“Everything That’s Lovely,” Pithead Chapel, The 2020 Larry Brown Short Story Award Issue (Finalist), Volume 10, Issue 1
They both laughed. She thought of that moment on the rickety stage, all the drunk kids hooting, when the lights shone on just her and she opened her mouth, the words right there on her tongue—“Jolene, Jolene” or “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want” or “Darling, you got to let me know”—before she knew if she’d be a hit or not. Toppling at the edge of an abyss, all the danger in the dark below.
“Shorthand,” Louisiana Literature, 37.2, 2020
She was afraid Dolores would see right through her. She would know, the way twins did. The way Evie knew that Dolores had never done with Joe the things she had done with Don, in the backseat of his Chevy Fleetline, under cover of night and shadow. And this troubled her because she seemed to have achieved something meant for Dolores alone. Stolen it from her, Mother might have said, as though that had been her aim all along.
“How Karma Works,” Slippery Elm Literary Journal, print issue, 2020
Jason almost fell asleep in the truck, soothed by the rumble of tires on pavement. He was glad to be going to the mountains without his mother, whose showy doting had begun to annoy him. Perhaps he and Ray might enjoy each other in her absence. He liked thinking they might team up against her, beat her at something, although he didn’t know exactly what. It puzzled him, this wanting to be on Ray’s side and not his mother’s, because he loved her—adored her, even—and thought Ray was kind of a dick.
This was it: He wanted to teach her a lesson.
“A Dangerous Place,” White Wall Review, September 9, 2019
The first time he took her to bed, they touched and kissed. No more. It was enough. He thought that sometimes, when you were without joy for a long time, you had to be careful letting it back in. Just a little at a time. All at once, it was too much.
Also, he was a gentleman.
“Gaming,” COG Magazine, Issue 14, 2019
We got into some good battles. Preytor jumped and flew with unnatural delicacy and regurgitated parasitic lifeforms, but I was stronger and better at punching. Also, my sonic roar was deadly.
“You have really good blade strikes,” I said when Preytor lay flattened and squashed on the sidewalk.
She kissed me softly. My lips felt the pillowy pressure of hers. I tasted salt and cornmeal.
This was not what I expected.
“Whatever Makes You Happy,” Mad River Review, Volume 4/Issue 1, 2019
Finally, exhausted, she hailed a cab and returned to the hotel. She showered and lay between the cool sheets. It wasn’t even five o’clock, but she fell into a blissful sleep, knowing, if only for a day, what it felt like to be completely disengaged, in a place where she was a stranger.
“What Olive Knows,” Five on the Fifth, Volume 3/Issue 10, 2018
Benji takes a step toward him. I am glad, because I am starting to feel sorry for Santa, the way he wants so much he can’t have. I realize Santa has a hole too. I think that is what Christmas is—everyone knowing about the holes and Santa trying to fill them with stuffed raccoons.
“Getting to Know the Boss of the Blues,” The South Carolina Review, Volume 33/Number 1, Fall 2000
I froze sitting down. That was a good thing, a blessing. I could have been standing up, like some of them. Rigid like planks of wood. I’d have had to lean up against the wall, like a broom, to sleep.
Not them. Us. Eighteen of us. In all the world.
“Skins,” Pleiades, Volume 20/Number 2, 2000
I pinched my gum between my thumb and finger and stretched it out, then pinched it back together. I really wanted to smoke. I might have, too, except for what DeeDee said about it fucking up my skin. I have kinda bad skin. Really bad. I’m fifteen.
“Team Sports,” Berkeley Fiction Review, Issue 18, 1998
The air pulses with his fury. For a stunning instant, all of the boys come to a halt, their eyes wide. You know what they’re thinking: Please make it not my dad. Somewhere else–the neighboring field, where older boys are playing–another whistle sounds. The older man drinking beer twists around in his low chair, looking up. “Hey, buddy, settle down,” he says.
© Gina Willner-Pardo