Archives for category: Short Stories



Story by J. Robert Lennon

For many years a large table stood in the center of our dining room, blocking the most direct path from the living room to the kitchen and necessitating the development of an angled walking route that, over time, came to be visible as an area of wear in the dining-room rug. Recently we discarded the old rug and, since our children have grown and moved away and we now eat our meals in the kitchen, transferred our large table into storage. The dining room has been turned into a study, with bookshelves lining the walls and a narrow desk facing the front window.

Despite these changes, we find it nearly impossible to take the newly created direct path through the room, and continue to walk around the edge as if the table were still there. When occasionally one of us must enter the forbidden space, either to sweep the floor or to pick up a dropped item, we find that we wince in discomfort, as if anticipating a painful crash into the missing table.

SOURCE: Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes by J. Robert Lennon. Available at

IMAGE: Still from The Big Lebowski (1998) showing Jeffrey Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) with his beloved rug.



by Stuart Dybek

I remember, though I might have dreamed it, a radio show I listened to when we lived on Eighteenth Street above the taxidermist. It was a program in which kids phoned the station and reported something they’d lost – a code ring, a cap gun, a ball, a doll – always their favorite. And worse than lost toys, pets, not just dogs and cats, but hamsters, parakeets, dime store turtles with painted shells…

Magically, by the end of the program, everything would be found. I still don’t know how they accomplished this, and recall wondering if it would work to phone in and report something I’d always wanted as missing. For it seemed to me then that something one always wanted, but never had, was his all the same, and wasn’t it lost?

SOURCE: Excerpted from The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek, available at

IMAGE: St. Anthony, finder of lost things.



by Stuart Dybek

In summer, waiting for night, we’d pose against the afterglow on corners, watching traffic cruise through the neighborhood. Sometimes, a car would go by without its headlights on and we’d all yell, “Lights!”

“Lights!” we’d keep yelling until the beams flashed on. It was usually immediate—the driver honking back thanks, or flinching embarrassed behind the steering wheel, or gunning past, and we’d see his red taillights blink on.

But there were times—who knows why?—when drunk or high, stubborn, or simply lost in that glide to somewhere else, the driver just kept driving in the dark, and all down the block we’d hear yelling from doorways and storefronts, front steps, and other corners, voices winking on like fireflies: “Lights! Your lights! Hey, lights!”

SOURCE: The Coast of Chicago: Stories by Stuart Dybek, available at

PHOTO: Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, where Stuart Dybek grew up and where many of his stories are set. Photo by Eddie Railway.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stuart Dybek is the author of three books of fiction: I Sailed With Magellan, The Coast of Chicago, and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. Dybek has also published two collections of poetry: Streets in Their Own Ink and Brass Knuckles. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Poetry, Tin House, and many other magazines, and have been widely anthologized, including work in both Best American Fiction and Best American Poetry. Among Dybek’s numerous awards are a PEN/Malamud Prize “for distinguished achievement in the short story,” a Lannan Award, a Whiting Writers Award, an Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, several O.Henry Prizes, and fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2007 Dybek was awarded the a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.



by Philip K. Dick

“But let me tell you my cat joke. It’s very short and simple. A hostess is giving a dinner party and she’s got a lovely five-pound T-bone steak sitting on the sideboard in the kitchen waiting to be cooked while she chats with the guests in the living room — has a few drinks and whatnot. But then she excuses herself to go into the kitchen to cook the steak-and it’s gone. And there’s the family cat, in the corner, sedately washing its face.”

“The cat got the steak,” Barney said.

“Did it? The guests are called in; they argue about it. The steak is gone, all five pounds of it; there sits the cat, looking well-fed and cheerful. ‘Weigh the cat,’ someone says. They’ve had a few drinks; it looks like a good idea. So they go into the bathroom and weigh the cat on the scales. It reads exactly five pounds. They all perceive this reading and a guest says, ‘okay, that’s it. There’s the steak.’

They’re satisfied that they know what happened, now; they’ve got empirical proof. Then a qualm comes to one of them and he says, puzzled, ‘But where’s the cat?”’

SOURCE: Excerpted from The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich by Philip K. Dick.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. He is most well known for his short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep,” made into the film Blade Runner. He died in 1982, shortly before the film was released. Dick was a prolific writer with forty-four novels and over one hundred short stories to his credit. Other film adaptations of his work include Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, and The Adjustment Bureau.

PHOTO: Philip K. Dick and feline friend.


In this mid-1960s photo, Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) is engrossed in Penguin Science Fiction (#1638), edited by Brian Aldiss. The anthology (originally published in 1961 and reissued in 1965) included stories by Isaac Asimov, J.G. Ballard, and an author most people wouldn’t associate with sci-fi — John Steinbeck, who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature.


Steinbeck’s contribution to PENGUIN SCIENCE FICTION #1638 was entitled “The Short-Short Story of Mankind: A Fable.” An excerpt is included below.

The Short-Short Story of Mankind: A Fable (Excerpt)
by John Steinbeck

It was pretty draughty in the cave in the middle of the afternoon. There wasn’t any fire, the last spark had gone out six months ago and the family wouldn’t have any more fire until lightning struck another tree.

Joe came into the cave all scratched up and some hunks of hair torn out and he flopped down on the wet ground and bled . Old William was arguing away with Old Bert… 

“Where’s Al?” one of them asked and the other said, “You forgot to roll the rock in front of the door.”

Joe didn’t even look up and the two old men agreed that kids were going to the devil. “I tell you it was different in my day,” Old William said. “They had some respect for their elders or they got what for.”

After a while Joe stopped bleeding and he caked some mud on his cuts. “Al’s gone,” he said.

Old Bert asked brightly, “Sabre tooth?”

“No, it’s that new bunch that moved into the copse down the draw. They ate Al.”

“Savages,” said Old William. “Still live in trees. They aren’t civilized. We don’t hardly ever eat people.”

Joe said, “We got hardly anybody to eat except relatives and we’re getting low on relatives.”

…Read the rest of the story here.

Book cover: “Memory of the Future” by Oscar Dominguez (1938)



by Sam Shepard

I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz. For days, I practiced in the backyard. Weaving through the tomato plants. Sneering. Grinning that grin. Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth. After a few days of practice, I tried it out on the girls at school. They didn’t seem to notice. I broadened my interpretation until I started getting strange reactions from the other kids. They would look straight at my teeth and a fear would creep into their eyes. I’d forgotten how bad my teeth were. How one of the front ones was dead and brown and overlapped the broken one right next to it. I’d actually come to believe I was in possession of a full head of perfectly pearly Burt Lancaster-type of teeth. I didn’t want to scare anyone so I stopped grinning after that. I only did it in private…

Photo: Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954)



by Jesús Salvador Treviño

I held the copper subway token up close and examined it. The outer part of the circular slug had a complex crisscross pattern imprinted on it and in its center there was an aluminum plug…The token read Good for One Fare on one side, and on the other side, New York City Transit Authority. As I held the token, I realized just how much it meant to me. When I had first pulled it out of Mrs. Romero’s sinkhole on that Saturday morning so long ago, along with the autographed picture of Carmen Miranda and a pair of sunglasses, it had, in an instant, crystallized my decision to leave Arroyo Grande. I had dreamed of New York and an acting career for years, but always felt it was a hopeless goal, a silly dream. But the moment I picked the token out of the sinkhole, my life changed. Suddenly, New York didn’t seem so far away. It was as if the token was urging me on, saying, “Yes, Julia, you can become that actress. Just go to New York! Look, here’s your first subway ride!” 
“Subway to the Future” appears in Jesús Salvador Treviño’s short story collection The Skyscraper that Flew and Other Stories, available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jesús Salvador Treviño  is an American television director of Mexican descent. He has directed episodes of the television series Resurrection Blvd., Babylon 5, Crusade, Bones, Star Trek: Voyager, seaQuest DSV, Crossing Jordan, Third WatchStar Trek: Deep Space Nine, Criminal Minds, Prison Break, The O.C., ER, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Dawson’s Creek, Chicago Hope, and NYPD Blue. He is the recipient of the prestigious Directors Guild Award and two Alma Awards for Outstanding Director of a Prime Time Television. As a writer, his work includes the short story collections The Fabulous Sinkhole and Other Stories and The Skyscraper That Flew. In a recent interview, he said, “I have devoted my life to opening up opportunities for Latinos in media so we can create positive, realistic portrayals of who we are.”



by  Jesús Salvador Treviño

A capricious breeze escaped from a small hole in the ground in Mrs. Romero’s front yard at precisely the place where more than a year before the sinkhole had erupted. The freakish wraith of wind rose from the vent and moved, snakelike, across the dichondra lawn and then began a slow ascent into the sky, traveling in a lazy spiral, like a hawk riding hot thermals, rising higher and higher, until the effervescent current was circiling high over the dilapidated wooden structure at 410 Calle Cuatro, which for forty-eight of her eighty-two years Mrs. Romero had called home.

 The breeze then suddenly plunged into a sharp dive, gathering speed and momentum as it descended, honing in on Mrs. Romero’s house like a precision arrow finding its bull’s eye. As the gust of wind reached the house, it found an opening in the kitchen window and burst through like a sprinter crossing the finish line.

Inside, the octogenarian was busy beating the special batter for the wedding cake she had committed to bake for Rudy Vargas and María López’s big wedding…With her back to the pastry cookbook that lay open to a recipe for “Golden Cream Wedding Cake,” she did not notice when the rascally draft swept over the cookbook, rustling its pages from page 231 to page 238, the recipe for “Three-Tier Chocolate Layer Cake…


A Boogie-Woogie Wedding Cake” appears in Jesús Salvador Treviño’s collection The Skyscraper that Flew and Other Stories, available at

Painting: “Lady” by Isblahblah, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.



by Dylan Thomas

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six. 

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen. 

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero’s garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared. 

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows – eternal, ever since Wednesday – that we never heard Mrs. Prothero’s first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor’s polar cat. But soon the voice grew louder. 

“Fire!” cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.

And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.

Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face. But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, “A fine Christmas!” and smacking at the smoke with a slipper… 


Read the rest of the story here.


Congratulations to Barbara Alfaro — who contributed her writing to several Silver Birch Press anthologies — on the December 2013 publication of a Kindle version of Irresistible Impulse and Other Stories, a collection of short stories, selling at for just 99 cents!

Barbara — the author of the hilarious and touching memoir Mirror Talk, also available at — is one of our favorite contemporary authors. (See our post about Mirror Talk.) Take a break from the holiday bustle and treat yourself to a fun, fast (and inexpensive) read by purchasing Irresistible Impulse and Other Stories at

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A well-read robot, an overweight ghost, and a redheaded avatar, as well as ordinary mortals looking for love are all here in this quick, fun collection of humorous short stories by award-winning author Barbara Alfaro.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Barbara Alfaro is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for her play Dos Madres. The paperback edition of of her poems called Singing Magic and the Kindle edition of her poetry called First Kiss are available on Amazon. Mirror Talk, her memoir about a Catholic girlhood and working in theatre won the IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir.