, and soon it would be winter.

I squished my fingertips into the moss next to me and watched water well up, then disappear again. There is something perfect and primal about the place, even if it’s right next to the office. I felt it deep in my chest while I sat— and when my phone’s alarm gave its distressed jingle, I was sad. Everything bigger than me crept out of my limbs. I said goodbye to the bench and told the forest, the lake, and the path that I’d see them tomorrow.

Everything’s got a personality when you’ve been raised Catholic. When I was little, I was taught that some inanimate objects are a little more sentient than other ones, which is a dangerous thing to believe. That belief spread to almost everything; I’ve now got a complex where I have to carry my miraculous medallion around with me everywhere, or I sort of think the Virgin will get mad at me. And my God– don’t even get me started on my stuffed animals. I don’t sleep with them anymore, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t made them comfortable in their new home on top of my dresser.

The rest of my workday crept by. I edited, ate the salad that I’d bought fully prepared at the grocery store the day before, and ruminated on the fact that time is an illusion, so why the fuck couldn’t it go faster?

“Time to go!” Patrick said, grinning at my startled squeak. “Let’s head out, love.”


And another excerpt.

dependent-100343_640Mom told me I should work at Cardinal Ridge but I really hated doing laundry. I was at five loads of stiff white linen and they hurt my knuckles; they were so dry that I was getting little fabric burns, like blanket paper cuts. But I’d rather fold the sterile sheets than confront the indignity of a little cup of juice at mealtimes. Or, worse, a shallow dish full of M&Ms.

In addition to juice, everyone got an entree at 6PM and Marcy got a grilled cheese sandwich because she wouldn’t eat anything else. There was a cart that rolled around after the meal with pills on it, like the candy trolley on the Hogwarts Express, except chocolate frogs were laxatives and pumpkin pasties were bright pain pills. Pain management pills. I don’t know what it means to manage pain but I’m sure I’ll find out.

I wasn’t disgusted with the residents, not like the other girls. I got tired of Gary’s eyes and grabby grabby hands but other than him, it was just the tragedy that was unbearable. It’s like they were allergic to life, like breathing was killing them. The majority were former smokers, so maybe it was. I don’t know.

Their skin was soft but it was onionskin-thin, and veins made little snowbanks on the backs of their hands. Faces– weathered– drooped, courtesy of gravity and mirth. There was a TV in the living room, with ten armchairs arranged around it. Dental office magazines flopped over the edges of the coffee table, and the three lamps in the room weren’t bright enough. The fluorescent ones in the laundry room were too bright. I did my work in the dark.

excerpt from a story, unwritten

snowflakes-1236245_1920I sat behind a red door wearing a novelty-sized cowboy hat. Not the small kind of novelty, but the big kind, and not grenadine red, but a there’s-blood-on-the-fruit-salad red. The hat was pulled down to rest over my eyebrows, so I could see the television. There was still room in my hat. I could probably pull it down over my face and if I cut out some eyeholes maybe I’d rob a bank still wearing these sweatpants.

But I didn’t have time for that, ‘cause Kerry would be coming home soon with the peanut butter. I doubt she’d like the hat but I could deal with disapproval. “Gotta pick your battles,” mom said, years ago, around chewed-up wedding cake. It was keeping my ears warm and I didn’t want to get up. Snow had come in the night before and was pressed up against the door just waiting to sink into the tops of my boots. My hat was helping.

I heard Kerry jiggle her key in the lock.

“For fuck’s sake.” She sighed, stomped the snow out of her sneakers (why would she wear those?) and plopped her bags down just inside the door.

I turned carefully to look at her, and the big sheriff star reflected light on the wall next to her head.

“Peanut butter?” I asked.

“In the paper one,” she answered. “Why are you wearing that?”

“It was next to the bed.”


“My ears are cold.”

“Oh,” she rolled her eyes at me and it was a little gross because her eyes are really big, which makes the whites of them also very big.

I turned back to the television, which wasn’t on. My laptop, resting on my bare belly, came alive again at my finger’s tap against the trackpad. I couldn’t bring myself to focus my eyes so I stared blankly out the windows into the white.

“Are you going to use this or did I get it for no reason?” Kerry moved toward me, peanut butter in hand.

I extended my arm behind the couch, ready for the jar, finally focusing my eyes on the label. I reached for my stale bagel that’d been on top of a battered coffee table book that I used as a plate (on and off) for several years. I looked back to ask Kerry for a knife but she’d disappeared into the kitchen.

I ripped the bagel up and dipped into the peanut butter. Chunks came off in it but Kerry didn’t like peanut butter so it was just mine, and I thought that was ok. I let my head drop back onto the couch, which jostled my hat. I did silently debate the merits of putting a shirt on because I was sure there was one buried between the arm and last cushion of the couch, but the paunch that’d glommed to me in my thirties was content to be overwarmed by the computer.

“Don?” From the kitchen.

“Yeah?” From the living room.

“Come help me? Keep the hat if you want.”

I knew, implied in her request, was the command to put a shirt on. That was fine. Of course I’d wear a shirt for her; I loved her. I wrestled the hat through the headhole of a fancy work sweater which was crammed down there and plodded through our red kitchen door to Kerry. “Red is for kitchens,” she told me when we moved in, sixteen years ago. We had rooster plates too because chickens are also for kitchens.

The kids have gone– her little helpers. I have to mow and take out the garbage again. I still work, of course– didn’t plan that well; I’ll retire in ten years. Kerry’s dreading it I think, because I annoy her when she’s not in love with me. I bet she’ll just pick more hours up at the home.

She handed me syrupy pineapple spears that came in a little plastic box because we don’t like to core the actual fruit. We have yogurt and fruit a lot for meals because we both hate cooking. There are cons to marrying yourself, but we get along well enough I guess.

“You have a good morning?” I asked Kerry.

“Yoga went well. I’m sweaty.”

“Cute,” I replied.

“You know it is.” She moved to hug me from behind, and though yeah, she did smell a little like yoga, I still liked it.

“‘Offa me.”

She snuggled against me and said, “We both need a shower.”

After a few moments I mumbled, “Love you.”

“Same.” She kissed me between the shoulder blades. “I’m gonna go– you need anything?”

“No, go ahead. I’ll shower after.”

“Okay,” she said, but before she turned to our bedroom, she snatched the hat from my head.


She didn’t respond but scampered through our door and shut it behind her. I shook my head and continued to slice the pineapple, some strawberries, and plopped them into white yogurt. Mark calls me princess because I don’t eat much meat, but he only has one testicle because he sat weird on a bike once. Oh, Mark.

After two showers and a tug-of-war starring my sheriff hat, in which its structural integrity was compromised (Kerry won), we sat together on our couch with bowls. Kerry snuggled into my side like college and piled up some books in front of her for when she finished her lunch. I’d set my computer down but not closed it, so when I finished my food, I could work.

“Babe?” Kerry shifted against me.


“What would you think of me going back to school?”

Surprised, I said, “I think it’s a great idea! What will you go for?”

“Master’s,” she mumbled.

“In?” I asked.

“English. Sound dumb?”

“Never. You love that stuff.” I rubbed her arm to warm her up. Kissed the top of her head.



The sun soon disappeared, dinner was salad because it’s easy, and bedtime followed a few hours later. We made love then for the first time in two weeks and it was really nice. Loving is easier than people make it out to be.

— Katie

An excerpt from God knows what

Don’t go near the oscillating men. The swing-men, the wigwags. They’re more than you think and less than you are. We should not know them. It’s just safer, ok? Don’t want to get any attention.

Because they pick them up, the swivels, put them in a car and drive them somewhere. Don’t approach. Don’t think on it. It’s so not important, I’m sure. After all, no one’s said anything, and God knows conflict isn’t an issue these days. If no one’s outraged, it must be fine.

I’ve heard of it taking hold in people like us, but I don’t think it has, not yet. However, Davy started rocking a little and we must keep him here. I’m keeping an eye on it. He’ll be alright in a few days probably but he can’t be seen out. I tied his wrist to the bendy contraption in the corner that surely did something sometime. It could’ve been something he ate. We’ll see.


Sleepily, from the blankets in the corner, she croaked, “Fuck off, buzz.”

“Goin’a Gardot, wanna come?”

I heard a rustling as she unceremoniously rolled out of her nest. “I guess I will. I’m crystal, now.”

“Sorry. Let’s split?”

She turned to Davy, who was swaying, almost imperceptibly, in the corner by the thing. “I’ll get you soup, yeah?”

“…yeah. Laters kip, buzz.” he said, eyes on the floor.

She walked to him and placed a kiss on his forehead. He wrapped one small hand around her calf.

“Careful,” he murmured.

“You too, Daves.” she turned to me, “Let’s go.”

We went.

— Katie

journal or memoir

writing-1209700_1280Instead of winding, whittling, weaving my way down to the big question of the post, I’ll pose it now: is a journal a sort of memoir, if read? Is a memoir only memoir if it’s been edited for the consumption of others? Sometimes, while journal-ing (no, I don’t mean this blog, though my posts have been hideously amorphous lately), that toxic thought comes into my head– you know, the one that whispers, “What if you’re important, someday? They’ll read this, you know.” And I find myself writing for the privacy-violating reader instead of myself. To combat this inevitable moment, I’ve begun talking to the journal, rather than to myself or to a reader.

I don’t begin with, “Dear Journal,” or any of that shite. I’m not a preteen in a movie from the noughties. It’s just me, prattling on about my day, my insecurities, and usually, what I’m unhappy about. I’ve written about training yourself to be more positive, but I do vent– it just happens on paper. I finish with a, “Love, KATIE.” My name in caps, the rest of the entry in cursive.

Side note: I found disposable fountain pens and they’re incredible.

And that’s it. I do it every night. I suppose it’s a kind of meditation. I hear that successful people do that kind of stuff so maybe I am getting something right. I bought an avocado the other day, too. Boy, am I grown up.


to escape is to ex-cape yourself,

old-mill-489971_1920leaving your pursuer with a handful of cape, while you run away, cape-less.

The ballpoint pen> mystery link of the day.

Eventually, I’ll go back home to New England. I love the Atlantic and I miss it. It’s prettier, has more whales, and is more aggressive than the Pacific. Well, at least it seems angrier, which I like. There’s a tension to it.

I’m thinking of, eventually, moving to Salem, or even somewhere in Maine. Or New Hampshire. Somewhere that I don’t hate, you know? I like my neighborhood (I moved to St. Paul) because it reminds me of a cleaner Boston. I hate Minneapolis because it reminds me of a busier Green Bay. And we all know how I feel about Green Bay.

It is very disjointed, this post.

Writing update:

Am writing a story about the nursing home I used to volunteer at. It was very weird and though I had some great material-providing experiences there, the inevitability of death was too much for me to handle. Well, that, and the death of my favorite resident, Marcy. She never had a visitor while I was there but she was so wonderful, you know? Her life was very cool. I’d like to write about it– a frame narrative with me describing the home, then her telling the story. Kind of like “The Parvenue”- a Shelley (Mary) short story. Or “The Swiss Peasant.” I think trying the frame thing might be fun. I haven’t, yet. And it will end up being creative nonfiction, too, because these things actually happened.

Even if I can’t remember exactly what her name was. Marcy? Mimi? Marnie? I just remember that she was beautiful. And liked grilled cheese.

— Katie