Excerpt from “Paradise”

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“Paradise” is included in my collection SURVIVAL SKILLS. Here’s a quick look at Max, the star of the story.

Anyone who’s ever owned a parrot will know why I cherish my newfound peace and quiet. Parrots scream at dawn and dusk (ancestral behavior they can’t help), and at intervals throughout the day just for the hell of it. I can’t tell you how many dreams I’ve been yanked out of, how much coffee or wine I’ve spilled on the carpet, all because of Max. And what really irked me was Kelly’s insistence that we never, NEVER startle him. Undue stress, she claimed, killed more pet birds than any other factor, and so we had to give a certain soft whistle—one high note, one low―every time we approached his room lest our sudden appearance disturb his reverie.

No captive bird has it better than Max. Back in Shelburne, in the farmhouse he shares with Kelly, Max has his own room, with jungle scenes painted on the walls and two large windows that give him a view of the dogwoods and the pond and the distant green mountains. He has a variety of free-standing perches to suit his rapidly shifting moods and a wire-mesh enclosure that takes up nearly a third of the room. Inside this cage are his stylish water and food bowls, several large branches from local trees and usually four or five toys Kelly finds at yard sales. These he bites or claws beyond recognition; if he is given something he can’t destroy he shoves it into a corner. Of course she must be careful about lead paints and glues. Captive birds are never far from peril. I learned that the first week I was there, when I heated up a pan to make an omelet and Kelly yanked it off the stove and doused it with water. Didn’t I know, she scolded, that the fumes from an over-hot Teflon pan could kill a parrot in minutes?

It was exhausting living with that bird, meeting his needs, second-guessing his wants. Kelly said I didn’t have the right attitude toward Max, which may have been true. I never did tell her what I really thought: that birds make lousy pets. Dogs and cats are pets. Everything else belongs in the sky or the water or the desert it came from. So right away I felt a little sorry for Max, even when I learned he was captive bred and able to fly, even when I told myself he was probably healthier and possibly happier living in his painted jungle, for what would he face in Guatemala but poachers and pythons and shrinking habitat? Even acknowledging their success―14 years of cohabitation―I couldn’t help seeing Max as a bird beguiled.

Maybe he sensed my pity and resented it. Or maybe he didn’t like the texture of my hair or the way I smelled. Maybe my voiced irked him. Maybe I reminded him of someone else. Whatever his reason, Max didn’t like me, no matter how hard I tried to please him. You’re probably thinking he was jealous, that he wanted Kelly all to himself; I thought that too, at first. Then I noticed how he welcomed the arrival of our friends and how charmed he was by Suzanne, Kelly’s former live-in girlfriend. I tried not to take it personally, but that bird was so shrewd he had me worried.

 

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/pokerbrit/9010421285/”>Steve Wilson – over 8 million views Thanks !!</a> via <a href=”http://foter.com/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>CC BY</a>

 

“Breach”

I wish to thank editor Ian Chung for including my story “Breach” in the latest issue of Eunoia Review. “Breach” involves two women on vacation in Hawaii, one focused on pleasure, the other on a troubling secret.

Eunoia Revew is an online literary journal committed to sharing the fruits of ‘beautiful thinking.’ Each day, we publish two pieces of writing for your reading pleasure. We believe that Eunoia Review can and should be a home for all sorts of writing, and we welcome submissions from writers of all ages and backgrounds.”

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“Greyhound”

Many thanks to C.S. Malerich, for sharing her thoughts on “Greyhound.” Malerich is one of the contributors in AMONG ANIMALS, a collection of short stories just published by Ashland Creek Press. You will not want to miss her powerful story, “Meat.”

C. S. Malerich

“Greyhound,” by Jean Ryan, the second story in Among Animals, is a little cipher of a tale, about the ways we never really know anyone, yet still somehow connect.  The narrator of “Greyhound” adopts a former racing greyhound with the hope that the dog can help bring her partner Holly out of…something.  Holly swears she has no inner demons to exorcise, but her psychosymatic symptoms say otherwise.  The dog they end up with, formerly called Clara’s Gift and now called Fawn, is an apparently troubled soul — eerily meek and obedient.  Holly lists the ways that greyhounds have been bred and shaped for the track, until it seems (in Fawn’s case at least) they no longer know how to be dogs.  Fawn has none of the behaviors we would recognize as “dog”: she doesn’t bark, beg for food, play with other dogs, or jump for human affection.  She was…

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Review: Among Animals – The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction

Book Chatter

Among Animals
Among Animals – The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction
By John Yunker (Editor)
(Ashland Creek Press, Paperback, 9781618220257, 232pp.)

The Short of It:

A deeply introspective look at the role of animals in society.

The Rest of It:

This is a powerful, and I’ll admit, at times, unsettling collection of short stories that center around animals and their place in society. I expected most of the stories to center around “man’s best friend” but the collection goes much deeper than that.

These stories include a man’s infatuation with a bird, a story told from a stray dog’s point of view, a woman impregnated (magically speaking) by a dolphin, a pregnant woman slowly becoming goat-like, and probably what was the most powerful story for me, one about an animal taken in as “meat” that suddenly becomes quite a bit more than that.

What I briefly mentioned above…

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The Problem of “Previously Published”

photoAs many writers know, most editors disallow previously published submissions, including personal blog entries. There doesn’t seem to be much sense in this, given that the majority of bloggers have a modest number of followers, and the internet is not rife with their work. As for those canny bloggers with several thousand fans, well they are probably less interested in placing their work in a journal.

Once or twice a week, largely by chance, I discover a blogger whose writing moves me. I often leave comments on their blogs; occasionally I’ll use their contact forms to share my thanks or praise.

As an author, I craft my posts with care, knowing they represent my writing ability. I also try to choose topics I find compelling and important; I want my words to matter. From what I’ve seen, many other bloggers feel the same way. Their excellent posts deserve a wider readership.

Of course the dilemma of previously published material can be bypassed. Writers can forego their blogs and submit their best work to publishers instead. This approach is sound but frustrating. For one thing, most writers wait months for responses to their submissions, which makes for a lot of blog downtime. Bloggers, just to keep their site alive, are compelled to post other things in the interim, usually pieces in which they have less stake. Also, the content of some submissions is time-sensitive; a long wait can dilute their impact. In either case, the posts an author is most proud of, has worked hardest on, are not available.

I think it’s fair to require that posts submitted to journals be first removed from blogs, but refusing to consider any blog entry, however brief its appearance, seems excessive.

What do you think?