Merrill Feitell


It was spring break. Francie’s students were off to Daytona Beach on the annual Pilgrimage to Paradise, the product of tireless fund-raising and a Web-savvy search for a cheap group rate. Francie, by contrast, would be spending the week in Boston, riding out the tail end of winter with her best friend and her best friend’s daughter. Talk about diminishing expectations! It’s a pilgrimage for hugs,” she explained to her students, who just shrugged and surged down the hallways, all hoots and hopefulness and the smell of Tropical Blend. Francie took a red-eye from San Francisco to Boston and slept in a window seat doughy with Dramamine, waking up upon landing to a drizzly dawn. Now, Rita, her best friend, pulled up curbside at Logan. “Get in! Get in!” she called to Francie out the passenger window, not offering hugs or even help with the luggage. Such a hurry, thought Francie, and for what? “Breasts,” Rita said. “It’s unbelievable. I went in to check on Pauleen this morning and there they were, pressing through her nightshirt.”

“What do you mean she has breasts?” In Francie’s mind, Pauleen was still a lover of baseball cards, a kisser of dogs, all child—sexless and brave, ready to take on any roller coaster, risk any belly flop, write gushing letters to TV stars and expect letters in return. “She’s only eleven; I barely have breasts yet.”

“You’ll laugh,” said Rita, rushing through a yellow light. “She’s suddenly a hundred feet tall and the entire world’s a friendship bracelet—embroidery thread, hardware, fishing hooks.”

“It’s been too long,” Francie sighed and looked out the window. The last time she had seen these Boston streets, it had been raining and she’d been driving too fast. She actually found it fascinating to think about: the car and all of its contents—the seats and the floor mats, the tape in the tape deck, and Francie behind the wheel—all of it going ninety. Then, there occurred the particular and irreversible moment when Francie and a wayward deer happened to collide on the Massachusetts Turnpike. The impact killed the deer and set the car off course, but Francie herself continued like a shot through the windshield, piercing the air somewhere near Sturbridge, the arrow of her body led sixty feet by her eye. Always the underachiever—just a little more oomph and she could have crossed the state line!

She’d lost her left eye to the ordeal and gained a cross-hatching of scars from her face to her knee all along that side of her body. Such a sight she had been! At first, even strangers felt it appropriate to ask what had happened—the wounds had been so fresh and raw, surely they would heal! But now, three years later, with the damage calmed and uniform in color, no one ever asked what had happened anymore. It was as if Francie were a woman simply meant to have on side of her face mapped with scars, as if genetics had her earmarked to have a too-shiny glass eye lodged like a beetle in the center of a web. As soon as she could, Francie had moved to a small mountain town in northern California—a hippie town full of people with chosen hippie names, everyone trying to disappear.

Now, out the window, she noted that the streets were just as she’d left them. There was no flash of sun off the quaintly painted shutters, no warm, ruddy light off the brick sidewalks, no glint of dew on the bulbs just poking up from the flower beds. The street corners were still puddle and littered with broken umbrellas, as if it had been raining for the last three years, the stage waiting for Francie to step out and start over again.

“I’ve got to be honest,” Francie said in the silence. “I’m a little nervous about Pauleen. What if I scare her?”

“You’re not going to scare her,” Rita said as she turned into her driveway, its smooth brown pebbles scraping together under the wheels. “And if she makes fun of you, you can make fun of her in return. It’s official: You have my permission.”

The front lawn was overhung by great oak branches, still bald but thick enough to shade without leaves, to give a sense of the umbrella they provided when in bloom. Rita’s husband, Jim, was standing at the door with a cup of coffee in hand, tie waiting slack around his neck.

“I’m glad I caught you,” he said between kisses on each of Francie’s cheeks. “I have to be at work early to oversee the new interns who oversee the petri dishes. I’m the season’s bacteria watchdog. Grrrr.” Jim bared his teeth and left. He hated the lab, wanted to be an animal trainer.

“I made this for you!” exclaimed Pauleen, running out the door and down the steps in front of the house. She was in a T-shirt and sweats, barefoot on the slate. She was pretty, with big eyes, light hair, nice teeth. Francie anticipated the girl’s hesitation, but Pauleen threw her arms around Francie’s waist, and when she withdrew from the hug, she opened her palm to reveal a bracelet strung of wing nuts and beads. “My favorite colors,” Pauleen explained. “All of them.”

“Thanks, doll.” Francie put her bag down on the ground between her feet, clasping the bracelet against her stomach to secure it with the other hand.

“I could make it longer if you’d rather have an anklet,” Pauleen offered, already retreating into a hunch, reaching her fists inside her T-shirt hem to push it out, away from her body.

“No, no.” Francie turned her wrist over for Pauleen’s inspection. “This is great, this is fine. It’s good to see you.”

In the last few years Pauleen had grown at least half a foot. She was about five foot two, almost her mother’s size. Pauleen had pulled her ashy hair off her face with one terry-cloth headband and used a second to tie up a ponytail.

“Why aren’t you ready for school?” Rita asked.

“I’m sick.” Pauleen turned her attention to her mother. She made her eyes wide and let her face go slack. “I don’t know what it is, but one minute I feel perfectly fine, and the next, I’m about to fall over.”

“Well get dressed,” Rita said. Her hair was sporty and short, a peppery blonde. She had little gold earrings; she even looked like a mom. “We’ll get you right to the doctor.”

Pauleen slid her arms inside her shirt and crossed them over her chest, doing her best to keep herself secret. Francie could picture the girl inspecting herself behind a locked bathroom door, not daring to touch either tender new bump, as if, left alone, they might just go away—Pauleen, the able girl who was frighteningly good at Boggle; Pauleen the uninhibited, who’d spent not just Halloween but also the three days after dressed in face paint and yarn as broccoli and cheese.

Rita placed a hand on the back of Pauleen’s neck, then on the side of her face. “You’re a little warm,” she sighed. “Why don’t you get back in bed.”

Pauleen nodded and headed quickly to the house, the empty sleeves flailing beside her. Rita turned to Francie and gestured to her own chest. “O-ver-night,” she whispered. “Did it happen like that for you?”

The long hallway from the front door to the kitchen was lined with framed photos hanging against the striped wallpaper. There was Jim in a cap and gown, Pauleen on a horse, Rita and Francie in black and white on a spring-break trip to Yosemite at twenty-six, shortly before Pauleen was born. In the photo they stood close, eyes alight, brown heads of hair blending together, both smiling devilishly. Francie’s square chin was cocked forward, as if ready to take a punch. In some ways, she thought, so little had changed.

“Shoot me, shoot me, please,” she’d said just the other day to the student who had come to take her picture for the yearbook. He was rumpled and charming; his heavy camera swung from the strap bunched in his hand. His hands, she’d noticed, were broad and decorated in black felt-tip pen, the careful markings of new adolescent love: a heart, a guitar, a phone number, a name, Donna. The whole thing had made Francie suddenly sad and self-conscious; he probably assumed that she’d never been courted in her life. He took her picture, but he didn’t really look at her—not really. She could hardly remember what it felt like to be seen. She held her chin up, her smile intact, as he advanced the film, focused, and shot, as the shutter opened and released.

Francie followed the line of Pauleen’s class pictures—Ms. Sturm’s class, Miss Ellery’s, Mrs. McPhee’s—Pauleen taller and taller along the way.

“I’m usually a stickler for attendance,” Rita asserted in the kitchen. The two friends were seated at the oak breakfast table, which was covered in colorful, hand-braided placemats, the coffeepot on a trivet between them. “But I don’t think it’s awful to let her get her head around things for a day or two. Besides, you’re here. We can run around, three girls.”

“You’re a good mom,” Francie said. “I always knew you would be.”

“Don’t get dramatic on me. Just because you didn’t have a kid at twenty-six doesn’t make you barren.”

“All I said is that I think you’re a good mom. I never said I was barren.”

“I just want you happy.”

“I’m happy. I’m happy. Look, the worst my students have come up with is Web Face and Fly Eye. And the worst that happens in bed is that men fixate on one side of my body, one side of my face, one breast, one thigh, depending on whether they’re into proving bravery or sensitivity and whether they’re out to prove it to me or to themselves. I’m not saying I can’t understand; I just retain it, that’s all, who loves to the left and who to the right.”

“How romantic.” Rita looked away, as she always did when it seemed inarguable that Francie had fallen behind.

Francie knocked oddly on the wooden table, not out of superstition but self-consciousness. Lately it seemed crucial to her that someone real—someone who knew her when—come have a look, a parent poking into a bedroom to say, Yes, yes, Things seem in order here.

She wanted someone to check in on her apartment, her haunts, to sit in on her class. “Are you with me?” she would ask the room of round faces. She could mention Pompeii, Plymouth Rock, the Civil War, and her students would nod blankly, none of them—not one—seeming to know what she was talking about. She had been shaped, she felt sometimes, by a single moment in time and space when no one was watching at all.

“So speaking of romance, last week I was at the library flipping through some European art magazine,” Francie began, “and there was a four-page folio on the art of Hans Hallmundson.”

“Hans!” she’d exclaimed—out loud, in public—at the sight of his picture, his shock of blond hair, the tired lines at his eyes. His name had skipped from her l ips like the greeting of a forgiving child. He was real—there he was. She thought she’d imagined him sometimes. “He’s in Reykjavík, still copper-casting, still fish in bow ties—that whole fish-as-business-Icelandic thing—but I guess he’s really gaining recognition now.”

There, thought Francie, she’d said it. She could admit she check up on him. He’d been a visiting lecturer for a year at Emerson College, and he and Francie had, in truth, enjoyed a very regular little affair. It had been a perfectly pleasant and terminal thing. He would return to Iceland, to a fiancée; Francie had understood that from the start. She’d never been particularly sentimental, had always been a little suspicious of romance—the alleged panacea of it, the great leap of faith. Romance, Francie believed, was one of those things that could look terrific on other people, but on herself it felt gaudy and hackneyed, a ridiculous prom dress. She and Hans had been casual, no big deal.

Yet occasionally, all her resolution would fracture into something giddy-making and light. On a spring trip to Mexico at a volcanic lake, she’d dug her hand in the ashen bottom pulled up a mound of soil, and in it, there had been a ruby—who knew from where? It winked against the darkness of the sand. “My girl!” Hans exclaimed, his blue eyes flecked with glory and wonder. It could seem, at times, tremendous like that, like the world was coughing up its very treasures for them.

There were those kinds of moments from time to time—those kinds of moments and the fact that everyone she knew was getting married; that Pauleen was nine and Rita was busy sewing name tags onto her shorts for camp; that Hans’s fiancée sent him long letters on blue parchment sheets that Francie could never translate even if she’d tried.

And Francie hadn’t wanted more really. She’d been in grad school, proud to claim an enlightened satisfaction with her own slice of Hans. But shortly before Hans was to leave the states, she’d pitched a fit over burgers and shakes, over nothing, over feeling shortchanged and small. Was it so unreasonable to stand up for yourself, to declare to the world that you wanted more? She could hear her mother’s voice: What took you so long to figure that one out?

“How dare you!” Francie had exclaimed, throwing her burger down.

“But Francie,” Hans had said in the singsong of his strained English. She’s wanted suddenly not the ring and the house and the whole gaudy future but the simple promise of waking up and knowing he’d be there. “But Francie,” he’d tried to calm her. She’d never counted on him to find the right words. Why, suddenly, now? And it was then, in a moment not exactly her own, that Francie had turned on her heel, stormed to her car, and sailed through the windshield and over a small piece of Massachusetts.

It was such a stupid story. If only she’d started out ten seconds sooner or later. If only she hadn’t gone to dinner at all. Or if only she hadn’t been the kind of person to go speeding off without a seatbelt in the first place, or to settle for the crumbs of affection of an affianced man. Put simply, Rita had said at the time, if only you’d made it to adulthood with a shred of self-esteem intact. And now, here it was—in the mirror every single morning, the inescapable fact of an overdue and botched clamoring for love.

She could hardly make herself look.

Rita’s kitchen felt suddenly too warm, full of copper pots and candlesticks, too many wedding gifts. There was a long list of emergency numbers taped to the fridge—in-laws, doctors, neighbors, and friends—a perfectly printed, ballpoint safety net. There were baskets heaped with produce and glass jars of hearty grains. And there, Francie noted, was Pauleen at the top of the spiral staircase that rose from the pantry just behind Rita’s back. She was sitting, tucked into a ball with both her knees and her arms pulled underneath her sweatshirt. She was just a face hovering over fabric like a finger puppet, wide-eyed and taking everything in. The sight of her dug a hollow in Francie’s chest, as if it were Pauleen to whom Francie owed some sort of explanation. The girl was, after all, probably the closest Francie would ever come to having a daughter of her own.

Pauleen proclaimed that she was feeling better and they decided to head for Salem so she could make up a field trip she’d missed for a history project. Pauleen had dolled up a little for the outing and she smelled exactly the way Francie remembered eleven-year-old girls smelling: sticky sweet and fruity, with strawberry bubblegum, strawberry lip balm, strawberry shampoo.

It was a Friday, still before noon, and the roads out of town were roomy and quick. The ramp up to the Tobin Bridge, green and colossal, spiraled before them. “Is this right? This never seems right to me,” Francie said as the ramp drew a long loop onto the highway, directing them back toward the industrial terrain of the city before moving forward and past it.

She eyed the steely water of the harbor to her right and the cars zipping past. “So what’s your project on?” Francie asked Pauleen, forcing herself to gain focus, keeping her eye on the dash.

“Essex. I can pick anything about Essex County and talk about the value of remembering our own history.”

“What are you thinking?”


“You can’t just go to the gift shop,” Rita warned Pauleen in the rearview mirror. “You can’t just get the cauldron of candy. You’ve got to actually do the tour.”

“I know,” Pauleen rolled her eyes. “This land is your land, this land is my land,” Pauleen began singing suddenly and then left off. She turned to make sure the lock was depressed and then leaned against the door to read The Babysitters’ Club.

Salem lay just sixteen miles north of Boston, but Rita took the route that was slow and curvy, cutting through the suburbs that spread up from the city. They passed tremendous barnlike houses, the windows small and pinched in the boxy structures, reminding Francie of perplexed-looking children, children whose eyes seemed lost in the great space of the face. It was amazing, she thought, how the language of the eye was the same as the language of the galaxies: the globe, the medical term for the eyeball; the orbit, the bony socket that keeps the eyeball in place; the pupil, the body’s black hole—everything seen left to swarm in the chaos of the body’s deep space.

“Well, I spoke to my mother,” Rita said. “She has a surgeon all picked out for you, the son of one of her cronies.”

“For love or reconstructive surgery?”

“You’re a real charmer,” Rita said.

“I wish you’d leave me alone.”

“I’m just suggesting you be open.”

“I’m open. I’m open.” The last man Francie brought home, up the tiny steps to her house had been a cop—a rookie. He’d doted on her scars, tongued his way along them. Brave man he was! He had kissed the many seams of her cheek before rolling over to sleep facing the wall. Francie had slipped out of bed to sit on the small deck of her cottage, giant redwoods closing in around her. High above she could see just a perfect circle of sky, as if she were looking out from inside a canon, ready to be launched at the glowing face of the moon. “Besides,” she said to Rita now, “Are you trying to make me feel better or is this actually about you?”

The car was quiet for a moment, the peculiar kind of quiet Francie most often experienced when walking into the girls’ bathroom at school and even the breeziest conversation would cease. Francie gave those teenage girls encouraging little smiles—how pathetic and kowtowing she could be!—as if seeking from them some moment of grace and tacit recognition that she was more like them than not, and had also once expected the world.

In the back seat Pauleen played with the window control, sealing off and letting in quick bursts of cold air. “You should move here,” she said.

Francie looked out the window to the gazebo on a Main Street green where a woman was bandaging the beams with purple ribbon and securing it in place with a staple gun.

“Maybe.” Francie doodled with her finger in the felt of the front seat, drawing and undrawing the same concentric circles, turning them outward, and turning them in.

It was hazy in Salem, the streets empty and parking plentiful. Rita picked up a map at the visitors’ center and passed it to Francie. “Guide us.”

Francie breathed deeply and closed her eyes. She absorbed calm, swelled with it, as if it were humidity. “Do you know what they call the painted red line on the sidewalk?” read Francie from the map. “The Heritage Trail. The great Heritage Trail of Essex County links two wax museums and a pirate memorial, among other attractions.”

“What’s that, then?” Pauleen pointed to the green witch painted in the street.

Francie checked the map, “That’s just where you get the mini-mall shuttle.”

At the Salem Witch Museum they took a tour of the wax reenactments chronicling the witch trials of 1692. Along with a scattering of others, Francie, Rita, and Pauleen gathered around a nine-foot circle which was inscribed with the names of the dead and glowed red on the floor, like a portal to hell the size of a kiddie pool. There were thirteen dioramas representing the afflicted young girls—life-size! in wax!—frozen in time forever at their worst, writing and wild-haired.

“Why are they doing that?” asked Pauleen.

“Let’s see,” Francie consulted the plaque on the wall. “Their behavior was attributed to either one of two things—ergo poisoning or simply being girls.”

A voice-over echoed through the museum, playing through speakers crackling with dust, a menacing narration of facts. Spotlights flashed in chaos around the room, highlighting the seizures and stutters of the accused. A sound track played the clap of thunder, the baying of dogs, the stiff iron slam of locked prison bars.

“Questions? Comments?” asked the witch-museum guide. She was about twenty-four by Francie’s guess, with jet black hair, a signet ring, and a silver skull dangling around her neck on a chain.

“Was everyone hanged?” Pauleen asked.

“Almost everyone.” The guide gestured with an open palm, revealing a pentagram tattooed on the inside of her wrist. “One of the accused was just pressed to death, taken out to fields and blanketed in rocks.”

Francie imagined the cold stones on her face, the weight on her gut. She imagined her muscles contracting for as long as they could before giving out, collapsing under the mass. She imagined low, pained moans barely surfacing in the mist and all the people gathered to listen and watch until finally leaving the airless body alone. Francie stared at the glowing red circle beneath her until it fell out of focus and her feet began to drown in the wash of color. She looked up to catch Pauleen staring at the ruined part of her face, following the scars with here eyes—Francie was sure—though it must have been too dark to see. It must have been.

When they stepped out of the museum, it was pouring. Rain was coming down in sheets too thick to drive through. Rita was suddenly nervous and thinking ahead, arranging the change in plans the new weather demanded. She had to check the sunroof, put money in the meter, and call Jim to say they’d be late getting back. She had always been unfailingly responsible.

“Why don’t we go here?” said Pauleen, stopping in front of the Witch’s Pot, a storefront full of ceramics, a clumsy circus of clay animals marching around a clay cauldron. She took Francie by the hand and looked at her intently. We can make pottery. We can talk.”

They sat at a muddy-looking picnic table in a chilly, fluorescent-lit room. They were rolling hunks of clay into balls and then slamming them down onto clay boards, ridding the masses of air bubbles and killing time until they felt confident enough to begin. “I might make a lidded pinch-pot,” Francie said, “You k now, like they teach you in third grade.”

Pauleen looked at her dumbly. Francie had recently read at the library that time really did move faster as you got older. It wasn’t an illusion; the nervous system changed with age, speeding your interior clock, and there was no way of knowing if it was in synch with anyone else’s. There was no way of having anyone catch up. “So,” Pauleen said. “Can I ask you things?”

“Sex things?” Francie joked. “Boy things?” The last time Francie had been alone with Pauleen was years ago, babysitting—a night of hair braiding, long division, and snacks.

“About you,” Pauleen said easily, “You things.”

Francie grabbed a clay knife from the center of the table and began slicing bits off her slab. “You can ask me anything—about the accident or my eye. You shouldn’t have to sit there and try to be polite. You’re allowed to be curious. You might even learn something.”

Pauleen picked up her clay pad and dropped it back onto the board, picked it up again and dropped it onto its other side, lazily sculpting it into a rectangle and then mashing it flat with her fist again.

“Does the fake eye hurt, like if you get something in it?”

“No,” said Francie shaking her head. “I can feel the irritant under my lid, but it doesn’t burn or anything like that anymore.”

“Can you feel it? I mean, the glass. Is it cold?”

“Sometimes I can feel it, but only like an ache. “ She lumped her clay back together and began to roll it flat with a pin. “Mostly if I feel it, it’s just when I’m thinking about it—about the accident really—and then I can feel it in my teeth. I sort of salivate, like with nails on a blackboard.”

“Oh,” Pauleen said softly. “What about the accident? Do you remember it?”

Francie sat still for a moment and took a breath, bringing her hands to her lap before realizing she was dirtying her skirt. Instead she picked up the clay knife again and began cutting out the letters of her name.

“I remember it the same way every time I think about, but I know I’m not remember anything real. Like I remember rocketing forward—not the impact but right before—soaring toward this big, sad moose face; big, sad eyes and the fur on his face hanging in these wet little triangles from the ran.”

“But I thought it was a deer, right? Didn’t you hit a deer.”

“Right. This is just how I always remember it.” She looked at Pauleen, her big careful eyes. “I remember flying by the sad, wet moose and then I just tuck and roll. You do gymnastics. You know how you have to tuck your chin to your chest so you can roll?” Are you with me?

Pauleen nodded.

“You know how you feel the mat at each point on your body—the back of your neck, your shoulders, down along your spine, and then at your tail bone, and then you stand up on your feet. Well, I remember the tuck and then rolling out at the hospital. But if I get tired I’ll recall the moose, and the trajectory, the snap of the tuck, and then I feel like I’m rolling out wherever I am—at school the other morning, at the video store, at the supermarket, like I just rolled out one-eyed in produce.”

It was always catching up with her somehow, the accident, delivering her to any present moment. “Or right here,” she told Pauleen. “It’s like I just soared by the moose and landed talking to you. Like nothing else—not a single thing—has happened since then.”

It always came as a raw shock, wresting her out of any pleasant day. This was her life. She kept watching it happen, looking on from the side. She’d recall, in panic, the most shameful things. She had, for a moment, truly enjoyed the drama. (She’ turned on her heel; stormed to her car! Had she been so ridiculous as to have felt like a movie star?) Then she’d feel a hot flash of something and be right back in the crash, emerging yet again as disoriented and meek, not quite herself and failed.

Pauleen had rolled her clay long and then and then coiled it, rolling it along with the story, giving herself a visual aid, giving herself something to look at, as though she was afraid to look up. “I woke up with boobs this morning,” she offered. “I swear to god I did.”

Pauleen kept her eyes on her clay for a moment before lifting off her sweatshirt and reaching one arm behind her to grab at the back of the T-shirt she had on underneath. Her forearm was covered halfway up with threads, hardware, and beads. Her glitter nail polish glinted as she yanked at the fabric so it pulled taut against her brand-new breasts, which were two-tiered and as obvious as new tattoos—two small mounds, like patio anthills, each capped with a swollen nub. She began to laugh, an embarrassed defensive cackle. “They hurt.”

“That’ll stop. That’ll go away.”

“Don’t tell Mom yet,” Pauleen said, startling Francie with her new face of shame.

“I won’t.”

“Hey you’re crying,” Pauleen whispered, looking up.

Francie nodded.

“It still comes out both eyes,” Pauleen said, naked in her fascination, letting her new breasts press against her shirt as she leaned closer.

Francie pushed her hair back before dropping her hands in her lap, sitting perfectly still to let the girl look. She knew exactly what Pauleen was seeing. The first few tears traveled left across the web, then diagonally down, and then right. When those deepest lines filled, they overflowed to shallower scars, until the rivulets traversed in all ways the jagged ruts of her face. She often wondered if the scars would grow deeper, like the Grand Canyon, salt and motion eroding the left side of her to the bone. Pauleen pressed her small fingers at Francie’s face. Francie culd picture the clay from the girl’s fingertips running like silt down her skin.

Finally, Pauleen slid her thin arms around Francie’s neck, her slick ponytail sticking to the wet spots on Francie’s cheek. Francie pulled the girl close, hands pressed on her back. She could feel Pauleen’s ribs and tendons, her long thin muscles, shifting catlike under her skin. Francie inhaled, a great deep breath, her lungs light and elastic, infused with the potion of girlish smells—the promise of fresh grass, sea breeze, clean cotton, sweet fruit. “We will be fine,” Pauleen said.

When Rita returned, Francie and Pauleen were sitting on the bench by the front door. They had their coats back on and they’d already washed their hands and paid, all the evidence of their activity gone, like lovers returned from a rendezvous.

For lunch, they had steamers and chowder at Pickering Wharf and then stood in the drizzle skipping French fries across the water and out to the gulls. They watched the fishermen bring in their dilapidated boats, emptying nets of wriggling cod. Francie could hear the fish slapping against the decks. Pauleen slouched beside her and started to hum, This land is your land, this land is my land. What if, Francie wondered, she had soared past the wet moose, given it a wink, and then tucked and rolled out here. “I could do this all day,” she said to her friends, “We should do this all day.”

Merill Feitell was born and raised in New York City. She studied writing in college at UC-Santa Cruz and went on to earn her MFA from Columbia University. Her stories have appeared in many publications, including the Best New American Voices series, and have been short-listed in Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Awards. She was selected as one of Fiction’s New Luminaries in the Virginia Quarterly Review and was the Margaret Bridgman Scholar in Fiction at Bread Loaf in 2003. "And Then You Stand Up" was previously published in Merill Feitell’s first book, Here Beneath Low Lying Planes, Iowa Short Fiction Award Winner 2004, University of Iowa Press.

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