Rites of Stillborn Romance

“Sure, we can shake uglies against the stall wall, but only if you take me home for a shower afterward,” she’ll say, and drag you inside the fourth floor library restroom for twenty minutes, then she’ll follow your car to your apartment.

Three days will be spent mostly naked, snugged in bed or in the kitchen cooking.

She’ll tell you, “You can’t cut cheese with a bread knife.” You’ll slide a bread knife from the wooden block, search the fridge for sharp cheddar. Three nights of dishes overflowing your shallow sink. Thursday’s pasta pot, lid closed to “soak,” will film over and belch fetid tomato breath if you jar the lid while probing for a cleanish utensil. Hardened beef fat will rim the cast iron skillet, remnants of late night burgers (your idea). Slimy yogurt spoons, serrated knife edges, all sizes of plates, a dingy baking pan for frozen pizzas—nearly every dish you own will jut in jagged juxtapositions, terrain fit to frighten even the most adventurous night vermin.

Your scramble…

Killer Openers: A Recommended Reading List

Perversion Magazine is run by some of my favorite people in Jacksonville. They asked me to write a recommended reading list. I loved doing it. You will love reading it.

Here it is: Calling All Fans of Killer Openers

On Your Mark, Get Set or One, Two, Three

It's midnight on July fourth. The only reason I'm parking my car at the all-night CVS across town is because my girlfriend keeps complaining about her back, a bruise and scrape caused by a drunken slip on the pool deck at a party earlier.

She laughed it off then. She cursed me out when I left our apartment.

She wants Advil. Name brand. Not generic. I am buying the generic. She will not bitch.

I won't let her see the bottle. I'll cup two pills in one hand, glass of water in the other, give her both, she'll slurp 'em down, go to sleep none the wiser, and that'll be that.

Unless she looks close at the pills. Then I'm fucked.


There's a lumpy white woman talking into her flip phone, face worn as a crusty towel.

“Where are you?... Me? The same place I was fifteen minutes ago. Standing out front of CVS... Come on, I got cold food... Because you said you'd be right back when you dropped me off. You're the one that asked for the damn Rocky Road, an…

Sitting in the Evening Sand of Jax Beach

There are several surprisingly young men with metal detectors, a little Middle Eastern girl trying desperately to fly a $3 kite, and a cruise ship just off shore. But I'm the only one here wearing blue jeans.

I sit high on a dune where the sand feels packed firm under my towel and butt.

Two thick bikini girls coerce their guy to snap endless photos after they dry off. Arms and legs wrapped tight around one another as they each balance on one foot in the sand. Holding towels in the air to flap above their heads with wind and squatting like ducks. When they convince the guy to do the same, I stop watching.

The little girl's kite falls fast and pierces the beach head first. Only a second later, she trots in circles around the fold-up chairs in which her family sits. Kicking up sand, but not too high. None of her family notices her, or seems to care much. The kite can't move by itself, so it stays put, half-buried.

And I think an old Asian couple just covertly took my picture.

Last Lunch, Reunion of a Sort

She's got a new hairstyle, slightly. She's lost a few pounds, maybe even ten, but you swear that same electricity arcs across the scuffed diner table. It's been over a year. You lied to her, a real doozy, worst one you'll ever tell, the type of regret that hovers over deathbeds. She might forgive you, if time were boundless as the sea on the darkest nights. But you'll never forgive yourself. One day you'll be driving that old two-lane highway out of town, and moments after you pass the Flagler County line your face will spill. You'll scream, “Why'd you do that to a girl like her? Why'd you do that to her?” Spittle will dot your steering wheel. When a car comes by in the other lane, you'll slide your sunglasses on.

Yet she asked you to lunch with her, before she rear-views this town.

She orders two eggs sunny side up and corned beef hash. You order two scrambled eggs: they look more like dried ocean-bottom barnacles than any eggs you've ever…

Out of Touch, Out of Time

The shade of his skin is Tourist Milk. Loud-colored trunks and a surfer shirt he’s recently purchased from Gator Gifts do little to help: everyone on the beach knows he doesn't belong. Making matters worse are lace-up sneakers and crew socks—sandals he forgot, in Wisconsin and at the gift shop.

His is the type of body to slump forward even when standing straight, the trademark of a man who's spent a lifetime staring at his shoes.

Sometimes, he goes long stretches of a day without eating so he can pretend stomach groans are her talking to him if he can't sleep.

He wasn’t there, wasn’t even aware she existed. Yet he imagines campfire flames flicking so low, the white coals barely burning at all, not even an audible crackling. So she made a drunken leap, not for a friend’s dare, but because she was there with a campfire and flight in her gut. She didn’t clear it, fell down, the skin of her hip sizzling until she finally rolled. The soft scar that stretched nearly halfway roun…

The First Time Some Boy Groped My Girl

At three years old, Cheyenne loved McKlusky Beach Park, which was really just a place to park your car and walk down to the beach. Mornings, before we left for preschool, she'd beg to go there in the afternoon. More often than not I relented. On those days, before picking her up, I'd shove the swimsuits and folding chair and beach toys into the trunk. A purple plastic bucket and a matching plastic spade, but it never took long before she just rolled around in some sand, tossing clumps in the air or at birds. Those were the best days to be a mother, because the sun and salt air and breeze weren't just for her, as so many things a mother does are.

One day something unfortunate happened.

I sat where I always did, book in hand and leaned back in my beach chair—not far away, but not so close she constantly felt my eyes. Some collection by Welty, a story about a slow girl filling up her hope chest to marry a man she’d only met the night before. She asked a few old ladies to give…