Friday, April 22, 2016

Short Story Good News!

My short story “Shadow Daughter” won second place in The Hudson Review’s fiction contest!  It will be published in an upcoming issue, which is a thrill and an honor. (I’ll keep you posted.)

Here’s a little teaser from the opening:

            In college, in the early eighties, money was why I didn’t smoke, drink, or do coke. If I wanted to, I found boys.

            “He’s not good enough for you,” my best and only friend Jess might suggest, her suggestions always commandments. “His face is boring. And that bad breath. Like a dragon. What do you see in him?” 
            I spouted clich├ęs about still waters running deep while remembering how the boy drove me to a blues bar on Howard Street, putting down a twenty for as many shots of Wild Turkey as I wanted while the music pulsed my skull. If I thought about that, I wouldn’t think about later, kissing him in his car, when he panted his dragon-breath into my ear and across my eyelids. Or when, with the sun coming up, I trudged to my dorm and its fluorescent-bright, group bathroom, where I jammed two fingers deep into my mouth, crushing hard against the back of my tongue to make myself puke, the way to avoid hangovers, to not feel rotten the morning after. 
And here’s more info about the contest and the other winners:



The Gettysburg Review just came out with its summer 2016 issue, which includes my story “Give the Lady What She Wants,” set in Marshall Field’s department store in 1980s Chicago:
             In an ideal world, Jess’s mom said she would see Jess at least once a week. In an ideal world, Jess said she would see her mom at most once a month. They didn’t say these things to each other, but to me, separately. I didn’t ask, they volunteered, each using the words “in an ideal world.” This happened on the same day, when Jess’s mom met us at the big Marshall Field’s department store downtown for shopping and lunch. It was early February, the lull before midterms, and Jess hadn’t told her parents about her new boyfriend Tommy, so she warned me to keep quiet. But she wanted a new dress for Valentine’s Day that would knock his socks off, “or better yet, his pants,” she said. 

            I, the college roommate from Iowa, was invited last-minute, because Jess’s sister Linda dropped out, claiming shopping was bourgeois, an opiate for the masses like T.V. and sports. “She stopped washing her hair,” Jess’s mom reported, “and now it’s baking soda instead of Crest like someone normal. She says she’s not going to college, she’s moving to Vermont to make yogurt out of goat milk or maybe it was spin yarn out of goat hair. Who can keep up?”

            We were at lunch in the Walnut Room on the seventh floor, where we’d gone straight off before shopping because Jess’s mother said she needed coffee, but she ordered a glass of white wine. Jess and I had Tab. Jess ordered a chef’s salad with oil and vinegar dressing, and her mother started out talking about salad but switched to chicken pot pie. They told me I had to have the Marshall Field’s special sandwich so I did. I was hoping toothpicks with those frilly cellophane tips came jabbed into it, which wasn’t very sophisticated, but I guess they reminded me of my little sister, because she loved them and also the plastic swords spearing the fruit in our father’s old-fashioned at birthday restaurant dinners, and maybe I was thinking about her back in Iowa, her face twisting into sadness when I got on the Greyhound after Christmas break. I’d pressed my hand on the cold window because I’d promised her, but by the first traffic light I was fiddling with my Walkman. 
The current issue isn’t posted yet, but it will be soon, and you can buy a copy of the journal print or online here:

Also, perhaps you’ve noticed the same characters mentioned in each of these stories. Hmmm….I wonder what that could mean?? Might there be a larger project??? I think I’ll stay a little mysterious a bit longer on that topic!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.