I'm pleased to report that my story “Tough and Dangerous Times” is in the new edition of River Styx magazine, which is an independent literary journal that’s been published in St. Louis for 37 years:
Thirteen-year-old Robin Morris knew for a fact that her father was screwing the nanny because she had read those exact words in her stepmother’s diary this afternoon after sneaking into their bathroom pretending to look for hair gel; Kim hid her diary in a drawer by the tub, next to her tampons, wrapped in an old Disney beach towel no one used. Robin hadn’t peeked at the diary for a week, but today she plucked it from its hiding place and flipped open to the most recent entry, only two sentences, dated last night: “Goddamnit, now that asshole is screwing the nanny + honestly, it’s easier to replace him than her. But I want to kill them both.” Robin had closed the black leather notebook and shoved it inside the folds of the towel, not being as careful as she usually was about replacing it just so. Then she stood for a moment, her heart beating surprisingly fast. This was why her father had come out of the guest room this morning mumbling about his back acting up.
Now here they were: being shown to a table for four, right in front, by the big picture window that looked out onto the street. No one was in the restaurant because it was only 5:10, because no one else in Bethesda thought it would be a “special treat” to eat a too-early dinner of Chinese food on a drizzly Saturday. The restaurant’s décor was so bland as to be forgettable even while looking around the room. The only item of note was the big, red, snarling dragon set on a table along the far wall. Every time Robin came here, something seemed slightly different about the dragon: today, it was angled so that its curled tongue pointed at her, as if it wanted to warn her about something—which was silly, but also spooky, and a chill tingled Robin’s spine.
The story came from a very real Chinese restaurant in Bethesda, near the Writer’s Center, where I often eat before I teach. Because I’m eating there at odd hours, there is an odd assortment of people in the restaurant, and I can’t help but make up stories about them as I eat my hot-and-sour soup and shrimp fried rice. This was a very uncomfortable family, clearly not enjoying their dinner out—I have no idea what the real problems were, but isn’t that the fun of writing, getting to make it all up?