FICTION | The In-Betweens
Sometimes at night, wild zombies roam. They wander past, or into our house, and rustle through the downstairs looking for life. Sometimes, when the moon is high, you can spot one loping down the street.
We used to hear them from the bedroom scratching and sighing, rolling their rotted backs against the fraying carpet and curtains. They chewed through the legs of the dining room table. Once, I discovered a zombie sleeping on the sofa, his stringy hair clotted with upholstery cushion. Scott set fire to the piano to scare it off.
These days, though, we rarely see them. The pandemic has run its course. But every once in a while, we wake to the scream of a dying kangaroo (1) and know that the virus sputters on. There are so few of us now. We live so far apart. We’ve been vaccinated. The illness rarely spreads. Still, we live on the upper floors of abandoned buildings and houses. Zombies don’t like stairs.
(1) During the pandemic, the zombies clawed through the factory farms, hospitals, sports arenas, and other places of concentrated life. Australia air-dropped thousands of kangaroos, prolific breeders, to satisfy the zombies--something to binge on other than human flesh. Despite the carnage The Living has seen, most of us are still too squeamish to gut and skin a kangaroo. They live, unhunted.
I tell Scott that the zombies at work are listless and rotting. The crackling discharge of a
bolt action rifle is enough to make them lose a limb from recoil. Their will to live is tepid at best. We’ve replaced bullets with blanks, and the Zombie Handlers, Alexander and Nick, have taught them to play dead. Still, the tourists have started to complain.
Scott says that I’m lucky I have a job and someplace to go during the days. He spends most of his time in bed or the garden. He meditates. The mattress sags where he sits. His hands press together in prayer and his breath hugs the back of his throat and rattles like the ocean waves.
“They seem depressed,” I say. Last week one lumbered into an Argentinian Hunter’s
wielded ax. Death by tourist.
He says, can’t I see he doesn’t care?
He used to care. He used to chase me and paw at me backstage at the Biltmore and beg me to sleep with him. He cried and fell to his knees when I told him that I wouldn’t if he was the last man on earth. Now he is the last man on earth, one of them, anyway, and I’m sleeping with him. I think that’s what they used to call irony.
Outside the window two kangaroos mate in the shadows. Kangaroos are everywhere. They’ve replaced people, even.
It’s dark in the mornings when I leave for work. Today, Scott’s up before me and I roll my bike past him as he tends the garden. He’s fussing with the make-shift greenhouse made of ragged plastic. Past what used to be the Eastern Promenade, the moon is fading and the Atlantic crackles in cracked obsidian hues. I lean my bike against the gate rails and pull a carrot from the ground for breakfast. He’s floating in a quilted house dress that drags along the ground. The robe’s printed flowers accordion in and out. His hair is twisted into a bun on the top of his head like a finial. He is a lamp with no bulb. He walks towards me, but I can’t tell if he sees me. I can’t tell if he’s smiling or frowning. I can’t read him anymore.
“Did you hear that wild zombie last night,” he says.
“I must’ve been sleeping.”
“Mashing and moaning like a coyote for its lost love. Life. Lost life. Lost half a life.”
Last week, a couple moved in to a house around the corner on what used to be Congress Street. I haven’t seen them since. “Do you think it’s the new people?” I hate when it’s someone I’ve seen before. Someone I used to know. I swear a childhood friend turned up in the zombie stock at Stop ‘em and Pop ‘em two years ago. I looked away. (2)
(2) Though the pandemic has run its course, every few years the virus stirs, takes a body and hungers for flesh until it’s too tired, too weak to go on. As they grow weak, they scavenge like rabid raccoons. That’s when they are most dangerous. They are strong and famished. Scared and starved. They know not what they do.
“You best hold on to your crowbar when you ride home tonight,” he says.
My nose starts running. Fall is on its way, then the cold season. Every winter Scott and I argue about whether to stay in the house we’ve taken, or move further inland. The wind off the bay is shattering, but I like the view. We’ve got the garden. Scott rarely leaves the bedroom anymore, and then only to scratch at the tired earth. Staying doesn’t make much difference to him. I think he likes our yearly fight.
The sky shifts from charlotte to peach to blue as I bike to work. There’s something beautiful in the quiet of the road, nature encroaching, upending the asphalt. Some days when I ride, I’m happy. Some days I feel light. Some days I cry because there’s no more Istanbul for me. No more Paris. And I feel the crushing weight of isolation. No one but Scott knows me now. No one knows anyone. No one I loved is alive. Mid-continent is quarantined. Tourists and thrill seekers who can afford the battery of tests and vaccines are allowed in, but we few citizens who are left are considered carriers of the disease. For the safety of the rest of the world, we must be contained.
The hunting club from Tel Aviv is milling in the lobby of The Lodge, when I get to work, lukewarm coffee from the carafes by the front desk. Sophie from accounting is frazzled by thethree hours early for check-in. Dressed in camouflage, they pick at the continental buffet, sipping early arrival and thumbs the pages of the guest ledger back and forth, trying to find their reservation as the group coordinator glares at her. The crumbs of a scone hang like mites in his beard. Their three-day hunting package allows for a day’s hunting in each pen, choice of weapons from the Weaponry Shed, and a personal chef, either Owen or Rob, to cook gourmet survival fare. But the Israelis argue that they don’t want a chef. They’ve brought their own food. But they do want The Woods Pen for all three days of their zombie hunting adventure. I explain that we have another group this weekend and a wedding at noon. I tell him that Stop ‘em and Pop ‘em suggests a gentle start on the golf course, which will be ready at two. “It can be shocking to see a zombie for the first time,” I say. “Our zombies are in a deep state of entropy. The stench alone can cause a grown man to swoon. The safety class will commence at one.” I snap the ledger closed.
He insists they don’t need a safety course.
I insist they do.
He pushes a hundred-dollar bill across the counter with his index finger and taps it lightly. “We want to experience what it was like Back Then (3) – the zombie invasion. No one knowing what to do.” His voice hammers, percussive beats, quiet and sharp.
Back Then, I was almost somebody. The zombie pandemic swallowed my career. (4) Back Then, it wasn’t the people with guns, but the poets and story-tellers and musicians and artist who helped everyone survive. Back Then, I finally understood why all my life, they called my voice a gift. (5) But even the gifts were forgotten, the curative powers of art succumbed to the drudgery of survival, the thorny maze hardwired into our being. We couldn’t not fight to survive. Even though we tried.
I find I have no patience for people who fetishize Back Then.
“Our guests always find The Carnival Pen the most memorable day of their three-day package,” I say. The hundred dollars lays untouched on the desk. We both eye it and I am
tempted, so tempted to take it, but I resist.
Before the Back Then, we should’ve seen it coming, but the signs were too big for us to
The viral infection bloomed for years before the medical establishment caught on. The outbreaks were blips in far off places, flattened by the news cycle, pounded into dystopian conspiracy theories by alcoholic internet personalities. But there was the stench of gangrene. Rot. Flesh falling from bone. Splotched skin. Green scales and ulcers. They hovered between life and death. They were hungry because we didn’t feed them. They tore through hospitals, factory farms, stadiums, orchards, and groves.
(3) Back Then unfolded in slow motion. We didn’t fire guns. We hid in locked rooms with the lights off and cowered under blankets and covered our eyes. We cried for the rotting souls we used to know. We wondered if we’d become one of them or die at their hungry hands. Back Then, we couldn’t imagine the What’s Next. Back Then was the beginning of the In Between.
(4) I think that’s what they used to call tragedy.
(5) Eight years ago-–three months before Back Then---a reviewer wrote that my voice was “sweet, hot pepper sprinkled on buttered toast.”
(6) Thirteen victims listlessly wander outside the Barclay Center. A crazed man eats the face of a stranger beneath an overpass in Tampa. A spattering of zombies in Kansas is attributed to the cruel drug Krokodile.
Failing the negotiation, the Israeli chaperone blinks sadly. “We’ve endured so much to be here,” he whines. I shrug. He snaps the hundred dollars back into his coat pocket. I say I’ll see what I can do.
At eleven, seven jet-lagged Japanese tourists arrive. On their heels, the bridal party. Sophie brings both groups to the Boudoir, a chestnut room with a fire place and frayed rugs that smell of a past no one is willing to throw away. Its windows look out onto the golf course where a family of kangaroos has made a home beneath the old oak. A couple of adolescent joeys swat at each other with their skinny, short arms while the elders sprawl on the grass in patches of sunlight. A baby pokes his head out of his mother’s pouch.
The bride and groom are giddy with a sense of retro-normalcy. His suit is creased from
years in a drawer. Her gown is yellowed with age and loose in the bodice. It’s the first wedding we’ve had at Stop ‘em and Pop ‘em. We are diversifying our clientele. Alexander and Nick trot out the zombies to perform the Birthday Dance. Sophie calls Alexander the Zombie Whisperer and she’s right. He gets performances out of them that are astonishing, especially given their fading life force. They like him.
We hold our breath with every tumble and handspring, fearing the sound of ripping flesh or crushed bone, but they execute it perfectly, if a little lopsided and off beat. No limbs detach. No noses or fingers fall off. As the Top Zombie dives from the tip of the pyramid and the formation dissolves into a step touch, the couple kisses and the guests throw dried leaves and acorns as they run hand and hand back into The Tavern. The impatient Israeli, faces streaked with camouflage paint, glower by the edge of the Golf Course, their bolt action rifles hugged to their chests.
Inside The Lodge, the Japanese businessmen applaud the bride and groom and pours everyone shots, including the staff, of the Japanese Whiskey they brought with them. Alcohol is rare and expensive here and I’m not used to it anymore. The whiskey’s sweet and smoky and burns in a luxurious way. The sting makes my eyes water. I think about Scott meditating at home, praying, practicing, living in the Inevitable Nothing that follows life. If I could just get him out of the house. Bring him to work, find someone besides me for him to talk to.
Mr. Hidecki, the trip coordinator, grabs my shoulder in a lusty, vibrant way. The businessmen love the Carnival Pen, he says, and, if at all possible, they’d like to hunt there for the duration of their stay with the Ferris Wheel and Merry-go-round lit up. He says he sees we have other guests…and slips me two hundred dollar bills, which I fold into my back pocket. I tell him I’ll do whatever I can to make their stay satisfying. He bows slightly and I bow back.
Sophie corners me behind the desk. She’s tipsy and squints through her glasses. The prescription doesn’t work for her anymore, but she hasn’t been able to find a better pair. She blushes and tells me that Alexander smiled at her. “His voice is like wet gravel,” she moans. “He’s so polite.” She leans into the word polite, stretches it like pliant dough. “Even the PFETZ (7) protestors like him,” she says. “He brought out the leftover sandwiched from the conference last week and sat with them and ate. He asked me what I used to do Back Then.” No one ever asks those questions anymore. Back Then is a dream we only half remember. What’s Next is too murky to divine. Instead of looking forwards or backwards, we look at our feet.
(7) People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies is a zombie rights organization founded by Stephen S. Gilbright, a failed Shakespearean actor and inspirational speaker who discovered his true calling when he lost his partner to the virus. PFETZ’s core vision states, “Zombies are people, too, and should not be denied the joys, simple pleasures, or the gift of life, so narrowly defined by those of us with better blood flow.”
The PFETZ people are in recline outside the front gate when I leave work at the end of
the day. They sit on the cardboard of their protest signs. A couple of them lean against the brick wall in the shrinking window of sunlight with their eyes closed. A young woman with scraggly braids scowls and spits. “Zombies are people, too, you know.” They’re too young to remember, or maybe they’ve blocked the memories of what it was when the newly turned were ravenous and frightened and devoured the flesh that crossed their path.
“Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” I say as I push my bike past them. An old man steps in front of my bike and clamps his bony fingers around my wrist. His skin hangs off his face in pockets. His eyes are tunnels. His hair is missing in tufts.
“Please,” he whispers. There’s a Russian lilt to his voice. “Please help.” I yank my arm, but his grip tightens. “Please.” His voice is raspy. Dried leaves. The skin on his nose is chapped.
“Listen, old man--” I turn my wrist against his desperate hold, “get away.” His head swings back and I see patch of scaly green. My heart feels like it’s being squeezed in a stranger’s fist. The crowbar clatters from the front basket of my bike to the ground and my foot goes up into his ribs. He curls into himself and scurries away. The protestors are silent, their mouths hanging open. “They’re people until they try to eat your face,” I scream. They quietly fold up their signs and scatter. On my wrist, the red marks where he grabbed my wrist rise like welts, then settle back down. There’s one tiny scratch.
The wind picks up on the ride home. The sun dusts the tops of the trees. By the time I reach what used to be the highway, it smells like rain. I pedal hard. I still feel the man’s twig vine-fingers curling up my arm. I try to scream again, into the path ahead, but I can’t, in that moment, find my voice. (8)
(8) We used to call the zombies screamers because they screamed as the virus worked its way through their system and thickened their blood and turned it to crude oil. They wanted to die from the pain of it, but couldn’t die. They were ravenous and we were afraid to feed them. They writhed in their beds, first hot, then cold. Discomfort slammed into pain, pain into a deafening throb. We couldn’t help them. We were scared. We looked away. We had to.
It’s dark by the time I reach what used to be Portland. The shadows are coming to life.
Fat drops of rain tumble from the sky and I run inside.
Scott’s cross-legged in bed, settled into his usual place. The room smells of stale sweat. I sit still next to him on the wrinkled sheets. He watches me with one eye open.
“Kangaroos got into the garden again. Tore up the kale patch.”
“At least no wild zombies?”
“I’d prefer zombies over the kangaroos,” he says. He lies back and pulls the blanket over his head. I take off my shoes.
“There was a wedding at work today.”
“I’m tired of this relentless will to live. As if anything can ever return to Normal. As if
Normal exists without oxygen.”
“Things’ll get better.”
“All the oxygen is gone.”
“It was really nice. The wedding. People were happy. The zombies did tricks.”
“Turn it off,” he snaps. The blanket tents over his head.
“Do you remember when we were driving out of the city and I was crying and you said we would find our way and you turned on the CD player and we sang? Who did we sing to?”
“Are you torturing me,” he shouts. “You torturing me with what used to be? You used to be nobody. I was nobody. Piles of flesh with working parts. We’re still nobodies. With bodies. That’re falling apart.”
“I can’t do this anymore.” I slide to edge of the mattress. I’d leave, but there’s nowhere to go.
His hand slips out from under the blanket and he takes mine. He tugs gently and kisses
each knuckle. “I’m sorry,” he says. He holds my fingers against his stubble. He pulls the blanket over me and we face each other, knee to knee. The warmth of his breath cradles me. “I need you,” he says. And then, we make love.
This is how we keep a dying thing alive.
We used to jump from house to house. We’d make up stories about the people who’d
lived where we landed based on their orphaned belongings, the stains on their furniture, the food in their pantries. We stared at their photographs, poured through their diaries, read their mail. We tried on their clothes, and put on plays in their living rooms. We pretended to be them. We searched for the lost bits of ourselves in the jumble of their stuff. We talked about them as if they were family. Sometimes we mourned their forsaken lives. We’ve read the house we live in now over and over. We’ve stripped it for clues. No more dreams left. Maybe we should move inland this year.
I wake up alone the next morning; the bedsheets are cold. Scott’s in the garden, dressed in the house dress again. The hem is caked with dirt. He’s wearing yellow dish gloves and the fingers flop and bend when he brushes strands of hair from his mouth.
The carrot I dig up tastes like wood.
“Do zombies catch colds,” he asks.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. Maybe.”
“You’d think they’d be susceptible to the same diseases as humans. I mean, they’re human. Even if they’re not.”
“Maybe then. Maybe, yes.”
“Chicken pox? Monkey pox? Shingles?”
“But maybe their blood is too thick to spread it.”
“So, when the next plague comes, they’ll survive us. (9) The walking dead will outwalk the walking dying all the way to heaven.” He chews on the ends of his beard.
“Why don’t you come to work with me? You can sit by the fire place and laugh at the Hunters. You can scare them stories of the Back Then.”
“Do you ever think that what you’re doing is wrong? That Zombies have souls?”
“You’re talking like a PFETZer,” I say. “It’s us or them.”
“Not anymore. And it never really was a fair fight.”
“Why are you thinking these thoughts?”
“What else am I supposed to think about,” he says. “The long fucking winter? Fucking kangaroos ate the tops of all the beets.”
(9) During the pandemic, the American medical establishment lost the race to contain the virus. Politicians plotted camps to contain the afflicted until they, too, fell to the disease. Preachers who prayed for the second coming and blamed the wrath of God on us sinners, cowered in their houses like the Egyptians during the plague that took their firstborn sons. Only the doctors and relief workers from Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria were brave enough to come in with vaccines and aid. I wept when Dr. Michael Achieng Chikelu pushed up my sleeve. I still feel the tenderness of his touch.
Sophie’s bent over her desk when I get to work. Her head wags back and forth on top of her folded arms. In broken sobs, she tells me that there’s an incident unfolding in The Woods Pen. Under mask of night, the Israelis wandered off the path and set up camp deep in the thick of the forest. It’s possible they’ve set traps. Last night, shots rang out and a couple of PFETZers were discovered huddled in The Barn at dawn. They are warming up by the fire in the Boudoir, drinking hot chocolate.
“We can’t afford a lawsuit,” she snivels. “What if they find out they’re shooting blanks? We can’t afford to lose any more zombies. We can’t afford to injure our guests. I’ll never work again.” She slumps back to her desk. I back out and close the door.
At eleven, I escort our Japanese businessmen to The Carnival Pen. Tied at the corners through the chain link fence is a bedsheet. Written in blood red scrawl: Stop the slaughter and Zombies are people, too. I try to rush the group by, but they stop to take pictures. Maybe they think it’s part of the ambience, part of the game.
Just beyond the Ferris Wheel, the ocean is at high tide. The sun pulls cerulean blue from the waves. I wander to the beach as the gentlemen tour the site and choose their strategic posts. I wish I could stay here forever, watching the water, back to the world, a pillar of salt melting slowly beneath the threatening snow. The gulls are deliriously oblivious to the changes on earth, as are the whales, the dolphins, all the creatures living in the safety of the water. There’s a theory of evolution I once read, something like: humans were borne of the water, aquatic apes, who, decided one day to dry off. They emerged hairless and upright, buoyant with fat. We forsook our brethren, forgot ourselves, betrayed our dearest allies. Now we’re drowning on land. I wish so badly that I could walk back into the sea.
There’s a presence behind me. I can’t tell if I hear winded breath or the wind. I’m afraid
to look. I close my eyes and think, as I often do, that I’m okay if it’s time to die, but a hand lands on my shoulder and instead of surrendering, I spin, elbows out, and kick. Alexander blocks my leg and jumps back.
“Whoa,” he says. “Sorry! What were you some sort of fighter in your past life?”
“I used to live in New York,” I say. “Something you pick up.”
“Yeah, you can take the girl out of New York, but…so they say.”
“You see the protest signs on the fence?”
He nods. “Yeah, and, uh, to be aware–-someone–-a protestor probably, cut a hole in the fencing on the on the far side of Golf Course. And clipped the chain of the zombie corral, so the zombies are sort of wandering around. Set free. We got to stick close.”
“And the assholes in The Woods Pen?”
“They’re on their own.”
I ask if anyone’s contacted Animal Control, but he says he’s hoping, everyone’s hoping,
we can take care of the situation ourselves.
We watch the waves. “You ever think what we’re doing is wrong?”
“Every day,” he says. A chorus of screams breaks out from the Carnival Pen. We run up the beach and into the pungent stink of rot.
The Japanese businessmen hover around a bottom basket of the Ferris Wheel. They part when we arrive. Mr. Hidecki wipes his eyes with his handkerchief, an impeccably white, wrinkleless square. I can’t tell if they’re tearing from fright, stench, or sorrow. Six zombies are sleeping in the basket, resting on top of each other. Alexander motions for the group to move back as he steps in. Mr. Hidecki takes his arm. “They’re tired. We should let them sleep.”
“Do they scare you,” I ask. “Alexander’s a Zombie Whisperer. He won’t let them hurt
Mr. Hidecki shakes his head. “No,” he says. “They make me sad.”
The group walks solemnly to The Lodge, Mr. Hidecki and myself at the rear. He rests his hand on my shoulder. Gunshots echo from The Woods Pen. War cries, too.
Alexander and Nick find a couple of zombies rummaging through the trash in back of The Tavern and another half dozen lingering by what used to be the 18th hole. The zombies are listless. They are dying. Sophie sobs through our diminishing supply of cocktail napkins. “We’re living in a graveyard.” She hiccups as zombie stumbles past the Boudoir windows. Its arm hangs, tangled in its shirt sleeve, no longer anchored to its shoulder. “They’re gonna want their money back,” she moans. Her glasses fog up as she kicks the legs of her desk. The Japanese businessmen feign joviality, their good spirits dampened by the inevitability of death. Alexander suspects that many zombies have wandered to The Woods to pass, to melt back into the earth, to bury themselves in fallen leaves. Even the PFETZ protestors are solemn and stoic by the fireplace, eating cookies. Only the Israelis and the kangaroos seem not to care. The Israelis run in formation across The Golf Course. The kangaroos nap beneath the trees. We’re in lockdown. I won’t be biking home tonight. I wonder if Scott will worry that I’m hurt. Or dead. I wonder if he’ll be relieved. Or if he’ll notice I’m not there.
It’s Alexander’s idea to light a bonfire. The zombies are attracted to light and life, and afraid of fire. They’ll gather like moths, but stay a safe distance from the heat. Then, the entire group can corral them and send them back to their pens. It will be good for bonding and morale.
We wander to the beach at dusk, me with my crowbar and the Japanese businessmen with the baseball bats that usually live in the guestrooms. The Israelis, who’ve come back to The Lodge for hot showers, sling their bolt action rifles over their shoulders. The changing light of the setting sun tints everything shades of violet and shadows fine as stardust. I think its what they used to call the magic hour. The heat from the fire beats back the encroaching chill of winter. I dearly wish that Scott were here, to remember the simple, beautiful ways that nature reminds us of ourselves. Tonight, it feels like the poets and artist, musicians and story-tellers are important again. Survival is not a chore, but a responsibility and there’s nothing more stunning than the humanity of humanity. We are hardwired for survival and we are hardwired to tell stories. We are hardwired to seek beauty. We are hardwired to love.
Alexander tosses a scrap of driftwood on the fire. He pulls a guitar from behind the log
he’s sitting on and I’m afraid at first that he’ll use it to feed the bonfire. Instead he tunes it against itself and strums cautiously. The flames swell. “It’s been a while,” he says. “I found it in The Barn today. The neck’s warped.” He strikes a chord. “I used to be in a band. A bad band.”
“I used to sing,” I say. “For a living.”
Mr. Hidecki takes the guitar. “I play a little,” he says. He launches into a classical Spanish refrain. The other hunters laugh. “Hidekisan,” the Japanese businessmen clap, “you always surprise us!” Hugging the guitar, he picks a melody. It’s sweet and familiar and I can’t remember the words. At first, the notes linger, each waiting for the next to cozy up. The sparks from the fire form the lyrics, but they fade before I can read them. Then comes the chorus and I remember, a single word sung over and over again. Plaintive, somber, untouchable. Hallelujah…hallelujah… hallelujah… hallelu-u-u-uyah.”
“Sing, Hope,” he says.
“I haven’t sung in years.”
My voice is plastered to the back of my throat. It crumbles. It cracks. And then it lays
naked and honest at the foot of the fire and the fading sky.
A form rises from the rocks and for a moment, I think it’s Scott and I wave. I want to run to him and pull him towards the music, but Sophie grabs my arm. A howl rises along with the melody. My eyes adjust. The zombies have circled us, staying a safe distance from the fire. A kangaroo, not Scott, hops between them, towards the lit carnival. Mr. Hidecki plays louder. Thicker. Richer. The zombies’ moans rise into a haunted treble, wind pushing through holes in a cave. Their voices crescendo. They’re singing with us.
They stand, though they’re almost dead. They sway on their worn-out feet. Their bones
are oxidized, as black as their flesh, as black as the ocean when the moon is new. They are afraid of fire, afraid of water, afraid of pain and What’s Next. Hardwired to survive, like us, until it’s time to die. Back Then, they use to be somebody, too. Maybe they remember.
Sophie pulls me back to the log. “Sit a little longer,” she whispers. The waves ripple to
the shore the fire burns bright. From space, we are an eye. The fire and those around it are the pupil, the zombies are a ring around the iris. The beach is the white of the eye, and the surf, the blinking lid. Maybe out there, someone is watching. Maybe, out there, we all look the same.
Amy Neswald is a fiction writer and independent filmmaker. Her written work has been published in The Rumpus, The Normal School, and Bat City Review, among others. Her work received a special mention for the 2020 Pushcart Prize and her collection of short stories, I Know You Love Me, Too, is the recipient of the 2019 New American Fiction prize and is slated for released in summer of fall 2021. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Maine, Farmington.
photo: Jennifer C.