Tag Archives: short stories

Life is Laundry

Lifeislaundry
Life is dirty. Life is clean. Life is colorful. Life is dull. Life can be sorted, washed, dried, folded, hung up, or neatly put away.

Laundry is the great equalizer. Everyone needs freshly laundered clothes. It doesn’t matter if you wash them yourself or hire someone to do it. It is a task that must be done.

Parents teach their children how to launder clothes as a necessary life skill. For many, wearing a pink shirt as the result of mixing white shirts with red towels is a rite of passage.

The life is laundry motif runs throughout my writing, most noticeably in my short story collection, The Human Act.

In “Fistful of Love,” a pregnant woman carries her laundry on her head, negotiating the stairs and the narrow walkway to the laundry room to wash and dry her family’s clothes. The narrator surreptitiously watches her through the peephole, infatuated with her. Laundry symbolizes the pregnant woman’s burden. Behind the safety of a front door, the narrator fantasizes about rescuing the pregnant woman and relieving her of her misery.

In “Randy Returns,” the narrator reminisces about her husband teaching her how to sort the clothes when they were newlyweds. The act of instructing a basic skill symbolizes the fundamental love her husband had for her long after he has passed away. It is a legacy that cannot be stolen. When the narrator washes the homeless friend’s clothes, it is an act of love.

In “Hope in the Laundry Room,” a woman loses her charm in a washer. The narrator finds it and returns it to her, sparking the start of a relationship full of caring and caretaking.

I have washed and dried many loads of laundry throughout my life, from the baskets full of soiled infant bibs to adult work shirts and pants and everything in between. I’ve watched colors fade and bleed, stains removed or set, clothes shrunk from XXL to XXS.

Laundering is as much a science as it is an art. No two people launder the same. No two items of clothing require the same care. Pockets full of tissue can cause a whole load to become full of lint. Candy wrappers may wash out just fine, but gum may stick and later dry on material that is hard to remove.

But no matter whether the clothes fade or shrink or come out just fine, we are all in this laundry of life together, and the lessons we learn are as necessary as clean clothes.


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Debut Short-Story Collection Released

Happy New Year!

I’m proud to announce the release of my debut short-story collection,The Human Act and Other Stories, from All Things That Matter Press.

The Human Act and Other Stories features a cast of diverse characters struggling to reconcile the lives they want with the lives they have been given.  From the teenage girl trying to escape poverty in “Ashes to Angels” to the new mother mourning the loss of her abandoned career in “Queen of Jingle Junk” to the young man searching for meaning in “Hope in the Laundry Room,” readers discover the courage to transcend circumstances and embrace their complicated lives with humor and grace.

The Gift of Reading

Although my short story collection, The Human Act and Other Stories, will not be released from All Things That Matter Press in time for the 2012 holiday shopping season, three new short stories are available for purchase, either as gifts for your favorite reader or as a treat for yourself.

An all-time reader favorite with over 800 buys during its initial release, “Sex and Four Sisters,” chronicles the unexpected twists and turns our sexuality influences our lives.

“Your Eyes” is a romantic short story about first loves, midlife crises, and the surprising discoveries we make once we face the mistakes of our past.

Want a taste of what’s coming in my short story collection? “All We Need Is a Little Magic” is the follow up story to “Hope in the Laundry Room,” which is featured in The Human Act and Other Stories.

Teens, Identity, and Despair

"Lips" from The Human Act and Other Stories to be published by All Things That Matter Press

“I was here. That’s what she means when she writes in big block letters with her bright red lipstick, TYC 2001, in the mirror of the girls’ bathroom in Jefferson High School.

“I stand beside her pretending to fluff my already exaggerated hairdo. She thinks I don’t know her importance so she draws a line beneath her initials with a sweep of her wrist.

“TYC catches me staring at her. ‘What you looking at?’ She narrows her brown eyes, swivels the lipstick into its black case, turns, and struts away.

“By the time school lets out at three-thirty, I have seen TYC three more times. By the lockers exchanging her history book for algebra. In the halls shouting at a cheerleader for accidentally touching her. At the library checking out a book written by Dorothy Allison.

“I start to think there is more to my fascination with TYC than her bright red lipstick, which she never wears, only writes with. At home I stare in the mirror at my reflection and pucker my lips and mouth the letters, TYC, like I’m some sort of rock star in a music video. Before I go to sleep, I sit on the edge of my bed and roll up my pajama sleeves and stare at my wrists, turning them from side to side. The bones are heavy and awkward, not slim and manipulative. I lie down and pull the covers toward my chin. I close my eyes and dream of large techno-colored lips. I wake up in the middle of the night and feel my heart racing. I touch my lips with the tips of my fingers, the same lips those large techno-colored lips just kissed.”

***

The above section is an excerpt from my Pushcart Prize nominated short story, “Lips,” which is one of the 14 stories featured in my upcoming collection, The Human Act and Other Stories, to be published by All Things That Matter Press. The story focuses on a high school girl whose best friend, Lorraine, has moved to Arizona, leaving her friendless. The high school girl becomes obsessed with TYC, another seemingly friendless girl. But her preoccupation with TYC prevents her from grieving over the loss of her friendship with Lorraine, exploring her identity, accepting her budding sexuality, and acknowledging her increasing despair.

Teens have always had to cope with crossing the wasteland between childhood and adulthood. The terrain may be different from generation to generation, but the concerns remain the same: teens want to belong as much as they want to differentiate from one another.

But the cost of belonging can be high. Teens have to try out for sports before they can become members of the team. They have to qualify for the math Olympiad or the national honor society. They have to audition for band or drama. They have to possess some sort of talent or skill that fits into a socially acceptable format or else risk not belonging. Those teens who fail to fit neatly into one of these categories can fall through the cracks. Some of these teens join gangs or become stoners. Other teens remain painfully alone.

Teens that do not fit into a group have a hard time finding people like themselves to relate to. Some of them find solace in a hobby. Others escape through reading or music or video games. Still others find themselves like the narrator of “Lips,” searching for connection through a mysterious stranger who seems to fulfill all of one’s fantasies.

The longing for human connection does not end when one leaves childhood. It changes shape like the body, developing the lines and curves of being unique and yet still belonging.

For more stories of uniqueness and belonging, “Like” my Fan Page on Facebook to be notified when The Human Act and Other Stories is released.

Short Story, “No Sleep,” in Snail Mail Review

Check Out Snail Mail Review

It’s like a catchy song you can’t get out of your head. It plays over and over again, that same melody, and just when you think it’s gone, someone says something to start it over again.

It’s just a silly dream
, I keep telling myself. Let it go.

But it follows me like a mist, shrouding my thoughts, collecting itself around my body, until I feel like I am walking through sleep. In my dream, I’m being chased by my mother dressed as the Grim Reaper. In her tangled dark robes, she slices through fog with a Kill Bill machete and screams, “I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.”

My mother has been dead for 10 years. I haven’t thought much about her, hardly at all. I’m a practical man, a stock clerk studying to be an engineer, and I know from my professors that only the facts count.

But this dream unsettles me. For three days, I drink coffee in the afternoon, double espresso with two packets of sugar, a makeshift elixir of go-go-go. In the evening, when my co-workers head over to the cantina for margaritas and chips and salsa, I down a bottle of Gatorade and an energy bar to hurtle me through the commute home. My boss says, “You should take a vacation. Get some rest.” But the last thing I want to do is sleep. Ever since that dream of my machete-wielding mother three nights ago, I’ve been keeping myself up. By choice. I don’t tell anyone. They’d think I’m crazy.

To read the rest of my short story, “No Sleep,” purchase a copy of the Spring 2012 issue of Snail Mail Review.

On another note, it does not look like I’ll be going to New York this year. Thank you to everyone who voted for my blog on the Goodreads website. I appreciate the support. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year.