The Panda Complex


“When I first met Yaba, I was so nervous I threw up on a fern in her enclosure.” Norman Spitzer sat back in his metal chair wearing a satisfied grin. He took a sip of water from a Styrofoam cup held delicately as a champagne flute, wrists handcuffed together.

“You must understand,” he said, “Yaba was the last female giant panda in captivity, and the first panda I ever met in person, so I had worked myself into a fit of anxiety before going in. That is not to say I’m anything less than a panda fanatic. True, the world is brimming with enthusiasts; you’ve seen those teenage girls who carry a panda bear plush around the mall like a fashion accessory, or a street canvasser in boho sandals and a World Wildlife Foundation vest, cornering pedestrians with guilt.


Guns Talk: A Parody of “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men


Hey! Hey! Hey! She was just walking down the street, and they come blasting, chased by the heat. The kid is playing outside while he is asleep, and now one is lost with memories left to keep.   And some days I can’t even watch the news. It’s killing me to see the good guys lose.   ‘Cause guns are not the things of play. This weapon claims lives and …continue…


Grist graphic

At 6:35 AM, on a Tuesday mid-July, Alberto Salazar woke up. It was not, however, a literal awakening, considering Salazar had tossed in bed for hours, white sheets twisting into a tourniquet around the upper half of his legs as he maneuvered fitfully. His feet stuck out from the too-short mattress into the cool morning air, yet they were damp and clammy and felt slick against the hardwood floor when he finally sat up. Salazar was feverish and grim – a voice had been nagging at him through the night, preventing him from drifting into sleep or even closing his eyes with any real conviction.



Lift-Off Graphic

Two flight attendants bobbed down the aisle with gyroscopic grace as our plane taxied off the Pearson runway toward a squad of chemical trucks. They smiled, waving little bundles of wire in clear plastic wrappers as an offering from CrossCan. I frowned at the window – the Plexiglas was already steamed over by the exasperated breathing of the human cargo, forced to suffer the indignity of a twenty-minute deicing procedure. Outside raged a storm lit up in streaking currents by the pulse of the wing lights. I could think of only one thing as I stared into the blizzard: my father’s abrupt death. Try as I might, an awareness of this reality would not come into focus before my mind’s eye.


The Layman’s Holiday


Happy Fourth of July, Readers!

I hope you’re all enjoying hot dogs and lemonade in bright blue backyard pools, or maybe you’re hanging out on the beach with your families and friends, ready to watch the sky light up with red, white, and blue fireworks. I’ll be enjoying a long, glamorous night of work at my local frozen-yogurt shop, so please drink a beer or two for me! As I have nothing to do but sit and imagine all the fun I’m missing tonight, I find myself wondering why this once highly revered and meaningful holiday has been reduced to a reputation of pretty, colored fire in the sky, beer brat hangovers, and repetitive country music.


Riding in Mustangs


Rain spatters against my forehead so I yell at Chris to roll his window up. It’s so hot and humid and smoky and knee-jerking cramped that I sit contorted forward, pulling the muscles in my gut so I can angle my shoulder into the console. The windshield against the night looks like space, deep dark space with white missiles streaming in at us faster and faster. Randy kicks the shifter. Whoaaaaaa…wump!—whoaaaaa. Each jerk of the gears sucks against my abs. We pump the Jensens. We pump our hands against our Levi’d thighs. Everything on a Friday night is tension and expectation—clumsy and awkward. Freaks try way too hard at weekends.


Abandoning a Warlord for Dummies

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One of the car bombs peeled the lawn, then the smog cleared up
Anton stood palmin’ a beer mug, molotov in his pocket, balaclava & earmuffs
His parents feared him for obvious reasons: contras, arson, accomplished theft
was even dubbed a son of a gun…he used on his father when he shot him dead
Aimed white phosphorous at convents & consulates, dishonored catholocists
A martyr in his solemnness with the mark of the apocalypse
Now he’s out to make sure the carcasses of Sodom writhe
Used to be a postmodern kid, but now he’s not so nice


A Death in the Family


My Mother once told me that all the stars in the night sky were the dead souls of all the people who had ever lived in the history of mankind, and that they hovered above looking over the people whom they loved and cared about. On the day she died, this little nugget of wisdom was the last thing on my mind. Ben Garrison, our family lawyer, handed my father the last will and testament of my mother. We were standing in a wood paneled corridor outside the room my mother had passed away in not two hours ago. The sun shone from the high windows casting a heavenly glow into the corridor. I had no desire to read my mother’s will, but my brother Paul wanted to get it over with, and then he said he could begin with the grieving process. As usual, my father agreed with Paul. My father opened the document folder and shifted though the sheets of paper.


The Waterfront

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I open the taxi’s door, step onto Long Street. The sun is old, the sky red. Nothing but distance ahead. When I look behind me I trip but I catch myself before I fall. I try again. My late grandfather told me just last week that morning fog rolls off Table Mountain like lava. It is evening now. I wonder if I saw it when I was little. An old man exits a shop, shouts at the African children in the street. Voetsek, voetsek, he says. I came to this lush land to understand why we left it long ago and I will stay for as long as it takes. I try to remember what I said to my brother two days ago in Virginia. Was it, go to hell? His sad eyes had made me angry. I stop to let pass a drunken crowd. Moonlight emerges, holds everything still.