Short Fiction

Many of my stories can be found online or on a magazine rack near you. Here are some favorites:

“All Their Riches.”

The story of a Karen refugee struggling to resettle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. First printed in The Sun 424, April 2011.

“My English wasn’t always this good. Once, I stood before an impatient pharmacist, touching my son’s throat and saying, ‘Sick,’ and, ‘Help.’ I stuttered in fear buying a bus pass or a sack of oranges . . . “

“The Last Days of Menilek II.”

The great Ethiopian Emperor, in decline. First appeared as American Short Fiction’s “Mr. November” Web Exclusive, 2010.

“The King of Kings walks with two canes now, slavering into his beard from a paralyzed mouth. Some say stroke, or nephritis, or syphilis, and others say witchcraft or lightning strike, and still others say poison, but the one word in everyone’s mouth is death . . . “

(You can also find an interview on the full story behind that electric chair here.)

“Ota Benga in the Land of the Dead.”

The startling true story of an Mbuti tribesman displayed as an exhibit at both the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and the Bronx Zoo. First published in Hunger Mountain 15, 2010.

When the history of the Zoological Park is written, this incident will form its most amusing passage.
–William Temple Hornaday, Director, Bronx Zoo

(And check out the paired interview–including a TS Eliot anecdote that didn’t make the story’s final cut–here.)

“Mautam.”

A two-pager first published in The Massachusetts Review 51.4, Winter 2010.

“When we saw the first green blossoms of the bamboo, we took the advice of our grandfathers and built fences around our fields, and roosting posts to attract owls to our paddies.  We constructed string traps and bamboo cages and spent our meager savings on poison to mix with rice and strew at the edges of our land . . . “

(For more about the all-too-real phenomenon of the mautam, check out this BBC story. Of course, thanks to the mismanagement of the SPDC, these sorts of natural disasters take an even greater toll in underdeveloped regions of Burma.)

“The Counterfeit.”

A boy, a bill, an impossible choice. First published in Asia Literary Review 15, Spring 2010, as the companion piece to a terrific novel excerpt from Wendy Law-Yone.

“Later, this is the moment Jude will return to again and again, when he stands two customers from the teller in a bank awash with fluorescent light and Thai chatter, looks down at the pair of hundred-dollar bills in his hand, and sees that one of them is darker than the other . . . “

“Soup.”

A 135-word piece selected by guest editor and flash fiction legend Michael Martone for inclusion in Inch 13, Winter 2009.

“Wrist-deep in boxed pasta and canned beans, I asked Sam what she wanted for lunch.”

“The Dog, the Boy, and the Wife: three stories of Burma.”

A triptych of stories in Burma’s Karen State. This one debuted in Witness 23, Spring 2010.

“When Saw Ler Moo and his wife returned from tending their betel palms, Little Dog yipping stupidly at their heels, the village headwoman was waiting to tell them the order . . . “

(For those interested in seeing the human rights reporting that helps inform stories like this one, check out the Burma Campaign UK or the KHRG.)

“Irregular Pasts: stories in 12 tenses.”

One of my most experimentally-structured pieces, this one first appeared in Pleiades 28.2, 2008, alongside even better stories by Gary Fincke and Ihab Hassan.

“Every afternoon Aung Win Win takes out a list of the world’s countries, lights a cheroot, and writes a letter to a head of state . . . “

“Jonathan Kieselhorst is an Island.”

Ever dream of starting a one-man nation? Then you’d better be ready to defend it–and good luck finding a queen. First appeared in the minnesota review 69,  Winter 2007.

“Jonathan Kieselhorst is jogging his thirty-third lap around the deck of New Iowa when he sees the gray blur slipping over the waves toward him and grabs for the binoculars. For a moment he wonders if Tolu’atu’s bringing the supplies a day early, but before his index finger’s even on the focus knob he realizes it must be a TDS cruiser . . . “

“Stealing Crème Brûlée: a test in seven parts.”

A story in the form of an ethics test. This one appeared alongside work by another flash fiction legend, Steve Almond, in Mid-American Review 26.2 in Spring 2006.

“Making copious yet appropriate use of course materials, respond to each of the following scenarios in an essay no longer than one (1) Blue Book side.

1. You are a low-income ($18,000-23,000/yr) data clerk at a company specializing in logistics software, on your third date with an attractive co-worker . . . “

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