Essays, Stories, Excerpts & Chapters

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SELECTED ESSAYS

What You’ll Remember (River Teeth)

Back to the Water’s Edge (Great Lakes Review and We Speak Chicagoese) 

My girlfriends always drove because they had cars, cool cars: a Monte Carlo, a Cadillac, and best of all, the Trans Am. Boy bait. And that’s what we were there for, after all, the boys. That, and a place that seemed about as far away as we could get from our land-locked suburban neighborhoods with low-slung ranch houses and two-car garages and flat, trimmed lawns. (read more…)

Coffee at the Kitchen Table: A Mad Men Inspiration (Chicago Literati)

There is a Light That Never Goes Out (HyperText)

We Are All Just Stupid People (Superstition Review s[r] blog)

Finding My Father and The FBI (Chicago Literati)

 

The Long and The Short of It ~ One Writer’s Training (Jaded Ibis Productions)

We were out at our house in Mount Carroll, Illinois for a quick turnaround weekend away. Mount Carroll is a small town just ten miles away from the Mississippi River, a quiet place where we try to step out of our Chicago city lives. Where we try to slow down.

So there I was in my writing room, a small space on the second floor with an artist table a great-great-great (or so) aunt stored her paints in and my mother used as her bedside table; a remarkably heavy “portable” typewriter made more than half a century ago…(read more…)

My First Bully (The Quivering Pen)

Drink It (Brevity and Creative Nonfiction)

“Coffee?”, Mrs. Coates asked. A peculiar, grown-up question. I said yes, the grown-up thing to do, and she poured the dark liquid into a paper cup marked with squiggly lines and set the cup in front of me. (read more…)

Return Trip (Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low Flying Duck, anthology)

A Storied Life (TSP)

And These Are The Good Times (Sport Literate and The Good Men Project)

BOOK REVIEWS

Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story (Washington Independent Review of Books)

STORIES & EXCERPTS

Tommy on the Roof (Curbside Splendor E-zine pg 15)

In the dream he is flying. Moonglow on his face.

We used to climb out on the roof when we were kids. Nighttime, under the stars. Big sister (me) and little brother. He was scared at first, so small and blond. Afraid of heights, afraid of falling. (read more…)

Returns (Word Riot)

She sat behind the steering wheel of her car, hands at ten and two even though she was parked now, engine off, at the gas pumps. Cold dark. Winter morning. 1980. Iowa. (read more…)

Kitty (Goreyesque)

The power had gone out. And I’d lost my keys. That’s the kind of day it had been. (read more…)

My Mother’s Daughter (Solstice Literary Magazine, Fiction Winner)

My mother was a toucher. She tapped her fingers on my wrist, and even though I was sixteen, not really a girl anymore, I loved it, the feel of her pink touch. Such small hands. You couldn’t help but notice. (read more…)

No Worries (1000 Words)

You’d think he’d be too old for this sort of thing. Hell, that’s what he thought. (read more…)

Just Like That (Superstition Review and The Temple of Air)

Officially it was senior prom, but Arnie said it was more like a regular party when you think about it, but a going away party with a bunch of kids we didn’t like that much all dressed up and crying and hugging—and why would he want any part of that? (read more…)

♦♦♦

“Deer Story,” The Temple of Air

And when you see it there on the side of the road (above it, really) it’s already too late. You know. “Don’t,” you say. Out loud maybe. But it doesn’t matter what you want (or don’t) it’s too late already, and it’s hitting the ground on all fours then up again and into the lights, into the way but in the air still, bounding, and for a second you hope—maybe believe—it will clear. It will beat you, you hope, over that spot in the road, or rise high enough so you might pass underneath. But no. Of course not. You clip it as it springs up, feel the impact of all four ankles at once hit the front of the car, watch—foot hard on the brake where it’s been since this started—as it lifts and tumbles, sideways up and over, an antler taking a stab at the top of the windshield, a road map of cracks spreading out and down the shatterproof glass. And it’s behind you now. It fills the mirror, big and brown and coming down like something stuffed and heavy. You squeeze your eyes closed to absorb its landing, and when you look again it’s gone. And that’s when you swerve—too late, but it couldn’t have mattered any earlier. (You find out from the handsome neighbor with the scarred wife that it’s a path they all follow in rut like they are, third killed in a week in a quarter mile. Killed by the rut.) But still, you swerve, and ahead, the man you thought you loved but know that you will leave—in his own car driving home in tandem from a bar in the city—sees your lights weave out of his rearview then in again and then out as you pull to the side of the road and sit there, shaking. And his taillights flash white and he’s backed his way to you, jumps out of his car and in shirt sleeves, with his hands jammed down his pockets, he bobs foot to foot outside your window. “What,” he says and his breath is white shadow against black sky. He doesn’t know. And you’re mad that he hasn’t noticed; it’s just another thing he’s missed. “A deer,” you say when you open the window finally. “Stay there,” he says then (for the first time. But not the last.) And you do this time while he runs around in the cold in the weeds, to his car and back, in the weeds again. For the smallest moment you think maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t hurt, just tripped more or less over the hood of the car. But then the man you know you will leave comes back, his eyes bright in the dark and his hands trembling, holding—of all things—an X-acto knife. “This won’t do,” he says, “it’s not enough.” And you know exactly what he means. Then he tells you to go on home, get the neighbor to bring a gun. (The neighbor’s a hunter you’d found out over burgers on the grill. They both—he and she—used to be. But his wife—nice woman, too bad about her face, one whole side scooped out from eye to chin—won’t even eat meat now and hardly leaves the house.) So you do what you’re told, drive on the last three miles alone, the windshield a kaleidoscope of darkness. You’re crying now and it’s hard to see, thank God it’s a straight shot of highway. And in the nice little subdivision, suburbs in the country, split-levels and townhomes where the man you are leaving built you a brand new house (like maybe that’d be enough), you pull into your drive and run to the neighbors’ and when you pound, he’s there in a flash. And you notice again how handsome he is. You remember how his back felt when you rubbed against him, his whole self a warm wall between you and the cold air of the open refrigerator, his hands choking the necks of the beers, and you reached around him for yours, flattened your breasts to him, wanted him. And the man you are leaving was out there, with the burgers and the wife, but you were inside with the neighbor who turned around and smiled so small it looked like it hurt. Then he circled one icy hand under your shirt and let it get warm on the low curve of your back. And outside there was small talk and quiet, and inside there was nothing but this. But tonight his wife’s there, too, in shadow behind him. It’s always dark in their house, you can’t help but notice. And they listen while you tell and he’s half out the door when you remember this: “Got a gun?” You say and he stops dead, one hand on the doorknob, his face draining, white. And his wife steps back and turns away. But it’s just a quick moment, a small shift, before he says “I got something.” And he spins off in his truck and you make your way across the lawns to your house and inside and crawl into bed, clothes and all; and under the warmth of the blankets you shake and you pray. You don’t even know if you believe in God, but shouldn’t you apologize to someone? You didn’t mean to do it, but you did it, and you asked to be forgiven, it wasn’t your fault, but you were was sorry, so sorry, so very, very sorry. And when your head was packed tight from the praying and the crying, you rolled onto your back—still, finally—and stared at the ceiling. You waited in the wide bed you shared with the man you are leaving, watched for the white columns of his headlights to come through the window. And then out of a dream starting, you hear voices, and the neighbor says somewhere outside the window “accident” and “shotgun” and “face” and “fault.” And you put it together in the dark, about the neighbor’s wife. The part that seemed missing. And you get it now, you’ve figured it all out. He did it. He’d shot half her face off (an accident, what else could it be?) yet still there they were. Together. And you hear the man you used to think you loved outside the window, too. “Oh my” and “Christ man, I’m really sorry,” and his voice sounds different than you’re used to, sounds soft and thick. But then they’re laughing, the two of them, and the neighbor says, “We’d better gut this sucker,” and you hear “Yeah, baby, fresh meat!” And whatever you’d started to think in that moment when his voice went soft, about changing your mind, about staying maybe, was gone. You hugged the blankets over your heart and turned your back to the window and knew in that way you knew when you’d hit the deer (there just isn’t any other end to this story) it was already too late.

CHAPTERS & TEXTBOOK EXCERPTS

Culture: A Reader for Writers (Oxford University Press)

“I Go On Running”

Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story (Salt Publishing)

“Taking the Long Way”

The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction (Longman)

“Drink It”

7 thoughts on “Essays, Stories, Excerpts & Chapters

  1. Pingback: The Long and The Short of It ~ One Writer’s Training « Patricia Ann McNair

  2. Pingback: Local Author Spotlight: Patricia Ann McNair Sees Stories Everywhere | Chicago Book Review

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