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The Drum

short fiction (113)

One City One Story: Yvonne

Friday, September 27, 2019

"Yvonne" by Ciera Burch is the 2019 One City One Story all-city read selection for the city of Boston. One City One Story is an annual project of the Boston Book Festival, which prints and distributes 20,000 copies of the selected story for free throughout Greater Boston. Ciera Burch will appear at the Boston Book Festival for town hall discussions on both October 19 and October 20, in Copley Square and Dudley Square. For more information about the Boston Book Festival and One City One Story, please visit bostonbookfest. org . The story [...] more


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Maya Detwiller's short story "Toads" explores the pains and rewards of adolescence through a child's habit of collecting toads. A giant supervising and creating miniature worlds, the story's narrator finds herself looking for a place--a place to fit, to belong, to grow in and away from. [...] more

Keep in Touch

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Great Confusion has occurred, and in its aftermath, Bea is looking for her daughter. Her husband has gone missing, too. Kari Lund-Teigen's "Keep in Touch" vividly evokes a dystopian world, as well as the lengths to which its inhabitants will go to to communicate and connect. [...] more

The Ideal Reasoner

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

S. D. Jones' short story "The Ideal Reasoner" gives a comic and touching twist to relationship trouble, as a Shelockian AI creates upheaval in a marriage--only to bring about a surprising resolution. [...] more

What's Heavy?

Monday, February 25, 2019

"I don't have much time," says Dickie, the narrator of Bradford Philen's "What's Heavy". Dickie is a high-school kid, but he doesn't have much time--before his father's kidneys give out, before the coming hurricane hits, before Ophelia, the girl he's into, gives up on him. Dickie is under more than specific pressures on this one night when his many burdens weigh on him. [...] more

Next Life

Friday, February 15, 2019

Frankie is a pet rat. And in Kaia Preus' story "Next Life," he is dying. As Zoe tries to soften his last moments, she tries, too, to find balance in her relationships with two men. Tenderness towards Frankie becomes her litmus test, but also the source of some surprising insights. [...] more

Feeding Champion

Monday, December 31, 2018

When a robber encounters a hungry Golden Retriever while breaking into a house, the encounter evokes a poignant monologue about how to treat a dog and how not to stock a refrigerator. And Andrea Johnston's "Feeding Champion" is about much more than that. It's about the responsibilities we have towards each other, and about how we do what's right even when promises change. [...] more


Friday, December 14, 2018

In 1970, the narrator and his several brothers drive off in a Duster to defend their mother's honor. The fact that most of them are high plays some role in the confusion that ensues. Alec Solomita's "Squirrel" is a tale of sibling allegiances and misunderstandings, told with tenderness and wit. [...] more

Head Like a Hole

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The husband who narrates Amy Lee Lillard's story "Head Like a Hole" watches, puzzled, as a perfectly round hole grows in his backyard. The growing hole, and the wife's ongoing vigil, tell a poignant story of self, integrity, and, ultimately, connection. [...] more

s w i m

Monday, November 12, 2018

What is held, what holds you, in water or in air? Marsha McDonald's story "s w i m" raises and explores these questions through the story of a girl taught to swim by her uncle. Learning much more than that about her body's resilience, the narrator connects her experience to the terrors and enticements of deep water. [...] more


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A swamp is home to an imagined panther named "Fen" in Kate Lassell's eponymous story. Narrated by a precocious kid named Judith, the story follows a father and daughter fighting to preserve a threatened marsh--and working to sustain their small family after a tragic loss. [...] more


Thursday, September 20, 2018

A thing as ordinary as a mailbox becomes the focus of all of one man's passions in Phil Shreck's eponymous story. Russell tilts not at windmills but at his mailboxes, old and new, and at a deep-seated sense of inadequacy. Shreck reads his darkly funny story aloud in a brilliant performance. [...] more

Where We Found the Girls

Friday, January 19, 2018

The anger and frustration of girls is at the core of Brandi Reissenweber's short story "Where We Found the Girls". As, one by one, four girls in a community are discovered in strange and mysterious circumstances, the townspeople must confront what they themselves have failed to see and understand. [...] more

Dear Deer

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A woman, her two sons, her ex, and a deer. Add to this the knife the ex is using to gut the animal and you have a family crisis of compelling drama. Cindy House's "Dear Deer" doesn't skimp on the suspense but finds humor too in this confrontation over much more than one hunted animal. [...] more

Parking Garage Late at Night

Friday, July 28, 2017

How fearless can you be? How fearless can you afford to be? In the "Parking Garage Late at Night" of Val Maloof's flash fiction, one woman's fear and imagination twine together as she faces danger. Maloof explores how the story the woman tells herself and the stories she's been told all her life--by her mother, by society--combine to save or abandon her. [...] more


Friday, July 28, 2017

In Josh Sheridan's complicated story "Faith," a woman negotiates the hypocrisy and exploitation of a small religious group. Whether you see the group as a cult or a religion, and whether you see the woman as a heretic or a believer will depend on your own ideas about faith. But Sheridan renders vividly the tense and passionate world in which his unnamed character wields the power of surrender and control. [...] more

The Housewife

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Nigerian woman's domination by her new husband forms the narrative of Hannah Onoguwe's "The Housewife" as, step by step, Aramide faces more and more restrictions--on what she can wear, whom she can visit, and finally where she can go. But confined to her house, visited only by the generator repairman, and allowed out only to have her fidelity tested by priests, Aramide discovers ways to subvert her husband's authority. Onoguwe's story brings surprise and delight in its lively telling. [...] more

Raking the Lizards

Friday, December 16, 2016

There is a woman raking lizards down from a tree. There is a family to care for. There are errands to run. Our narrator wages war against the lizards who return each day, undefeated, but she fights other things, too, in a much more complicated battle. [...] more

Five Wishes

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Five Wishes" unfolds in as many episodes, each one telling a linked variation on a tale of a boy, his mother and father, a stream, a shovel, and a piece of purple quartz. Taken together, these episodes are like facets on a stone, revealing new insights on this little family while at the same time allowing us to see the heart of the story. [...] more

The Man on the Train

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A train makes the perfect setting for this story about a woman in limbo--between jobs, between countries and cultures, between homes. Aine Greaney's "The Man on the Train" turns a conversation with a stranger into a study of belonging, as Lorna, Irish and recently arrived from her home in England, travels into Boston from her sister's suburban home. [...] more

The Rose Tradition

Monday, July 18, 2016

In this subtle and tense story, James English sets us down among the complicated relationships within a family and a neighborhood and lets us watch a betrayal unfold. It's a variation of the tale of a stranger coming to town--only the stranger is already there, and the town is someone's family. [...] more

The Children's House

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A group of children and their slightly inattentive parents are the time-honored ingredients for narrative mischief. In KL Pereira's "The Children's House," the mischief involves the slipping and sliding boundaries between one space and another, one family and another, one person and another. Pereira evokes an eerily calm world in which families and identities can be pilfered and misplaced as easily as an object from a mantlepiece. [...] more

Some Plastic City Beyond

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The accidental meeting of former lovers shapes Daniel Higgins' "Some Plastic City Beyond. " Told mostly through dialogue, the story offers us the careful cadences of two people negotiating old wounds and new discoveries. [...] more

What The Spirit Rabbits Know

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An earthquake shakes the narrator's world just as she is shocked by news of a friend's death. But it's in the violence done to the natural order that she registers her loss. Tending for a rabbit, the narrator of Katie DePasquale's "What The Spirit Rabbits Know" comes to understand some part of what makes us mortal and alive, what gives us a fragile resilience. [...] more


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sermonette and Tom meet at a concert. Tom is at the mic. Sermonette is watching. They go on to skirmish and flirt, resisting the monsters of Jane Flett's title even as those monsters grow within them. The narrative seethes with passion and inventive language as it takes us through this richly unconventional love story. [...] more


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

S. E. Clark's "Foxes" places us in an unsettling world part fairy tale, part parable, in which the innocent and the sinister battle in the lives of children. Clark's spare prose tells the tale of a small community preyed upon in subtle ways by the story's eponymous foxes. [...] more

Mi Brooklyn

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Brooklyn family wrestles with challenges in which the mundane swiftly becomes momentous. One child's impish use of a dried legume, another's need for order; a father's return from Iraq, a mother's rush to the emergency room: events and experiences combine in a tragicomic turmoil. [...] more

Fish and Spoons

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A lesson in fly fishing focuses the relationship between an Irish father and son. Looking for ways to connect, a son sees his own value weighed against everything else his father holds more beautiful. [...] more

One City One Story: Home Movie

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jennifer De Leon's "Home Movie" is the Boston Book Festival's 2015 selection for the One City One Story project. "Home Movie" follows Eduardo and his wife Linda on the day he records their life in America for their family in Guatemala, while a crisis strains the bonds tying the young couple together and to their adopted country. [...] more

Lessons in Romanian

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A young woman teaching English to her Romanian students is repaid with profound lessons of her own--in language and in the nuances of love, hope, and expectation. Interspersed with Romanian words and phrases, Lenore Myka's "Lessons in Romanian" slides its listener into a place between what is known and new, familiar and exotic. [...] more

How To Club A Fish

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A young woman sees lessons in survival and violence handed down on a frozen Canadian lake. Ron MacLean's "How to Club A Fish" offers a vivid portrait of one family's dynamics in the world of a cramped cabin. [...] more

One City One Story: Jennifer Haigh's "Sublimation"

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jennifer Haigh's "Sublimation" is the Boston Book Festival's choice for this year's One City One Story, a project to promote reading and to create community around a shared reading experience. "Sublimation" first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Ploughshares . Jennifer Haigh will appear at the Boston Book Festival on October 25 to discuss the story. To download the audio recording of "Sublimation," right-click on the download button beside the play button, and save the mp3 to your computer. [...] more

MuseFlash 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

In Stephen Dorneman's "Country-Line Dancing in Bridgeport, CT," a aloof widower finds himself in bemused participation during an evening's unexpected dance. [...] more

MuseFlash 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

In "A Thousand Cuts," Calvin Hennick turns a young boy's haircut into a taut revelation about the chaos of his mother's life, hinting at the history of this small family and intimating its perhaps ominous future. [...] more


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A boy's silence, a sister's bicycle and a "misaligned world with skewed meanings". Gregory Spatz' "Brace" immerses us in the consciousness of a narrator thinking about ruin and loss as he remembers a childhood aphasia, a freewheeling car, and the urge to make a physical mark on and within the world. When you listen to the whole story, you'll understand the title. [...] more

A Notion I Took

Monday, June 16, 2014

For a hundred dollars, a young woman jumps into the Rio Grande, a river so filthy, it's dyed blue for the tourists. Money, risk, and self-invention intersect in Joy Castro's "A Notion I Took" as the story's narrator thinks about what is at stake for her as she leaps and descends through the water. [...] more


Monday, June 9, 2014

Physics, hope, and speculation come together beautifully in this moving story about a couple dealing with the chance that their fetus has a rare genetic mutation. In "Chance," Peter Ho Davies raises complex questions about what is certain and what is random, and about how and if our efforts affect the course of our lives. [...] more

Do You Have a Place For Me

Monday, June 2, 2014

Two people meet at a half-way point between their homes and lives. But the encounter in Roxane Gay's "Do You Have a Place For Me" is no simple escape, but a shared confrontation--of the self, the body, and the heart. Gay's prose is both analytical--is this cheating? --and intensely figurative in this short and powerful story. [...] more


Monday, May 19, 2014

Maria Mutch offers a new take on the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, setting this old story of violence, innocence, and sexuality in a strangely natural urban world. In "Appetites", Grandmother lives in an institution, and the wolves wear turtlenecks, and Red takes matters into her own hands. [...] more

The Games They Played

Monday, May 12, 2014

These are not the fairy tales our mothers told us. The four episodes of Matt Bell's "The Games They Played" focus on Younger and Older, siblings whose rivalries offer an education in hidden and not-so-hidden violence. Bell experiments with the cadence and the content of fairy tales, making them at once new and ancient. [...] more

When Jesus Died

Monday, April 14, 2014

Jesus is the name of Rudy's dog--Rudy being the boy who forms a frank but subtle friendship with the narrator of Erica Shubin's story "When Jesus Died". Shubin's is a rich and detailed narrative encompassing adolescent sexuality, religion, and community, and centering on the poignant makeshift burial of a pet. Most of all, though, "When Jesus Died" explores the question of what makes us feel invincible or whole and what we do to guard against diminution. [...] more


Monday, April 7, 2014

The threat of violence hangs in the air as a young boy waits in a hotel room for his bookie father to return from a fight in Ben Warner's "Sandcastles". Guarded by an ally, the boy, Snake, is full of questions about what can truly protect him. Guns, knives, or fists? Or possibly, the men entrusted with his care. [...] more

Honey, Don't

Monday, March 31, 2014

A red spaghetti-strap dress and blue-suede Doc Martens set Dinah apart as she walks through a small southern town looking for a wedding dress. But it's not just the clothing that doesn't fit; it's the music, too, that isn't quite the right accompaniment she wants for her life. Dinah lives on the flip side, the back side of "Blue Suede Shoes" in this story by Darlin' Neal about a woman teetering between maturity and childishness, weakness and independence. [...] more

Wing Woman

Monday, March 10, 2014

“Another thing of Zinfandel. We’re headed for the Coast," says the narrator of Jonathan Gotsick's "Wing Woman" when she agrees to go along with her recently-divorced friend to assume the story's title role. Toni escorts Shelley on a journey of escape and adventure rendered with vivid and particular--and humorous--detail. Gotsick's narrative leads the two women to an aging rock band and to a final performance whose bombast reveals the story's poignant heart. [...] more

Favorite Son

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jennifer Haigh reads "Favorite Son" from her recent collection News From Heaven . It's here that the collection's title appears--in a story of hopes and disappointments shared by an entire town and by the sons and daughters left with the town's poignant legacy. "Favorite Son" explores the ways in which a certain kind of faith and trust can turn into betrayal. [...] more

The Ghostzoo

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's after a cataclysm of some sorts, a post-apocalyptic moment etched in miniature in Jody Azzouni's "The Ghostzoo". As a father and his daughter eke out an existence from the meager remnants of their former world, the little girl plays with a dollhouse. She learns as she plays about the world that is lost to her, until new arrivals start a new and perplexing cycle of creation and disappearance. [...] more

Another Way to Make Cleopatra Cry

Monday, February 3, 2014

A lost purse sets in motion this fast-paced, voice-rich story of opportunism and desperation seen through the wary eyes of a little girl. Dragged around the bars and backstreets of Lowell, Massachusetts by her father's girlfriend, Kaylene watches over her sister Cleopatra and the girlfriend's son as they go in search of the purse and its promise of a better life. Tracy Winn's "Another Way to Make Cleopatra Cry" offers a vivid sense of what it means when observation is your only resource. [...] more

The Rock

Monday, January 27, 2014

The complexities of a date take on new dimension in Jennifer Hill Ozga's "The Rock". Ozga's story mines the rituals of contemporary dating for their vulnerabilities and power dynamics, setting her unnamed couple on a path of gentle but inexorable devolution. "The Rock" is a story about disappointment, rendered with a light touch through painfully comic details. [...] more

The Wurlitzer

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The tuning of a piano becomes the catalyst for a relationship between two unlikely individuals. Christ Craig's "The Wurlitzer" makes subtle use of its narrative voice to bring two lonely people together in a bond created through music and memory. [...] more

Ways to Break Me

Monday, January 6, 2014

In the hung-over aftermath of New Year's Eve, the narrator of Kate Wisel's "Ways to Break Me" finds herself exactly where she always is: in an apartment and in a relationship that is at once playground and cage. There are three people in these confined spaces, pushing and shoving at each other to assert themselves and get what they want. Wisel's story is striking for its physicality and its rendering of the drama of the body. [...] more

The Parts of You We Want To Keep

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's an old story: the love triangle. But Steven LaFond sets it in the world of kink. What are the most shocking parts of us that we need or desire to keep secret? What happens when circumstances risk revealing what we want to preserve for ourselves--or what we fear to acknowledge? Those are the questions the characters of "The Parts of You We Want to Keep"--and listeners to the story--are forced to ask themselves. [...] more

Things Summoned

Monday, December 16, 2013

A little girl plays in the woods, content to be alone with the bits and pieces of nature that she gathers around her. When she sees signs of a visitor, she welcomes this potential friend, eager to include someone else in her small world. Heather Newton's story "Things Summoned" lets us into that world and into the wonder, vulnerability, and danger of what's new and strange. [...] more


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Quincy, Massachusetts quarries are the setting for this short story about the disappearance of a young boy in 1980. Kim Savage's "Stud" weaves together the memories of two women once in thrall to the charismatic Danny Delano, piecing together a narrative of threatened innocence. The conflict between two brothers, undercurrents of homophobia, and the toxicity--literal and figurative--of the quarry landscape propel this unsettling and powerful narrative forward. [...] more


Monday, October 28, 2013

Afolabi Opanubi's short story "Force," an overnight visit from an old friend brings into stark clarity the concerns of two young ex-pat Nigerians in Canada. The question of whether or not to return to Nigeria--and the question of what obligations Tinukeh and Bankole have to each other--propel this story in which personal decisions carry political and social resonance. [...] more

NICK DYBEK Three Summers

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In a summer rental shared by two families, a boy and a girl in Nick Dybek's "Three Summers" search for treasure in the secret corners of the house. Parents search for a different kind of treasure--a shared history whose adventure and romance now eludes them. Over the course of three summers, both adults and children wrestle with the pull of the past and the allure of the imagined. "Three Summers" appears in print in the Fall 2013 issue of Ploughshares, and in text on Ploughshares online. The story is read aloud for The Drum by [...] more


Monday, July 22, 2013

In Alix Ohlin's "Taking," the memory game played by two sisters in childhood finds heartbreaking resonance in the events of their lives. "Taking" explores the often painful connections between memory and loss, possession and disappearance, in prose of melancholic power. [...] more


Monday, April 1, 2013

Judith McCormack's "Creation Stories" appears in the current issue (Issue Number 43) of the Harvard Review . "Creation Stories" is the tale of a relationship and the law--social laws, laws of attraction, and the laws that govern the creation of facts and identity. In McCormack's narrative, Elisabetta and Miles meet en route to a legal conference in Sicily, and proceed to build a connection founded as much on omission as communication. The story is read aloud by Katrina Grigg-Saito . [...] more

JOSHUA MALBIN The Mating Behavior of Great Tits

Monday, April 1, 2013

Joshua Malbin creates an avian drama for his short story "The Mating Behavior of Great Tits". It's a new genre, possibly with this story as its only example. Malbin's unusual story sets a drama of relationships and family in the world of birds, immersing the listener in one bird's struggle to establish a family and a place in his world. [...] more


Monday, February 11, 2013

A violent flood provides the backdrop for the tentative relationship developing in Jackson Culpepper's "The Last Thing To Go. " As the storm waters surge, a young man searching for stability--and for connection with the young woman he meets at church--confronts new questions about himself and about the nature of love and salvation. [...] more

LEEYEE LIM Hereditary

Monday, January 28, 2013

The narrator of Leeyee Lim's "Hereditary" is a young girl troubled by her mother's illness and her sister's loss. Sharing a sandwich with a homeless man, she thinks of her family, and the strange ways in which people nourish each other. [...] more

LISA MECHAM You Get What You Get

Monday, November 12, 2012

"You Get What You Get" offers an intense story of a woman confronted with her husband's deteriorating mental health.  A trip to the remote suburbs to see a house her husband has purchased brings Jennifer face to face with the dangers in her own home. At the heart of Lisa Mecham's story are detailed character studies of people in crisis. [...] more


Monday, November 5, 2012

In Sandra Jensen's "War", a young South African girl wrestles with her emerging sexuality and with the political, familial, and cultural conflicts taking place around her. Learning about the Boer War in school, Kimberly thinks instead of the more immediate aggression in her mother's relationship with her boyfriend. Attraction and repulsion, love and violence, mingle in this rich story. [...] more


Monday, October 22, 2012

Over the course of a slightly chaotic supper, Kay, the protagonist of Vicky Grut's short story "Debts" confronts her social, financial, and emotional obligations. The story is populated by vivid characters--a strange boy who keeps washing Kay's husband's car, Kay's unruly daughter, surprise guests with complicated histories--all of whom come together in a sometimes clashing interaction. Grut brings the story's various elements together in a thoughtful and moving conclusion. [...] more

One City One Story: Anna Solomon's The Lobster Mafia Story

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"The Lobster Mafia Story," by Anna Solomon, is the Boston Book Festival 's choice for this year's One City One Story, a project to promote reading and to create community around a shared reading experience. It's a poignant tale set in motion by a widow's dreadful secret about a long-ago murder. The story is read aloud by The Drum 's editor, Henriette Lazaridis Power. Anna Solomon will appear at the Boston Book Festival on October 27 to discuss the story. To download the audio recording of "The Lobster Mafia [...] more


Monday, August 6, 2012

If you missed the July 19 Transgressions event with The Drum , the Boston Book Festival , and WBUR , don't worry! We've got local writers Chris Abouzeid, Chris Castellani, Holly LeCraw, Ethan Gilsdorf, and Drum founding editor Henriette Lazaridis Power recorded from the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, MA. Hear them read their short essays and stories about transgression, introduced and hosted by WBUR's Adam Ragusea. Law-breaking, rule-bending, convention-busting, paradigm-shifting. It's all here. [...] more

MARY MEDLIN Not Now But Soon

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mary Medlin's short story "Not Now But Soon" follows Connor as he crosses Somerville to pay the rent on his girlfriend's apartment. But Afshan is dead, and the tragic event that caused her death haunts Connor, rendering his rent-payments a tangible form of inadequate expiation. The story is shot through with themes of atonement and guilt as it offers an in-depth portrait of a young man and woman as they fall in love. [...] more


Monday, July 2, 2012

Sabina Murray's "Balboa" imagines the explorer in 1513 as he climbs a ridge on the Isthmus of Panama and sees the Pacific Ocean. "Balboa," Murray writes from the explorer's point of view, "is that divining line between the modern and the primitive. " In this story, from her collection Tales of the New World , Murray investigates the meaning of civilization, discovery, and the foreign, and makes us consider the intersection of power and desire. [...] more

JEN BERGMARK Turn of the Century

Monday, June 25, 2012

"The world will end soon. " So says the protagonist of Jen Bergmark's "Turn of the Century. " An old rock and roller who views himself as a has-been, the singer is fascinated by Nostradamus and by predictions that the millennium will send us all into chaos. He looks ahead to New Year's of 2000 as the confirmation of the ending he has experienced in his career and his life. But when a young concert promoter recognizes him at an LA flea market, his life, like the century, takes a different turn. [...] more

JEAN RYAN Migration

Monday, May 14, 2012

A broken marriage and a change of scenery find the protagonist of Jean Ryan's "Migration" examining her past and planning a future in northern California. A flock of geese by her house, and one particular goose who refuses to leave, lead Erica to consider old bonds and new loyalties as she charts a new life. [...] more


Monday, April 23, 2012

Jyotsna Sreenivasan's "Home" explores exactly the nature of that concept for young Amiya as she returns to 1970s Ohio after several years of childhood in her native India. She is in the position of being both immigrant and emigrant at the same time. As Amiya navigates her return to American culture and second grade, Sreenivasan sheds new insight on what it means to belong and to be different. [...] more

ANGELA FOSTER Shards of Glass

Monday, April 16, 2012

Angela Foster's "Shards of Glass" finds a brother and sister fighting their step-father with whatever tools they have--a knife, a gun, anger, and rejection. But books, escape, and the imagination turn out to be just as powerful as these young people stand up to the bully who runs their house. [...] more

ERIC WEINBERGER Once More With Feeling

Monday, April 9, 2012

Eric Weinberger's "Once More With Feeling" is a story of fidelity and infidelity set in the world of guided tourism. The story's protagonist Adam steers his tour groups around locales emblematic of diplomacy and international negotiation as he encounters one couple who seem to manage a diplomatic menage of their own. The narrative follows him as he studies these two and contemplates a crisis in his own relationship. [...] more

JOHN HAGGERTY The Other Half of Graceland

Monday, March 19, 2012

A teenaged girl narrates John Haggerty's "The Other Half of Graceland," describing a trip to the eponymous home of Elvis along with her mother, who is looking for what the magazines call more pizzazz in her life. Armed with a make-up kit, an expertise for matching blush to skin tone, and a keen eye for adult behavior, Lisa steers them through their pilgrimage and tries to mediate the relationship between a young man they meet there and his father. As Lisa manages her mother's own delicate emotions, Graceland becomes the setting for the revelation [...] more


Monday, March 12, 2012

The burning of an opera house, a rivalry between two sisters, self-creation in Venice--these are all elements of Annemarie Neary's short story "Firebird". Its narrative threads woven together like those of an opera, Neary's story mines the relationship between Elvira and Betsy (or Betzi, as she renames herself) and their ongoing attempts to define themselves against and with each other. The story is a meditation on identity and art, originality and imitation. [...] more


Monday, February 27, 2012

The narrator of Vanessa Blakeslee's "Welcome, Lost Dogs" offers a combination of mercy and practicality, sentiment and realism, as she tries to recover her dogs, stolen from her Costa Rican ranch. An expat American, riding the borders between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, she encounters--and is part of--a world in which everything and everyone has a value to be assessed and calculated. She tries to find her way among old relationships and new communities, thinking about what she hast lost and what she might restore. [...] more

JAMES CLAFFEY A Clip on the Ear

Monday, January 30, 2012

James Claffey's "A Clip on the Ear" blends a Catholic litany with the rituals of a boy's Sundays at home in Ireland. It's a home presided over by a violent father who, when not away on the North Sea oil rigs, maintains strict control--over his wife, his children, the household rituals, and the litany itself. The boy seeks refuge in the hiding places of his home and in his fantasies of revenge. [...] more


Monday, January 9, 2012

Colette Sartor's "Dress Shoes" recounts a relationship tested by one friend's transition from male to female. From Elke's perspective, we feel her longing and her sense of loss as her friend Ralph drifts away from her, forming a new bond. "Dress Shoes" is about sexuality--Elke's and Ralph's--but it is also about control, identity, and about the various ways in which we try to make our marks, literal and figurative, on ourselves and on others. [...] more

JESSICA BARKSDALE Marco on the Beach

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jessica Barksdale's "Marco on the Beach" captures Marco trying to make do--with food stamps, with his girlfriend who can't sleep enough, with uncertainty over where to live. As he and Sara negotiate the grocery-store aisles and settle down over a meager meal, a new discovery makes Marco imagine his life, an alternate future spinning out from a single choice. [...] more

HADLEY MOORE When My Father Was In Prison

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hadley Moore's "When My Father Was In Prison" describes the power of language in the life of a nine-year-old boy as he tries to sort out what it means to be a boy, a man, a father. A father in prison, a pet bird that has died, an older brother discovering his sexuality--Moore's narrator studies it all, coming to understand some part of how he fits in to his world. [...] more

BARRY JAY KAPLAN Marco Sells His Book

Monday, October 3, 2011

Barry Jay Kaplan takes on the world of publishing in his short story "Marco Sells His Book. " A group of friends is shaken by news that an underserving member of their Thursday night salon has reached what they view as premature success. The launch party for Marco's novel is shot through with jealousy and social strategizing, but comes to an encouraging conclusion. [...] more


Monday, September 26, 2011

The teenaged narrator of Erin Kelly's "Shhh" has decided to stop talking. It's an eloquent protest, conveying independence and resistance to her mother, affection for her younger brother, and a nuanced sensitivity to the world around her. While her brother builds tiny walls to protect the backyard ants, the narrator builds a connection that requires almost no words. [...] more


Monday, September 19, 2011

Caralyn Davis' short story "Wallow" is the Winner of The 2011 Drum/Side B Magazine Dual Publication Award . "Wallow" depicts an evening in the life of a sin-eater, a woman with the ability to consume and absorb the sins of the dead. Following the traditions of the ancient Egyptians, Davis' contemporary sin-eater dresses in style, makes keen social observations about her customers and clients, and contemplates the balance of good and evil. [...] more

JAMES MCGIRK The Tramp Steamer

Monday, September 12, 2011

James McGirk's short story "The Tramp Steamer" presents a side of Richard M. Nixon we've never seen before. McGirk imagines the young lawyer and his new bride traveling on a tramp steamer of the United Fruit Company to celebrate their first anniversary. Seasick, angry, jealous, Nixon reveals his inelegance to his wife who yearns for more glamour and glitz. McGirk takes the facts of the Nixons' actual 1941 trip and spins out an incisive and compelling story of bitterness and dreams. [...] more

HAU NGUYEN Immigrants

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hau Nguyen's story "Immigrants" is a young man's advice to himself on how to navigate a new life in a new world. Part reminder, part exhortation, part warning, "Immigrants" conveys the newcomer's desires for assimilation and independence, and his embrace of the new while holding onto the old. "Immigrants" appears in The Drum as part of our selection from Grub Street's Young Adult Writers' Program . [...] more


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In Molly Zimetbaum's "Balloons," an older sister tells the poignant story of the birthday celebration for her little sister that seemingly goes awry. This family of three--two daughters and a weary but caring father--finds a sweet balm for disappointment. "Balloons" appears in The Drum as part of our selection from Grub Street's Young Adult Writers' Program . [...] more

GINA OCHSNER Sleeping Beauty

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gina Ochsner's "Sleeping Beauty" is a retelling of the old story, set in Yakusha, one of the coldest parts of Russia. In this version, the beauty of the title is a young girl working in a Russian market, seemingly trapped inside her kiosk until a suitor with an unlikely errand frees her. Ochsner's prose mingles the lush details and fantastic elements of folk tales with the realities of the contemporary world. [...] more


Monday, February 28, 2011

The narrator of Kevin Brown's "One Life" returns to Hong Kong after his wife's death from SARS with the sole mission to contract the disease himeslf so that he can be reunited with her. We follow the narrator through the city as he reflects on his marriage, and ponders the strange situation of trying to stay alive so that he can court a particular kind of death. "One Life" is read aloud by Actors' Shakespeare Project actor Bill Barclay . [...] more

STEVEN LEE BEEBER Blood-Red Nails, Pale Cold Hands

Monday, January 31, 2011

The narrator of Steven Lee Beeber's short story "Blood-Red Nails, Pale Cold Hands" contemplates the strange combinations of violence and tenderness that underlie his relationships with the important women in his life. The story begins with an accident witnessed in childhood and concludes with the scratches left from passion. [...] more

SARAH NAGER Horseshoe Hunt

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sarah Nager's "Horseshoe Hunt" brings a weary young woman and an enthusiastic little boy together on a beach where their attitudes and world views collide over a horseshoe crab. [...] more


Monday, December 13, 2010

Veronique Hyland's short story "Orchard", inspired by the Wineville Chicken Coop murders in 1920s California, is an evocative study of complicity, guilt, and the cost of a young boy's confused loyalty. [...] more


Monday, November 29, 2010

Bret Anthony Johnston spins a story about loss of innocence, loyalty, and betrayal from a simple prompt: one sentence from an author's correspondence. Bret's sentence? "Sex doesn't start on an eighteenth birthday at midnight. " [...] more

ANN KING Plumbing Problems

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ann King's "Plumbing Problems" sets a cancer diagnosis in the world of a plumbing supply company, where the bright white of a porcelain tub, and the cramped space of a backroom toilet give us a fresh look on an all too common event. [...] more


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shubha Sunder's "Climb" layers relationships between cousins, between mothers and daughters, and between brothers and sisters with the tug between two cultures. In Sunder's story, a voyage with Trupti's relatives visiting from America turns out to reveal the stresses within the older girl's seemingly perfect life. [...] more

JENNIFER HAIGH Claire of the Moon

Monday, October 11, 2010

Award-winning novelist Jennifer Haigh's "Claire of the Moon" tells the story of a little girl who can't tolerate the sun and the adults who try to shield her or to let her bask in its reflection. [...] more


Monday, September 20, 2010

Sandra Jensen's "The Good Wife," set in the South Africa of the 1950s, explores difficulties facing a politically motivated woman who has given up her anti-apartheid activities to look after her husband and young son. [...] more

A. IGONI BARRETT My Smelling Mouth Problem

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A. Igoni Barrett's "My Smelling Mouth Problem" brings together a Nigerian traffic jam, popular music, and a bad case of halitosis to tell a lively story about personal and cultural independence. [...] more


Thursday, September 9, 2010

As a young girl faces the break-up of her home town, she confronts a larger tragedy in her own family. The competing forces of dissolution and re-collection meet in journalist and fiction writer Leslie Schultz's short story "Drowning". [...] more


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pennsylvania writer Jamye Shelleby's short story "Twenty Five" contemplates the metaphysics of loss through a brother-sister relationship remembered through markers in time. [...] more

AARON TILLMAN Heeding Doctor Eisner

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Newbury College professor Aaron Tillman's "Heeding Doctor Eisner," an over-analyzing academic comes undone as he clings to sociological theory and to questionable sources of advice in the figures of his boss, his student, and his fellow commuters. [...] more


Monday, July 12, 2010

Allison Williams’ “Snake” finds two children playing in a muddy yard. Their game turns to a scuffle made dangerous when their father returns, sure to be angry at the mess they’ve made. Williams’ brief piece offers an intense study of the blurred line between protection and harm. [...] more

ADAM STUMACHER Local Appetites

Monday, July 5, 2010

Three narrators take the listener through a range of responses to American culture. A Bolivian tour guide, a Taiwanese businesswoman, and a young Palestinian give us three perspectives on America’s relations with the world, all of them with a hamburger at the core of the story. [...] more

PETE SMITH Testimony

Monday, July 5, 2010

The female narrator of Pete Smith’s “Testimony” tells the story of an affair that starts with a cloud of drinks and ends in the mystery of not knowing a partner. Smith explores the ways in which a self can become lost between a past and a present, youth and maturity--and intoxicating drinks and an even more intoxicating partner. [...] more


Monday, July 5, 2010

While her parents are attending her baby cousin’s circumcision ceremony, the teenage narrator of Jonathan Papernick’s “Skin for Skin” invites an intriguing new boy from school over to her home. The narrator is not Jewish, as her parents are, but her views on religion and family begin to change as she contemplates sleeping with the boy, demanding of him an intriguing bargain. [...] more


Monday, June 21, 2010

A Halloween dinner with her estranged father and his new wife exposes tensions and fault lines in Claudia’s world. A single mother with a young son, she tries to preserve the spirit of trick or treat against her father’s wishes, until finally the stressful meal veers towards a new and alarming direction. [...] more

LAUREN GRODSTEIN This Truth I'm Telling

Monday, June 14, 2010

The narrator of Lauren Grodstein’s “This Truth I’m Telling” was a bartender in the World Trade Center. At a jobs convention for workers displaced after 9/11, Martin thinks about the life and the people that he has lost. He wonders which is truer: the optimistic exhortations of the jobs speaker, or the resignation he feels. [...] more

LYNNE BARRETT Macy Is The Other Woman

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The narrator in Lynne Barrett’s story “Macy is the Other Woman,” is the other woman, conducting an affair with a softball teammate whose girlfriend she doesn’t want to hurt. Over a warm July 4th weekend in Washington, Macy comes to terms with the affair, pondering the complicated entanglements of infidelity and friendship. [...] more

BEN PERCY The Neighborhood

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In Ben Percy’s “The Neighborhood,” economic stress leads suburbanites to rather sinister acts against one family unable to keep up appearances. The Petersens become the focus of neighborhood concern, and their house becomes the target of a destructive communal activity. [...] more


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

At the turn of the 19th century, Albert wakes to find himself penniless and paperless, with no memory of his travels and the time he has been walking. In this excerpt from her unpublished novel, Fugueur, Maud Casey writes about a man caught in a fugue state, lost in time and place as he walks through France from town to town. [...] more

LAURA SALAMY Signs of Life

Monday, May 17, 2010

The narrator in Laura Salamy’s story, “Signs of Life,” contemplates her relationship with her significant other, Charlie, while vacationing in Jamaica. While eating local cuisine, relaxing in the hotel, and taking walks on the beach, the narrator contemplates the changes in her relationship, including one change she is not sure she can forgive or forget. [...] more

AIMEE LOISELLE Three Women Wishing For A Boy

Monday, May 3, 2010

Aimee Loiselle’s“3 Women Wishing for a Boy” follows three generations of young women hoping to win their mother’s love while they respond to pregnancy, love, and sometimes both at once. [...] more


Saturday, May 1, 2010

In “Caiman,” Bret Anthony Johnston’s narrator details a parent’s fear over a young girl’s abduction from a Texas town. Johnston story examines the nature of evil, and explores the limits of our ability to protect against it. [...] more


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Elinor Teele’s “Covenant” offers a modern retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. Teele’s Noah packs his family’s pets, his wife, and their three grown children into a dingy scallop boat, along with a few beers. [...] more

EB MOORE Kennebec

Saturday, May 1, 2010

EB Moore’s “Kennebec” finds its protagonist struggling to come to terms with the drowning of his young stepson. As Carl mourns by the river that has taken the boy’s body, he wrestles with his guilt and with his first attempts to regain a normal life. [...] more

theme: comedy

theme: crisis

theme: relationships

theme: family

genre: essay

novel excerpt

short fiction


under 10 min

under 20 min

under 30 min

under 40 min