If I saw you in Seattle, I saw you in Seattle. We hugged and you heard my stomach boil. I didn't stop eating up there. The power to climb all those hills came from meals on top of meals. No crumbs were wasted entertaining sea gulls. Please don't feed those birds anything. They're already the size of helicopters. One of them got close to my face on a pier railing, and I offered it my wallet. Empty calories!

I read some stories to people in a lounge. A pipe above me dripped on my jeans. It even rains indoors in Seattle. The wet weather got into my coat and made the button a dog chewed on last year start stinking again.

I wore my new scarf. I appeared to be wearing a neck brace. People weren't having it. They didn't say anything, but the looks! At least on the test run in Kansas City, someone on the street was helpful and said, "Are you fucking kidding me?!"

You must remember, though, that in college I knit a Superman sweater complete with cape and wore the thing out shopping. I was hopeful on the size. My roommate used to call it "chub-n-tight" when men wore a size too small. We were amorous of such men. I tried to be one myself. I see pictures now, and I don't know who I'm looking at. In the middle of that phase, Josh found me.

Two weeks ago, we took a ferry to an island near Seattle to watch rich people in their nature preserve of mansions and beaches. On one of the beaches there was a sign warning about toxic mollusks. There were illustrations of the shells to beware. I saw a million crab claws sticking out of the sand. The only whole crabs I saw where on ice in the market. I made Josh consider the water out the market windows. He said, "I wish we had windows like this at home." Water is water everywhere, I guess. Call me easy to please, but I couldn't get enough of that dark blue water. All I could say was, "Wow."

Another surprise. I've discovered the truth about my upstairs neighbors and all the noise they make. Turns out the second floor is a forest. The trees harbor wolves. When the boyfriend leaves for work every morning, the girlfriend goes about her own work cutting down each tree and burning the wood to draw out the wolves. Next comes the fighting and the canine crying. The scratching. The screaming. Folk music masks the murder. The girlfriend kills all the wolves. The boyfriend arrives home and is pleased. He and the girlfriend celebrate all night by linking arms and legs. They chew on bones and laugh. I look out the window to see if anyone has fallen on the ice. Nothing. The forest regenerates in the night.

Down here, I write. My myth about it shrinks. It's not a conversation if I know I'm talking to myself, so I pretend I'm talking to you.

Men with Broken Banjos

This February I'm not empty, but I might be an aquarium with just water left in it. A painter friend had a show last week. She said she occupies the same hollow. She's alone all day, too, painting tiny jeweled bricks and hair nests and feathers. All her conversation is used up talking to herself.

A different friend was over, and I opened my mouth. I wasn't sure what I was going to say. I thought I must say something. Now I don't remember if I said anything. During the day I listen to music but don't sing along. I whistle. A whistle isn't words. Where are my words. That's not a question. I'll find them. I'm finding them. I found some of them today.

The music I listen to could best be described as "men with broken banjos." The men have gaps in their front teeth. The men are slim as blades of grass. The wind whistles sharp against the flatness of these men. Sometimes the men are women. The heads of their banjos are busted, and the faces of cats peer out. Don't ask me for names.

I know I'm almost finished writing what I'm writing. (A small book.) Short as it is, it took long enough. I'll hand it over when I'm certain. I keyboard the limp parts. They harden.

I thought I saw a ghost today. I've seen ghosts, and I've pretended to see ghosts. Today I didn't see a ghost. I thought I did. A thunderstorm stretched black outside. I wore the mood like a thin condom. Someone slammed a car door, and I convinced myself I felt the slam in my balls. I hung up the laundry. From the corner of my eye something quick and white and large enough to touch the floor and the ceiling all at once stepped out the closest window. A passing vehicle reflection, maybe. My glasses are cheap and susceptible to glare. I remove them when posing for photographs. The (no) ghost stirred my nerves. Good for that ghost. I knitted some rows on a scarf. I wrote and rewrote and unwrote. To unknit a piece of knitting is called "frogging." Like the yarn after frogging, the words I had on hand were kinked. The texture from their reuse was good to read.

Great. Wow. The luxury of this kind of work. No one depends on it, and yet I know some people who might tell me otherwise, so I continue. One of them asked me for a story. That story is at Squalorly. What a good name. You could give a baby that name, but only when it's crying.

The Sugar People

Josh's sister turned 30. It happens. In a little over a year, it will happen to me. For Josh's sister, it had to happen in New Orleans. She wanted us all down there with her, so we all went down there with her. We stayed in a purple house. The ceilings were unreachable. The French Quarter was a mile away. Josh and I walked everywhere we could walk.

Each morning we went out for a juice breakfast with Josh's sister. The first morning we hiked to a place called The Green Fork. Actress Jennifer Coolidge stood in line behind us. We waited for our juice. Jennifer Coolidge sampled a muffin. Josh suggested she try the vegan blondie. Jennifer Coolidge tried the vegan blondie. "Oh my God," she said.

The walk back to the French Quarter had us passing a day-drunk man preparing to pee on the courthouse. He told us not to worry because he was wearing triple-thick pants. Two stone eagles flanked the man. We were witness to a freedom we'd all exercised before but never with a daylight audience. We kept walking.

But we didn't walk everywhere. Some group trips we took a taxi. One of our drivers was a doctor. He gave us his business card. He signed the A in his name with a cartoon penis. A woman in our group asked the doctor for details on his doctorate. The doctor had never been asked specifics. "Communications," he said. "Well, journalism, really." We all agreed there was no money in that. As if we had to vocalize it. The doctor drove us to the nicest restaurant in town.

Another driver asked if we'd heard of the Sugar People. Silence. "Sure you have," he said. "You've heard of gay people. They're the Sugar People." It's true that once every year in New Orleans there's a festival for the Sugar People, and they come dressed to kill. The same driver warned us of swamp dangers. He made sure we were clear on alligators. Like how an alligator drags its prey to the river bottom and waits for the flesh to soften enough for consumption. Death is all over that town. I saw bones on the sidewalk. The cemeteries are above ground. Even the donuts, the beignets, are little pillows on which heart attacks slumber. Yes, it felt like home.

A friend asked if I might want to move to New Orleans one day, and I said I felt like I'd already lived there before. There are places that fit you. Kansas City fits me. Kansas City fits other writers, too. My friend and poet crush, Jordan Stempleman, was asked to guest-edit an issue of NOÖ Weekly by Mike Young. Jordan chose writers with a stake in Kansas City. I'm one, and then there's Anne Boyer, Dan Magers, Ryan MacDonald, Lesley Ann Wheeler, Bridget Lowe, Teal Wilson, and James Tate. That James Tate. My story is dark and cold. It's in a fitting place. We all suffer January.

Crush Thousand and Thirteen

The year is running dry, but I still have crushes. Let me guide you through the sweetest drops I know.

1. "Pizza Boyfriend." He works at the pizza place down the street. He holds a cigarette like it's a strand of hair. He passes the house four times a day. I don't know his name. Scratch that. "Pizza Boyfriend" is his name.

2. Actresses. Josh and I saw a production of The Glass Menagerie in Boston back in March (since moved to Broadway). One scene has Amanda and Laura setting a table in silence. No actual silverware. Just the way those women move their hands in unison as if dinner is a spell they cast together every night.

3. Photography. Josh took a class. I took a class through Josh. Taking a picture is like anything else. Pretend you can do it until you really can do it.

4. Eve Englezos. Long-time friend and neighbor. Ceramicist and jelly witch. She rescued a bird from a parking lot five years ago. That bird is now a human boy.

5. Reading aloud. Josh and I took turns reading a novel to each other in bed. Stages don't scare me anymore. I read a story to a crowded auditorium in October. The audience was mine. I caught those fish, but in the end I let them all go.

6. Jordan Stempleman. The man-teacher-poet responsible for A Common Sense Reading Series. His tattoos have muscles. He taught my book in a summer class at KCAI and had me come in to read his students to sleep. We went out for beer after. Jordan offered to share one of his cigarettes with me. I declined. What was I thinking?

7. James Piechura. One of my most recent friends. He moved back to the desert a couple of weeks ago to take care of his sick mother. The last thing I said to him was, "I guess that's it," and that was it. I have cried about it twice. Our final topic of conversation was scorpions. It comes back to that most days. What animals and where? Not much I've seen in Kansas City compares to the thoroughbred I saw running down the street in Kentucky when I was a kid. In my current neighborhood I've seen a stray cat with a Hitler mustache, and once near Joplin my headlights bounced off a miniature horse I mistook for a lioness. But James is a real lion, an astrological Leo, and I miss his feline restlessness.

8. Champurrado. A Mexican chocolate drink. I prepare it every Tuesday evening. I've never seen Josh so happy as when he's drinking it. We've offered it to other friends. The rapture isn't shared. Champurrado is thickened with masa. Corn and chocolate. Our friends just aren't ready, and that's fine.

9. Houseplants. Our friend, Mac, gifted us with three houseplants. They're all impossible-to-kill varieties native to jungle floors. I have nearly killed each of them. When Mac is over, he asks when the plants were last watered. The answer is the same every time. I don't know. And that's how it is with crushes. Don't give them too much attention.

10. "Thor." A man with long, golden hair worn in a ponytail who eats alone at the Indian restaurant down the street one Sunday each month. His only company is a book. Maybe he isn't the real Thor, but I can't say for sure. I haven't seen his hammer.

11. Gay literature. The novel Nebraska by George Whitmore. Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story. Tennessee Williams' Memoirs. Anything by Dennis Cooper. SHY by Kevin Killian. Start anywhere.

12. xTx. The hand on the other side of the glass. She got a new job this year. Most of our communication since has been quiet staring across the country. Simple. Elegant. She sent me a gold journal. Inside, she'd written all she needed to write. I'll make her a pie one day. She'll hate it.

13. Josh. Duh. The crush who crushes back.

One Sword Fight Away from Total Annihilation

What's the news? The news is I'm not nearly as good a garment knitter as I thought. The news is I've never been better at pies. The news is I've had three orgasms this year that escalated into laughter and broke into crying. The news is I continue to get the occasional beard hair that is really ten beard hairs fused into one. The news is I'm afraid of the stories I'm writing, but I'm still writing.

For a long time I had pain in me. I'm a picker, so I picked the pain out but couldn't throw it away. Josh doesn't like to waste food, and I don't like to waste a word. I found a place to put my pain. Small stories. Well, those stories are in the world. Mother Ghost was the book I needed to write, but now I can write about anything. Three soldiers in love? A weird war? Yes, fine. That's the current story. I don't know these men I'm writing and yet they came from me. I don't know anything about battle. I do know gay people can serve freely now, and I do know I'd never fight another person if I couldn't use a sword. Too bad. This is no world for fighting with swords. The only person I know who owns a sword keeps it in an umbrella stand by the door.

If I were still a kid I might like drones, if only for aesthetic reasons. Drones are penile and menacing, like a blind bird missing all its feathers. Scrawny dragons. I bet there is a Transformer toy that is a drone. But I have a heart, it seems. A human heart. The only machine I've fallen in love with is an old medium format camera. The shutter fires loud as a gun. There is chrome involved. To wear the thing around my neck is to make a statement about my spine. It is intact.

I've been taking a lot of pictures. Mostly of myself. Some people call them "selfies." The term I knew for so long was "self-portraits." Whatever. For the first time in my life, I want pictures of myself. My hair alone is going places.

And my pies. I have started a small business of sorts. It's called Pie King. You may call me Pie King if you'd like, but I won't answer to it. There was a time I worked in a museum, and when I first started there I asked my coworkers to call me by my first name, Charles. That didn't last. I never heard it. My name has always been Casey. It's my middle name. I live in Kansas City, or KC, which is the only place I've lived where people ask if I spell Casey with a K and a C. I do not.

I do wish I could see you. It's been so long. My house is how I like it. Please visit.

Demons I Catch and Release

One time it occurred to me I might be in a horror movie was when I watched my brother's foot get caught in a department store escalator. A tall stranger pulled my brother's foot from his shoe. My brother lost a toenail. The stranger wouldn't be thanked. He left in a hurry. I was screaming. The store manager had to calm me down. He said, "This isn't helping."

My brother did the same for me when I was 18. He found me on the floor having a seizure. He opened the front door and screamed. We have been each other's voices. We have also been each other's tormentors.

My brother has always had leg problems, starting with the time I told him he could fly. I left the room and went downstairs to watch my mother boil spaghetti. My brother jumped off the top bunk and broke his leg. I remember this like I remember the dream I had last night where I was floating. Someone floated up behind me, and I kicked them in the face. Today, I confess. Many of my dreams end in violence.

A dream I have once a year has me battling wild dogs. They jump for my throat, and I pull their jaws apart to kill them. I used to fear dogs. My mother once took me to the library to show me a picture book that was supposed to mollify children who feared dogs. It worked. Josh and I took a walk the other night, and a dog in a yard did the shifting dance of a deer. Ears up. Eyes wet. Alert. I have been told both dogs and bees can smell fear. I try to give them nothing to smell.

But yes, I have felt true dread. A few years ago I heard someone open the kitchen door of my apartment and turn on a power drill. It was my former landlord. I came into the kitchen holding scissors over my head. My former landlord was changing the locks. He hadn't called to warn me. I was prepared to defend myself. Then there was the time a woman yelled from her car about killing us "faggots." I do not believe in possession, but I do believe each person can transform into something terrifying. If there is a Hell, we carry it with us.

I'm letting my mohawk grow into a floppy mane. I've kept it short the last six months for whatever aerodynamic and penile reason. There's more white hair now. That's just great. I want to be older than I am. In the meantime, I'm mastering a few things. Pie, of course. Knitting and crochet. Control of words. Lately, photography. I'm learning all I can, using all the cameras I can hold. Give me a few years, and maybe I'll take a good picture.

There is an EVENT soon where you can come and taste my pies, order my pies, buy my pies. I will have free samples. I will take orders for future pies. I will have a few pies ready for purchase. There will be other vendors, too. One does silver. One does soap. One does mosaics. One does jam and ceramics. Assembled, we are a crafty Voltron.

I'm baking a pie right now. It's going to work with Josh tomorrow. I will not get to taste it. That's all right. I know how this works. It takes a village to eat a pie.

(Happy Halloween!)

This Is How We Do It

We ate at the Indian restaurant last night. It was a reward for just having the idea. There's a look Josh and I give each other. We put on our shoes. We close the blinds. We go out on the porch. Josh holds the screen door while I lock the front door. We ready ourselves for joy.

Josh felt guilty about it last night, so he asked if I was sure. He couched it in terms of addiction. He asked me to provide a quick list of pros and cons. "We have to eat," I said. "But do we have to eat Indian food?" he said. "We could be good and eat cereal and bananas."

There is only so much time we have on this earth to eat Indian food.

While we ate we talked about the man at the art fair who saw a photographic triptych and said, "I heard you can do that on your phone now." Josh cuffed my forearm and squeezed. He could have had a baby ready to come out. Did I hear that guy? I heard that guy.

An artist who guarded art with me one summer was at the restaurant. He is an art prince. He came over to our table and complimented my book. I had the taste of buttered lentils on my tongue. His name is Matt Jacobs. Get a clue, you guys. Look him up and love him. Someone in a position of authority once admitted to me that she lusted after Matt's swimmer legs.

If I ever work the register at a liquor store, I'll put out a tray that says, "TAKE A SECRET, LEAVE A SECRET."

It doesn't get old. These attractive men who've read my book and say so. They look as if they've just stepped out of the shower to tell me to keep up the good work. Three times and as many men at that very restaurant. If you wanted to do sympathetic magic on me you could do it in the restroom there. If there are such a thing as ley lines, that's where they lay. Write your desire on toilet paper and flush it. I suggest you give it a while, though. A friend is already doing some witchcraft to lure me to Seattle. She is such a powerful witch that she once convinced an entire town in Montana to hate her.

I'm sorry my snake is not a cat. But look how uncanny she is as a noose. And it's not even Halloween.

Here's a story I wrote because a cute boy asked me to write it: RIGHT THERE IN KANSAS CITY.

Natural Light

My narcissism is leaking. All these poses. You've seen what I'm doing if you follow me anywhere else online. Me, me, me. Josh is taking a class in traditional photography, and the left hand has to know what the right hand is doing. We have 35mm cameras. I'm learning about all the basics from Josh's notes, from Josh's explanations, from Internet hand holding. I shot a roll of black and white film last week, but I still haven't developed it. I have this other camera I've been using. It's a digital point and shoot. People often say they're playing with something. I'm playing with this. I'm my own subject because I'm always there when I need me.

My local hardware store has a display of regional sodas, including the ginger ale from my hometown in Kentucky. It's been a long minute since I had one. Mostly I don't drink soda. There was a recent time I mixed root beer and cheap whiskey, and the evening turned cartwheels for me. "Too much sugar," says the man who drank four cups of masala chai today at the Indian restaurant.

I'm writing. I don't stop writing. People ask, but the answer is always the same. The projects are as follows: some longer stories, a novel, various and sundry. That's in order of importance.

A gorgeous professor offered me a mentholated cigarette outside a bar the other day, and if this were even a year ago I would've accepted it. I'd just been to his summer class to read from my book and answer questions. One of the questions was about my frequent use of animals. I gave some deep-fried answer about being from the South and how animals are tools for learning about life and death while maintaining a safe psychological distance from one's own mortality. Blah, blah, blah. The student who asked the question said he was reminded of spirit animals, and hey, that's as good a theory as any.

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about ghosts. But where are the ghosts of animals? I came across a photo online of a hundred deer clogging tree trunks in a midnight forest. All the deer were facing the camera, and I thought I'd finally seen it. Not spirit animals but animal spirits. When a cat is chasing nothing, maybe it's chasing another cat. A dead cat.

I saw a cricket on its back today. Its antennae were whipping. Its legs were still. I imagined it wasn't long for this world, but what do I know about crickets? I know I used to buy them to feed a lizard. I know en masse they smell like a bag of bad potatoes. I know even in their "escape-proof" container they sometimes form a standing chain and set each other free.

Low Magic

We have an occasional roommate. You knew that. She lived with us the majority of one summer and the minority of this summer. Now she's trying to get tangled up in the Los Angeles mess. Television and movie production. Back of the house stuff. The fingerprints you're not taught to recognize as fingerprints. Anyway, she's gone now. The tea kettle won't get used until she returns, whenever she returns. It sits on the back burner collecting splatters of oil from all the spices I fry.

There's a homemade meal almost every night. When there's not, Josh gets antsy. Don't read too much into it. We favor a routine. When our roommate's here, the routine becomes even more solid. We mimic a family. Special considerations. Our roommate is the only person I know who dislikes basil. I've told you. Even though it's summer, our roommate never found basil on her plate.

One night at dinner we talked about the big trial news of our childhood, OJ Simpson, and how our teachers either did or didn't allow us to watch the verdict in class. Our roommate learned the verdict in the hallway when a boy yelled, "THE JUICE IS LOOSE!"

I don't think we said a word about the Zimmerman verdict. I still don't know what to say. I continue to read. Read and read and read.

The sun is out, but I hear thunder.

The UPS guy just came up on the porch and shouted that he was the UPS guy. A woman was with him, training him in the proper UPS ways. She said he was doing a good job. Then, "Well, your parking could be better." He had stopped the truck in the middle of the street.

I had pork for lunch with a friend who refuses pork. It's the sacrifice he makes to pay for other sins. We talked about dabbling. I told him how several years ago I hollowed out an egg and stuffed it with herbs and desperate pleas for money. The plan was to bury the egg in the yard and see if money manifested. I never buried the egg. It sits on a shelf in a decorative bell jar. My friend said the desire for stuff like that was like the desire for pork. That it wasn't kosher. Neither of us said the word "sorcery." Not out loud. But I repeated it over and over in my head until it sounded like the stupidest word in the world.

You want to know what I'm doing with my time. I'm working on a novel. I'm working on some stories. I'm half-assing my tumblr called GUYS + PIES. If you ever wanted to see me in my underwear, now's your chance. It's summer. It's tumblr. I'm wearing a mohawk and not much else.

Seven Hills

Did you know I have a brother? Well, I do have a brother, and he's moving to Seattle. He flew my mother and me up there last week. It was a small family reunion. The first night, we had the freshest nectarines and a white wine that pretended to be champagne. My brother and mother salivate for the sweeter stuff. We sat on beds and uncovered the rocks in our family history, the ones we'd been stepping on for years. Good and bad but all ours. Under some of them, snakes. Under others, diamonds. We posed for a picture in the airport. Now I know we're all related. We share a nose.

A brief word on the men in Seattle. My eyes never went hungry. Let's just say. My brother took me to a gay bar. (Did you know my brother is also gay? He is.) I sometimes forget how handsy gay guys can be en masse. At this bar I was touched and groped and caressed and hugged. All in passing. Only once did I see the face of the guy grabbing my waist. I approved. Smiled. Drank something that was intended to taste like Froot Loops. It did taste like Froot Loops.

I recognized one of the go-go boys from "the Internet." He's in pictures, you see. A stranger pressured me to tip this go-go boy. The stranger said, "This is his job. Give him some money." I'd tried to pay my bus fare earlier, but my brother told me to save my money for souvenirs. I was trying to decide whether or not tipping a go-go boy counted as a souvenir. Yes, I decided, but the go-go boy was gone. Soon after, so were we.

We walked back to our hotel in the rain and talked about our different coming out experiences. I learned what happened when I didn't come out to my brother. Other people told him. One youth minister sat him down to tell him how hellish and wrong I was for being gay. If I'm getting the timeline right, that was probably the same year I met Josh, the man I've been with for over nine years now. Not a competition, but that's longer than some of the marriages in my family.

Another night in Seattle I ran around with Molly Laich. You know her. She's responsible for the second half of this VIDEO. We've only been in the same physical space twice. Whiskey is our mutual friend. We sat in the bendable accordion section of a bus and hugged each other over Roger Ebert. Maybe cried. I slept on her couch. Watched her backyard chickens peck the ground in the morning. Avoided goodbye by leaving quietly and Googling my way to the bus.

And my mother. I hadn't seen her in over a year. Since the funeral of her mother. We were crossing the street on the way back from Pike Place, and a homeless man asked us for money. My mother stopped in the middle of the crosswalk as the light was about to change, touched the man's arm and said, "What do you need, sweetie?" My mother gave the man some money. The kindness in my mother's voice undid me. No annoyance. No patronizing. Simple compassion.

Later, my mother and I misunderstood each other and had words. We sat in silence by the water. I looked at my mother and saw myself. Except for the kindness. It's there for her as a force. A constant consideration. A choice she made somewhere along the line to balance out the darkness inherent in our family. If it's there for me, I don't know what it looks like.

Probably it looks like pie.

Terrible Lizards

June, huh? I've gotten to wear shorts, wanted to wear shorts, for the first time since 2009 or 10. On Facebook, my grandmother asked me where the pounds went. Come home and she'll feed me. She's in the country with the rest of my family at the big reunion. They've found a lake closer to the ancestral home. I made the call. Sorry I can't be there, but. One of my cousins jokingly accused me of faking my online presence. "That's not what you look like." Well, that's what I look like now.

I haven't seen my family in the flesh in a while. That's too bad. I'll see my mother and brother in Seattle next week. The last time I saw them was a funeral. Then my car lost the last of its lives. I decided not to replace it. I live an almost moneyless existence. Someone at Josh's work paid me for pies, and Josh told her to make the check out to him because he didn't think I had a checking account. I do. Still, there's so little money in it I understand his confusion.

But we like our life. It's exactly the life we want right now. I know my family worries. Maybe it's because I approach 30 and my list of accomplishments is short but pleasant. I wrote a book. It was published. I'm writing another book. I keep a house up. I bake a pie that turns a party prayerful. I've raised a snake from a snip of string to a garden hose. I'm as good as married and have been for nine years. In short, I'm happy. I'm content.

There's a tree out front with white flowers, and when the summer heats up, the flowers fall dead on the lawn. That charms me. It feels very Japanese to see our lawn that way. But only for a day. Then the flowers turn brown and come in on our shoes. Our floors are dotted. Spiders. The flowers look like flattened spiders. I'm fooled every time. This isn't Australia. The spiders don't get that big here. I've never peeled up a dead spider like it was a wet scab. These flowers, though. They stick.

I take it back about the spiders. There are tarantulas. I mean, not in Kansas City, but in America. So we've got big spiders, too. I heard there are some that eat birds. I wonder if they find poultry as disappointing as I do. For one, I will never understand turkey. I guess it feeds a crowd, and that's why it's an enduring tradition. There are wild turkeys near the airport. From a distance they always scare me into thinking they're something else. Dinosaurs, if I'm honest. We know now that dinosaurs and birds are more or less the same animal just at different times. The ostrich, above all others, is dangerous and efficient. A single kick and you're dead. Lots of organisms naturally work that way. But we had to invent the gun and justify its lasting presence by giving it fetish reverence. I doubt a rattlesnake gets dreamy about its own venom. There's no telling, though. I'm not a rattlesnake.

A friend is here for another month. She's been here before and will be here again. Our house can handle it. The library alone could trap a person. We added more shelves this week. There is now a wall of books separating the dining room and the living room. Formidable. I get the feeling I'm eating dinner in a used bookstore. In fact, some of these books still have price stickers on them. A few of them are wrapped in plastic, our own version of keeping the furniture pristine.

Josh is a good literary steward. There's an angel in a comic I'm reading, and his pet project is to collect all the written word of humankind. I sometimes wonder if that's the endgame here. Josh has admitted his ideal superpower would be immortality. All the time in the universe.

I have stuff HERE and HERE.

On the way home from the grocery yesterday, an older man and woman passed us. The woman said, "What time's the party?" The man looked over into our grocery bags. "Those are just groceries," he said. "Nothing fun."


It snowed here two weeks ago, which set a record. I was in Montana one June, and I stepped down from a van onto fresh snow. It all melted the next day. I'd never seen the stuff in summer. The lakes there were sky blue with what? Sky? No, it was the cold, I guess. But that was Montana. Here is Missouri, and the cold was grey, not blue. Josh and I were wearing t-shirts and looking for a UPS drop-box the night before the snow. It'd been warm enough for me to sit on the porch that day and watch the guy across the street mow his lawn in shorts and a tank top. Then the temperature fell. The wind rose. It rained, then iced, then snowed. Josh and I crossed our arms against the cold. I joked we were in Scotland. I've never been to Scotland. 

A new friend tells me the currents are erratic from the melting ice caps. That's probably right. If I were more superstitious I'd say the snow was an omen. My people are having a time. One of my cousins, Sandra, died last week. I saw her most years at a family reunion on a lake in North Carolina. But not these last few years. I couldn't get there, but I would call. When it was Sandra on the line, she'd say, "Who's going to bitch with me if you're not here?"

Sandra and I liked to gossip. We shared a watchfulness of our family and a delight in the more ridiculous elements. You don't realize your family teaches you anything until well after you've learned it. Sandra taught me to pay attention to conversations. Good and bad and confusing. I wanted to know. I wanted to be included. Sandra and I would swap remarks on the patio, and I felt adult. My voice barely carries beyond my teeth, but I would murmur something smart, and Sandra would hear it. "We're bad," she'd say. Yes we were. That's another piece of it. We were just as silly as anyone else in our family. We made fun of them, but they made fun of us, too. The keyword: fun.

Last night, I reran my memory of Sandra standing in the kitchen feeding pickles and bologna to a meat grinder. I wore myself out crying. Pickles and bologna was a tradition I couldn't appreciate when I was younger, but it was still a tradition. Sandra would get us kids to turn the crank while she tamped down the meat and brine. We would pretend to vomit. Someone would tell us not to be rude. There's no shortage of people to teach you manners at a family reunion. People rush to it like you're on fire. The result of the cranking and the tamping was this cat food looking pâté you could spread on crackers and pretend it was gourmet. I didn't try it until I was old enough to drink. I was making a point to acquire tastes. Well, I acquired pickles and bologna like I acquired eavesdropping a long time ago. Fast and easy.

I miss you, Sandra. I've missed you for years, but I still had your voice. Now I have some pictures and a recipe and memories. It's not enough, but it's something. You were always something.

Happy Happy

Thank you for the birthday wishes. I'm older but not old. Josh is thrilled by my grey hairs, so I'm thrilled by my grey hairs. My grandfather has white hair and lots of it. Josh taps the table in patience. I'm only 28.

I almost shared a birthday with my sister-in-not-legal-in-Missouri's newest son. A day apart, but he's still a Taurus. Even if you didn't know that, you'd know he's going to be a good one. He was passed around to all arms but mine and never cried. I have a personal code where I don't hold babies. I've had nightmares I drop them. The closest thing to a baby in my house is a small plastic newborn I found in a cake. Aside from that, I have a preserved tadpole in a jar. It's almost a frog, but it retains a tail. One of my friends thought it was a chicken leg.

Necessary Fiction asked me some questions about writing. I learned answering questions about writing makes me nervous. I'm still at the stage where I'm waiting for someone to knock on my door and take it all away. Sometimes my mail delivery person will be loud on her headset out on the front porch, and I'll think it's "the authorities." Also, there are no authorities. No one is going to take my writing away (I keep chanting to myself).

Well, I ran yesterday. Not much, but. I was in the grocery after, and a woman hurried up to me and demanded to know what cologne I was wearing. I wasn't wearing anything but sweat and shorts. Pheromones, I imagine. This makes the second time this spring. People are insistent I smell like spices.

There was a brown recluse in a sink last night where Josh and I were staying. Spiders scare me more in sinks. It's the shape of the sink, the bowl of it, and the suggestion that the spider crawled up and out of the drain. Josh says he found a snake in a sink once. The same principle but larger. The snake slipped over the lip of the sink, down the base, onto the floor, and into a hole in the wall.

Josh told me to do something about the brown recluse. I did something.

Good Days

People came to watch me read stories in an art gallery on Saturday. The gallery was empty but for a little step stool and a dog toy in the shape of a football. People sat on the floor. I brought two pies, and people actually ate them. The reading went well except for when my mouth dried out during my third story. I had to walk across the gallery and fill a wine glass with water. The residue of the wine in the glass turned the water blue. It looked like I was drinking cleaning supplies. Everyone was so nice about it.

There are pictures of me reading, but I won't post them here. My chin disappeared into my neck when I looked down at my book. I've heard words for people with weak chins. "Thumb" gets passed around. 

I've been tall, and now I'm skinny like I used to be when I was short enough for gymnastics. I can't hide anymore. I try. I have prescription glasses that turn into sunglasses when I'm outdoors. But I couldn't hide at the reading. My book is too small to cover my face. People call my book a baby. Publishers Weekly calls it a star. There are reviews, then there's THAT review. Josh made me read it out loud to him before we went to sleep last night. It was a celebration night. Those nights are like undiluted vinegar. Be careful.

After the reading, we all went to a bar and drank two beers each. I talked to poets. One of them was wearing a hat to protect from sunburn. It was after dark. I guess the sun is always out for poets. I developed a crush. Those are easy to develop. I develop them whenever I leave the house. Mostly, I don't leave the house.

Josh, his mother, and I were at an Indian restaurant on Sunday. Josh's mother told a story about her father as a boy. Every summer, a man would come to live in a hut by the rock quarry in her father's town. The quarry was filled with water. The man would take a large jar and dive down where the water was coldest, and he'd bottle the cold water and bring it back up with him to share. The way she told it made it seem like a simple miracle. We were eating dry cooked okra. The dry cooking kills the slime. Another little miracle. 

I can imagine diving down deep enough for something precious. There was this time I was in the ocean, and I tried going under for a shell, but the shell was too far down, and my ears began to hurt. When I came up someone warned me about reaching for strange shells. That sometimes the creatures living inside are toxic. OK. That's fine. But sometimes they're not.

New York and Now

Josh and I are on the bus. I don't know what state we're in, but it's grey and wet. We're curling up to Boston from New York. I think that's the direction. A northerly curl around some serious water. Bays? I'm unsure. I've seen a lot of seabirds. One of these states beckons to the Atlantic like a witch's finger.

I looked it up. It's Massachusetts. It has a tail sticking out in the ocean.

At least one other person on this bus is going to AWP. The woman standing between us in line tried to play matchmaker. "Oh! He's going to the writing conference, too!" The other person looked at me and said, "Great."

We just passed an IKEA. I made the sign of the cross for all those poor horses in the meatballs. No, I didn't. I admit curiosity about horse meat. Odds are strong I've already eaten it in something somewhere. I'm being blasphemous. I'm from Kentucky. Horses are chestnut gods.

I've used context clues to figure out we're in Connecticut. It's like when someone asks if you feel older on your birthday. I'm in Connecticut, but I don't feel any different. I felt different in New York.

Josh is asleep. His mouth is wide open.

We were in New York for a week. We stayed with friends. Their dog licked me awake from a nap. She licked my arm tattoos. Other people have licked my arm tattoos. Some of them only kissed. I don't get the allure. My tattoos have been a part of me for so long. I want more. I have ideas. You don't care, I know.

When I say I felt different in New York, I mean I felt like no other place in the world existed. That's dangerous. We saw five plays. The ticker in Times Square was delivering news, and it seemed like fiction. People are right. New York is a bubble. It should be no surprise I want to move there.

I had a hard time taking in all I saw. There were so many beautiful men. I've been overstimulated all week. A flawless young man was onstage last night in his underwear. Sigourney Weaver climbed him like a pole. She tongued a wall sconce in failed seduction. I got to see that on Broadway.

I get to see you soon.


I used to like math. Then I slipped on a wet restroom floor and hit my head on a urinal trough. After that, I stopped liking math. I wanted to draw and write stories. I don't have any of those stories, but I do have this:

My favorite toy for a while was a plastic mouse. I made a house for her out of a shoe box. My mother taught me how to whip stitch. I made a skirt for the plastic mouse. I preferred the toys I had to alter. I once begged my father to smuggle a naked Barbie over from my grandmother's house so I'd have a model for a superhero costume I was making out of felt squares. I have always been obsessive. It was important I have that Barbie. While I was writing my book, it seemed important I smoke, but I didn't want to become a smoker. I bought a hollow plastic cigarette. It sat beside me in an ash tray. I never picked it up.

My brain has been inconsistent trouble. Epilepsy runs in my family. It runs across generations. My first seizure came the morning after Christmas when I was 10. My family couldn't wake me. A doctor was adamant it wasn't epilepsy. He thought I'd had an extreme nightmare. My parents weren't convinced. I was more than willing to accept the less severe diagnosis. I did have extreme nightmares. One involved a hairy monster tying me to a chair and tickling me until I died. As I got older, the hairy monster became a man. Obviously.

For the rest of the year after that first seizure, I was allowed to set my own pace in school. The pace I set was I did the homework in my head, but I never wrote it down.

I had my next seizure when I was 18. I'd been sewing the denim from old jeans into a small bag. Into a purse, yes. Someone gave me grief about it, and I maintained that Chewbacca carried a small bag. He never took anything out of it. It was just a piece of fashion. I was wearing the bag when I crouched down to put the sewing machine back in the closet. I felt tired, so I went to sleep. "Sleep" was a seizure. I woke up, and the EMTs were trying to remove the bag. I remember someone suggesting it contained drugs. It did not.

It's been a few years since my last seizure, which involved me waking up on the hardwood. Josh was sitting on the edge of the bed. He said, "Can you imagine how terrifying it was to come home and find you lying unconscious on the floor?"

It turns out I'm the lucky one in these situations. I black out. I go somewhere else. When I get back, everyone is scared.

There's a paper in Kansas City called The Pitch. They have a crush on me. We have seen each other from a distance. Everyone looks good from far away.


Josh and I are very into theater right now/always and forever. We went to see a production of Death of a Salesman here in Kansas City. At intermission, a woman sitting behind us said she didn't know the play would be so heavy. Ha ha. The title's no joke. That play's heavy as cream sauce. Later, during the last act, the woman sitting behind us leaned over to her companion and whispered, "I don't know what's going on." I do love admissions of defeat. More than once during the play I was defeated by a performer's wonderful ass. Another patron was defeated navigating the stairs in the dark. I heard a tumble, then, "Whoops!" Everybody hurts sometimes.

In March, Josh and I are going to a writing conference in Boston. We're excited. I have to be honest, though. We're mostly excited because we got tickets to see this production of The Glass Menagerie in Cambridge, Mass. with Zachary Quinto, Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Brian J. Smith. I'll give you a moment to drink the milkshake of that cast list. If it had a flavor it would probably be raw and eggy like cookie dough.

The weather's been warm enough this weekend for night walks. Josh and I were passing a dark porch the other night, and a woman's voice shot from the shadows (offstage). "There's a full moon tonight," she said. Her little dog barked at us through the chain-link fence. We looked up, and duh, the full moon. I saw a UPS guy drop off a package on that woman's porch once. A man came out of the house and yelled, "What is this?! I didn't order anything! What is in this box?!" He looked at the box. "Oh," he said. "Her."

I have a new story at wigleaf.

Dennis Cooper has me all day at his blog. He has me at all ages. He has me at a family pie recipe. He has me with an old sample of my handwriting. He has me through my book, Mother Ghost. You'll have me soon, too, I swear.

Animale Cruelty

                                                                        (Casey Hannan, 1990-something)

I had a pet snapping turtle. That was a long time ago. It was a baby snapping turtle. It looked like a rock with eyes. I kept the snapping turtle in a shallow fish bowl on the back porch. The gravel shifted in the turtle's bowl during a thunderstorm, and the turtle became trapped and drowned. I was bad with animals, but I loved them. There was the one time I squeezed a wild lizard, and its stomach popped out of its body and onto my fingers. There was the dog we fed too much microwaved popcorn. The vet said the dog's body was "riddled with cancer," like the dog was posed a question it couldn't answer. There were all the times grasshoppers peed in my hands and vibrated their wings apart. All of that was unfortunate discovery. I'm very careful now. I keep a snake alive.

My friend was in town. She stayed with us a hair over a week. We rang in the New Year by drinking tequila and talking about I don't remember. The rest of the week we learned about Tennessee Williams and the choices people make when adapting his work for the movies. I watched Marlon Brando and Paul Newman take off their shirts, and it was like seeing men for the very first time.

One of my teachers called me a cartoon once. I'm trying a mustache.

It snowed while my friend was here. We went walking the day after. A woman on the street told us to be careful. She yelled about a storm coming. No storm came. I hope that woman is OK. She seemed not OK. I told her we would be careful. I promised her. She made me promise.

A man walked by the house the other day. He was singing like he'd been trained in it. I'd seen him before, but I'd never heard him sing. It was a good moment. It was dark and windy, and my friend had left earlier that morning to catch her train. I needed a man to walk by my house and sing. Sometimes a nurse walks by on his way to the hospital. When the weather is warm, he walks on the balls of his feet. When it's cold, he's flat-footed. I wonder if he knows he's doing it. Josh tells me when I'm talking, I look into the distance and my eyes move side to side like I'm reading a teleprompter. Now I notice it every time.

My book officially releases this coming week. If you pre-ordered a copy, you'll receive it soon. If you didn't pre-order a copy, I will never know. Your conscience is dirty, but your hands are clean. You've committed the perfect crime.

After Ghost Hunting

I don't need a parade or anything, but I successfully roasted my first turkey last night. Josh gets a turkey from his boss every year (Merry Christmas!), so we have to use it or lose it. We don't prepare meat in our home very often, and the reason for that is meat is gross. Still, I got a sick thrill cutting out the turkey's backbone. I've always wondered about surgeons, but now I wonder less.

I'll tell you how I went ghost hunting. I was with my friends and two attractive brothers. One is a young Santa Claus. The other is muscles on muscles, and then on those muscles, tattoos. You might say I'm easy to please, and you might be right. We got in a truck that was bigger than a dragon. We went down gravel roads. The truck was very loud. It was important we were quiet when we got out of the truck. Ghost hunting was like fishing that way. We probably didn't see any ghosts. Maybe we felt them? There was a chilly spot in one of the cemeteries, but the night was already cold, and who knows.

The creepiest part of ghost hunting was when we drove past the house where two women had been raped and murdered over the summer. Maybe that house was a ghost. Yes, that house was a ghost for sure.

There were a few times we stood over a grave and passed around a tape recorder and asked questions of no one in particular. Mostly, "Do you have anything to say?" We used our kindest voices. The last time we did it there was an urgency, a polite demand for some sort of sign. Every dog for five miles started barking. A cow stood on a stick, and the stick snapped. Someone used the night vision to watch out for bobcats and coyotes. One of the oldest graves had an early form of photography to identify the deceased. Another grave had just been filled. Our shoes sunk in the dirt there.

My copies of my book have arrived. I signed some and sold them. People are saying it's pretty. Also, small. It's smaller than a sandwich. I read three stories from it yesterday. It was like looking at a picture I couldn't remember posing for. I wrote those stories, once.

Hollow Days

We didn't go around and get thankful at any Thanksgiving dinner this year. At one Thanksgiving dinner, we admitted our addictions. I didn't want to name my addiction (men), so I said baking. Two people said shopping. We all laughed. The good thing about shoppers is they give me stuff they don't want anymore. My hall closet is full of half-used scented candles.

There's this one friend who is maybe my sister. The only thing separating us as siblings is our different parents. We talked on my porch until 4 am last Sunday. I have a short list of hetero heroes. She's on the list twice. We drank the cheapest beer. We heard birds having sex or killing each other. We watched a cat draw blood from a stone some poor woman's hand. The last time we hung out on a porch, a sexy stick man did bike tricks in front of us. My sister-friend was amused. I was turned on enough by the stick man to show my teeth when I smiled. The stick man fell off his bike many times. 

I once fell forward on smooth concrete. I was carrying a pie. The pie landed hard. It hit like a car door against another car door. I got up, and Josh was afraid I wasn't OK, but it was the pie I was worried about. The pie was fine. I warned everyone that the pie had a rough life. But listen, you can't taste the fear in pie. If you want to eat a scared baked good, eat cake. Cake is always terrified it isn't as good as pie. It reminds me of that deathbed tradition where you ask a dying person if they want a final slice of cake or a final slice of pie, and they say, "Pie, pie, pie!" and the thought of more pie is so exciting it kills them right away. Cake is the slow death.

That is not a real tradition. When I left home, they told me to make new traditions.

I put up a tumblr. If you find me inscrutable (unlikely), go to the tumblr and easily figure me out.