How To Murder Your Friends

PLAYLIST:

“Street of Dreams” Blackmore’s Night

“If I Ever Leave This World Alive” Flogging Molly

“Searching for a Heart” Warren Zevon

Relax — this isn’t an instruction manual

My story “How To Murder Your Friends” was selected as the winner of the Stoneslide Snap Contest, netting me literary fame and a free pass to AWP.  I love the Stoneslide Corrective and apparently they love me; my story “The Redemption of Oren Barry” (among my favorite stories I’ve ever written) was an honorable mention in their most recent short fiction contest.

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There are two kinds of stories I write about Jason — the ones where he’s gone and the ones where he leaves.  Jason was absent from my life for about seven years and the majority of my short fiction (including my novel) has his ghost around the edges.  “Murder” was written just a few months before he came back, and it is perhaps the one that best shows how truly complicated he was.

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There aren’t enough words in flash fiction to describe Mike’s — Reese in the story — apartment to the context it deserves.  What I remember most about his place was the way it smelled, like Diet Coke and stale popcorn and Xtreme mint gum and cheap Axe knock-off body spray, which, oddly enough, he didn’t use.  If I could have bottled up that smell and worn it on my wrists, I might have worn it forever.  He didn’t take the scent with him to his new place, and I miss it constantly.

He had a too-soft couch and a matching chair and a coffee table that was always piled with books and newspapers.  He had a kitchenette and sink always piled with dishes and Jones Cream Soda in the fridge.  And the way the blinds were hung and dusty and only opened slightly gave the place a distinctly gritty vibe, like a motel room where a heist might go down.

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This was not a conversation we ever had, but we didn’t need to.  It was always unspoken, this strange affection between us.  What I feel for Mike cannot be put into words like “friendship” or “comrade” or “arch-nemesis,” and the language to describe what hovers in the Libby-and-Jason silences was lost on a tide long ago.  Untranslatable, even to the two who speak it.

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It is easy to say “I love you” to Ian; he is lovable and wonderful and funny and sweet.  It is easy to say “You are my best friend” to Matthew, because Matthew is my best friend and has been since the moment I laid eyes on him.  But Mike and Jason are frustratingly complicated people; unreadable at times. Simmering beneath Mike’s outward simplicity lies a stranglehold of heart and dream.  Jason’s tattoos mark a land I never dared enter.

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So instead I write stories, hoping to stumble onto a way to convey how deeply I care for these two men.  And occasionally, those stories get shared with the world.  I hope you enjoyed it.

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