Thursday, April 18, 2013


The alley was a canyon, cut between stout buildings in the shadows of casinos and tall tenements. Humanity swirled like a churning water; people flowed down the narrow path, drunk and swaying, lingering before street-side grills and signs promising cheap beer.

Muttering half-apologies in broken Japanese, he pushed his way past salarymen, who chatted quickly and moved slowly. The alley wasn't big, only three blocks long by two blocks wide, but given the thick crowd and how the buildings squeezed in and the tarps above blocked the sky and kept out the rain, it could have stretched on forever in his mind.

The air was thick with a sweet smoke. He closed his eyes and smelled the fatty meat, sweat, and cheap, acrid cigarettes, and which stuck to his clothes and hair would linger for days. He cut through the alley on the way to Shinkuku Station because he liked to walk alongside salarymen in thin suits, pretty young women, hair streaked with pink and purple, cooing at him to come into their family bars, and the older couples sitting on stools, holding hands, drinking and laughing together, and feel at home.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The shrine was carved into the hill, a hollowed boulder containing an open, wooden box with faded black characters written on the back, and small bits of paper hanging from the top that made it look like a diorama.

He stood silently at the entrance. A light rain fell, and he leaned his head forward so the drops wouldn't hit his glasses. The graveyard behind him was small, off a winding dirt path that lead away from the village. The plots were old, headstones askew and worn out by time and water and wind, their names and pictures fading away.

An older woman stood alongside him, wearing a white bandana around her forehead and thick red jacket. He couldn't remember her being there before. She glanced over at him, and then walked under a faded, splintered red arch and up three stone stairs to the shrine.

She pulled out a small coin and dropped it into a rusted metal box that sat on a rock at the shrine's side. She bowed deeply in a slow, jerking motion, and then stood upright and clapped her hands three times. The sound surprised him with its strength, as it hit the rocks and echoed backwards over the cemetery.

And then all was silent, except for the growing patter of the rain on the leaves of the trees. The woman hardly made a sound and didn't look up as she descended the stairs, walked past him, picked her way through the plots, and disappeared down the trail.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

cotton candy

Her hair was a pink wisp, a cotton candy streak toward the sky, bundled behind her head and slipping just a bit onto her bare shoulders. She wore a watermelon-colored dress flecked with faded pink dots the color of her hair, which ran short, just above her knees.

The late summer heat sat heavy, even at night. I set my pack down and felt my shirt sticking to my back, and the sweat dripping down my neck. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Hands clasped at her back, swaying to the music playing over the loudspeakers, she floated, both one with the crowd and completely apart.

As the song ended, she leaned toward me. "I like their music," she said.

"Me too."

"I can fly." She pushed her hands in the air and inched closer. "I close my eyes and go."

Her perfume tasted like flowers, and she watched me with eyes shining and gray. "It's like an ocean," I said. "Just drop me in the middle."

"I'm Miranda."

"Jake." I flashed a toothy smile and flicked my head. "Listen to a couple more, and then let me get you a drink?"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


She struck a match and breathed deeply, tasting long summer afternoons and her father's cigars on the porch in the sulfurous smoke. It was dark. She lit the candle and shook the match out. The flame flickered as it struggled, and then shot upwards.

Her mind drifted to the hospital, to his face and the room's antiseptic smell, how she knocked over the pill bottles as she reached for him, and how he lay, maybe asleep, maybe not, clinging to any moments of lucidity like they may never come again.

Monday, April 8, 2013


He slurped the coffee, taking in air to cool it down. Steam rose from the styrofoam cup and fogged up the windshield. He started the car.

He drove west, ahead of the rising sun, which reached up over the mountains behind him, eagerly, like a small child peering up over a ledge.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Frosty air stuck to his lips and tongue with each breath, as the walls of the canyon funneled the wind into him with a deafening echo.

He pulled his jacket tight and leaned forward as he walked. A light snow fell; it clumped on his hair and ran down his face as he pressed on.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I stepped around a downed tree and crested the rise. My hands were on my hips, and I tried to look dignified while gulping for air. Ahead the trail snaked down in switchbacks toward the Pit River, which ran thin in the summer, a series of sky blue lines through the dirt.

I followed the path down to the river and camped there that night, building a small fire in a pit of dirt and rocks and sleeping in the open. The stars in the sky glowed like gems at a museum, as if someone above was shining a light through a private collection just for me to see.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Jameson wiped the bathroom mirror with the side of his hand, turned, and watched his naked reflection as he inhaled and sucked in his gut.

As the fog crept back, the last things he saw were his own grey eyes and a nearly inappreciable frown. He exhaled, sighing a rush of air.


Miranda pressed against the stone seawall and breathed sharply, closing her eyes and sucking in salt and water as waves crashed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

rest stop

Barty got in his car and drove, not stopping until dark when he pulled into a highway rest stop. He slept there, seat reclined, until sunrise.

When he woke that morning, he stretched in the foggy, exhaust-filled air, washed his face in the chipped tile bathroom, and resumed driving.