Things We Leave Behind

The Louisville Review Fall 2019

My dog is shitting water balloons. 

It’s not as glamorous as it sounds, although the little confetti-colored mounds do stand out from your typical backyard dog-offerings. 

We’re good parents, Tony and I; we usually feed Simba organic.  Grain-free.  Vegan, even, that time she acted funny after licking the toad.  But today’s backyard evidence suggests she’s developed a neon-plastic habit, sourced from the neighborhood kids; the detritus of a birthday party stuck to the bottom of a garbage can; deflated balloons swimming in the sauce of a melted ice cream sundae or stuffed amidst a pile of soggy paper plates.

Pomp and Circumstance

Broadkill Review, October 31, 2018

Mel’s graduation gown billowed up in the face of another faculty member, one he didn’t recognize, disguised as they were today in their gold and scarlet renaissance gear. He tried to flatten the gown against his butt, but in doing, he so dropped the front flap of his robe and heard the clunk of bottle on shin.

First casualty of the day.

“Sorry,” he said, not really meaning it, climbing over Thompson or Tompkins—the new lady professor in his department. New hires were barely worth his time with all their “working from home” and skittering off for coffee instead of doing the actual hard work of academia: chairing lugubrious committee meetings or reading egotistically-long tenure packets. And don’t even get him started on the newbies’ research. What with everyone linked to Wikipedia these days, Mel wasn’t sure they could be bothered with actual research anymore.

He straddled the next two sets of knees, climbing over with some effort, wondering why they’d placed the folding chairs so damned close together.

The flood

Referential Magazine, September 2015

“Keep your eyes open for the latrine!”

“Latrine?” Markus peers over the box he’s lifting from the back of the trunk. Through the breezy rain, he scans the expanse of tattered blue plastic tarps around him. Pulled across lines and tied onto sticks, they make the field around him look more like a rural flea market than a home to thousands of people. “I don’t see any latrines!” he says.

“That’s my point.” Obiru wades past, through a half-foot of murky brown water, sloshing forward with his front foot first, performing an underwater search. “But there should be one around here. They dug them into the northwest quadrant of every sub-camp a couple of years ago.”

“Wouldn’t we see the walls?” Markus adjusts his load.

“No walls, my friend. Just a hole and cement footpad. Kakuma-style.”

Markus wonders if all refugee camps look this bad, as he follows behind Obiru. They pass one of the camp’s premium huts—a hovel built from dirt by one of the more resourceful refugees. An upper corner of it collapses; its water-logged wall reverting, with a splash, to its red sludge origins.
“So somewhere below us is a shit-hole?” Markus cringes.