Sturgeon

Day8.Herman_the_Sturgeon-800H

(Day 8: April 13, 2014)

She could gut and clean a fish and eat it, but there was sometimes the problem of remorse. It would come snaking up the backs of her legs, slithering to the front of her ribcage and lodge itself in her chest. Which is where it was now, while she stood at the sink trying to clean her hands of the smell.

She stood, unblinking, and leaned her forehead toward the kitchen window, her eyes reflecting in the glass. This was an elegy of sorts, a way to commemorate the ancient sturgeon she’d stared at earlier. The one they’d gone to see at the hatchery before heading out on the water to fish. Ten-feet-long and thick as a child, it pressed itself to the glass of the viewing area, its bony-plated skin, its dog-like face. She, vertical and womanly, pressed herself against the other side, and they remained there eye to eye for several minutes. It seemed the sturgeon had swallowed a mouse, four skinny white legs protruded from its mouth and she tried to imagine the mouse underwater, its little paws clawing at the water, clawing for survival, until someone called them whiskers, feelers that scan the bottom of the river for food.

Fingers, she thought to herself. Mouse fingers.

The fish blinked. Once. “Hi.” She winked back.

At that moment she wanted to leave the underwater viewing room and walk up the long ramp to the pond and step over the fence and the rocks, to submerge herself in the pool. To lie down next to the giant fish and reach out her hand to touch its waxy skin and ask, in a bubbly whisper, what the world was like 200 million years ago.

“Do this,” her husband said, waking her from her reverie. She looked at his hands, rubbing against the stainless steel faucet. “It gets the sea-stink out. Trust me.”

She did as he did, the sturgeon’s face still imprinted upon hers, the image of its body still alongside hers. She put her fingers to her husband’s nose. “Better?”

“Yup,” he said. “All gone,” he said.

She put her her hands to her chest and smiled. “Good,” she said, but when he turned away to wipe the counters, she started to weep. When he left the kitchen, she got down on the floor, forehead to the linoleum. And in this way, she serpentined herself slowly toward the sea, trawling for food, doing her best to circumvent the spears, knives, and hooks of men.

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New(t)

photo(3)

(Day 7: April 12, 2015)

Because the creature was orange and gummy, the girl held it to her mouth and sniffed it. The mother saw this from a short distance away, while in the midst of a conversation with a friend. They were sitting along a river and the friend was confessing to having affair with the woman who came to clean the swimming pool. They were laughing about how clichéd this was–the bored housewife having an affair with the young pool boy, only in this case the pool boy wasn’t a boy but an older woman, “hefty and dyke-y,” as the friend described her.

“She’s very smart,” the friend was saying. “And her eyes are like, I don’t know, beautiful green planets or something.”

The daughter was crouched at the edge the rocks, gently passing the bright and wiggly thing from one hand to the other.

“What is that, honey?”

The girl held up what looked to be a salamander or a newt.

“Oh, look at that! Be careful. Those are delicate.” Of course, there was no need to tell her daughter to be careful. Terra had gentle hands and a fierce love of creatures. This was the girl who cried over trampled worms in the garden and dead flies on the windowsill.

She turned back toward her friend, who said, “And one thing just led to another, I guess.”

“What do you mean, one thing led to another? You’re having philosophical conversations with the pool lady and then you’re suddenly in bed with her?”

“Not in the master bedroom,” the friend said, smiling. “Good God no. I couldn’t do that to Jim.”

In the moment, the mother understood this logic, however flawed, but she did not say so. She looked again at Terra who now had the salamander or the newt up to her face. It looked like an orange peel. She thought of Jim, the husband, not her favorite person in the world, a little lacking in chi, as was often the case with architects. But he was kind and attentive, especially to their children, two boys, one older and one younger than Terra.

In a quick move, Terra’s tongue darted from her mouth onto the newt, then back into her mouth. She paused a moment, as if evaluating the taste, then returned her tongue for more.

My daughter is licking a salamander, she thought. “What about Jim?” she said to her friend.

Her friend sighed. “I know.”

“There’s no harm in that, is there?” she said, gesturing to Terra. As a child, she herself ate handfuls of dirt. When her own mother had asked what was caked in the corners of her mouth, she’d said, “Chocolate.” Her mother had handed her a cloth napkin and said, “Well, clean yourself up.”

Her friend did not look at Terra and the animal in her hands, but up at the trees, thinking about Jim or about the pool lady, or both. “Oh, I think there probably is harm in it,” she said. “I think there probably is a lot of harm in it.”

Terra set the newt back into the water.

Later, after they’d rushed the girl to the hospital, the muscles of her face locked in a grin, Jim was the one who came and sat with them and looked into Terra’s eyes and then put his arm around her mother and kept it there, a necessary and welcome weight.

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One Obvious Choice

day6.stolen-bike

(Day 6: April 11, 2015)

When his bike was stolen he sulked for several hours and sighed a lot. It had a steel frame and was built by Italian prisoners, he said. It was not the kind of bike easily replaced.

The mother of the 27 year old who died when the building exploded said the same thing minus the built by Italian prisoners part.

The singer-songwriter who lived in the building that exploded raised $27,000 in 15 days online to help offset her losses. She had name recognition and gentle voice that when singing sometimes sounded more like speak than song. When the money started coming in she was grateful but also felt guilty. She may not have felt the guilt if the Dominican woman in the building had not been living there, rent-controlled, for nearly 46 years and would not most certainly have to move out of Manhattan, her son and his baby along with her. The singer-songwriter spoke of the Dominican woman to strangers at a party while the hostess, a woman with kindness and cleavage, gathered fashionable clothes into a suitcase. The clothes were not for the Dominican woman but for the singer-songwriting with name recognition, and this kind of generosity only added to her guilt.

When loss is colossal, we feel good about ourselves for offering even small replacements. The solitary losses—an almost-baby, a leg, the sunlight needed to sustain a small farm—are where our fingerfuls of mortar do nothing for the bricks that remain.

The singer-songwriter tried on an oversized black sweater. “I lost five notebooks full of writing and my computer. But it seems little in the scheme of things.” She buttoned up the sweater and stood in front of the mirror and said, “I like this.”

A bike, for a commuter, is not a toy but an extension of the self. It is possible to forget to lock up the self, particularly if one is socializing and then gets invited to drink beer on a day when the weather cannot make up its mind. A bike thief may either be a spy or an opportunist. In any case, without a lock the self is easily nabbed. It takes all of 2 minutes.

Some things are forever irretrievable. At the party they played a game. It is a two-person game, at least. One person silently identifies a person in the room they would want to trade lives with and the other person tries to guess who they chose and why. Among the choices: a blond boy with droopy eyes, a gay man in a beard and a checkered shirt, a bald man eating coconut cream pie, a woman in a lace top hugging a 4-year-old. Of course there is only one obvious choice.

What he liked best about his bike was that it was white and pink and fast. Once he was hit by a car while riding it and flew over the handlebars and landed on his ass. He had to go to the chiropractor for a few months, but the bike was fine.

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The Shape of Sadness

day5.oyster

(Day 5: April 10, 2015)

In the cave when the waves are pounding and the wind is rattling in her chest, she says, “This is a poem.” She says this because the sand is blowing over itself and the waves are rising up from themselves and together the sand and the waves create a unison. She knows how to look for such things, things like composition.

Sitting there in the cave against the pounding she feels a boundless joy and also a sadness. It is the kind of sadness that makes her want to be small and stay small.

There is something about the ocean that calls you back to it. Like Dar Williams says. You come from it so you want to go back to it, wade in with your work boots. Or maybe slide down the slope into it. Everyone is having babies. They walk around with them and push them and people make sweet faces at them. There is joy in these faces and there is also sorrow. A gaze holds so much but we can’t always decipher it. But this is not what we really mean by going back to the ocean. It is more of a metaphor. Because the ocean can hold so much.

After she says this is a poem, she asks, What is joy?

There is such a thing as not being present because one is indulging sadness. One can be with something other than the blowing sand and mist because one is stuck in a memory of a former pounding. Love recently lost will rearrange your skeleton and shift the curves of your brain. You’ll sit in front of the surf and replay early days of romance when you sat in a place not unlike this and felt the expanse between your ribs because someone was telling you you were everything. You still are everything, but when you think of the lost-ness you feel like nothing. It is enough to make you wish you were a sand dollar. Bones on the outside. Birds on the inside. And everyone reaching for your wholeness. This is partly why it makes sense to return to the ocean. For what it takes and what it delivers.

In any case, she asks about joy. Not because she’s never felt it before or because she doesn’t feel it now but because she wants to know it more intimately and forever. She wants to shape it, define it, find its outline and run her fingers along its edges. The way she can do with sadness.

She points to the waves. That is joy, she thinks. And that, pointing to the scuttling sand. And that, to the gull that hovers and keeps hovering because the wind lets it.

She stops in a shop for clams and oysters. The man tells her to wear gloves when shucking them. There are bacteria in the mud. One woman almost lost a leg from the bacteria. This reminds her of a pregnant woman she saw with no arms. How would she hold the baby?

When she holds the oyster, she can feel the shape of sadness. The oyster is still alive. It dies the minute it is opened. She will open it. She will eat its death. This is too much to bear, but it doesn’t stop her. There are many things that are too much to bear and these things, while she cannot bear them, do not alter her behavior. This is the problem with having to share a space with other species. There will always be ants underfoot.

When she eats the oyster she wants to gag. And then it is sweet. And then it is the surf. And then it is sadness and then it is joy and then it is lost.

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Invitation

Day4.two-walruses_1910203i

(Day 4: April 9, 2015)

When he took his gloves off to look at his phone, the wind lashed at his knuckles. He turned the screen on himself and snapped a picture. The white sky behind him, eyes in a squint-smile, moisture on his nostrils, scarf pressed against his mouth. With a cold finger he attached the photo to a message. It wouldn’t send now, of course, not from this latitude, from this temperature, from this remoteness. So instead he waved at the sky, then slipped the phone back into his pocket and returned his hand to the glove.

He shifted his pack, and walked toward the other side of the island until he reached the walruses–their bulk and tusk, their folds and whiskers, their grunts and their patience. They were like promises, he thought, or invitations.

He set up the tripod, mounted the camera, and looked at them through the viewfinder. In the frame he saw them as a coarse fabric, furling and heaving. He envied them their innocence, their collectivity. The longer he stood there, filming and looking, the more singular he felt.

He remembered her feet crossing and uncrossing, her hand coming to rest on her knee, the little sliver of moon of it shining out from her skirt.

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Mad Music

Day 3.RBGalway_14_01__0436_tm

(Day 3: April 8, 2015)

This is sad music, he said, referring to Bach. The cello suites. I like it, he said.

She was already sad so the music didn’t seem sad to her. Rather, it was like a ball bouncing down the stairs, chased by a small boy. Not sad, nor happy. Pleasant. Stirring.

They were sitting on a red sofa. The ball she imagined bouncing was also red, because aren’t all imaginary bouncing balls red? Or maybe orange.

She was tired of the chase and turned her body sideways, draping her legs over his and letting him pet her ankles. There was this.

She wanted to be the ball. Quick and round and unfettered. But she was not the ball. She was the boy, and the stairs were concrete and stained with urine and too close together. The ball descended rapidly and she dared to leap the last 5 steps, but stumbled and fell hard to her knees. She got up and kept going, wiping the tears from her eyes with the scuffed heels of her hand. Ahead was a planter and in the planter were several kinds of cactus. The ball bounced up and bobbled slowly over the cactus as if inspecting each one. Surely one of the cactus spines would stop the ball, she thought, a familiar hope slivering lightness into her chest, but the ball kept going and the sliver closed and so she kept going too.

Maybe we should slow down, he said, squeezing her ankle.

She wanted to pull her feet away. The cello was a falling cascade, rapid notes that made her think of the word “scurry.”

Okay, she said. She thought of lizards, their scurrying. She thought of the a man who had tattooed lizard scales all over his body and had his tongue surgically split to resemble a lizard’s. What would this do for his lover, she wondered. She rubbed the front of her teeth with her own tongue, imagining.

Some lizards–a species of whiptail–reproduce by parthenogenesis. An all female species, they clone themselves. They did not need a male to rub their ankles or any other part of their body.

Why are you doing that with your tongue? he said.

Scurrying, she said. I’m scurrying.

He looked at her and made his chin contract in a look that seemed full of pity.

This isn’t sad music, she thought. It’s mad music. It’s fucking screaming. She lifted her feet off his lap, turned away, and stuck out her tongue.

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You Can’t Argue

Day2.crane_fly

When the crane flies came, everyone thought they were mosquitoes. Giant gangly mosquitoes with a proboscis long enough to reach bone, a tongue so long it could suck a vein dry. The people covered their skin with slacks and sweaters and flung scarves around their necks. This was another way of holding onto winter. But there is no such thing. You can’t argue with the sun. You can’t argue with a swarm.

Well, it wasn’t exactly a swarm, just more than anyone had seen before. They came in the evening mostly, for the light.

They’re hungry, Natalie thought. I will feed them.

Natalie had once put out bowls of milk for the feral cats. Then the neighbors complained. Not all the neighbors, just Maria, a shuffling woman with a hairy chin and calf-sized forearms. Maria came with a pistol and threatened to kill the cats herself if Natalie didn’t get rid of them. Maria spit a little bit when she spoke and Natalie realized that she was the kind of woman who had to be loud and large because she probably had never been seen before. While the cats scurried from view, Natalie stood and looked Maria in the eye for a long time. She imagined Maria shriveling up like Dorothy’s witch under the bucket of water, but Maria did not shrink even a centimeter.

“Take care of it,” Maria had said. When the spit landed it made a mark on the sidewalk and stayed there until it rained, two months later.

Natalie had gathered up all the bowls in the yard and went to the pound and adopted a dog, a heeler-terrier mix with a spot on his head. She named him Bye-Cat. He chased everything that moved. All the cats ran away but one, a tailless gray cat that Natalie named Odd. What was most odd about this chapter of Natalie’s history, however, was the fact that she had not flinched at Maria’s pistol.

The giant mosquitoes flooded the evening. Bye-Cat was not interested in them. But Natalie was. She put on shorts and a tank top and moved the lawn chair under the porch light and opened a beer. “Come and get me, you little dragons.”

Wiry pterodactyl-like creatures, they bounced against the light fixture. Mosquitoes on steroids. Natalie held up the tiny beer bottle with her tiny hand. The tiny tree was silhouetted in the distance. It was as if the world had reduced itself in proportion to the insects. When one of them landed on her, its wings nearly covered her knee. Finally, she thought. She braced herself for the bite.

How much blood will it take, she wondered. Would she pass out? Would she be sufficiently emptied?

That is what she wanted. To be sufficiently emptied. Right now she felt clogged. Billy had clogged her and his darkness still crawled through her, a bitter jam. She leaned forward to look at the mosca, its stick-like spider legs, its papery wings, its seed-sized black eyes. “Suck me,” she said and leaned back in the chair.

At first the blood came as a trickle, thin and benign. Then it picked up, fattening and magnifying into a torrent. This undammed river carried objects, tossing and bobbing in the current: a small padlock key, purple orchids, six sparklers too drenched to ignite, toenail clippers, an endangered snail, a floret of cactus spines, a jar of olives, dozens of words formed from puffy promising letters. The mosquito sucked and sucked and the debris gathered and eddied in the blood, which flowed out of Natalie’s body.

When Natalie opened her eyes, the sky had turned a shade darker. Across the yard, Bye-Cat was lofting the puffy words into the air and trying to catch them. “Love,” then “This,” then “Beautiful.” Natalie watched each word hover then crash back to the dirt. She moved to stand up to retrieve “Love” before the dog shredded it to bits, but found she could not. Too weak from the bloodsuck, she thought.

She leaned over to inspect her knee and the crane fly lifted off, weightless. “Wait,” she called out. But the fly didn’t listen. She leaned forward. There was no sign of bite: no redness, no welt.

This is because crane flies do not bite people. Natalie did not know this. It did not matter. You can’t argue with pain.

Bye-Cat had found the endangered snail. He was lying down and had it between his paws sniffing it, licking.

“Leave it,” Natalie said. She moved to stand up, but it was too late.

Bye-Cat scooped the snail onto his tongue, tossed it back into his mouth, and gulped it down. Above, the crane flies—more than anyone could count—gathered for the light.

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The City

Day1.Female_Anatomy_101__Shoulder_by_m0bus

A woman has a lump on her shoulder.

“Is it growing?” her mother asks, worry between her brows.

“No.”

“It looks bigger,” her mother says. “Did anyone ever look at it?”

“Yes.”

“And what did they say?”

“That it was nothing.”

“It looks like a tortoise shell, in shape.”

“No it doesn’t.”

“You should have it looked at again. It’s bigger.”

“No, it’s not.”

This is a lie. The lump is bigger. Inside, the roads reach farther into the fields now and there is a new bank and a community pool at the edge of it. Recently there has been talk of a building with ten stories, which for this place would pretty much be a skyscraper.

At first it was just a town. No, a hamlet. A single road and a general store and a very tall old old man with a white beard sitting outside the store and a young girl who on occasion went inside and pulled penny candy out of the glass jars. The old man would nod at her as she entered and nod at her as she left and then he’s open his hand and she’d drop a red Swedish fish into his palm. The old man died some years ago. The girl still goes into the store and sometimes buys candy, which is still in jars, but mostly she spends time on her cell phone. On her phone she sends text messages her girlfriends, all of whom live in the town, which is now bigger than a town. The transportation system in this city is fractured and it has not yet become chic for the girls to ride their bikes, even though women in other cities, bigger cities, do so, wearing fancy shoes and skirts even. One of her friends sometimes drives a car and they all pile in and let their hair blow with the windows down. But this friend does not always have access to the car. So, texting. In a year or so this girl who used to feed Swedish fish to the gentle giant will develop “text neck” syndrome, a syndrome in which the curvature of the neck reverses due to the accumulated hours of looking down into a small hand-held computer.

Near the fields at the edge of town is a farmhouse where a man, widowed, lives alone. His hands are large like his father’s but he does not love the smell of soil in the same way. Still, he moves a tractor over the dirt at dawn and knows the real meanings of words like “fallow” and “depreciate” and “advantage.” His only son has gone to college to study something called gaming, which has nothing to do poultry. When the men come to buy the farm the widower says the only thing he can say and then moves to a small condo with plush carpeting on the other side of town. His son sends him links to games and he plays them by moving his thick thumbs over the keyboard. He curses when his avatar bites the dust.

Beyond the fields and the farmhouse is a desert full of rocks and cactus and creosote bush and some low hills and many tortoises who move as slow as prehistory. Not everyone knows these tortoises exist. When young, the game inventor used to crawl across the dirt looking for them. Once, because he didn’t know not to, he turned one over on to its back and left it that way. When he returned some days later, the tortoise was still there, legs up, dead. Sometimes we cause harm. Sometimes we just let things go too long.

When the new building goes up it ends up being not just one building but a whole complex, the tallest of which is 20 stories high. Below it, another five stories go into the ground for parking. Late at night, boys come with their skateboards and roll up and down the ramps. There is a small dark bar on the top floor where people in the know go to drink cocktails made by a mixologist who infuses special flavors into the alcohol—currant, Serrano chile, sage. A gap-toothed poet sometimes meets a cellist there and they drink sweet and spicy vodka and look out over the city and enjoy the twinkling lights and talk about other cities they’ve been to and how this one, by comparison, is clean and easy to navigate and affords views of the desert mountains and is full of people who look you in the eye.

As the they toast to the familiar, the boys skim down the ramps below and candy waits in jars and text messages pixel overhead and the tortoises listen for cars as the highway plows on and the woman with the city on her shoulder denies its growth.

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100 Days Project

So I’m doing this. The 100 Day Project. https://thegreatdiscontent.com/100days

Every day.

I’ll write.

Some fiction.

A page.

April 6-July something. I’m supposed to post on Instgram, but how do you post a picture of piece of fiction. Maybe I can pilfer from the interwebs an image.

Anyway, it’s the writing that’s important. I might not post ALL of them. But I’ll do them all.

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The Next Big Thing

Stock__Train_Tracks_2_by_TkrainThe Next Big Thing Blog series is an author’s work-in-progress project, started by the She Writes blog. It’s a chance for authors to tell you what they’re working on. The author answers 10 questions about their next book, and tags the person who first tagged them, plus at least 5 other authors.

Thanks to Kara Waite, who I didn’t even know had written a novel (which I can’t wait to read!) for tagging me.

Here’s my next big thing

Q: What is your working title of your book?
A: The Lightest Object in the Universe

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? (Read the full-length synopsis here.)
A: In this story of love, loss, and adaptation in a post-Apocalyptic America, she rebuilds her neighborhood; he walks cross-country via railroad; birds sing, waddle, and fly.

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: Some years ago, I got an issue of Adbusters in the mail that portended a catastrophic event ending the our capitalist, corporate, cheap-oil world system. The issue was a collection of philosophical musings and tirades about the “crash,” as well as letters that  were both personal (“I stay because New Yorkers are good at surviving, because we pride ourselves on our resilience.”) and practical (how-tos on raising chickens, cleaning wounds, and treating water). Dozens of images helped to depict the actual events and their psychological impact.

I was struck in particular by two submissions. One was a letter from one lover to the other, now distanced, missing. The other was a hand-drawn map of the U.S. railway system with a call to”go west”: “Train tracks make for sweet travel.” Accompanying the map was a series of hand-drawn hobo symbols used to communicate helpful information (water, safe camps, threats, etc.). “Pick up a piece of chalk and spread your own messages…” the contributor implored.

So I did.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Literary fiction “in the near future.”

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
A: I’ve actually thought a lot about this, but I’m not sure I’ve landed yet on the cast. At first I wanted George Clooney. You know, so in the midst of shooting I could have a lurid affair. Then I went to William Hurt, who I’ve always loved for his awkwardness and hidden competence. Minnie Driver for the female lead, or someone like her: feisty, energetic, and slightly wild.

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: I don’t know the answer to that. Publishing is at an interesting moment. Who knows what is best? I’m aiming for an agency. I’m not opposed to self-publishing. Whatever gets the book to be read and enjoyed by the most people.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: First draft. Two years and 10 months. Oy.

Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: I would not compare it to Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, even though whenever I begin to describe it, people interrupt and say, “Like The Road?” No, not like The Road. The structure borrows a lot from Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. I could flatter myself and say Margaret Atwood’s works, because I love her and because I think she renders plausible “what if?” future scenarios very well, which is what I’ve tried to do in the book. But it also carries a lightness and a joy , but I can’t think of other books like that at the moment.

Q: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
A: I’d been struggling to write non-fiction essays about American exceptionalism and the privileges afforded me by having grown up in the world’s Superpower and what to do about gratitude when you only feel angry at your country for its wars and its imperialism and its bravado. Those essays were bad and no fun at all to write.

When I started writing this novel, I was living in a neighborhood where people (myself included) were raising kept backyard chickens, putting solar panels on the roof, buying locally-grown food, re-routing the water systems of the house to supply the trees with greywater, and raising cisterns to catch the rain. We rode our bicycles to work and to play. This was around the time conversations about peak oil started happening and a whole bunch of books on the topic came out. It seemed sort of silly to look the other way, even though that’s what most of America seemed to be doing. It wasn’t all that hard to not drive a Hummer or to start supporting a local farmer.  Maybe, for better or worse, we had some of the energy and motivation that comes from feeling “right.” But then again, it never felt like we were doing enough. I still drove my car. I still flew to the east coast at least once or twice a year to see friends and family. I still ate fruit out of season sometimes. I still cursed my country’s foreign policies. I was still mad about Afghanistan and Iraq and all the prior fiascoes in Latin America (NAFTA, IMF austerity packages, dollarization) that were still impacting people’s lives for the worse.

I decided to offload my angst to some fictional characters and see what happened.

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A: There are lots of bicycles in the story! Good guys who ride around and do good deeds. There are also some bad guys on bikes who cause all kinds of trouble.

There’s also an evangelical preacher who has monopolized the airwaves and tirelessly broadcasts promises of ice cream and “ascension” as he lures people to “Center” for salvation. Who follows? Who finds redemption elsewhere?

Unlike most books about the apocalypse, which tend to be dark and brooding, this one has a lot of hope. It’s a love story, after all.

# # #

(you can read more than you’d ever want to know about me on my web site: www.KimiEisele.com)

I’m tagging these writers:

I hope they’ll share their “next big thing” too!

1. Donna Steiner, who was in my first writer’s group in Tucson years ago. Her words are delicious.

2. TC Tolbert, a dear friend of mine, poet and essayist, who is changing the world for transgendered people and their allies with every word he writes. Buy his new anthology, Troubling the Line, here.

3. Elizabeth Frankie Rollins, another friend of mine who just published the amazing short story collection, The Sin Eater and Other Stories, which you should buy right now and read and be amazed!

4. Marge Pellegrino, the amazing author and teaching artist who improves the lives of refugee children every day! You should buy and read her young adult novel, Journey of Dreams, too!

5. Laura Markowitz, dear friend and author of Book of the Sky God, an amazing novel for young adult readers, which you can download and read, too!

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