The Lonely Calculus


On Thanksgiving Day, I fantasized about calling the suicide prevention hotline. I didn’t really want to kill myself; I just wanted someone to talk to. I thought about that: someone you can just call. I imagined their voice on the other side of the line, a friendly woman’s. Someone robust, grounded, like the mother of a clan of rowdy kids, overweight and earthy. “Hello?” I would say kind of cautiously.

“What’s your name?” the voice would ask, opening up with indestructible, caring warmth.

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Blast From The Past Part 4: Momentary Reality

In December, I posted the three-part Blast From The Past series. The first post featured a surreal flash fiction piece I wrote when I had recently moved to New York in 2011. The second post included three poems I wrote in college. Then the third went all the way back to my senior year of high school for a short story I wrote called “Pedestrian” that was based on the months I worked at a bowling alley and fantasized about escaping into a life of crime.

dream storyIt was embarrassing and hilarious to look back the naïve hack writing in the story from high school, and for today’s blog post I dug up another story I wrote in high school that I had totally forgotten about until just now. Continue reading

“Important Moments in History”

Inspired by Jeff’s series of old-school stories and poems in his “Blast From The Past” series, here (unedited and unchanged) is a story I wrote in 2007 when Jeff and I were Creative Writing classmates in college. There’s a lot of cussing, but also earnest introspection. And strippers.



“Important Moments In History”

A: Wake up, jackass.

B: Ah! What the shit?

C: Wake up.

B: No.

A: No? Fuck you, no. “No.”

B: I’m skipping the day.

A: Skipping the day?

C: He does that sometimes. He either stayed up all night on the internet, or out drinking with his friends.

B: The first one. I’m not even cool enough to go out drinking. I was up all night on the internet. It’s sad, really. Look at me. I didn’t even shave this crazy moustache. Look at this crazy moustache I got. This is ridiculous.

A: Kick him.

C: ‘kay.

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Blast From The Past Part 3: Pedestrian

Earlier this week, I posted three poems I wrote in college and one flash fiction piece I wrote shortly after moving to NYC in the summer of 2011. To close out the week’s Blast From The Past mini-series of blog posts, I’m going further into my archives, all the way to senior year of high school (’04/’05). I wrote “Pedestrian” for my creative writing class taught by Jeff Hudson at Alton High School.

The story was inspired by the time I spent working my first job ever: a bowling alley porter making $5.15 an hour. As you can see in the very first paragraph, I didn’t exactly love the job, though it was an interesting experience. It’s interesting (and embarrassing, as you might expect) to look back on this story now and see how my writing has changed and how it’s stayed the same.

I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember in its corny, cliche, and borderline offensive moments, I wrote this as a high school kid. Having just re-read it myself, I had to laugh and shake my head many times. But I’m glad to have taken a new look at it because it puts me back in the state of mind I had in that time of my life. It’s as good as, or better than, a diary in that way.


With hands full of trash bags, Troy wandered gloomily out the door to the bowling alley. He was not sure which was worse: being inside the disgustingly sooty walls of the pervert-infested redneck asylum or being leaked on through the ripped trash bags. The dilemma was a hopeless one, indeed. At that particular moment, however, he preferred the slimy company of the nasty off-white substance dripping on his foot and rolling off his shoe onto the black top. Beer mixed with ranch sauce? he wondered. Continue reading

Henderson’s Game: The Battle of Black Friday


Tracy “Gorilla” Gantz was the reason that they did it, her bright shining eyes beneath her bulbous mounds of cheek-flesh holding bravely onto mature dignity when Kevin and Bobby Durtz bumped into her at lunch. “Oops!” yelled Kevin Durtz, the younger brother, his blonde bowl-haircut swinging like curtains as he righted himself. “I must have gotten pulled into your gravitational weight!” Everybody laughed, because that’s what Middle School kids do, and Bobby pantomimed getting away from her with difficulty, shouting, “I’m getting pulled in! I’m getting pulled in!” before he left with their group of friends.

Cal Henderson watched from a corner table, his blank expression never changing, thinking that the sangfroid of her above-it-all dignity was at the same time powerful and weak: an informed maturity born out of necessity, and preempting the simple carefree confidence of those who never have to worry as they go about their lunch that they’ll be singled out at any moment for ridicule and exclusion. Cal admired that sad maturity, Tracy “Gorilla” Gantz’s deep and still eyes perhaps about to feel like crying but of course never getting too close to that edge, at the same time as he felt sorry for it.

“We’re going to do something,” Continue reading

Blast From The Past Part 1: Put Down The Scalpel

I thought it would be fun this week to post some old stories I had written so I could give them a fresh look and accept any new feedback that came from people who have never read them.

The story for today is from the not-so-distant past, the summer of 2011 when I was brand new to New York and living with two Turkish guys in a one-bedroom in Sunnyside, Queens. It was the first time I tried my hand at writing a flash fiction piece in a surrealist style, which followers of The Midnight Diner will know I’ve continued doing (see: “Playdough for Lunch“).

This story was published last fall in the online lit journal Thirteen Myna Birds.

“Put Down The Scalpel”

The doctor’s sleepy eyes peered at Angela from under heavy wrinkled hoods. He was huffing and puffing. Sweat trickled down the grid on his forehead and the bridge of his nose and around his eyes. Angela watched his hands move to a tray of surgical instruments as she lay on the operating table, just below the doctor’s breath. She raised an eyebrow in concern. She could hear a faint buzzing.

Doctor, why are you sweating? It is cold in this room.

Patient, I am nervous.

Doctor, why would you be nervous? Why are you not calling me by my name?

Patient, I have forgotten the procedure and your name.

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A Leavened Scene in Hammond’s Down

In the somewhat small medium-town of Hammond’s Down, Utah (small being a modifier, and medium town being the noun), there had always been a default pita place, by the name of Mr. Pita, where everybody went – for pitas. Hammond’s Down was one of those unremarkable college towns whose college was neither a massive land grant institution nor a highly-respected intellectual cloister but rather just one of those places people go when they have to go to college, and so far and wide attention was far away from Hammond’s Down, and its levels of quality for things like cuisines – while not awful – were never pushed forward by competition or rigorous opinions.

The family that ran Mr. Pita did so because their parents had, and the kids that ran Mr. Pita were mostly in high school: the college-goers flooded Mr. Pita when they got hungry at night, especially on weekends and Thirsty Thursdays, but disappeared entirely from town during Christmastime, Spring Break, and all of Summer. Everything was middling, and kind of perfunctorily default, but it was right there, so pita-eaters came.

Roland Moller, the small and earnest son of German immigrants, grew up in Hammond’s Down but Continue reading