The online literary magazine STATOREC published my essay Magic Carpets, Muddy Sticks and Shit Hills in February 2023.
Why Patriots Need a Body was an article I wrote for the Austrian Riveter on Elfriede Jelinek for their 2023 edition.
Short story published in Pigeon Pages NYC, 2018: overwintering
Excerpt from ‘Overwintering’
in Pigeon Papers NYC, 2019
The city’s streets are clear for us. Nevertheless, when we pull up at a traffic light opposite a police car, and the officer casually glances over at us, I feel nauseous. When we hit the motorway, I worry that we don’t have enough petrol, even though the needle is well over the ‘F,’ and I’m driving at the speed I think will save as much fuel as possible. My bladder already feels full. We’re criminals on the run now. …
I zap between radio stations until I find the club music programme. The repetitive beat is the only sound my nerves can bear. My husband stares straight ahead, his face a familiar country, now occupied and distant. The car rolls along, flat meadows and dull landscapes passing us by. Cows graze in the moonlight and an eerie castle appears, a spotlight on top of a hill. This is the German Fairy-Tale Route, with its wilful children and witches. We pass a tavern called the Three Magi, a last remnant of a bygone era stranded at the side of the motorway on a grass verge as the traffic whips relentlessly past. A few sheep graze in the meadow to one side. When we near Kassel after a couple of hours, we pull over in a deserted layby. We check no one is around and I pee quickly by a hedge. We swap seats and within a few minutes, we are back on the motorway. We are focused on our task.
My husband switches radio channels; the case of a girl who was kidnapped and held in captivity for 10 years is being picked over. I have been following the story for the past few months, horrified, transfixed. Not long ago, it had seemed the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. The girl’s mother appeared on TV and spoke haltingly about her experiences, how she showed a photograph of her daughter to anyone she met. The mother held up the dog-eared photo for the audience. I remember reading how female geese who lose a gosling run around looking for it until they die of physical exhaustion. I fall asleep to the drone of the radio.
The window is clammy with moisture, my mouth is parched. We’ve stopped. I sit up, trying to work out where we are. A roadside next to a field. My husband is sitting rigidly in the driver’s seat, an open can of Red Bull stuck in the round hole next to the gearstick. I shake it: it’s almost empty. He snaps his head towards me, looks panicky, then guilty.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Somewhere near Magdeburg,” he says, bleary-eyed. The car clock reads 4:42. There is a lone star in the sky and it’s about to fade and burn.
We get out of the car to stretch our legs, avoid looking at the car boot. The chilliness takes my breath away. Fields stretch out in front of us, brown and furrowed, the odd stubbly crop sticking out of the earth like a finger. The hum of cars from the nearby motorway is incessant; a lone heron takes off and sails above our heads. At that moment, I notice the dead fox on the road, its tongue hanging out delicately, as if it had been caught licking food from its chops; its eyes are open, staring at the car that must have hit it—ours. It is tiny, a mere cub. The perfection of its body is uncanny, as if its cause of death were wonderment, not some injury. I look at my husband, raise my eyebrows.
“He wasn’t quick enough. I couldn’t veer out of the way. He didn’t know what hit him.”
I kneel down and inspect the boy-fox’s faultless teeth, his light rust-coloured paws and dark whiskers.
Artwork: Elena Dao Jing Yu.. From Notation Score Paintings, 2015, series of twelve paintings, 17″ x 14″, acrylic on tracing paper. Photograph courtesy of the artist.
Short story published in Sand Journal, Issue 14, 2016: inclusion
Excerpt from ‘Inclusion’
in Sand Journal, Issue 14, Nov 2016
I swung into the drive, turned off the engine and breathed deeply a few times. Were the curtains twitching or was I imagining it? Go in, do what you came to do, leave, I repeated to myself. Like with the car wash or with the shopping, I had divided it into the most basic steps: the first, leaving the house, was behind me, so I had just two more steps to go. Then go home and get back into bed, I could manage that. …
I switched off the music, twisted the rear-view mirror in my direction and applied some bright orange lipstick. A full-body costume would have felt safer. Slowly, I pulled the door lever and got out. The front door of the house was propped open, and my stomach lurched when I saw some familiar faces among the people milling in the living room. A long trestle table was laid out with nibbles and drinks. The sound of a bottle being uncorked punctuated the hum of conversation. The four locks on the Volvo clunked down simultaneously as I pressed the button then headed up the garden path, my jaw clenched.
I immediately noticed the change in temperature when I entered the house: a tensing of shoulders, as if they had hoped I’d stay away. I tried to be invisible while shuffling over to the table with the wine, avoiding eye contact.
I feared they’d probably talked about what to do if I turned up. Emails had probably pinged furiously back and forth yesterday. I glugged back my first alcohol of the day and steeled myself, clutching the glass tightly as I tried to gauge the reactions from the corner of my eye.
Annette, the psychologist, eyed me back. She should know what to say, I thought, or at least what not to say. Barefoot, she walked slowly across the shag pile carpet, towards me – had they drawn straws? What she said was probably lifted from one of her textbooks. I had to tune out after the first two sentences to make sure I wouldn’t start to hyperventilate.
Over there was John, her good-looking husband. As she talked, I tried to concentrate on him instead, thinking about their three beautiful children, who had inherited his dark curls and eyes, rather than her eczema and swollen ankles. And there in the other corner was Hannah, Hannelore, or was it Anne? – I never remembered her name – still huge after the birth of the twins, and at that very moment trying her best to bury herself into the curtains.
A couple of weeks ago, we’d both been shunting our distended stomachs across the playground, our two-year-olds in tow. It had seemed like the most normal thing in the world to chat about dummies, cures for cracked nipples and how to survive a visit from the mother-in-law.
Annette tilted her head as she went on, and my eyes scoured the room for Jay. Although I was never sure where I stood with Jay, she was certainly the nearest thing I had to a friend here tonight. As soon as I spied her, I grabbed a couple of cheese sticks and launched myself towards her, leaving Annette talking to herself.
Gravitating towards Jay involved passing Herbert and Lorna. “You look great!” Lorna said too loudly, but I couldn’t think of an appropriate reply. Lorna opened and closed her mouth a couple more times, like a fish. Herbert just looked awkward.
All the while, Jay was surveying the scene with a slightly bemused smile on her lips. The reason we got on so well nowadays was because she had always been slightly mad, and I had become slightly mad. When we’d talked in the past, I’d never been sure if she was too esoteric for my tastes – she liked to describe the colour of people’s auras, for god’s sake – or if I was too pragmatic for hers. But in my new situation, I found her easier to get along with than most. She had no expectations of what I should do and said surprisingly helpful things without any effort, where others struggled to spit out even the most banal things.
‘They’ve been buzzing around here like bees wondering whether you’d come,’ she now said, loud enough for everyone to hear.
‘Thought so,’ I said, lightly pecking her on both cheeks while her eyes focused somewhere in the middle distance. She rarely looked at you. Perhaps she really did have an inner eye.
‘It’s so exhausting,’ I said in a hoarse voice, ‘what with everything else.’ I felt a lump in my throat and my heart was hammering irregularly.
She looked briefly at me, as if she’d only just discovered I was standing in front of her, then nodded solemnly.
Artwork: SUPERSTAR I (Detail), 2015, by Tiphanie Chetara
Artwork: Angelique Hering
Cover of Kleinstadtnovelle published by Konkret Verlag, 2002