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Eulogy for Melissa McFarland

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I'm writing this to honor my friend, Melissa McFarland, who died earlier today, so it seems appropriate to begin by writing about the first time I knew we'd be friends. I'm sure that if she were here, she'd tell me I was remembering this all wrong. Memory is fallible and subjective, especially when a couple decades have passed and the one doing the remembering was blind drunk, so some of the specifics of this story may be inaccurate. But the essential truth of it is intact.

Sometime around the year 2000, I was having a terrible night. I don't remember exactly why. Maybe it was some long-forgotten relationship drama. There was a lot of that going around back then. Maybe there was nothing in particular wrong, and I'd just had too many bourbon-and-cokes. There was a lot of that going around, too. Whatever the reason, I was hammered and alone, staggering down the street in Five Points, the nightlife district of Columbia, South Carolina, where we were both in gradua…

Life in the Circular Ruins

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"It's like a plate of shrimp," explains a would-be philosopher in Alex Cox's 1984 movie Repo Man. "You think about a plate of shrimp and somebody says plate or shrimp, or plate of shrimp." It's an attempt to explain what he calls the "lattice of coincidence" that lies atop the world, available to us only in glimpses as we fleetingly tap into the cosmic unconsciousness. It's a notion that wouldn't be out of place in a Jorge Luis Borges story, so it's fitting that my introduction to Borges came, in a roundabout way, through the movie.  Included in a box set I bought mainly for Repo Man back when buying physical media was still a thing is another movie, Cox's 1996 BBC/Spanish TV production of Death and the Compass.Stylized somewhere between Dick Tracey and Blade Runner, it's a mess, but its cultish appeal and its philosophical heart are undeniable, and it ultimately led me to seek out the Borges story upon which it's base…

Not Quite Quarantine

So we're in the middle of a pandemic. I guess I should be writing about it, but every time I try, it seems disingenuous somehow. Thousands have died, there are places in the world where hospitals are overrun and societies seem on the verge of at least partial collapse, and we're just starting to see the worst of it here in America. Things, are, as they say, not looking good. But here in my immediate circle, everything is, for the moment, okay.

I don't mean to diminish the gravity of the situation or imply that everyone's circumstances are the same, but, in many ways, things are better than okay, they're idyllic for us. As I draft this, I'm sitting in the shade watching my seven-year-old son run around in the sprinkler like it's any other spring day. We've spent a lot of time outdoors, walking on the local trail system, doing yard work, lazing in the Eno hammock. We're eating five-star home-cooked meals and having occasional takeout. We're watchi…

So What Now?

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It's finally real. I Have Already Been Here Before is published and available for order here.

Obviously, I'm ecstatic to have it out in the world. But there's also something terrifying about the
finality of it; these stories represent the bulk of my creative output for the past fifteen years. I've been tinkering with some of them off and on for much of my adult life. At the risk of being dramatic, the things I poured into those stories — both the stuff I was digging out of my psyche to write about and the effort and optimism it takes to work on any creative endeavor — kept me from losing my shit.

And now they're gone. Or at least gone away from me to a place where they're free from my ongoing murder of all their little darlings.

So what now? What now, when the future of my writing life, that part of me that meets the day every morning before dawn when the house is quiet and my dreams or nightmares are still fading into the fuzz of waking?

That's a good ques…

I Have Always Been Here Before is About to Drop

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I've always wanted say I had something about to drop. That probably means people don't really say that anymore, but I'm going to say it anyway. I Have Always Been Here Before, a (very) loosely linked collection of short stories, will be available from Cowboy Jamboree Press within a week or so. These stories represent the bulk of the writing I've worked on over the past decade, so it's exciting, not to mention oddly terrifying, to have them collected in one place and out in the world.




Here's a sneak peak at one of the stories, "The Big Scary Woods," originally published several years back by Moon City Review. It's a dark comedy about a failing marriage besieged by a pack of raccoons. I had a lot of fun recording this two-part audio version of the story. The links:
"The Big Scary Woods" part 1
"The Big, Scary Woods" part 2
And here's another, an excerpt of the title story, originally published in Bull. It's about a man tryi…

Short cuts: Requiem

The details from the news article are sketchy: police were called to the scene, responding at 11:24 PM, finding the victim, a 45 year old man, dead of multiple gunshot wounds. The incident began as disturbance between neighbors and turned violent. One person was briefly detained, but no charges were filed.

That last bit is puzzling. I assume it must've been a case of self-defense so obvious the person who pulled the trigger multiple times was only briefly detained. He (she?) must've been standing their ground, as the law states.

I hadn't seen this man who was killed yesterday in almost three decades, and we weren't particularly close friends even then. I'd heard his life had gone sideways in the time since I'd known him when we were kids growing up in the same church, for all the regular reasons. But this isn't about speculation. It's not about blame. It's about a memory.

It is 1981. Maybe '82. Somewhen thereabouts. I am perhaps seven years old,…

Short Cuts: Foreclosure

Even now, nearly thirty years later, I don't know exactly why we lost the house except that it had something to do with medical bills. Perhaps if my father were a drunk, he'd have gotten loose-tongued enough at some point over the years to spill it. But he's not, and we never talk about that dark time when the four of us lived in a camping trailer loaned to us by someone from church. We were eventually able (somehow) to get the house back, to stay on the sandhill field-and-pasture land on which my father had grown up, on which his dreams of having a herd of his own cows never materialized, so I guess it's a moot point now.

Still, there are things from that time that haunt me like dreams of a past life I can't be sure I lived: my eleven-year old sister having a friend's mom drop her off at the house and walking half a mile through the woods in the dark to where we really lived, the logistics of four people living in a camping trailer, the frustration of wanting…