Category Archives: Published Short Story

VACUUM MAN: crime, cruelty & a touch of amity in the Sex Capital of Asia

A few years back I had a gig in a 5-star resort in Pattaya, Thailand and we had a customer there, an American expat, who used to close down the all-you-can eat buffet. While so doing he routinely abused the staff, harassed the waitresses, made endless spurious complaints, left gigantic messes, came in reeling drunk and once even screamed at a small child for some reason. He was also obscenely obese – as in, his sandal straps disappeared into his foot fat. On the day he was kicked out of the resort and asked to never return, I heard one of the waiters mutter under his breath, “Go die.”

And Vacuum Man was born.

None of the foregoing details made it into the story.  “Vacuum Man” is told from the perspective of a couple petty street punks.  But I did think a lot about Vacuum Man, how he got that sorry place, what inner core of sadness could wreck a person so irretrievably. I don’t really know, of course.  I never saw Vacuum Man after he got the boot from the resort. I hope the real Vacuum Man ended up better off, though I’m not sure the staff that actually had to put up with him would agree.

“Vacuum Man” is up at A Twist of Noir.  Many thanks to Christopher Grant for taking this one onboard.

Vacuum Man, by the way, was rejected nearly 20 times before finding a home.

I assault PANK with crank-fueled crime

Finally, finally, finally my story in PANK has gone live.  You’ll recall that PANK rejected six other stories before taking The Cloud Factory.  I am grateful to Roxane Gay and Brad Green for agreeing that this story was up to snuff.

This story is important to me in another way, too – with this story I really, really began telling stories again.  Which is to say, putting story before pretty sentences.  Judge for yourself if you think it works out.  You can’t comment over at PANK so please feel free to comment here, if you’d like.

A preview:

Jimmy brought nothing but a duffel bag.  He strapped the bag in the bed of my decrepit Chevy.

“My last ride,” he said climbing in the cab.  “You’re riding home alone, Gary.”

“You serious?” I said.

“As a house fire.  Take me to the bus depot.”

I pulled away from the dirt alley onto the street.

Rooster Stew in Midwestern Gothic #2

Tell me this isn’t a beautiful-looking mag:

Order yours here.  The PDF’s only $3.

Naturally I hope you’ll flip to my story Rooster Stew first (right there on page 125, ahem) but I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, on account of this line-up:

Midwestern Gothic

Add this to your summer reading list! Issue 2 of Midwestern Gothic is now available, and the stories and poems have only gotten better. Get a hardcopy to flesh out your bookshelf, or an eBook. Issue 2 features fiction and poetry by:

  • Jeffrey Alfier
  • Nina Badzin
  • Molly Brodak
  • Aaron Burch
  • Renee Cohn
  • Elizabeth J. Colen
  • Nancy Devine
  • Anne Earney
  • Noah Falck
  • Rachel Contreni Flynn
  • Casey Francis
  • Scott Garson
  • Deborah Garwood
  • Carter Goodwin
  • Aaron Hamburger
  • Andy Hobin
  • Emily Howorth
  • Kate Jenkins
  • Allen Kopp
  • Sean Lovelace
  • Emily Tamayo Maher
  • Court Merrigan
  • Jim Miller
  • Dan Moore
  • James O’Brien
  • Adam Peterson
  • Alexis Pope
  • Suzanne Scanlon
  • Ian Singleton
  • Keith Taylor
  • Robert Vaughan
  • Kelsey Yoder

Here’s a sample from Rooster Stew:

Delia’s job is to hoe in rows all down the slope, so water can get to the chokecherry and sandcherry and buffalo berry and grass, which have shed their blossoms in favor of foliage.  Last week they burned and cleared the ditch.  Yesterday they put in checks so the water can be channeled to the bushes and grass.  All spring long they have been hacking weeds, scattering grass seeds, planting new bushes and saplings to get ready for the water.  Today the water is here.