MFA Achievement: Check

Funny how quickly we write off our triumphs and focus our energy on the next level, the next goal we have.

As a writer, it’s so difficult to decide I’ll take a day off. I’ll celebrate my achievement, because there’s always something else I could be working on. Another story I could try to get published, a revision that might just make my novel finally work in a better way.

A couple days ago I posted, at the end of a post completely unrelated that I had big news that I would divulge the next day. Now, here I am, three days later, and just now remember that I didn’t divulge said info.

So, that big news is this: I have finally “finished” my thesis, and first novel. It’s gotten the go ahead from my thesis adviser and my second reader. This means I will finally, without a doubt, graduate with my MFA in creative writing on August 13th, this summer.

Now, how much did I celebrate when I heard this news? I told my partner and she congratulated me, and I felt really good about myself for about an hour or so. And here’s the kicker–I then just forgot all about it. I pushed it to the back of my mind and started working on other pieces I’ve been wanting to work on.

The victory wasn’t celebrated in the least. I didn’t toast with friends and champange (though that might come on actual graduation) and I didn’t go out for dinner. I just wrote more. Maybe this is because I’m still a relatively new, young, writer. But maybe it’s because my writing is the thing I enjoy the most (cycling is a close second), and no matter how accomplished I become I’ll always want to come back to my keypad and lay down the framework for a new story, a new novel, an essay, because when I write something new, something I think is interesting and good, it makes me feel more alive than any celebration can. Then I show it to a friend and they ask me how long it is before they start reading and I tell them not to read it.

Isn’t that the more offensive part of being a writer? When someone says they’ll read something of yours and when you go to give them the piece they ask how long it is? A reader in a bookstore doesn’t buy the book because it is long or short, they buy it because the story looks good.

Anyway–off track.

What I’ve been trying to say is this: celebrate your achievements. Don’t shrug them off or leave them to stew. If you’ve done something of note, let people know. I’m so excited to not be a student anymore. It’s been about 3.5 years since I entered this program, and now–finally–I’m ready to be done.


A wind swept across the field and into our faces. Veronica was looking at me with a curiously. Her lips were turned down in a small frown. My mouth had gone dry but whether that was from the joint or the leaping of my heart I wasn’t sure.

“Marcus, right?” asked Veronica.

I nodded. “Yeah.”

She smiled.

“You want a hit?” asked Frank, holding the joint out to her.

Veronica eyed it. A thin sliver of smoke was drifting up and being whisked away by the breeze. She reached out and took it and put it to her lips and took a draw. The cherry flared and I could even hear the sizzle as the pot and the paper burned. She closed her eyes and I could see the muscles in her neck stretch as she heaved with a cough but didn’t let it out. She took the joint from her mouth and held it out in front of her. I took it and drew a quick hit, nothing like the long thing she had just done.

When Veronica finally let out the smoke it was a smooth slide between lips that looked ready to kiss. Her eyes were still closed. She opened them slowly looking in my direction but past me into the greening field behind me.

She suddenly smirked, her eyelids hanging lazily. “Let’s go watch the dance,” she said.

I thought it might be over by then, but couldn’t be sure.

“One sec,” said Ricky. “It’s almost cashed,” and he dragged on the joint then threw it down on the ground and got out of the car, careful, I was sure, to step on the joint and grind it into the dirt.

We walked together back toward the fair. I could hear music periodically when the wind died. I could smell the carny food and it suddenly made my stomach grumble like I hadn’t eaten anything all day. We showed our stamped hands to the gatekeeper and with lazy smiles on our faces looked around.

“Hey! We should do that,” Ricky said.

I looked around. Ricky was pointing at an inflatable castle that you took off your shoes and jumped around like a trampoline, but softer and even the walls were padded.

“So down,” said Frank.

“Me too,” said Veronica. Ideas of the dance completely forgotten.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Isn’t there a age limit?”

“Who cares. I don’t think they have anyone watching to make sure.”

I craned my neck trying to see the castle better over the crowd. I’ve never been real tall so it didn’t get me much of a view. “Looks like there’s a bunch of kids in there,” I said.

“So what,” said Veronica. “It’ll be fun, lets go.”

My friends started walking in that direction. I couldn’t not go.

Beside the entrance to the castle was a cutout cardboard knight that had a speech bubble, You must be this tall to enter my castle, it said. And he was holding a sword up that came up only to my chest.

“See, no age limit. Just a high requirement,” said Frank.



The exhaustion felt after residency is one of sadness as much as sleepyness.

A pebble flicked and skittered off the roof, a lone crow, detached from it’s murder, peering down at it. But then again, another pebble came from the sky. No crow this time. The one upon the roof only starring. Starring with it’s cool eyes, like black caverns, so deep only rocks know their places, only pebbles live down there. And that is where they come from. These Small rocks, these clickers and clackers upon the roof, are only the tears of a bird. Great and black and smart in the rain. Unable to find where it belongs.

The sounds of revelers on a Tuesday night woke me last night. Their strange calls, bestial and unruly, unfiltered, unable to be controlled once the nectar they so crave sits fermenting in their guts. The course fir on the backs of some, faces of others drip with the sullied stain of sweet taffy dumplings.

The man dragged slowly on his cigarette. One of those drags that he’s done it a million times before. The cherry at the cigs tip blossomed like the roses he watched from across the street. Sun wasn’t quite up yet. The cool lightening of the sky coaxing the pedals to open, like a lovers hand between a woman’s thighs. A gentle caress, a running of the palm up, fingers tightening in anticipation before the initial moment of sustained pleasure.

The man had once been there. In love. But now there was only the cigarette and the man sleeping, unknowing within the house across the street. The roses crimson petals opening like a bloody cash.

I stood in front of the door some years later. I didn’t know how Ricky had died yet. My dad has just called in order to tell me. Even in the rain, the clouds casting their gray sheen over the neighborhood. Each mailbox sitting innocently, each weedless garden with bare-knuckle rose bushes, or in some cases leafless trees of varying kinds. Each patch of grass trimmed to the same height. Ricky’s parents house was no different. All that work to keep their house just so must have felt pointless to them now. I wondered how his sister was taking it as I stood there looking down at the white, plastic eye that was the doorbell button. It watched me, waiting for me to exhibit the grief I would be expected to show when I met his family, Frank, and Tommy–our old friends. But I couldn’t feel anything in there. In that space between my heart and ribs so many sorrows had built up in there, clogging my own feelings. All I felt was a dampness, and they was from the air, the weather, that was threatening rain. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give them what they wanted. I knew I had ruined myself, protected myself from feelings, and at the time, it made me smile.