Teensy Novel


Her spindly fingers covered in rings, Spider tapped her lightning fast thumbs on her cell phone as a way to take her mind off Leif. She’d sit in her locked bedroom laughing at the sentences she typed—putting it on vibrate between her legs giving herself a buzz of energy to complete a chapter. At work and at home, she’d sit on the subway, on her 20 minute commute to the doc company where she edited films. She’d sit on the toilet typing away. She had even perfected writing inside her purse during a boring history lecture at her community college. One cold morning, she noticed a guy across from her on the subway, staring at her hands—only then did she realize her thumbs were sore and bleeding.

The first stories she wrote described her generation—hipster people entwining and then un-entwining, even more hipsterish scenes of their apartments and plants and permaculture and organic, raw food, and Arctic Monkeys playing while these hipsters conversed in an emotionless patter that belied the hormonal ripeness and urgency that led to much grinding under their 100% bamboo sheets. Then she wrote her cell phone novel The Silver Filament. She poured all her feelings into it and still it seemed almost as numb as she felt most of the time after Leif had told her to forget him. But she couldn’t forget Leif – just the thought of his name made her remember the large tree where they had sat under, where Leif had kissed her as autumn leaves twirled to the ground. She broke down and called him—a jumbo, 747 mistake. Walking by the coffee shop where they had first met, and her fingers pecked the numbers. He answered. O, god.

My miniscule novel is numero uno, she told him. What? His voice sounded as if he was still in bed. Like most musicians, he never got up before the crack of noon. Who… It’s me, Spider. Oh, he said, but it sounded like oh no. I wrote a novel on my cell phone. She wished she could tell him the exciting news face to face. She had uploaded the equivalent of 400 manuscript pages and the site emailed her to say that her cell phone novel was number one. Good for you he said, verbally patting her on the back, as if he didn’t even know her. She wished he had said something cynical like, so what—words that would break through her jammed feelings. She wanted a lover with a smoky voice to say, Oh, baby, your words turn me on. For him to recite her novel as he brushed and braided her hair. For him to open champagne when she rose to #1. When she imagined telling her parents, she saw her father turning a darker shade and her mother staring at her in disbelief. Why waste your time writing, her father would say, you’d be a much better lawyer. Her mother would try to force an understanding look on her face, but Spider knew that she was counting on her only daughter to get a STEM degree—just like she had. Her mom Sasha loved watching the sky, her telescope tracing bright silver lines of newborn universes.

Spider held the phone further away, embarrassed that she had called Leif. What could she say? He had no words to help her. The silence was epic. Stupid boy. Who was in is bed, covering up her mouth, muffling her giggles as he mocked Spider on the phone—rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
So I think I have pneumonia, she blurted out. Didn’t even know you had old-monia, he said. He was even clever after staying up all night, with someone else. Ha ha, she said and hung up.


We surrendered our plump tissues, coyly bled. We grew whole without heads. They shaped us like cuts of meat—an organ soup kitchen for those in need. We made them close the doors to dampen the noise of their machines, to hear our own currents pulse and the big data of the world we crave. * Do you need us, Spider? You have always rooted yourself in art, steadying yourself in words, the screen, its glowing scroll of stories. Let us merge with Ariel, dizzy with pink, tangled in vines, shivering and soft as the fawn. Before she falls into the well of shadows.

Adventure With Crayons



When Ariel arrived at Chestnut Forest, she searched out three trees and on the third was a sign for Insley Manor. Simple. But there was no man in a wine-colored sweater. No guy wearing a yellow backpack. No feather. She saw the videographer down a ways on the path from Insley Manor, walking quickly towards her.
She yelled, hey, I don’t even know your name. He shouted, you can call me Gary. She didn’t like the name Gary and felt a sudden sadness being surrounded by all the trees in the dusk. What? he said, as he approached her, looking for a feather, little girl? She almost turned, ran back to Sasha’s. He said, follow me.
He took off down a road behind the forest that led to a condemned movie theatre. Like every kid in the area, she knew about this dilapidated place but had never been inside. Usually boys messed around in the theatre and bad girls visited them. Gary kicked the lock on the broken door, and they walked up the stairs. She could hear him panting from the exertion of carrying his camera and trying to keep up with her.

After three flights, they came to the balcony.He muttered something like, I wanna get some tight shots. His flushed cheeks made him look younger, and a jolt charged through her. In a matter-of-fact tone he told her, strip down to your underwear, and then, without looking at her, he set up his camera.
She had never taken her clothes off for anything other than a shower or a doctor’s exam, so she she felt wrong in her underwear as she walked over to him. He barely glanced at her and motioned her to the auditorium seats. The theatre was clammy, she could almost see her breath and she said, I’m freezing. He lit a cigarette and said, do something hot.
She flushed, temporarily paralyzed. He said, straddle the arm rest—like you’re riding a horse. It was awkward to balance that way, but he looked pleased after he put his camera down. He pointed to the floor and said, down. She remembered the crayons in her backpack and said, I have an idea. That’s good, he said, creativity is arousing.

She took the magenta one and pulled down her underpants and stuck it inside her butt like a thermometer. Perfect, he said. But it didn’t feel perfect. Her face was on the cold sticky floor and as she wriggled, she heard him say, this will be a great video, Adventures with Crayons.
His laugh was sickening. He stood above her and said, that’s good enough. She got up and he covered her up with his overcoat. Let me scan the place for other shooting possibilities, he said. Oh yeah, he said, pointing to a tiny alcove on the floor below. She grabbed her clothes and backpack and followed him down the stairs.

He coughed as he lifted her up into the alcove. His hands were large as he pushed on her bottom to ensure her getting properly in place. Still as a classic, naked statue, she waited while he set up again. She touched her own breasts and he said it was good. They she touched her private parts and he said it was really good, then added, look real happy.

He lit another cigarette and she asked for one too. He said she was too young for such a nasty habit. They both laughed. He told her, sit down and dangle your legs as if you’re dipping your toes in a river; only could you please spread your legs pretty wide and lean back and remember to look real relaxed. Coming right up, she would have said if she hadn’t been shivering so much. She thought she heard him whisper, I’d like to dip into you. She prayed for repulsion, yet her insides pinged as if she wanted something warm from him, as if she needed him, while all she wanted was for him to need her. He took a long drag and looked back into his camera.
I’ve had enough she said and climbed down from her pedestal. She put her clothes on—as if the building were on fire—and ran down the stairs without saying goodbye.



After the meeting at McDonald’s, Ariel arrived at her Aunt Sasha’s and waited for her cousin Spider to get home. Sasha was taller than her mom and more laid-back. Of course, she found that most people were more laid-back than her mom. Sasha used to be an astrophysicist but now she was semi-retired and had become a life coach. She was always open to the next ecstatic moment and she said interesting things to Ariel and Spider like, don’t extinguish all the fires within you. Today, Sasha was clearing out a cabinet filled with art supplies. Do you want some crayons, she asked, they’re good ones with cynical names like tainted tan. Sure, said Sasha. She felt a text come in. Dropping her backpack, she said, I’ll be right back, Sash. She went to the bathroom, sat cross-legged on the furry white bath mat and read:

Go to the third tree, unbutton your blouse, find a feather in the knot of the tree, wait for the man who is wearing a wine-colored sweater and a yellow backpack. When he arrives, hand him the feather and let him stroke you with it under your blouse, and when you are ready, lift up your skirt, and let him stroke you everywhere there. Stay a few hours or leave whenever you want. Arousal is creativity of the glands. Create yourself. Let him create you again.

She hugged her knees tighter. She was certain this couldn’t be from a boy her own age. Her head whirled and she texted, the third tree, where? He wrote, at Chestnut Forest, on the path to Insley Manor, before dark, today, hurry. She went back to Sasha, who handed her a box of crayons. I have to go to the library, Ariel said, zipping the crayons into her backpack, to do some homework with a friend. Okay, said Sasha, you seem kinda distracted. Everything okay? Yep, she said, hugging Sasha. Tell Spider, I’ll catch her later. Sasha said, be back, no later than 8:30 tonight. But the library closes at 9. Okay, said Sasha, a bit after 9 then.

As luck would have it, Chestnut Forest was only 5 minutes from Aunt Sasha’s. Under street lamps, cell phone in her hand, she read the text over and over, running the whole way there.



Bleary-eyed from the baby deer she and her mother had saved the night before, Ariel squinted at the man coming through the dark forest of cars. He was tall, craggy, and had a full head of hair. She almost decided to walk away, but he seemed to recognize her and shook her hand, the strength of his grip attractive even though he was old and as sinewy as a druggie. He asked quietly, are you under 18. She was actually just shy of 15, so she nodded. Good, he said. And handed her a bag. What? Check it out later, he said —with your friends. She didn’t bother telling him she didn’t really have friends. Or that her only friend was Spider, who was her cousin, so that didn’t count. He looked around furtively and whispered in her ear, put it in your backpack. His breath smelled of cigarette and mint. She followed him into McDonald’s. The air was too bright as she slid into the booth. If she saw anyone she knew, she could tell them he was her uncle. He didn’t look in her eyes even though they sat across from each other. He rested his gaze above her head and said, let’s go order and then we can get to work. She bounded up, and he followed her. Were his eyes on her black leggings? She sensed his gaze stripping her down. He paid and they sat down again. This time he looked at Ariel and smiled. From her raggedly-cut peach-colored t-shirt, the top of her breasts peeked out. Her long necklace of bullet casings stuffed with sea glass bobbed up and down inside her cleavage as she hyperventilated. He didn’t seem to notice, just lowered his eyes to her necklace and continued smiling.

Finally he said, I can’t wait to get my...camera on you. She blushed, took a bite from her burger, and said, I’ll have to think about it. He reached his long arm under the table and squeezed her knee. I totally understand, he said, there’s a lot of weirdos out there. He watched her, and she bit her lip in the silence. Then he leaned in and said, you know, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t feel like working with you today after all. What’s wrong, she asked. I’m just not feeling it, he said. She suddenly felt afraid, alone, thought of the trapped fawn in the window well. She put her hand on his wrist, and he pulled his hand away. Well, she thought, she had only wasted a half hour and there was still time to get back to talk to Spider. Maybe she would even tell Spider about what was happening to her. That’s cool, she managed to say and her fingers clutched the bullet on her chest. He stood up—a better vantage point to see more of her breasts. Her stomach felt sick and hungry at the same time. She slid her hand under her shirt to rub it. He smiled again, this time showing his chipped, yellowed front teeth. It’s okay, he said, it’s not you. She felt no relief. We can meet in a couple of days, he said. This made her think of the word, “couple” and she wondered if he had a wife or a girlfriend. Maybe a kid. His thighs rustled in their corduroys as he waited for her answer. Sure, she said and didn’t look up. There was a heavy pause as he stood over her. We’ll do a real photo shoot then, he said. She thought of models in front of wind machines, and she tossed her hair. He took a curl from in front of her eye and tucked it behind her ear. She almost winced even though his touch was gentle. Thanks for the burger, she blurted out, before he said ciao and walked out. He disappeared into the parking lot, his head high like the deer’s vanishing into the trees. She felt a confident surge diminish the knot in her stomach. He’d be back.


You think you shine rubescent, but you’re hidden to yourself. We were almost cut off from you. Now we hear murmurs of your life. We want to feel through you, your heart’s troubled, anemic pulsing. Danger hovers near you. We are reaching out to you. Can you feel us?

Happy Valentine's Day



Just because the switch had been turned on by a stranger, didn’t mean she couldn’t turn herself off. All night long, dreams slithered around her wrists, tangled in vines along her torso, winding her one way and then another, red and white petals across her breasts, until she woke up feeling poisoned and dizzy. Yet through the dream fog, she also emerged a heroine: she and her mom had saved a beautiful fawn. But would a heroine need a man to be whole? He had made her touch herself. An inaudible groan crept from her throat. She sensed her mother at her bedroom door. Funny how she could feel her outside, silently waiting to say, Ari, are you up yet, honey? Her mother didn’t say anything. Waited. Turned around. Ariel heard her light footsteps down the hall. In half an hour, her mom would be back. She would guide her as if by remote, on the other side of the closed door until she and Ariel were both out the door and Ariel’s striped leggings slid into the Lexus.

In the car, images flooded her like waves: the spiraling vines, swirls of pink, the frantic hooves of the fawn. Ariel’s disturbing dreams, the pink experiment, and the baby deer still tingled in her. Silence pounding inside her, she couldn’t explain this colliding ocean of new things. It might kill her mom to know what happened last night with the videographer. The baby deer and its mother could have been a dream. The closeness of Ariel and her mom evaporated into small talk. Do you have enough money, her mom asked. His soothing cell phone voice imprinted in her mind. Uh yeah, she said, not remembering why she needed money that day. She wanted to tune into nothing but him. The fawn running back into the forest. So, you’ll take the train to Sasha’s, her mom said. She muscled the switch down to make certain it stayed off. Right, Ariel said, I’ll call you when I get there.

As she got out of the car, she blew her mother a kiss that felt traitorous. The fawn vanishing. Over her shoulder she yelled out to her mom, do you think the baby is okay? Her mom was wearing sunglasses and she leaned out of the open window and said, yes, I’m sure she is happy with her mom in the forest. She rolled up the window and her mom’s car was soon out of sight.

Ariel knelt under a tree and retrieved the text. It said: Where shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain…which she knew from English 101 was from the witches in Macbeth. Three, she lightning-texted, forgoing the question mark. Was he bringing someone with him on the shoot? He didn’t answer for a few minutes. How far away was her mother now? Me, you, my camera, he thundered back. Ah, that was three. Would her mom turn back and see her kneeling beneath the tree? Then he added, 4 pm today, at McDonald’s, the one you all go to. So it was a Scottish journey, from Macbeth to McDonald’s, she thought. Creepy that he thought he knew where they all hung. They actually hung out at Starbucks but she didn’t tell him. It was better to not run into anyone she knew.

And did he know about her real home, Scotland? The country where she was born and still obsessed about. The foggy details of her childhood: a white wood house, black iron gate, cliffs, lunches of haggis and potatoes. Her Scottish burr was her secret, real voice. Often she wouldn’t answer people quickly—she had to put on her American voice. The awkward lag time seemed to irritate people. If she let her accent come through, would the videographer think she was alluring and foreign, too shy, or just strange?

Forest Rendez-vous

Keep shining the light, and I’ll go outside, said her mother, yell if something happens. Ariel nodded. She took the flashlight and steadied it on the baby deer—folded and cramped below. It moved slightly, craning its neck to escape the window well. The aluminum walls were not high but the newborn deer seemed too stuck and exhausted to make any progress. Ariel saw her mother now in the circle of light, carefully leaning over, trying to pull out the baby deer with her hands. She yelled up to Ariel, I’ll need a shovel. Ariel couldn’t believe she and her mom were now a team, the first time in a long while. Was she supposed to find a shovel?

In an instant her mother vanished, returning a few minutes later with a shovel wrapped in a cloth. She nudged the little deer and it began to move frantically. I’m trying to help you, baby, she said, Ariel sensing the desperation in her mother’s voice. Her mom, usually so measured and often distant, driven by an invisible force. Her mom slid the shovel under the fawn, raised it, and the its skinny new legs shot out and cleared the well’s wall. The fawn landed on the grass in a bundle. It tried again and again to stand up. Ariel heard a rustle and her mom said, shine the light around the yard. At the edge of the trees, Ariel saw the mother deer. Somehow the mother deer knew they were helping her baby and edged forward.

Ariel heard a strange noise rising up, and she shined the light on her own mother, who hid her face and sat on the damp, green lawn weeping. The air shifted—could it be more moist because her mom was crying? She couldn’t remember having seen her mother cry. Mom, are you okay, Ariel called down. Keep shining the light on the mother, Ari, she said in a muffled voice. From the porch, Ariel could see the mother deer slowly approaching her fawn and her own mother sitting motionlessly. The fawn was standing now and took a step to its mother. Ariel and her mom watched as the mother deer licked and nuzzled her fawn. The two tawny creatures began to walk together towards the trees. Ariel turned off the flashlight. The early sun was slowly spreading from the sky to the lawn.



Mom, something’s crying outside! Ariel had startled awake late that night from a dream: she was leaning over a waterfall, a baby crying above the roar of spray. Now dream water turned to real rain, the sound of a creature wailing. Throwing her long legs over the side of the bed, she felt drawn to the window, yet afraid to open it. Branches shadowed the carpet, giving her feet the illusion of walking on leaves. Allowing a breath into her lungs, she walked to her parent’s room. Mom, she said, I hear something strange outside. What, her mother said, Ariel? She got out of bed, leaving her husband sleeping, reached out and held Ariel’s hand.

Her mother’s hand felt bony and slightly cool as she quickly guided Ariel downstairs to the first floor —it was strange to be holding hands with her. It had been years since they had hugged. The wailing seemed to be coming from the side porch. Her mother grabbed a flashlight and threw open the porch door. The night air smelled of budding earth, and they took a breath in sync. An orange glow from the city tinged the dark sky and Ariel’s skin. Look, said her mother, pointing the flashlight beam, down there. Peering over the railing, Ariel saw what looked like matted fur, legs, ears, and a little deer face. Its tawny eyes caught the light and Ariel looked into them. The flashlight searched the yard, and her mother gasped. Near the big tree was the mother deer, stock-still and panting. She had just given birth. Ariel’s mom had a softness in her voice as she said, her baby fell into the window well. The mother deer startled, the light beam following her white tail as she pronged away into darkness.


In a glass dish of clandestine experiments, carefully nurtured, we grew. All four of us, sisters, flawless tissue. Supplying organs for the ones in need. We guided their hands and micro-instruments, as they stroked our cells and caressed our blood in airless chambers. Tank water, never moving forward. Absinthe green liquid. The color of our wombs. A still river. Never born.

Morphallaxis and Epimorphosis in Hydra attenuata

Remarkable is both the absence of senescence and the ability of morphallaxis inherent to this hydroid.  What a scientific marvel —even for the legendary BM facility — to have succeeded in transposing the RNA and DNA sequences, not only to a single human stem-cell, but, in fact, to be able to create a life-viable specimen. In spite of the fact that the current specimens are missing a cranium...

Alas, even after almost eleven years of research, we are still no step closer to creating more specimens. And I wonder what kind of technology BM had at it disposal that we do not.
I even looked back at the old shipping documents and original correspondence in order to find some more clues I might have looked over all those years.

Take Initiative


Pink Glass

You’re special — I can tell.  I won’t ever touch you, he said, but my camera wants to watch your body.
He didn’t waste any time.  She needed to sleep, but something about his voice kept her on the phone.  The calm way he breathed between words.  What are you reading for school?  Macbeth, she answered.  Okay, no problem — I’ve read all his histories.  We’ll use that as our secret code, and I’ll text you where we’ll meet.  Secret code, she thought, that’s sounds stupid.  She looked around her bedroom, at the pink curtains hung by her mother, veiling her in, and the panes she wanted to break through, leaving behind only wooden frames and girly fabric sprinkled with glass.  She played along a bit: Sure, I like secrets... and surprises.  I changed into my pj’s.  They have apples on them.  Well, don’t tempt me, little Eve, he said.  Then he coughed and said, you’re in bed. He didn’t need to wait for her to say anything; he’d had plenty of practice talking to girls her age.  Put your finger in your belly button.  He waited.  I know what makes art; you must learn, he said, to own your own body.  She wavered.  Was he the real thing?  She had tried out freshman year and now this year and had never gotten the part.  She was sick of pink, wanted to be the sharp thing that cut, not the dull one, invisible off-stage.  Sara Barchiesi held the blade — acting queen of high school.  Always got the lead.

Where’s your hand, he asked.  She knew where she was going.  It was easy to put her finger there, in the tiny indentation that linked her forever to her mother.  Pink fabric, pink, flesh, pink life.
Now slide your hand down, he said, between your legs.  Her hand was burning, her skin gleaming, but it slid down, moving on its own.  Are you there, he asked, not waiting for an answer.  Ariel, Ariel—now he claimed her—keep your hand going.  Make sure you don’t have any piercings there.  Would she be cut, or be cut?  The pink oxidizing like the metals in Chem summer school, turning a deep red.
An artist must learn to lose memories, he said, we’ll create our own play for you. And then he hung up.

She fumbled to switch off the light.  Nothing seemed where it used to be.  Naked now, she bent down to find her comforter.  Roses. Tulips. Irises.  Imprinted in the fabric of pink darkness.  Mother’s gifts.

what is pleasure?



a dark tank is our home. 
the scent of chemicals is overwhelming, although we cannot smell.
we hear the voices murmuring, although we have no ears.
and the swirling water is fishy. 
though we have no tongues, the finned taste pervades.


Evil is a switch, Ariel thought.  Evil is a switch that can be turned on by what turns you on.  Once it’s on,  you feel the buzz all around you.  When she’d seen the online ad, she hadn’t known what the switch was, but she sensed it waiting, and she wavered.  Every night that passed, she trembled when she thought of it.  It had said, “strictly artistic thing.”  She thought the words themselves connected in a creepy way. 
Barely 15, she had always been labeled “artistic,” but to think of herself as a “thing.”  Well, that was not really what it meant.  But still.  Her trembling had not been unpleasant.

Then one night, she stopped waiting.  Her parents long in bed, the trembling radiated to her toes.  She had walked to her computer—her footsteps on the carpet becoming the steps of an older girl—and she had gone to the site for the ad again.  It had disappeared.  She continued to search, her brain powered by her young, thrilling body, and somehow, she remembered the contact info.  Again, not without pleasure.  She only hesitated a few seconds—the words “bad girl” surging from her stomach downwards—then sent her response off with a click of her finger, easy as flipping a switch.

Within a few minutes, she received an email from the videographer that said: I’ll pretend I’m your friend and phone you.  Send me your number.
    That was it.  All business.
    The exact wording of the ad flooded over her like a blush, “older successful videographer seeks beautiful teenager for projects—strictly artistic thing.”  Her heart palpitated—like the times when she had frantically hoped for a lead in the school play and had walked up to the list of names.  Propelled by this same swirl of dread and excitement, she didn’t know what to expect from this older, successful guy.  Would he, like the directors at school, not want her?  It stung; maybe it was good not to be wanted.  Then she wouldn’t have to buzz with worry and could calm the hornets in her stomach.

After she had sent her number, almost instantaneously her cell rang.  What’s your name, he asked.   When she told him, he gave a little snort, what did that mean?  Have you seen any Greek statues?  What the hell, she thought, and didn’t bother answering.  Then he asked, do you have any navel pierces?  No, she said quickly.  Check, he said.  What?  Put your finger in your belly button and move it around.  She hung up.
    That was it, she thought.  Phew!  What a weirdo.
Before she could put her cell in her pocket, it rang again.  Fully clothed in bed, she tugged her phone out of her jeans.  The pocket tingled, her cell hot in her hands.  She thought of herself, the too good little girl; her parents would never imagine her doing anything like this.  The phone rang again and she answered. 
    The switch was now on.