The lake house

This story was originally to be included in Asunder, baby, but I switched it out for something else, and I can’t remember why. Maybe because of its quiet circumspect tone, and I thought it might get lost. I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for reading. — Steve


Francesca will miss the lake, but only in summer. 

There is loneliness here now, an airiness between the burden of making toast and the reach for a second cup. It’s a melancholy that balloons the laundry on the line; she says she’ll release it one day, just to see how far a four-hundred thread count sheet can sail.  Spiders will still comb through the woodpile at the side of the house, the side not facing Lake Michigan. They’ll burrow inside the lineations of bark and under the roughed-up kindling. Come winter, she’ll see more of them inside, on the corners of scatter rugs, between the summer shoes. That she isn’t squeamish about them anymore tells her how much things have changed.

She and Richard had lived here since 2012, but she still thinks of it as his. He set no boundaries or rules, said it was equally theirs. But he was here first. It was his decision to tear down the dock after the Halloween storm in 2014. The wind shifted it hard from its moorings, so it no longer sat symmetrical to the front deck. He would rebuild it in the spring, he said, but spring fell away and summer was too hot, projects came up, the roof needed work, and they — he — decided a dock wasn’t really necessary. 

The way that he pushed things aside was troubling. It was one less piece of clutter to worry about, he said, one less place to sit and watch the lake, she thought.

She hadn’t returned since the day of his funeral. Coming home, she saw there were minor seasonal changes, some not quite comprehensible. There was a plainness in objects she hadn’t considered before. She traced her fingers along the cold cedar handrail, hoping to feel the places Richard had touched when his hands were still warm and accessible; the porch light sconces glowed with unequal brightness, and they cast contradictory and unsettled shadows; the yellowed slashes of the venetian blinds were canted, evoking a drunken peek-a-boo tease; dead leaves poked between the deck’s latticework, already beyond the contentious crunchy-dry stage and now drooped in wet decomposition; an expanse of dewed cobwebs stretched between the furthest cedar branches, drenched in morning silver and looking as sturdy as bridge cables. 

“So, do you still teach?” Mae asked her.

And there. A dead chipmunk between mounds of mummified marigolds, belly eviscerated, a torn cabbage leaf still in its maw, maggots scattered across its chest like wedding rice. 

“Actually, I’m a librarian,” Francesca said. “People sometimes mix them up. ‘Come with me if you want to read’,” she added with a passable Schwarzenegger accent.

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing. Sorry, an inside joke.”

The sky was muddy gray, which seemed right. Everything felt suppressed, as if the house was holding its breath for her. She only had to turn the key and open the door for things to return to their natural state.

And so she did.

“This is my disaffection of any god not listening,” she said aloud, and wondered if her younger self — her ghost self — would understand this as a passive-aggressive temper tantrum and not a real declaration.

“Richard said you teach young children,” said Mae.

“That’s sort of correct,” said Francesca. “I read to them and encourage them to read outside the school. Some of them do, some of them even enjoy it. But there’s no telling who will show up on reading days, which are Tuesdays mornings and Thursdays after lunch hour. Isn’t that funny? Libraries and public schools may be the only institutions that have a prescribed Lunch Hour. And prisons, I suppose. I’ll bet it’s even posted on bulletin boards. ‘12 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. is hereby designated as the Official Hour of the Lunch’.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s right.”

“It isn’t a lack of enthusiasm for reading that stops them, it’s the parents. Their work schedules, babysitting schedules, family situations, evictions, divorces, their laziness, drunkenness, habitual unemployment. You really can’t blame the kids.”

“Sounds rough,” said Mae, who discreetly looked at her watch.

“I also teach the children how to interpret their favorite stories through watercolors. Some of them have become quite good at it. But that’s another story. For later.”

“Hey, listen,” said Mae. “Do you think I could call you about Rick’s drawings later in the week? I really hate to be a bother, but I don’t want to be the only one without a lifejacket when Ellis-Martin starts to go under.”

“Sure, all right,” said Francesca. “I’ll be going back home tomorrow morning. I’ve been avoiding it since the funeral, but I suppose it’s time to settle back in.”

“That sounds great,” said Mae, who sounded like it was not so great.

Francesca thought: I’ll bet you were the girl everyone wanted to fuck in college. Who knows, maybe even still. You’ve got that Mary Tyler Moore sparkle and those roller derby hips and those goddamn freckles, so why not? “Yes. Do you still have the old landline number? I don’t think we ever changed it.”

“I’m sure I do. I’ll check my old post-its. I can’t tell you how much this will help, Frankie. I mean it!”

“I’m sure we can work something out,” she said. Who the hell holds onto their old post-its? she wondered. Just the sparkly girls from college, that’s who. She felt marginally ashamed for thinking ungenerous thoughts, but she was a widow now — was that technically correct, since she and Richard had never married? Could that be challenged in court for some reason? And who really cared what kind of thoughts she was having? She was In Mourning, and therefore deserved a little latitude for whatever thoughts she might have.


Francesca left the house on the lake in the shape of a snapshot. 

There were rudimentary decisions to make regarding the style of dress and shoes she would choose, the slightest pieces of jewelry, the restrained makeup that would help her look more lifelike, cheeses and deli meats and an appropriate wine, what would be good, can someone please help? 

When the gathering was done, she, in her exile, dishes washed and set on the draining board, packed a bag and drove until exhausted. She spent the week shut in a motel off the interstate, free, finally, to mourn by herself. By Friday afternoon, she was ready to come home.

When she re-opened the house, there was still a drift of elderberry candles coming from the bedroom, still the sturdy fragrance of garden herbs rising from her kitchen counter where she had spread clusters of rosemary, dill, and thyme on paper towels. She couldn’t remember why she did this, only a dim hope that, when she returned, the place would smell like she still belonged to it.

Francesca could recall the names of the two women who set up the buffet. Della and Joyce. Had she adequately thanked them? They prepared a crock pot filled with aromatic honey-garlic meatballs and set it beside a teak wood tray of prosciutto and calzone and a wheel of sharp cheddar beside rows of simple cutlery beside paper plates beside a stack of thick napkins beside baskets of picked-over bread and rolls beside — no,  someone had moved the plates of provolone and olives to the coffee table where they left marks on the cherrywood. People arrived — more than expected, many from Richard’s pre-Frankie days — and they offered condolences, said kind things in stumbly voices, mingled amongst themselves, and then left. Most of them called him Ricky and there were quite a few Ricks and one Richie. Hardly anyone called him Richard. They all seemed genuine in their appreciation and fondness for him. There were old softball buddies, work friends (but no one from Ellis-Martin, his former company), new and still-friendly clients, people who knew him from college, everyone he had ever fucking known since he was a boy, and they only knew Frankie as his wife, or his girlfriend, or companion animal, or whatever. It was dispiriting how many of them didn’t even know her name. She made a joke about it, suggested name tags next time around, and was rewarded with wan smiles. It was a sunny afternoon, she remembered, so she lowered the venetians in all the rooms so the guests wouldn’t be blinded by the lake water. There was soft piano music spraying from the speakers, and people reached for her hands to offer and receive comfort. She made note of those descending, giving hands and saw that most were wearing a wedding ring. That was interesting. The widow wears no ring, she thought. “You’re holding up so well,” an older woman in an expensive black pantsuit told her. “So sorry about your loss, my dear,” said a man who wore a gray Armani suit and whose fingers were so smooth they barely allowed for knuckles. “He’s with Jesus now,” said a harried middle-aged woman who carried with her an olive cable knit sweater. Frankie told her it was beautiful. “Yes, it is,” replied the woman. A real estate agent named Kip Kyle — it said so, right there on the business card he slid into her hand like a love note — offered to assist her if she “wanted a nice place in the city instead of this.” He wore no wedding ring, but did have a jazzy topaz on his pinky finger.

And this, now, home again, Frankie listened for the different notes of the house, the familiar sounds, the hum of the refrigerator, the unsynchronized ticks and tocks of different clocks in different rooms, the flutter of fluorescence in the kitchen. She realized she was waiting to hear Richard’s voice arrive from another room, for his breath to rush towards her.

Already, the telephone dock was flashing its faux-urgent come-on. Why can’t they leave me alone? But it was Ophelia, just her Ophelia, the only other person in the world whose voice she wanted to hear.

“Hey, Francesca, it’s just me. Just checking in, haven’t heard from you all week.” Tired, as if she just woke up, or hadn’t gone to bed yet. “Listen, I’m sorry about missing the uh, gathering, you know I can’t handle those things. I really am sorry. I know he was decent, decent to you, and that’s what matters.” A sigh, a short cough, the snap of a cigarette lighter, a deep slithering inhale. “Call me if you want. Or even if you don’t want. I need to hear from you. Remember, I’m back on the coast. Ha, so to speak. Suze is still in Arizona, maybe for a while.” Cough. “Sorry, bad joke. Seems like I’m fucking up with everyone lately. But this isn’t about me. Call me. Oh, this is Thursday, so I’ll be at my meeting tonight between 7 and 9:30, thereabouts. Atascadero time, remember? Same number. Okay, bye. Love you.”

And she cried. She cried and it felt more cleansing and more real than whatever it was she felt in the anonymous motel room. Sometimes, she supposed, you can only find your truest grief in the place where you left it. After a while, she lit the remains of the candles in her bedroom and waited for the appropriate amount of time to pass before she called her daughter back. In fucking Atascadero, California.

Francesca knew she would need to build a fire soon, but did not wish to be like Sisyphus, forever pushing a wood-filled wheelbarrow up a steep hill. She waited until daylight was washed away in the lake and wondered if the spiders were done for the season and she would stomp on them and damn them if they got in her way.



Just a little bit of the next thing. Thanks for reading.

Shiloh could be a pretty town in summer, Liselle said, if it weren’t for its tourist trap aesthetics. It was like a, whatchamacallit, one of those plants that draws in flies and then consumes them slowly, dissolves them down to their core enzymes until there’s nothing left, not even a lacy bit of wing. A Venus flytrap? Yes, she said, that’s the one. Isn’t there always a seducing Venus waiting to consume, and she drew him into the far western corner of her grandfather’s barn and they spent the rest of that afternoon behaving like coyotes, is how she explained it, and he did not disagree. That was in late summer of 1949, and Charles Sinnett never left Shiloh again.

If not for Liselle and Shiloh’s whatchamacallit aesthetics, he would have left years ago. The town would always be the same parched patch of downtown for him, barely changing after decades of worn-down prosperity. Liselle left almost two complete years after she drew him in, and when she did leave, he would swear he could feel his heart dissolve down to its core enzymes until all that remained was a knot where the rest of him used to be. His few remaining fleshy purposes were to eat, shave and bathe, and then only if someone reminded him to do so.

He was given a job at the Shiloh Clarion by accident when that newspaper’s lone reporter noticed him standing across the street jotting frantic sentences into a notebook in front of God and everyone else outside The Egg and the Fig Café, waiting for something to either draw him inside or brush him aside, and when asked if he wanted to work for the paper, he said okay. And he became an obituary writer, then a copy editor, then full-on editor, the leaps were just that ridiculous. He had a knack, said Omie McCann, the paper’s ancient publisher, and that was the only good thing he could remember that man ever saying to him. No one ever told Charlie Sinnett he had a knack for anything, and he held onto that like a compass. People seemed to like Charlie, were willing to tell him things they wouldn’t tell their parents or partners or priests. He didn’t hold that against them. He wasn’t trying to draw anyone in, didn’t care to absolve them of any sin. He met a lot of angry and sad people, had coffee and egg sandwiches with men who otherwise folded up like lawn chairs, women who sighed when asked about themselves. These were people whom he had no intention of further hurting. He had a knack, and he wrote all this into his notebooks and he sometimes thought about Liselle and how easily she escaped Shiloh’s gravity, and how all the footprints she ever made in town were likely washed away by rain by now, or dissolved into a crest of atoms by the steps of other people, and how, one night, he fell asleep trying to remember precisely how she looked at him when they dangled their feet over the Seidenberg Creek bridge or the lilt of her voice when she laughed at his knock-knock jokes or how her hand felt on the back of his neck when they sat naked in bed, and he realized she had become more of a symbol to him, an idol who finally forsook him, than as someone he would ever see again.

Of course, he knew she hadn’t drawn him in at all; they plainly wanted each other from the beginning, and he did not blame her for leaving. He was meant to discover his knack here, and she was not to be part of it. Not even in his most ambitious daydreams did she ever come back to him.

In the early spring of 1992, something else happened.

One last review and substance

Thank you to Elizabeth Gauffreau for her extraordinary review of Asunder, baby:

Steven Baird’s atmospheric, genre-blurring collection of short fiction and poetry is the work of a true original. Baird’s use of language is so finely tuned for sound and cadence, there were times I would be hard-pressed to label the piece one genre or the other–nor did I want to.

The writing reminded me of William Faulkner’s work, both in terms of prose style and the ability to put the reader in two worlds as once: the real world of Delta 88’s, Wonder Bread, and television and the world his characters inhabit that could never exist outside of Baird’s pages. (To be clear, I do not make this comparison lightly.)

While the stories and poems are varied in subject matter, time period, and narrative stance, they all have in common the rending of family or psyche, in one form or another. Some relationships are ripped asunder by abuse, while others are torn in small, ordinary ways that slip by unnoticed until the damage has been done.

There is Audrey, who discovers that her recently deceased husband was not the man she thought he was. Or take Daniel, whose act of kindness does not end well. Fifty-seven-year-old Joseph remembers his childhood as “being dust.”

Then there are Harry and Birdie, whose relationship, told over the course of multiple stories, is more of an unraveling than a tearing asunder. At each stage of their relationship, regardless of from whose point of view the particular story is told, my heart went out to both of them. In fact, their relationship was the standout in the collection for me.

I highly recommend Asunder, baby as character-driven stories that achieve Their power through interior monologue and narrative voice. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, these characters have lived the agony of bearing an untold story inside them–until Steven Baird gave their stories voice. Moreover, most of the stories are told in first-person, as if to say, “This is MY story, not yours, and only I can do it justice in the telling.”

More reviews can be found here. Thank you for reading.


I remember when dust was more beautiful than substance, something uncatchable, something whisked into cat corners. This was home. This was being a child. 

There is a box of in-season lettuce on the sidewalk beside the glass doors of Karl’s Barber Shop. Ladybugs — many — are sitting on the cardboard folds. Do they sit or stand? I’ve always wondered. The box is set crooked against the chipped brick wall, and it has been filled many times before: for lettuce, now, perhaps for apples, once, or old dishes, frail, muffled by newspapers and crimped grandmother-pillows. 

This, being a child:

My father stands at the door, and he exhales hues of cigarette smoke, blue and gray and an ivory plume in the shape of a Saturday morning. The smoke smells important and impatient, the scent of everything I know of him: his roughness, his capriciousness. He is still a young man, and he has created everything.

It is numbness more than ecstasy that will lift you, I would tell my five-year-old self.

“Morning, Johnny. Brought your boy with you today, huh?”

“He’s getting a little long behind the ears. Say hi, bubs.”

I say, “Hi.”

“Well, hey, little man. You turning into a hippy? That hair is looking wild.”

“No, sir. Daddy say I jus’ need a trim.”

“Just a trim, yessir. Hop on over here, son, let’s see what I can see. Look at you, grown two inches since last time. What you feeding him, John? Magic beans?”

“Spinach!” I shout.

“That right? Never could stand the stuff, but it must work for you. Same as usual, John?”

“Yeah,” says my father, who is already seated. “No. Cut it a little shorter. There’s talk of layoffs at the plant this fall. Might not see another haircut ‘til Christmastime. Go ahead and bean him.”

“Damn, Johnny. Hope things turn out okay.”

“Probably not. Goddamn Nixon. Just do the boy today, Karl. I’m driving cab tonight, and I don’t care how I look.”

“That so?”

“Part-time, cigarette and gas money, mostly.” He picks up a copy of Field and Stream. There is a picture of a trout on the cover. He showed it to me last time we were here. “This is a trout,” he said. “About half as long as you are, Joseph. Those colors above his belly tell me he is of the rainbow variety.”

“Really, Daddy?”

“You calling me a liar, son?”

“No, sir. Never saw a fish that big before, that’s all.”

“They get bigger,” he says, and shrugs. That was my father’s primary form of communication: the sharp grunt of the shrug, the shut-up-if-you-think-you-have-more-to-say shorthand that is so easily misunderstood. It can be difficult to translate when you’re five years old. When you’re fifty-five, even.

“Wasn’t expecting you ‘til next Saturday,” says Mister Karl. “Wasn’t this your old lady’s turn to look after him?”

“Bitch changed her plans,” Daddy says. “She knew I had things to do this weekend. Goddamn car payment, goddamn kid payment. She won’t be happy ‘til she sees me go bust.”

“Uh, John?”

“Now I’m stuck with you-know-who all weekend. Might be able to land a babysitter, I dunno, I doubt it. It’s already too late to call my usual sitter.”

“Johnny? Big ears here, son.”

Daddy looks over and sees Karl pointing at me. I can see him in the big mirror. I pretend not to notice, but my face feels red.

“Aw, hell,” Daddy finally says. “Joseph gets to ride in the front of the cab with me tonight, ain’t that right, bubs?”

I try to be cheerful. “Yes, sir. And we’re gonna have hotdogs for supper, Mister Karl. And ice cream!”

“And ice cream? Holy smoke, kid, you got a good Saturday planned, dontcha? Wish I were going with you, instead of cutting hair all day. And you get to spend time with your old man. You’re one lucky kid, you know that?”

“Yes, sir. And Mister Karl?”

“Yeah, Joe?”

“Why is there a box of lettuce out in front of your shop? You know there’s a bunch of ladybugs all over the box? Won’t they eat the lettuce?”

Mister Karl smiles. “Yeah, kid, I hope so.” And then to my father: “You know old Pierce over at the hardware store? His wife put up a garden again this summer — the whole backyard this time — and he can’t give stuff away fast enough. Some mornings, it’ll be green beans, next day it’s onions. Today, it’s lettuce. A whole box of it, as you can see. What do I want with that much lettuce? A few pounds of potatoes, sure, but lettuce? Do I look like a rabbit? If you want a head or five, grab some on your way home. Otherwise, let the bugs have it. At least it don’t stink like those turnips did. Hey, you remember that, Johnny? A goddamn milk crate full of ‘em. I told Pierce, son, next time bring me some of your old lady’s barbecue, not her turnips. Does he ever get tired of ignoring me? Not yet, he don’t.”

I listen to the cadence of Mister Karl’s voice, but not to most of his words. I  think he is a nice man, but he seems to be honestly confused by someone who has done a nice thing for him. Free vegetables? Free lettuce? Daddy calls lettuce the ruination of a good sandwich. I guess so. I don’t know. It doesn’t seem important enough to worry about, or become angry over. Let the bugs have it, I guess. 

Mister Karl trims me very short. There is a big pile of hair beside the barber chair. I didn’t know there was so much of me to take. Daddy did not look at me the whole time, or at anything else, not even the old magazines. He nodded during Mister Karl’s speech about vegetables, but I don’t think he was even listening. Mister Karl dusts off my neck and shoulders with his little barber brush, and then helps me down. Daddy does not notice my haircut is finished.

“See you next week, Johnny? You’re getting a little long behind the ears, too, fella.”

“Yeah, maybe. We’ll see. Take it easy, Karl. Hell of a night tonight, I guess. Wish me luck.”

Mr. Karl hands me a penny for the gumball machine. “Good luck, son,” he says, and then he winks. This time, I get an orange gumball, one of the big ones.

Daddy takes one last look at the box of wilting lettuce outside and nudges it with the toe of his boot so that it’s flush to the wall. He lights up a cigarette and walks on ahead of me. I try to keep up, but fall further and further behind. This is being a child. This was being dust. This is being dust.

Five Star reviews for ‘Asunder, baby’

Thank you for these generous reviews:

Asunder, Baby by Steven Baird is a profound collection of prose and poetry. In his introduction, Baird conveys that short stories have never been easy for him to write. Yet, his words flow seamlessly, creating such vivid settings that I can’t fathom him having any difficulty at all. His stories and poems reveal loss, beauty, love, and despair with an intensity that digs deeply into the hearts of his readers. Baird’s originality and authenticity in portraying his characters and backdrops are the brilliance of this intellectual compilation.

I found myself dog-earing page after page. Many of the stories and poems turned into favorites, but a few I’d like to highlight are “Where we go dancing,” “Your father’s Delta 88,” “Cinnamon Suites,” “The last angel of the Lord,” and “Rhapsody.”

An example from “Where we go dancing”

“…I can dance the ears off a row of corn when I have a mind to. Why, that corn becomes ashamed of itself and wishes it could be half as worthy as old dry cabbage or a leaf of backfield tobacco then have to endure another minute of the spectaculation of my feet.”

And from “Your father’s Delta 88”

“…and watch the eddies pull quilt-shaped flowers along their creases, folding them, unfolding them, pressing their petals into wine.”

Asunder, Baby is the first book I’ve read from this author, but I look forward to reading more of his incredible storytelling and poetic verse. Highly recommended for those who love prose and poetry that have you pondering and deeply feeling at the same time. – Lauren Scott

I first encountered Steven Baird’s writing several years ago when a mutual friend posted a link to one of his short stories. I was enthralled and begin to follow him on his website, anxiously awaiting each new piece. Steven never—and I mean never—disappoints. His writing is always evocative, his characters compelling, and he creates emotional landscapes that stay with you years later. This new collection is no different. I keep going back and re-reading the stories and wishing there were more. – Suzanne

“Asunder, Baby” is a unique assortment of short stories and poetry. The entire book has a poetic flare and presentation with a mixture of beautiful and dark images. I enjoyed many stories and poems and how some characters and storylines appeared more than once. Here are a few that caught my eye: “Where we go dancing,” “A gopherwood box,” “Appomattox,” “The middle of a very rainy afternoon,” “Louisiana baptism,” and “Pentimento.” This is for those who enjoy short stories and poetry that take them into a moment with vivid and insightful descriptions. It differs from other collections, and I appreciate that difference. – D.L. Finn

Asunder, baby is a chronological series of short stories with different but similar settings and small-town characters. Baird is a literary author, and some of the stories have atypical punctuation (still totally clear, though; as an example, the story titles do not have conventional capitalization). Other stories include poetry verses or the lyrics of retro-popular songs. With the songs comes a bit of nostalgia. I bet ya start singing the songs in your head like I did.

Baird’s dialogue passages are marvelous in that they move the story along while defining the characters who speak it. Baird is also good with quotable bits. I can’t help but put one in this review:

“…An age ago when we were an age that never impressed us much.” (Ain’t that the truth?!)

“Light of the West Saugerties” at the beginning of the collection and “This day, just now” at the frame the collection with stories of Birdie and Harry. You get a sense of what’s gone on between them over the years that are missing while the other stories in the collection take over. It makes for an incredibly gratifying journey.

Overall, this collection is literary and intellectual and slightly experimental, and it’s written with the obvious skill of an author who has the writing chops to pull it off. Five huge stars! — Priscilla Bettis

Asunder, baby is available from Amazon


Photo by Aviv Ben Or on Unsplash

We witnessed the waves as bystanders, watched them spill into limestone gulleys, and we waited for something different this time: a new color, perhaps, to percolate from their churn, or for the sun to gild the shore with a little more gold.

You pilfered persimmons

  • but only for the seeds

from Missus Mead’s trees

  • she can only eat one piece of fruit at a time

unless she slices them for pies

  • then I will inform her of the deed

but if the trees grow elsewhere, will they even be hers?

  • they will be closer to the water

such a long walk from her orchard

  • they will grow in her memory

but they were still pilfered

  • and now I fancy strawberries

Your words do not weigh enough, my father said. We need to build you up. You know how to use a walkie-talkie, right?

I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying. Words don’t weigh enough? Walkie-talkie? I had just finished high school two weeks earlier, was about to turn 18, and he signed me up to work on a road crew. With muscles unleavened and shoulders like butter knives, I didn’t think that was a good idea.

But to look at him, even casually, you knew the word ‘no’ was not an option. His dimensions were broad, but, you would think, unremarkable; his face, a modest clay, was a little too plain without benefit of finely-tuned details. Chin, just so, maybe slightly too flat, but not insubstantially so, though his nose, a scintilla too blunt for a man who, you would suppose, possessed a diminished sense of smell; a broad forehead, yes, shaped for good hats, like a fedora or a gray felt Homburg. And eyes: well, that’s what would stop you from thinking him average or dull. Dark green, swamp green eyes. Curious eyes, but not yearning or imploring. You would conclude: here was an intelligent man, but wait, also a troubled man, but no, pointedly philosophical, brutal, vivid, imaginative. You never knew his temperament before he spoke, and the man was not a talker. His voice was naturally soft, but it carried, and it made you interested in what he had to say, made you crane your neck so you could watch him strip the words to their plainest enunciation.

So ‘no’ was not a choice. I joined a work crew as a flagman on my eighteenth birthday.

He wrote:

You craved the wild fruit of Pompeii, you exclaimed

and as a young man, i sought it

there was no such flora in northern California,

so of course in Sausalito, i just bought it.

I was to be put to rest in the second cheapest coffin he could afford. They haggled, Mr. Bueford D. Weill, Jr. and he, but the words ‘dignity has no price tag,’ put him off.

“That I should kiss my son’s cheek and lay my hands square on his shoulders is all the dignity he requires,” my father said. “He was not a ‘mahogany and antique bronze finish’ kind of boy; planks and sturdy bolts and a comfortable mattress would do him fine. He respected a dollar and a firm bed. He won’t think less of me, because he’s deceased, of course, but I think he might respect me, even dead, if I did not have to forgo a mortgage payment for the sake of a fluffed pillow and half a chesterfield.”

It was agreed, then, that I should be put to flame, and whatever residue remained of me  be poured into the lake or, more likely, latch onto a substantial happenstance of a come-along wind to play-along with my ash.

I don’t know what I thought of this much fuss, with all corporeal appetites for sight and such no longer of any interest to me. I was waiting for him, I think, to say goodbye in a way that would end all complications between father, son, and whatever ghosts wound between us. A simple, even clumsy,  goodbye, would be fine, but he held onto his grief with both hands. 

My dream had a beginning, he said. We walked along a canopied path, prolific with beach grass and the skeletons of striped bass, and we were the same age. I could not feel the warmth of the sand, but I told you it was warm and you agreed, yes, it was warm. And then it was gone, all of it, except for the water, and it was gray and filled with stones. I told you it was cold, and it felt cold, and you said, yes, it was cold. You gathered persimmon seeds, my hand reached to receive them, and I woke up holding nothing.

And I told you that a Buick Skylark ignored my Stop paddle and sped past me, filled with boys my age, and they all wore the same cartoonish grins, shiny with spit and noise. I waved, frantic, to Ronny and his crew, who noticed the car, of course, and I was reprimanded by Mister Douglas Hawkes as we stood beside his pick-up truck. What else could I do? I memorized the license plate, but what else could I do? I forgot that I could speak, that I could yell, I only waved, waved like a dunce, as if I could command the waves to relent.

And my father, still dreaming, said, I dreamed of something that became nothing, and that was the beginning of our goodbye.

Blog Stop Tour: The Necromancer’s Daughter 

Fantasy writers are especially unique in that they imagine worlds — regalities and cultures and creatures — that never were, and then go ahead and build them, imbuing them with their own lively visions, and then spiking them with a bit of awfulness that we all recognize. Dragons? I’m not so sure they don’t exist. In the imagination of D. Wallace Peach, of course they do. And so do necromancers, but it’s a costly gift.

A healer and dabbler in the dark arts of life and death, Barus is as gnarled as an ancient tree. Forgotten in the chaos of the dying queen’s chamber, he spirits away her stillborn infant, and in a hovel at the meadow’s edge, he breathes life into the wisp of a child. He names her Aster for the lea’s white flowers. Raised as his daughter, she learns to heal death.

Then the day arrives when the widowed king, his own life nearing its end, defies the Red Order’s warning. He summons the necromancer’s daughter, his only heir, and for his boldness, he falls to an assassin’s blade.

While Barus hides from the Order’s soldiers, Aster leads their masters beyond the wall into the Forest of Silvern Cats, a land of dragons and barbarian tribes. She seeks her mother’s people, the powerful rulers of Blackrock, uncertain whether she will find sanctuary or face a gallows’ noose.

Unprepared for a world rife with danger, a world divided by those who practice magic and those who hunt them, she must choose whether to trust the one man offering her aid, the one man most likely to betray her—her enemy’s son.

A healer with the talent to unravel death, a child reborn, a father lusting for vengeance, and a son torn between justice, faith, and love. Caught in a chase spanning kingdoms, each must decide the nature of good and evil, the lengths they will go to survive, and what they are willing to lose.

From Chapter 5 – An excerpt

A wave of panic stilled Barus’s hand, the needs of an infant beyond his experience. The insanity of his choice forced him back a step. For a full day, he’d suffered from fatigue and fear, his mind as muddy as a spring puddle. What was he thinking? Did he believe, for a single moment, he possessed the knowledge or skill to raise a child?

He slumped onto the one chair Graeger had left intact when he’d first barged into Barus’s life. His head hung forward into his hands, and he shivered. If the land wasn’t trapped in the grip of winter, he could bury her body under the willow beside the boy. He could lower her into the ravine beside Olma’s bones so neither would rest alone. And while the thought comforted him, it made his heart ache with grinding loneliness.

Olma hadn’t abandoned him despite the tragedy of his birth. How could he choose otherwise?

If the land wasn’t trapped in the grip of winter, he could bury her body under the willow beside the boy.

He studied the baby’s exquisite face, her repose as tranquil as sleep, fingers curled, complexion and hair as white as the asters on the summer’s lea. On her deathbed, the queen had begged for her child’s life. He possessed the power to see her will done, and in the depths of his heart, he couldn’t deny her … or the infant. Or himself. Despite his fear, he’d fallen in love.

Meet the Author

A long-time reader, best-selling author D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

In addition to fantasy books, Peach’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of the arts in her local community, organizing and publishing annual anthologies of Oregon prose, poetry, and photography.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.


One of my favorite excerpts: “A cold bone-moon sailed across the treetops. Silvergreen leaves glimmered between the towering evergreens like fairy lanterns. For several hours, she walked beside him, and they resorted to quiet conversation. With dawn a long way off, they settled beneath a tent of bowed branches and huddled together for warmth. Aster sighed and fell asleep with renewed hope.” This is simply lovely.

Diana’s writing brings a certain elegance to all her characters, who feel lived-in and fully-realized — particularly Barus, whose kindness and simple humanity lifts this tale high. Diane’s descriptive prowess is enchanting as always, and “The Necromancer’s Daughter” is as magical and rewarding a read as you would expect from this gifted author.

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Lamentations of a Farmer

A big thanks again to Suzanne Craig-Whytock at DarkWinter Literary Magazine for giving my short story ‘Lamentations of a Farmer‘ a wonderful home. She promotes and publishes so much great work and I’m so pleased to be included there. It’s well worth the visit. Thank you! And the artwork she chose to accompany it is perfect!

A patchwork of cotton flowers

The only breeze that blew through Nannie Dee’s front yard carried a miasma of malt liquor fumes and hyacinth perfume, Millicent’s step-mother’s favorite and thereby unavoidable. Nannie could count the number of real Christians in her front yard with the fingers on one hand, and the rest of them could have the back of the other one. Still, she would be polite. She would offer refreshments and compliment them on their new shoes (or their new blouses, or their fashionable ties, if they bothered to wear one), and her countenance would not change. This was Millie’s day, and none of their frowny-face pantomimes were going to change that.

“She’s with God now,” proclaimeth Judith Meyers, the new-ish teacher who taught Millie ‘Northern History’ and was likely from someplace like Boston or Newport, but who had tamed her accent to fool the local folk. Oh, she probably came from good stock, alright, raised in some third or fourth generation Italianate style home, on her second marriage at the tender age of thirty-four, and, no doubt, already eyeballing her next Mister. There were stories about her, but Nannie Dee would be charitable: “Thank you, honey, God bless.”

Next up was Courtney Everding, Millie’s Academic Advisor, and her husband Darryl, a stately-dressed cowboy-type — a mustached goober, really — and the man who most likely raped Millicent. He was currently squeezing a sausage biscuit to death. “So sorry for your loss, Missus Dee,” she said, and offered her a hug. The goober nodded, distracted by all the young women wandering the yard. Millie’s friends.

“Appreciate the kindness,” said Nannie, then whispered: “And if you was to cut your husband’s throat and cock when he falls asleep tonight, I would gladly alibi you without any complaint from my conscience.”

Missus Everding acknowledged her with a crisp nod as her husband squeezed that biscuit until crumbs started to fall on his shoes.

Next up didn’t matter. They were all cotton flowers from the same patchwork quilt around here. Oh, she would judge them in her old-style way, everyone did that, always judging each other until that judgment didn’t even matter any more. This was Millicent’s day, and if Nannie Dee — the girl’s grandmother, after all — made a sour face for just the tiniest of seconds, it wouldn’t be more damning than if her dentures had slipped a little. And who would fault her for that?

“God bless you, honey,” she heard herself say to a boy who rode over on his tractor. She would complain to his grandfather tomorrow, because the boy tore up a small patch of her sweet alyssums. Things like that did not sit right with her. Boys had to learn early, or look at all the trouble they’d cause later. “Give my best to your mama, you hear?”


A big thank you to Suzanne Craig-Whytock for publishing my latest flash fiction, Touch/Either/And/Or Adoration at her brand new literary magazine, DarkWinter at Please pay a visit and check out the other works (fiction and poetry), and feel free to add something to this growing publication. Suzanne is an award-winning Canadian author, and she’s extremely talented and funny. Also check out her must-read hilarious blog, mydangblog. Thanks for reading.

Liars and Thieves: Book Launch for Diana Wallace Peach

Welcome to the launch! Today, I’m proud to present the newest book — Liars and Thieves — by my friend Diana Wallace Peach, an extremely prolific and gifted author of dark fantasy, and a great supporter of independent writers. She’s written a new series, Unraveling the Veil, and I’m happy to shout it out.

Book One: Liars and Thieves

Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—

When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.

A changeling who betrays his home—

Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.

A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—

Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.

When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.

Unraveling the Veil series

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.

Diana, how do you define success?

In all parts of my life: Happiness. We only get this one life; there are no second chances, no do-overs. We are each miracles, here through the perfect alignment of billions of years of evolution, choices, and chance. It’s not a gift to be wasted. Happiness means different things to different people, but for me it’s choosing an attitude of kindness, care, and compassion and acting on that choice. Writing is something that brings me joy, no strings attached.

Diana’s very creative trailer, well worth watching:

Author Biography

D. Wallace Peach

D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Diana’s Links:



Amazon Author’s Page:


Twitter: @dwallacepeach

Thanks, Diana, and may you have much success with this new series!