The same calloused hands folded in grace at the table, enveloped faintly in the steam from mashed potatoes and steak. The same hands covering his mouth while his body wracked, trying to drag breath deeply up from the bottom of a phlegmy smoker’s cough. Only Daddy didn’t smoke. Stone dust worked in unmineable blue veins through the rough crags of his hands.
This story was inspired by the poetry of Phil Levine and Raymond Carver.
[If you enjoy the mostly-free access to my short fiction that this site allows, please consider becoming a monthly patron or making a one-time “tip jar” donation. Without the support of readers like you, I’d be exhaling bureaucracy in a cubicle somewhere, glowing with a desktop monitor tan.]
Without a whole lot of warning, three stories stepped out into the light yesterday. Two flash fiction pieces—“Swans (Elsewhere)” and “Settle/Return”—were published as a set in the Atticus Review, who previously published my story “Thieving in Foreign Countries.” Hours later, featherproof books began taking pre-orders for the anthology Make X: A Decade of Literary Arts, collecting a broad survey of the corpus published by Make: A Chicago Literary Magazine. In addition to featuring work by such hard-hitters as Jac Jemc and Tim Kinsella, my story “Our City in Wartime” (which originally appeared in the 12th issue of Make) sees new life in the pages of this gorgeous book.
I might very well have been the last person yesterday to know that any of these stories had been released.
What I did know was happening, though, was the fine-tuning of my new Patreon page. For those of you who don’t know, Patreon is a crowd-sourcing platform made exclusively for artists, wherein patrons can pledge a monthly donation in whatever amount they like, and in return get specific rewards. In this particular instance, donors of different levels will receive monthly postcards, single-story booklets, and—for the highest donors—a special edition of my first book, White Horses, featuring new artwork and design. So if you enjoy my work and would like to help ensure that it (and I) continue, please consider becoming a monthly patron or making a one-time gift.
Continuing a trend of mutual love between British and Commonwealth publications and me, the Australian journal Tincture this week included my story “Water Lily” (the first of this past year’s new crop of stories written at the Hewnoaks Artists Colony) in their new 17th Issue.
Elaine’s rule was defense. This was her home. No one else’s. When the striking time arrived, she’d strike to kill. But only after the intruder struck first. She could wait as long as she needed to wait. Annette would say just bag it and tag it but Annette wasn’t here. It wasn’t her call. Elaine could afford to be patient. She would not strike first. In her mind, she certainly would strike last.
Tincture also previously published my story “Arena” in their 14th Issue in 2014.
And also this week, as a result of weird circumstance and ninja-like reflexes, a new, very industrial version of One Thousand Owls Behind Your Chest now exists in the world. This alternate incarnation of the collection can be found at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, in the Beyond Repair online store, and (if you feel like contacting me directly) in an envelope mailed to you from me.
“There’s a second when I can’t really see and I think, sure enough, my uncle and I would make a great team, swooning and faint in a rush of too much. But the truth is, I can’t really ever lose my head the way I want to. Not again.”
Read “Boys’ Life / Rough Frontiers” for free in the Lascaux Review.
“Seriously, I do not think anyone would care to understand—and you have so eloquently demonstrated this point time and time again—no one cares about the way our westbound flight chased the setting sun so the world before us, for hours above the wet Pacific, was drenched in a sweet and syrupy red, a light and a color that for most people fixed firmly to the Earth only ever last for a few seconds each day, yet can sublime on and on in a movie or in a dream. Or, just this once, for me. And even then, staring out the window with my nose stinging beneath the pungency of your highball of Ardbeg that not once before we landed left your fist, yes, even then, gazing out the porthole glass, I couldn’t help but wonder: so is this a movie, or is it a dream?”
Read “Fandanguillo” in its entirety in The Stoneslide Corrective’s new AFTERMATH issue, available now.
Ebullient isn’t an emotion that I often feel, let alone admit to. Yet here I am, bubbly and fluid in the wake of last night’s event. Our performance could not have gone any better, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of some of the best people I know. Nat Baldwin, Genevieve Johnson, Patrick Kiley of Pilot Editions, Sam Gould of Beyond Repair and Red76, Scott Sell, and everyone making the machinery move at Space Gallery and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance: I owe you folks the world.
One Thousand Owls Behind Your Chest can now be purchased directly from Beyond Repair, made by human hands specifically for you.
Praise for ONE THOUSAND OWLS BEHIND YOUR CHEST
“One of Portland’s most prolific and original fiction writers.”
—The Portland Dispatch
“In Milliken’s stories, you get characters who seem like regular-ass people until their motivations […] collide them.”
—The Portland Phoenix
Praise for CREAM RIVER
“I believe Doug Milliken has a firm grasp of life’s little traumas. He takes his chunk of loving meat and hangs it from a butcher’s hook on display for the world to read.”
—from the foreword by Ben Trickey, singer/songwriter
“Cream River […] is still on my mind, as if its characters were hanging around in the dark shadows of my consciousness. […] I was blown away by “Color Wheel.” I also loved how the stories had a series of sometimes evident and sometimes subterranean connections that became especially intriguing as the cycle approached its end. I highly recommend reading Cream River.”
—Jonathan Weisberg, The Stoneslide Corrective
“I loved every story, every word.”
—Erin Sprinkle, singer/songwriter
Praise for TO SLEEP AS ANIMALS
“[…] it is impossible not to be the weird kid in Milliken’s Reno. To Sleep as Animals is a mystery about characters succumbing to their spaces, how such a rugged landscape sustains so many strange and dangerous lives.”
“A disturbance of a very specific flavor […] Milliken’s writing is urgent yet finely considered—a literate pleasure.”
—Carl Skoggard, translator of Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood circa 1900.
“A distinctive and often vertiginously frightening psychological landscape […] bracingly disturbing.”
—Megan Grumbling, author of Persephone in the Late Anthropocene.
Praise for BRAND NEW MOON
“These stories […] glow with some sort of holy light, as if every moment were magic, like footage of your family picnic on super 8.”
—The Portland Phoenix
“Seriously the funniest thing I have ever read. I was laughing so much that [my wife] yelled at me. Probably because she was sleeping. And it was 2 AM.”
—Derek Kimball, Last House Productions
Praise for WHITE HORSES
“Douglas W. Milliken takes his time unveiling the savoring of the moment in a narrative of extremely gracious intimacy. The dignified personal. Expert surreal grounded prose. Pragmatic poetics that serve the whole. This man is a master of simile. And it never gets old because the associations are always complex and unexpected. Worked accuracy but seamlessly so. Wow throughout the heartbreaking sensuality. Its core a felled forest of need. The title story, ‘White Horses,’ cannot be improved, which is another way of saying it is perfect.”
—Melody Sumner Carnahan, co-founder of Burning Books.