By Karin Lin-Greenberg
The summer I was fifteen, I spent my afternoons in the dark, wood-paneled dining room of the Splashing Carp Bar and Grill. Van Wilson, who’d once been my older brother’s best friend, was the bartender, and he didn’t mind if I hung around. He gave me free soda in red plastic glasses, and shortly after I arrived each day he’d take a key out of the front right pocket of his jeans, unlock the metal coin door of the pinball machine, and scoop up the quarters from the coin box. He’d hand the quarters to me, and I’d spend the afternoon playing game after game, feeding the quarters back into the machine. Sometimes I’d slide a few coins into the claw game in the foyer of the bar, but always the metal claw would drop and skim over a teddy bear or a Walkman, then return to the top of the machine, metal fingers closing around empty space.
I wasn’t alone with Van at the bar during these afternoons. I’d gotten a job babysitting for Emma Ludlow’s five-year-old son, J.S. J.S. stood for Johann Sebastian, as in Bach. Emma lived down the street from me and was a pianist and composer. She’d decided that summer she would write her great symphony, and it was worth it to pay me to watch her son every weekday afternoon. She was a single mother who’d moved upstate to Birch Hollow from New York City right before J.S. was born. No one knew who J.S.’s father was, but there was speculation that he was a famous musician or the conductor of an orchestra in New York City. When I brought J.S. home at 4:30 p.m. each day, Emma would stand up from behind the piano, pluck her wallet out of the purse she kept on top of a bookshelf, and hand me a twenty-dollar bill. “Did you have a good day?” she always said to J.S., and he would nod and run up to his room. “See you tomorrow, Maggie?” Emma asked, as if my appearance the next day was in question. I always said yes and then left. Before I was even down the front steps, I’d hear her playing the piano again. Never once did Emma ask me where I’d taken J.S. for the day. She was always distracted, a look of faraway concentration on her face, as if she were trying to remember her childhood phone number.
That summer, J.S decided he wanted to be an airplane pilot. He spent our afternoons at the Splashing Carp in the corner drawing planes in a black and white speckled composition notebook while drinking Shirley Temples. He was very small for a five-year-old; standing straight he was no taller than the tops of the bar stools at the Splashing Carp. Van brought out a booster seat for him to sit in while he drew. I thought maybe J.S. would be offended by the booster seat, say it was something for babies, but he was fine with it. He sat beneath a twelve-point buck’s head mounted to the wall, under which hung a calendar from Al’s Auto Repair Shop from three years before that no one had bothered to take down. Sometimes J.S. would wander over from his table and watch me play pinball, but mostly he entertained himself drawing airplane after airplane. The pinball game I played was called Haunted House, and J.S. liked it when the machine would emit tinny snippets of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor throughout the game. I liked it too; I could feel the vibrations of the music under my fingertips as I clutched the sides of the game. It was J.S. who told me the name of the song. Emma played tapes of Bach’s music for J.S. each night, and he fell asleep to these tapes and had already absorbed much of Bach’s body of work.
During the first month of the summer, we had our routine. I’d arrive at the Ludlows’ house at eleven, make J.S. a lunch of raspberry jam on wheat toast and a pile of carrot sticks, and wait for him to slowly eat while his mother played what seemed like the same bars of music over and over on the piano in the next room. The music always sounded dark, made me think of a forest on a cold night. Once J.S. finished his lunch, we walked the half mile to the Splashing Carp and J.S. would slip his hand into mine only when we crossed streets. Each day when we entered the dining room, Van would say, “My best customers!” Usually, the bar was empty. Once a week or so, tourists on their way to Lake George would stop in for lunch, but mostly it was empty while we were there and quiet except for the sounds of the pinball machine and the television playing ESPN in the corner. When we left around 4, the waitresses would begin to drift in, but until then, Van was both the bartender and the wait staff.
I felt comfortable in the Splashing Carp with Van and J.S., and I thought of the three of us as a family. I’m not sure what roles I’d imagined we’d each have in the family. Were Van and I the parents? Were we all siblings? Was Van the uncle? But it didn’t matter. I liked those days at the Splashing Carp, J.S. plucking the cherries out of his Shirley Temples and chewing on them while he drew, me drinking so much Coke that I had an even harder time than usual sleeping at night, Van watching baseball games and wiping down the mahogany bar with a small white rag until it shone. It felt like home there, more home than my own house had become.
My parents hardly spoke to one another by that point, and when they did, the words were charged with anger. My mother had taken to drinking two bottles of cheap Riesling in the afternoons and then collapsing into bed before dinner and not emerging from the bedroom until late the next morning. My father slept in the den with the television on all night.
Until I was fourteen, we were fine, a happy enough family, but then my brother, Lawrence, drowned. Lawrence and Van had both just graduated from college and had returned home for the summer to plan their futures. They were swimming late one night at the river and an undertow took my brother and one moment he was there and the next he was not. People in town suspected alcohol or drugs — I heard them talking — but once they discovered his body and did the toxicology tests, they found nothing, and I was glad for that.
Throughout my childhood, Van was around a lot, playing basketball in the driveway with my brother, eating dinner at our house at least once a week, playing drums — while Lawrence played guitar — in a band they’d formed named Solar Flare. During the summers, the band practiced in our basement. Lawrence and Van were the only consistent members of Solar Flare; the other members seemed to change monthly.
After Lawrence died, I wanted to be around Van because he reminded me of my brother. There was so much about them that was alike: how both of them pretended they were basketball players and the garbage can was a basket to shoot a crumpled piece of paper into from across the room, how they wore their hair in the same floppy middle-part-over-the-ears style, how they both constantly practiced the moonwalk, with Van now shuffling backwards behind the bar dozens of times a day. Although I knew I wanted to be near him, I had jumbled feelings about Van. Every day I wondered why Van was alive and my brother was not. Sometimes I had flashes of anger toward Van for doing ordinary things — driving a car, chewing gum, watching baseball on TV — that Lawrence would never get to do again. I suppose I loved Van too, but I couldn’t sort out whether it was the type of love I’d had for my brother, or whether it was something else. I was fifteen and Van was twenty-two and handsome, and even now all I can say is that my feelings about him that summer were intense and confused, and made both my brain and heart feel twisted.
It wasn’t until years later that I considered that it might have been difficult for Van to see me every day, that I surely was a constant reminder of what he’d also lost. It had only been a year since Lawrence’s drowning, and before the accident, Van and Lawrence had plans to get out of town, to tour with their band, to get famous. Lawrence had turned down an unpaid internship for the fall at a small publishing company in Saratoga Springs, which didn’t seem like too much to pass up, but after Van graduated from Colgate he had been offered a job with JPMorgan in Manhattan. He’d said no to the offer because he believed so much in the band. His parents were livid and told him they would charge him rent for staying in his old bedroom, and he told his mother he wouldn’t be in Birch Hollow for long. Lawrence and Van had gone to AAA and gotten maps and highlighted routes throughout the United States, creating snaking miles of fluorescent highways. They were working part-time — Van at the Splashing Carp and Lawrence at the small used bookstore in town — saving up to buy a used truck. Once they had the truck, they would leave. I was relieved that Van hadn’t scrambled away after Lawrence died. I was glad he was still in Birch Hollow and that I had somewhere to go every day. At the Splashing Carp, I let myself forget how sad everything had been for the past year as I drank Coke, gnawed on ice cubes, and leaned over the pinball machine trying to outdo my own high score blinking green on the machine.
In July, Tess arrived in her pink Converse All-Stars and tight stonewashed jeans and sat at the bar and laughed too loudly at Van’s jokes. She would start her second year of community college at SUNY Adirondack in the fall and after that she had plans to transfer to a four-year school to study music. She chattered all the time about how desperately she wanted to get out of Birch Hollow. She wanted to go to a big city, Manhattan or Chicago or L.A. She proclaimed that the only good things about Birch Hollow were Van and J.S. She adored J.S. and insisted on calling him Johann Sebastian. She asked him question after question — she was fascinated by the fact that J.S.’s mother was a composer — and J.S. seemed happy to answer her. Sometimes Tess would suddenly belt out songs, something she heard a snippet of on a television commercial or, when the TV was off, a song that would play on the radio. Her voice reminded me of the uncomfortable sound a wet finger made circling the rim of a wine glass. At least once a day she’d sing “Billie Jean” and Van would moonwalk all around the bar, and it would only end when the two of them were laughing so hard that tears came to their eyes. I wasn’t sure where Tess had come from or how she’d met Van, but I was pretty sure she was his girlfriend, and I didn’t like it. Her arrival changed things.
J.S. took to Tess immediately. The second day after she’d appeared, he asked her, “You want a cherry?” and dug into his Shirley Temple. He held out a cherry out by its stem.
“Thank you, Johann Sebastian,” Tess said and took the cherry from him. He had never offered me anything before.
“I’ll hook you up with extra cherries the next round,” Van told J.S. and winked at him. That wink reminded me of my brother, of the secrets Lawrence and I had. When he was a teenager, he showed me how to climb out his bedroom window and sit on the roof of our house. We would read up there at night with flashlights, sometimes lay back, click off the flashlights, and stare up at the stars and the sky. On the roof, it felt like we were the only two people in the world.
One summer we discovered a family of squirrels nested in our chimney, and I asked him if we should tell our parents.
“They’ll call the exterminators,” he said.
“But can’t the squirrels get into the attic?”
“Probably. But right now they’re not bothering anyone. Unless you’re bothered.”
I shook my head.
“Good,” Lawrence said. “Because you don’t want to be a squirrel murderer. Squirrels would warn each other about you and when they saw you walking by, they’d fling acorns at your head.”
He winked, and I understood that it was a joke.
The next day we went to the library and I checked out a book on squirrels and learned that peanuts were not good for them but hazelnuts were. Apples too. So Lawrence biked to the grocery store and bought a pound of hazelnuts and we hand-fed the squirrels those nuts on the roof and they got so comfortable that they’d climb on us and sit on our shoulders, their tiny claws making pinpricks in our skin. Lawrence took apples from the kitchen and cut them into slices, and we’d eat feed small pieces to the squirrels. When our mother commented on how she was pleased that Lawrence and I were eating so much fruit, Lawrence just winked at me, and neither of us said anything about the squirrels. Most of the time when we sat on the roof we didn’t talk much, and maybe that’s why I’d liked that quiet time at the Splashing Carp with Van and J.S. before Tess crashed into everything.
Some days when we arrived Van was so distracted talking to Tess that he forgot to get me the quarters out of the pinball machine. I had to remind him, and he’d say, “All right, yeah, no problem,” but he seemed unfocused as he opened the coin door. The way he no longer paid attention to what he was doing reminded me of Emma Ludlow and her perpetual state of dreamy distraction while she worked on her music.
One day, about two weeks after Tess started coming to the bar, I heard her and J.S. chatting behind me while I played pinball. Tess asked J.S. if she could meet his mom and talk to her about music. “I guess,” said J.S., and I wondered how I would explain to Emma that Tess and J.S. had met each other in a bar.
“Me and Van,” Tess said to J.S., “we’re going to start a music group together. A duo. You know what that means?”
“Two,” said J.S. “Like a duet.”
Tess laughed. “You’re a genius,” she said.
“No,” said J.S. “Mozart was a genius. So was Beethoven.”
“Did your mom teach you about them?”
“She sounds so cool,” Tess said.
I rolled my eyes, even though nobody could see me do it, and by the time I looked back down at the game, my ball had fallen into a hole and the game was over. The backbox, which featured an image of a haunted house, flashed with green lightning bolts and a few bars of Toccata and Fugue played. My pocket was heavy with quarters. I had gotten good enough at the game that I could play for a long time on one quarter, and each day since Tess had started showing up I had stolen a few quarters. The rest I would return in a messy pile on Van’s polished bar.
I walked to the restrooms in the back, past J.S. and Tess and Van, but no one seemed to notice me. Outside the restrooms, in between the men’s room and the women’s, was a cigarette vending machine. I had enough quarters to buy a pack, so I slid them in and pulled a plunger, and it felt just like pulling the plunger that shot the pinballs up into the game. A carton of Newports fell into the slot at the bottom. I’d never held a pack of cigarettes before, and the box felt lighter than I’d expected. I walked into the bathroom. I didn’t want to smoke the cigarettes. I just wanted to waste the quarters, which I thought of as Van’s quarters. There were twenty cigarettes in the pack, three toilet stalls, and two sinks. I lined up four cigarettes on the tanks of each of the toilets and then four cigarettes on each sink. I imagined that later that night, when women came into the bathroom, the smokers would find the cigarettes and think how lucky they were to have found these free cigarettes waiting for them. I didn’t think about how they’d get soggy and soiled and how later someone — maybe Van — would have to collect them all and dump them in the garbage. I crushed the box and threw it into the trash, and then I pushed through the bathroom door and walked back into the dining room.
Tess leaned over the bar so her face was close to Van’s and whispered something to him. I looked at the corner, under the deer head, expecting to see J.S. drawing in his composition book, but he wasn’t there. He wasn’t in the restaurant. I imagined him wandering outside, walking into the street, getting run over. I pictured Emma’s face crumpling and her wailing the same way my mother did when the police, accompanied by a shaking, crying Van, came to tell her about Lawrence. I ran through the wooden doors that led to the sunlit foyer, and when I got to the foyer, I saw J.S. inside the claw machine, standing among the stuffed animals, staring out with large, panicked eyes. He opened his mouth in a wide circle like a fish would, and I thought he was going to say something, but no sound came out. I was certain that J.S. would die in there, and I told myself that this was the kind of horrible thing that happened when people looked away, even for a moment. I put my hands against the glass and it was warm from the sun shining on it, and I wondered how hot it was inside and thought of J.S. being stuck in there forever, the air running out, and how much it would be like drowning, how his lungs would want more and how there would be no more oxygen for him. I thought of Lawrence being pulled down by the undertow and of how scared he must have been, and I wondered if he knew he was dying. I wondered how long it had taken for it to happen, and I wanted to know what Van had been doing at the exact moment Lawrence had died. I pounded my palms against the glass of the machine and then I screamed.
Van and Tess came running, flinging open the wooden doors, and I kept screaming, and Tess wrapped me in her arms and said, “It’s okay,” and held me tight against her. She smelled like detergent and bug spray and I felt strangely comforted, even though I’d spent weeks hating her. I took a deep breath, and I realized that while I’d been screaming I’d also been crying, and I could hardly breathe.
Van reached into the same pocket of his jeans where he got the key for the pinball machine and took out another key, slightly larger, and inserted it into a lock on the side of the claw machine. A glass panel swung open, and Van leaned in and grabbed J.S. under the arms and lifted him out. I said, “I didn’t know you could open that machine,” but I wasn’t sure if Van understood what I said; my words were muffled because my face was pressed against Tess’s shoulder.
“Silly goose,” Van said softly. This had been Lawrence’s name for me, what he’d called me when I was really young. Van had never called me this name, but I was certain he’d heard Lawrence address me this way. “How do you think we get the toys in there?”
If I’d looked closer, I would have seen the keyhole.
Van put J.S. down. “How’d you get in there?” he asked.
“I climbed up,” J.S. said, pointing to the slot on the bottom where the prizes were dropped.
He was small and thin enough to fit into that slot and then raise himself up into the machine. “I wanted that,” he said, pointing to a plastic airplane.
Van took the airplane and handed it to J.S. “You can have it,” he said. “No one will ever win it. The claw can’t pick up hard, smooth objects like this. We just put them in there so people can lose more quarters.” Van squatted and looked at J.S. “You okay?” he said. J.S. nodded. “How about we get you some ice cream?” He led J.S. back into the dining room.
Tess smiled at me. “It’s okay, Maggie. It’s not your fault. And he’s fine.”
I wanted to hate Tess, but she was perfectly nice. I wanted to tell her that it was my fault, that if I hadn’t been messing around with cigarettes in the bathroom, this wouldn’t have happened. I wanted to apologize for looking away, for not paying enough attention.
“You want some ice cream too? I could go tell Van to scoop out another bowl.”
My first instinct was to say no, that I wasn’t a child who could be calmed with dessert, but then I thought ice cream would feel good on my throat, which was raw from screaming, so I said yes. Tess went into the kitchen, and I took a seat at the bar and watched J.S. run his new airplane over the wooden table. Van came out with two bowls of vanilla ice cream and delivered one to J.S. and slid one in front of me.
Tess said she had to leave. Over the summer she was working at the grocery store as a checker, and that week she had the 5 to 11 p.m. shift. “Be good, Johann Sebastian,” she said as she pushed open the wooden doors and let in a burst of sunlight from the foyer.
Once she was gone, Van moved so he was across the bar from me. “You going to tell J.S.’s mom about what happened today?” he asked.
“It might be a good idea.”
“Maybe,” I said. “But I could lose my job.”
“Might not be a terrible thing,” he said. He reached under the bar and pulled out a pamphlet. It was for a girls’ summer softball league. He slid it toward me. The league was for girls ages thirteen to seventeen. It was free. They met every afternoon in the park, but it was okay if you couldn’t make all the practices. I wondered how long Van had kept the pamphlet hidden under the bar, running his fingers over it, thinking about the right time to give it to me. “This could be good for you. It’s better, don’t you think, to be out in the sunshine than to be cooped up in this dark bar?”
I wondered if he remembered the summer when I was seven and my brother taught me how to hit a plastic ball with a yellow Wiffle Ball bat. Did he know about the hundreds of times Lawrence shouted, “Follow through with your swing!” after I tapped the ball and then stood there holding the bat at a ninety-degree angle to the ground?
I ate a spoonful of ice cream, but it had already started to melt, and I put my spoon down.
“It’s not really good for you here,” Van said. “Go hang out with your friends. Go to the movies. Maybe try out this softball thing.” He smiled, but it wasn’t a happy smile.
I didn’t want to tell him that I didn’t really have friends anymore. No one knew how to deal with me and my sadness, no one knew whether it was better to say something about Lawrence or not to mention him at all. I didn’t want to go home: my mother would already be drunk, my father would be at the office until 9 p.m., when the night cleaning crew came and he could stay no longer. I wanted to say that the Splashing Carp was the only place where I felt okay, but I said nothing and took the pamphlet, folded it in half and then in half again, and slipped it in the back pocket of my jeans.
I went to J.S.’s table, picked up his composition book, and took one of his small, sticky hands. He clutched his airplane in his other hand. I held on tight to J.S., didn’t let go all the way home. When we got to his house and I told Emma Ludlow what had happened that day she — for the first time that summer — looked away from the notes she’d scrawled in pencil in her ledger, her eyes alert. She stood up from behind the piano, but instead of reaching for her purse on the bookshelf, she held her arms out and said, “Come, baby,” and J.S. walked to her. She didn’t fire me on the spot; instead, Emma was kind and said, “I’ll give you a call the next time I need you to babysit,” but I understood she would not call me ever again.
As I walked down the steps of the Ludlows’ house, I felt the quarters in my pockets, the heavy bulk of them. I ran back to my house, the quarters jingling. My mother was in the living room, drinking wine and flipping through Better Homes and Gardens. She didn’t look up when I entered, and I ran upstairs, my sneakers pounding each step, and went to my room. From the dresser, I collected the quarters I’d been pilfering from the Splashing Carp for the last two weeks and added them to the quarters already in my pockets. I stomped down the steps. “Maggie,” said my mother, not looking up from her magazine, “are you having a good day?”
I didn’t answer, just slammed the front door and walked back to the Splashing Carp. When I went back inside, there were two waitresses working and a family — a father, a mother, a little boy — eating burgers at the table where J.S. usually sat. I stepped up to the bar, took the change out, and piled it on the bar. “I came back to return these,” I said.
Van nodded, filled a pint glass with beer from a tap, and brought it to the father sitting at J.S.’s table. I took a seat on one of the barstools and waited for Van to return.
When he came back, he acted as if he was too busy to talk to me, sorting out a tray of spoons, rolling forks and knives in white paper napkins. “I brought your money back,” I said.
Van looked up. “Okay, thanks.”
“Do you want me to put it back in the machine?” I said. “I can do it if you give me the key.”
“Maggie,” he said, “you’ve got to go. If my boss comes in for the dinner shift and sees a kid sitting at the bar, I’ll get in trouble. I can’t lose this job.”
I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t have a summer job anymore. I just wanted to sit in the Splashing Carp, where it was cool and dark, and pretend the world outside didn’t exist. I liked that outdated calendar that hung under the mounted deer head. I could look at the calendar and pretend that time did not pass, that it was three years ago and Lawrence was still alive, his future spread wide before him, infinite in its possibilities. I was desperate to stay and I knew there was one question I could ask that would at least buy me a few more minutes. “Will you tell me what happened that night? Please?”
Van paused, then he stacked up the knives and forks wrapped in napkins in a small pyramid. He sighed. “There’s nothing to tell that you don’t already know.”
“Did you stop paying attention to him?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, like me and J.S. How I didn’t look and then he was in the claw machine.”
“Maggie, sometimes bad things just happen. It’s not a matter of who’s to blame or who looked away. You can’t fight a current. We’d both be dead if I hadn’t let him go.”
“You let him go?”
“We were there, sitting right on the riverbank, and we had maps. We were planning everything. We were planning how to get out of this town. That night there was a full moon. Everything was so lit up that we didn’t even need flashlights to see our maps. And then this little sailboat, a toy one, like something a kid would make out of a block of wood, a dowel, and a little cloth sail, came gliding near us. I don’t know where it came from. It was so quiet that night, no one else around. The water was glowing like I’ve never seen it before. And the little wooden boat, painted blue, the sail bright white in the moonlight, just came floating by and neither of us could take our eyes off it. It was like some weird little ghost ship moving in this steady line with no one to steer it. Lawrence reached for it, and then lost his balance, fell in the water. I told him to get out, but he was laughing and splashing around, yelling that he wanted the boat. And that boat just kept floating, and Lawrence swam to it, trying to grab it.”
“Why didn’t you tell him to get out of the water?”
“I did. He didn’t want to. He said, ‘One day we’re going to own boats. Yachts. This is a sign, it’s a sign that we’re going to be rich. Famous.’ I told him to grab the stupid boat and come back. He just laughed at me, but then a few seconds later, something changed, he was panicking, yelling something, and I jumped into the water. I swam toward him, grabbed his arm and tried to pull him back to land, but I felt him being tugged away. The current was too strong to fight so I got out.”
“You just left him there?”
“I had to. I ran to the nearest house and begged to use their phone.”
“Did you tell the police about the boat?” I said.
Van shook his head. “It didn’t matter. It wasn’t an important part of the story to them.” He rubbed his temples with his fingertips, the way my mother did before a migraine came on. “That’s it, okay? That’s the whole story. Now you know everything.”
Knowing everything didn’t really change anything. Maybe it made everything sadder knowing that a toy boat was what drew my brother into the water. “Will you ever go on that trip? The one you and Lawrence planned?”
“No,” Van said. “Those plans are done with.” He polished the bar with a cloth, even though it was shiny already and there were no fingerprints on it. He maneuvered around my pile of quarters.
“You could go with Tess instead.”
Van laughed. “That duo, that’s not for real. That’s just us being drunk some nights, and me drumming on an upended bucket and her singing. Have you ever heard of a band with just a singer and a drummer? And she’s leaving in a year anyway, off to bigger and better things.”
I looked at Van standing behind the bar, and he reminded me of J.S. trapped in that claw machine, stuck in an airless space with nowhere to go. I thought I too could probably stay in this bar forever, in this place where you could forget about all the bad things that had ever happened, where whether it was winter or summer it looked and felt the same. Van wasn’t much different from my mother locked away at home and my father hiding in his office. I reached into my back pocket, took out that pamphlet about the girls’ softball league.
“Maybe I’ll go to the park and check this out,” I said.
“Yeah, good,” Van said. “Great.” He picked up the stack of forks and knives wrapped in napkins and moved them to the other end of the bar. Then he came back, collected the quarters, and put them all in the cash register. Right then, the lights flashed on the pinball machine, and a few bars of Toccata and Fugue played. I thought about playing one more game of pinball, of stretching out my departure until late at night, seeing how long I could make one quarter last in the game. But I passed the pinball machine and walked through the wooden doors. I paused for a second in front of the claw machine in the foyer, examined the stuffed animals inside, stared at the little lock that I’d never noticed before that afternoon. Then I pushed through the second set of doors, the glass ones that led outside. That time, when I walked out of the Splashing Carp and let the doors fall closed behind me, I knew I would never return.
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Karin Lin-Greenberg’s story collection, Faulty Predictions, won the 2013 Flannery O’Connor Award in Short Fiction from the University of Georgia Press and was Foreword Reviews’ 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year in the Short Story category. Her stories have appeared in literary journals including The Antioch Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Epoch, Five Chapters, Kenyon Review Online, and North American Review. She earned an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, an MA from Temple University, an AB from Bryn Mawr College and has been awarded fellowships from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, the Wesleyan Writers Conference, and the MacDowell Colony. She has taught creative writing at Missouri State University, the College of Wooster, and Appalachian State University. Currently, she lives in upstate New York and is an assistant professor in the English Department at Siena College.