Monthly Archives: August 2013

Attack of the Were-Chinchilla

“Look at it! It’s so fluffy!” Lucy said. She turned her head to the side as she awaited a response but kept her eyes focused on the furry grey chinchilla in the cage. The animal stood upright on its muscular hind legs, its tiny hands wrapped around the thin metal bars to help it keep its balance. It waved its twitchy nose in the air, as if trying to peer around its own snout to get a better look Lucy. “You gotta see this, John. It’s got like, little T-Rex person hands.”

Lucy peered over her shoulder and saw John standing by the doorway of the pet store, poking at his smartphone. Her head followed the rolling arc of her eyes as she looked back at the poor trapped critter. She sighed and slipped a waggling finger between the bars of the cage. “Hewwo Mistew Mogwai,” she said in that cutesy falsetto that we all reserve for animals and babies. “That’s what you are. You’re a little Mogwai, like in Gremlins. That’s why they can’t get you wet, no.” Her finger brushed along its fine fur coat, revealing starbursts of white hair beneath its dark grey tips. Her voice returned to its normal tone and she said, “Oh my god, you are the softest thing I’ve ever touched.”

The chinchilla let out a sharp, high-pitched bark and snapped at Lucy’s finger. She  gasped and quickly pulled her hand away. The chinchilla yipped again and bit down on the bars. She wondered how such a cute little creature could get so mean. Lucy noticed a small dab on blood on the tip of her finger. She stuck it in her mouth to suck the blood away and she heard John say, “We should really get going. It’s almost rush hour and mall traffic always sucks. Especially when it’s a full moon. That’s when everyone —  ” He stopped in the middle of his sentence, the skin on his face stretching back in disgust. “I hope you washed your hand first. Those things are disgusting. They literally bathe in dirt.” Lucy pulled her finger out of her mouth and hid both her hands behind her waist, as if he wouldn’t notice. “C’mon, let’s get out of here,” he said as he strode towards the door.


Evening came and the honey-colored moon grew brighter in the blue-black sky. John had an early shift the next morning, so the two of them had crawled into bed around 9pm. Lucy was surprised at how easily she fell asleep, but by 11:30, she was completely awake again, staring up into the sky as hunger pangs came over her. She went out into the kitchen and tore through the refrigerator but nothing caught her interest. Then she looked on top of the refrigerator. She saw a box of mini Sun-Maid raisin packs. She could feel her eyes grew wider, bright as the moon, as she grabbed one of the little snack packs and tore through the cardboard visage of that red-berretted woman and let the sweet, sun-soaked wrinkles fall across her tongue. But she could only eat two before her heart began to race. The sugar made her fingers tremble and she was overcome with thirst.

Lucy ran over to the kitchen sink and turned the water on, lapping at the faucet, little droplets spraying on the counter. She was lightheaded, woozy, though not quite tired. With three good hops she found herself standing in the living room, suddenly beckoned by the creases in the couch. She curled up beside it, making herself as small as she could, and tried to hide beneath it, but she was still too large. She tucked her head down and pulled herself in tighter. She held herself more tightly across her chest when she noticed delicate clumps of silky fur covering her shoulders and her back. She reveled in the softness as she shrank and shrank and shrank…


The brain of a chronic alcoholic is small, shriveled – like something left to dry out but forgotten. It’s far more terrifying to look at than the Alzheimer’s brain, which looks exactly like I thought it would. Like something that’s just stopped working.

I try not to think of my own brain as a wadded up towel in the driveway, something that served its purpose but had done the job so many times that it was starting to fray and grow threadbare in patches where it had been really ferociously applied. I’d like to think I stopped in time.

Mint Chocolate Soul

You’re cooler
than your friends
Mint chocolate soul

For everyone loves chocolate
And those who see your shell
So solid if they knew
Inside you a river of joy pulses
In those brief moments
Where we snap and feel so open
Your core is a flavour
That leaves the exposure
You are a mint chocolate soul
And the very gods of hair
Who saw fit
to adorn you with chocolate locks
Know the truth of your center
The secret smile that winners have
That what you’ve got inside
Is more flush to the cheeks
The palate of life licked
Clean in search of the ever
Present gift of minty cool
Mint chocolate soul
When you melt
You taste of life
The best parts together
and ever sweet.

Frying Pan

Old Nantucket was a mighty man, washed
his face in a something that isn’t a
frying pan, because that’s how poetry
works, right? So long as I’m clever, no one
will notice I have nothing important
to say. I’m doing it right now. Although
it also works the other way: if I’m
obscurely emotional, vividly
reliving some insipid childhood
incident, nostalgic images thrown
in with poignant emotional roughage,
no one will notice I’m dumb as a brick,
shallower than a bathroom floor puddle
of late night sick, trying to make it stick.

Brandon’s Beard

Brandon’s Beard was born in the summer of 2003 when Brandon was twelve years old. At first it appeared like a thin layer of dirt, and its fuzzy wire limbs were not strong enough yet to grasp firmly onto his young face. “Son,” his father that Saturday morning, “it’s time to teach you to shave.” But Brandon was too young, too excited to listen to his father. He was too busy plopping piles of shaving cream onto his own face that he never heard his father say, “Son, it is our duty as men to control the beard. For if we do not the control the beard, the beard will control us instead. And son, we cannot have that. We absolutely cannot that.”

Brandon trapped the beard in the lathered cream and dragged the blade across his face, slicing off its tentacles. The beard’s dying limbs waggled in the air, vibrating fast enough to make a sound, but again, Brandon never heard it. Though the beard had died that day, its offspring were planted stealthily in his pores, awaiting the day when they themselves could grow strong and take control.

As the years went on, it gained control, one tiny layer of fuzz at a time. With each new shave, it returned thicker, stronger, more alive — but Brandon managed to circumcise it every time, slaying the monster and shattering its hold on him.

It was the crunch of Finals, the fall semester of his Senior year of college. Brandon hadn’t managed his time so well, and found himself suddenly faced with less time than he needed to accomplish the things he had to. Something to give. Some major timesuck had to be sacrificed in order for him to complete the semester.

On that fateful night, he heard the wiggling follicles whisper on the word. “Leave us, Brandon,” they said in unison. “Let us grow, while you take care of more important things. You can always cut us later.” And this time, Brandon listened.

Several passed passed without sleep, and the beard continued growing, each little symbiote limb sneaking out of Brandon’s skin and joining with its hirsute kin. On the third night, Brandon looked at his clock and saw it nearing 4am. He had only 4 hours until it was due. But he was too exhausted to complete it. Not even caffeine could save his weakened and exhausted mind.

Brandon felt a fire curtain drop across his eyes. The beard had its chance. As Brandon’s heavy head began to float down to the desk in search of its reprieve, the bristled whiskers reached out, each as far as they could go, and as they stretched further and further, their roots sunk deeper, deeper into their master’s flesh. The strands came together and tied a series of scratchy around Brandon’s abandoned pen. They lifted it from the desk in unison then brought the pen down to the paper and began to write in harmony.

Where once they were but individual fibers, now they were become Beard, and Brandon has not had a conscious thought in control of his body since that very day.

Tiffany: Gossip

There is a big picture collage of college campuses that covers the wall behind my computer: historic New England architecture framed by trees turning fall’s most brilliant orange and red hues; gigantic mid-Atlantic lawns; quads surrounded by palm trees climbing higher and higher each time I look at them. I have always pictured myself somewhere in these photos, and ping-ponging among the images, back and forth between where I belong most, is one of the best things I have. The pictures have been there for the last year, since I started collecting the brochures that Mr. Rose gave me: Stanford, Pomona, Brown, Tufts, Hopkins, St. John’s, Chicago—that was just the start. I used to sit down on my floor, cross-legged, and sit down with the photos, cutting out the best ones, and putting them up on the wall. The last one to go up was Harvard. It was two weeks ago. I’d been afraid to jinx anything, or shoot too high or ruin something. Set unreasonable expectations. Hitting the top is never something we’ve known in this family.

“It’s time to aim for what you deserve, Tiffany,” Mr. Rose said. Another day working with him after school. An hour later, I’d written another poem, and it was a good one. He’d said so, but I also really knew it. That night, I came home, sat on the floor, cut out the big picture of the Harvard quad, and put it up on the wall.

I’m sitting at the computer staring into the collage when my email count goes to 1.

It’s so fucked up.

The email comes from The subject line says Hi Mom. In the message, there’s a picture, and I gasp when I click on the attachment: open on my screen is a crudely Photoshopped sonogram with my face on it. It’s followed by a link to the Facebook page of “The Lovechild of Mr. Rose and Tiffany Sullivan.”

I’m just sick. There’s no other word for it than just sick. My stomach gurgles, the pit drops out from it again low, so low. There is a foot on my chest—an entire army of feet—and I swear I am wheezing, even though I am silent.


I’d like a box to hide in;
I’d stay in it all day.
It might be tight,
without much light,
but that would be okay.

A box is pretty simple;
it doesn’t make demands.
It’s quite enough
to hold your stuff
when stuff’s not in your hands.

A box is many-sided;
it can be what you want.
Like a makeshift
plane or spaceship
in which you’re free to haunt.

So if you need to reach me,
for questions or for talks,
Just so you know –
I’m laying low.
Don’t bug me in my box.