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Category Archives: The Union

I got bored.


The leather of the steering wheel crinkles and falls away under Gia’s hands. Why is Gia driving? She hates driving.

“I don’t know how much of this you’ll remember.” Gia is crying, but not sobbing. Her hair is brown. It should be black. “I want to tell you, I want you to maybe know, okay?”

Del feels the springs begin to poke through his seat. It’s not Gia, it’s Rachel. Rust lances up the hood.

“I just.” Rachel’s shaking. “It wasn’t my idea to put you here, Dad. It wasn’t.”

Del inhales, cold and clear. The tires shred into the road.


Pennsylvania is really fucking empty.

“We’d better build something,” says William nervously. “They’re expecting more than, you know, an infinite velvet-gray plain.”

“Not infinite,” says Hannah. “Just extending to the horizon.”

“So effectively infinite.”

“From our perspective, yes.”

“Isn’t all infinity just a matter of perspective? I mean, even the universe itself, to God–”

“The numerical concept of infinity ignores perspective.”

“But what about countable infinity compared to uncountable infinity?”

“Wait, which one of us is talking? I’ve lost track.”

“I must be William, my voice is deeper.”


“So. Um. Hannah.”


“Why are you going all velvet-gray?”

New Jersey

“You don’t get the same quality of nicknames,” says Ticonderoga. They’re playing chess in the park. Ticonderoga likes to use six bishops.

“You don’t,” agrees Flynn.

“Used to be you earned a nickname.” Ticonderoga cracks sunflower seeds. “Me, I broke a pencil off in a man’s nose.”

“Everybody knows that story.”

“Exactly! Snap, I’m Ticonderoga! These days, it’s Vinnie the Bull because… he’s like a bull. Sure, and Sammy, he’s kind of like another bull.”

“Durkheim. Ritualization of collective effervescence.” Flynn knocks a bishop sideways. “Jersey could have been his petri dish.”

“Nobody ever mentions your nickname, Flynn,” Ticonderoga says narrowly.


It’s dark in this part of the office, but Georgia’s not sure it’s empty yet. Empty but for him. It. Him? Tonight she’ll be watching from above. Tonight she’ll know whether he comes to life.

The dropped ceiling tiles are flimsy, but there’s a reinforced catcrawl nearby. She gets a grip, hauls herself onto it, and comes face to face with a giant cobra.

Hooded. Cobra. In the ceiling. It’s rising, swaying, eyes are taking all the light–

The Crocodile Hunter’s strong hand smashes through the tile and grabs the snake, pulls it down, white dust and Georgia can suddenly scream.


The Beat Up Connecticut Challenge! LIVE ends for Gerald at his second table in the food court, or the second-and-a-halfth, really, since he manages to lay out one security guy before the other gets him with a taser. Seriously. Who expects a mall rent-a-cop to have a taser?

Cuffed to a chair in the substation, Gerald revises. Connecticut has earned his respect. He’ll have to prove it. As soon as he makes bail with the platinum card, he sets out on the Satisfy Connecticut Orally Challenge! ALSO LIVE.

But Connecticut gets all huffy about that too!


The rain has peanut shells in it, and coffee grounds. The grounds are getting in his hair. He tries to claw them out and the sky throws the ends of onions after them.

He can’t see very far. The trash gives way to water, then more water. He puts one hand out to follow the wall and the wall’s gone.

More rain than oxygen, now. He hunches down and tries to shield his mouth, breathes salt fog, chokes, stumbles. Kate’s there. She tilts her head up to his head tilted down and he sucks greedily at the air in her mouth.


In the morning the doorman smiles (it’s not the best apartment complex, but it has a doorman) and calls her Beryl, and that’s who she is until she slides her card at the office and the reader recognizes GAINES, MERYL. She answers email to mary.gaines and signs off on expenses as MMmyyGOO, or something. She pays for lunch as 1222 0129 7269 4118.

“Hello, Beryl,” says the doorman again, just after dark. Hello MARYL ! say the TV Guide and Capital One.

“Hello, city,” she says through glass, as her breath fogs her cold apartment window.

Hello, lonely, says the city back.

South Carolina

“You don’t look like a dragon,” says Toynbee.

The pink thing coils and thrashes. “Leave China for Korea, lose a toe,” it snorts. “Farther and you lose your scales. This far–this ugly empty place–I’ve lost almost everything!”

Toynbee knows the dragon wants to be picked up. It’s covered in wet brown leaves; it has a pig’s nose. He keeps his hands in his pockets.

“You grant wishes?” he says.

“Of course,” it says quickly. “Many wishes. Dragon wishes!”

“You don’t,” sighs Toynbee.

“No,” says the dragon, “but FedEx me home and I’ll give you my next-to-last name.”

New Hampshire

“But I’m the only one here,” says Miss New Hampshire.

“Not true,” says last year’s winner. “Miss Nevada–”

“–was shot with a blowgun and stuffed in the towel closet,” says Miss New Hampshire.

“Her thighs,” explains the bald judge.

“And aren’t we the little detective?” says the short judge nastily.

Miss New Hampshire decides not to ask why they’re in an Econolodge, anyway.

“Where were we?” asks the smiling judge. “Ah! The swimsuit portion…?”

Together, they tilt their heads a little to the left. Miss New Hampshire sighs and begins to disrobe, hoping that the Ace bandage effectively hides his thunder.


What do I know about Virginia? Not her birthday; not her favorite color. I know she loves the earth and growing things, Catholicism and KET. She can cook. She plays Vice City.

I know her friends call her Jinny, and she married John, and their children are Joan, John, James, Jeff, Jerry, Jeanne and Jay. Tenth of eleven, mother of seven. When she calls to one of them it’s a vocal slot machine.

My godmother, my grandmother: I don’t know how, through eighty years, she’s sustained her sense of wonder. I don’t know if, without hers, I’d have found my own.