Some Essays and Stories

Reflections West, with David Allan Cates, a little radio program about literature and culture

The Purpose of a Mummy in Modern Society, a short story in The Whitefish Review: At the party, Phoebe told me not to wear a hat I was wearing and I lifted my arm and knocked her away…

“You Are a Stupid, Naked Boy,” from Tell Us Something, live story-telling from The Wilma Theater, Missoula, Montana, Sept. 2016

“What is the West?” a short essay that illustrates how you can stab it with your steely knives but you still can’t kill the beast….from High Desert Journal

“Where’s the Love?” a talk given at the Rainier Writing Workshop, in August, 2015, about why we care about stories and poems, and where the seal barks come from …..

Seville’s Siren Song, New York Times Sophisticated Traveler: I confess my brain is sometimes clouded with scenes and characters from stories and history, or from things I have invented, so that even I as do something as uneventful as walk back to my Seville hotel from a flamenco bar at 1 a.m., wend my way through the narrow, cobbled, well-lighted streets, even as I turn a sharp corner and pass though a crowd of revelers spilling from an open bar, I might imagine the air thick with smoke not from cigarettes but from ninth-century Viking fires, or a more recent auto-da-fé.

Party Talk and Hometown, stories in NEO: I walked into the living room looking for Tisha, of course, but with the pumpkin shell over my head I couldn’t see anywhere but straight ahead, so I paused with a little group discussing the problems of the world…

Granada, Nicaragua, It’s fall and rise, New York Times Sophisticated Traveler: I’ll start with this disclaimer: I love Nicaragua. I love the poetry of its pace, ox carts slowing traffic, shoeless boys playing baseball in vacant lots, men riding their lovers double on bicycles and the silhouettes of women reposed in doorways. I love its rum and cigars, rice and beans and green volcanoes towering over red-tile roofs and blue lakes. I even like the smell of horse manure and diesel exhaust, an occasional waft from an open sewer and broken sidewalks that force me to watch my step.

Schussing throughout a Summer’s Day, New York Times Sophistcated Traveler


Finding the Flow, an essay in the Montanan: By the fall of 1989, ten years out of college and reading and writing like a madman for all of them, I had a novel manuscript that had been rejected by thirty-some publishers, just four published short stories, and a family farm I’d been slowly driving into the ground with neglect…

“Stories,” A craft essay for Glimmer Train

Man in a Hotel in Love, a short story And what about the things a man thinks as he lies next to a sleeping woman he’s just told he loves, and she’s fallen asleep in bliss? Well, perhaps not in bliss, for one thing. He doesn’t know how she’s fallen asleep, only that she’s asleep and he’s not . . .

A Miracle, an excerpt from “Tom Connor’s Gift” in Roadside Fiction, April 2014

“Granada Mornings and Two Very Short Miracles in 1987” excerpts from the novel “Tom Connor’s Gift” In the morning, across the café, a fat man sits at a table sweating profusely and drinking beer. Yellow sun sparkles over green mountains but he raises a bottle to his shiny lips and says, “To ugly life!” I join him. After a spooky night I want to stay out of my room. The day proceeds from six beers onward . . .

Rubber Boy, a short story in Glimmer Train. The first time I fell I was one and in a walker and I tipped down the basement stairs, head over plastic wheels. I was in a coma for three weeks—my mother sleepless at my bedside, my hand in hers—and then one day I woke up, all better…

The Affair, a short story in CutBank: It started as charmingly as any Benjamin Byrnes could remember. He sat in a Mexico City café after lunch, trying to begin reading a novel his wife had given him for the trip…

Imagining Tanya, a short story in Glimmer Train: That night when he finally came back to the cantina on the beach and marched us away, Phillip didn’t look angry, just tired and sad…

Things You Cannot Know, a short story in Glimmer Train: I wake in the morning at the Pension Juanita when the hammering starts on the other side of the wall next to my bed…

Health Care Reform Op-Ed Piece: In an Independent Record opinion piece, Rep. Denny Rehberg wrote that the people don’t want health care reform. He said reform is being jammed down our throats by government…