When he’d first gotten the invitation for the reunion, Danny figured no way in hell would he go back to Dalton High, but then he’d stuck the printed card on the fridge where it taunted him. Day after day, he’d look at the stupid Red Diamonds insignia and get to thinking about old times. Forty years. Where in hell had those years gone? At night, he began having bleak dreams of being lost in the school corridors, trying to find his way to a class he’d ditched all semester. During the day, youthful faces and long-forgotten names materialized in his mind at odd times, disturbing him more than the dreams. In his less-guarded moments, he acknowledged there were a couple of people he wouldn’t mind seeing, despite the fact he’d sworn never to cross the state line into Michigan again. He’d been gone a long time, long enough for the past to lie down like a bad dog too old to be vicious anymore, if no one prodded it anyway.
Occasionally over the years, he’d wondered about his buddy, John. Last Danny heard, John had some kind of kitchen remodeling business up near Traverse City that made him a pile of money. It’d be okay to see John again. He might even have work to offer. With the economy in the tank and even Danny’s bosses getting shit-canned, new job prospects weren’t good. Who else but an old friend would hire a sixty-year-old pipe fitter with a piss-ass attitude, a crap back, and a suitcase full of fuck-ups?
Once upon a time in Dalton, Danny Brewer had been king of the world. He’d had friends. John. Zach. Larry. He’d had girls. More girls than he could remember. When you played lead guitar in a band and pitched the baseball team to the state championship, there were girls. Girls who flirted, girls who threw themselves at him, girls whose names were lost in time. He tried to be decent to them, but there’d only ever been one he fell for. Vicki. His pulse still quickened when he thought of Vicki, with her long blond hair and those all-the-way-to-heaven legs every guy in school had fantasies about.
Danny pulled the invitation off the fridge, wrote out a check he hoped wouldn’t bounce, and mailed it before he could change his mind about swinging back to the old hometown.
The Thursday before he left for Dalton, his ex-wife phoned.
“We’re having a birthday party for Bree next Saturday,” Cheryl said. “Two o’clock, at the house.”
“We” meant Cheryl and her new husband, Cliff. “The house” meant the big-ass place they’d bought in the newest subdivision of Indianapolis. A place Danny couldn’t have afforded in five lifetimes. The kind of place he wouldn’t want anyway, but it clawed at him that Cheryl and the kids lived there. Danny’s family, without Danny.
“I’ll be out of town this Saturday,” he said, trying to make it sound important, like he had plans for a business meeting or an expensive vacation.
“You didn’t listen, Dan. I said next Saturday. The twenty-first, not the fourteenth. Don’t you even know when your daughter’s birthday is?”
“Cheryl, ‘next’ Saturday means the very next one, not two Saturdays from now.”
She sighed over the phone. “Whatever.” Danny imagined her rolling her eyes. Same kind of eye-roll Bree would give on the occasions she bothered to acknowledge him.
Experience had taught him how this birthday party would play out. Last year, he’d showed up as requested with a gift he couldn’t afford. He’d sat with Cliff and Cheryl on their brand new wrought-iron patio furniture, choking down chocolate cake, trying not to gawk at Bree and her friends as they cavorted in the swimming pool. Bree’s suit—a neon-green bikini with a sprinkling of rhinestones across the butt—sent bile rising in his throat. He didn’t like this new, alarming version of his daughter. A sucker-punch of longing to go back in time, back to good times with Cheryl and his young, sweet family, slammed him hard in the gut.
“So will you be there?” Cheryl asked, anchoring him in the present.
“Will Chip be there?”
“What difference does that make?”
“I’d like to see him. He’s my son.”
“Chip spends his time with his friends. I don’t know where he’ll be.”
“Okay, so other than the birthday girl, it’s just you and me and good ol’ Cliff sitting around pretending we don’t hate each other?”
“You ought to be grateful Cliff tolerates you in our house.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry. I forgot. I should be happy the rat-bastard stole my wife and kids.”
“Jesus, Danny. Give it a rest. Just show up. For your daughter.”
He hung up the phone, pissed at himself for letting Cheryl get to him again.
It took Danny four hours to drive his Escort (187,000 miles on it and plenty of rust) from his Indianapolis apartment to Dalton, Michigan. The A/C didn’t work, the motor sounded like a blender full of ice and rocks, and a little crack in the windshield had snaked its way across a two-foot span. In the rearview mirror, he could see the decal of an American flag he’d plastered to the back widow in a fit of patriotism just after 9-11. It was faded, peeling up at the corners. I pledge allegiance to the flag… ran through his head just like it did every time he saw the Stars ‘n’ Stripes. Automatic recall, drummed into his brain every day of the school year since kindergarten. Liberty and justice for all.
When he hit the outskirts of Dalton, deeper, more prickly memories crawled over his skin. His band, Sticks and Stoned. They’d been good enough to play a few paying gigs. Could’ve been a lot better, too, if he and Larry hadn’t developed a bad habit of getting so trashed they couldn’t remember what song they were doing.
School. That do-gooder teacher junior year, Miss Morris, telling him, “We are more than the sum of our past mistakes.” She’d told him that right before failing him in English, forcing him to spend the summer sweltering over Macbeth and some bullshit poetry.
Baseball. His ticket to the good life. He’d been offered scholarships, gotten letters from scouts, made plans to try out for the Tigers. Except two nights after graduation, he’d totaled his future along with the family car. Danny figured there were some people who were exactly the sum of their mistakes.
It didn’t matter how far down Memory Lane he traveled, he always ended up at that curve on South Summerville Road. They’d survived, he and Vicki, which the cops said was a miracle, though Danny didn’t think the miracle covered Vicki’s fractured pelvis or what their parents had said to him that night in the hospital. There was no taking any of it back, no making it better, but lately he’d felt maybe if he went back to Dalton there might be some way to go forward. Maybe at this reunion thing, he’d see Vicki again, though he half-hoped, half-feared she’d be there. He wanted to know if she was okay, getting on with her life, didn’t hate him too bad.
When his imagination got the better of him, he daydreamed about her being alone, too, and how they could ditch the reunion, go out for a drink. In his mind, they’d be kids again, only without two sets of parents screaming at him to stay the hell away from her, never show his goddamn face in town again, just get out.
His old man had handed him a hundred dollars. “More’n I got when I was your age. Now go earn your own living. You’ve shamed your mother, this family. Best if you stay away for a while.”
Danny didn’t blame him. He’d’ve done the same thing in his dad’s place.
At the stoplight by his old elementary school, Danny fished through the empty McDonald’s wrappers on the seat beside him until he found his Marlboros. He’d bought the carton on Wednesday, figuring it would last through the weekend, but there were only four packs left. Maybe he was smoking more than unusual. He didn’t keep track, didn’t really want to know. At the first liquor store he spotted, he bought a fifth of the cheapest whiskey they had, then he cruised through town toward his sister’s place, recalling the brief phone conversation he’d had with her.
“Hey, Sis, I was thinking of coming back for this class reunion thing next weekend. Any chance I could crash with you guys for a couple of nights?”
The silence was a little too long before she said, “We’ll be at the lake next weekend, but I suppose I can leave the key under the front mat.”
His sister lived less than a mile from the house where they’d grown up. He didn’t know her very well. She was twelve years old when he was born, and he’d been only six when she moved out of the house. Sometimes she phoned him on Christmas, but they didn’t have much to say to one another. Except for a fondness for baked potatoes loaded with sour cream, bacon, and fried onions straight from the can, the two of them weren’t much alike. For one thing, he’d gotten out of Dalton and stayed out, and for another, she’d gotten married and stayed married. The husband wasn’t much to look at. Bulgy eyes and little round ears that reminded Danny of a lemur. They had no kids, but they had a nice house in town, and a few years ago, they’d bought one of those bungalows on Maple Lake.
She kept talking, telling him to leave the front porch lights on, use the gray remote instead of the black one for the family room television, be sure to clean up after himself. Rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Put the sheets and towels he used in the laundry hamper in the basement, not the hamper in the bedroom.
Yeah, no problem, Danny’d said, doing his own Bree eye-roll. Jeez, he’d only be there overnight. He packed a couple of blankets, figuring the sofa or the floor would be fine. Way too weird to sleep in the lemur’s bed, anyway. No dishwashing, either. He’d grab food at the Burger King down the street.
The town of Dalton wasn’t much to go back to. Most folks worked an eight-hour shift at the factory, picked up dinner from a fast food place, and came home to a two- or three-bedroom bungalow with tiny windows and a carport instead of a real garage.
He parked the Ford in his sister’s driveway, got out and stretched his legs. The house was smaller than he remembered and needed a fresh coat of paint. In Indianapolis, he and Cheryl had lived in a two-story brick house with three bedrooms, an attached garage and, in the basement, a hot tub Danny’d rigged out pretty nice. He’d busted his ass putting that sucker in. Cheryl liked it for a while, but then claimed it was a pain to keep clean. Cheryl and housework didn’t get on too well. Usually, he’d come home to breakfast dishes still in the sink, wet towels left on the bathroom floor, the kids’ crap scattered where he’d step on something and catch holy hell for breaking it. She was working full time, bringing in more money than he did—which she never let him forget—but Christ on a bike, she could be a pig.
Well, that ship had sailed. Cheryl had upgraded. Cliff owned the biggest cleaning service provider in the state. Sketchy immigrants working for less-than-minimum wage and no benefits. The same people Cheryl used to wash her clothes, scrub her floors and toilets, pick up her crap. Toys. Clothes. Sports equipment. Tons of it. The demanding never ended, even after Cheryl and the kids moved out. The last time he’d seen Chip, the kid had tried to argue Danny into getting a fifty-inch flat screen HD television. Right. Perfect for the crappy studio apartment he called home these days. Danny’s side of that conversation had been simple: “No.” Useful word. Probably what he should have said to this damn reunion.
Under the “Welcome to Our Home” mat, Danny found the key. Letting himself in the front door, he was greeted by the peachy-chemical odor of plug-in air freshener. He tossed his overnight bag and blanket roll on the living room floor next to a butt-ugly red and gray plaid sofa. Knock-offs of Thomas Kincaid paintings hung on the walls, shelves were decked with country-cute figurines of cherubs in bib overalls. Danny wandered into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, squinting at an interior that yielded nothing of interest except a few bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon. He twisted the cap off one, chugged it, tossed the empty bottle and cap in the sink, grabbed a second bottle, and made his way to the sofa for a nap.
At six o’clock, he pulled into the parking lot of the VFW hall, Dalton’s standard site for weddings, parties, and reunions. He remembered the place. It was pretty easy to spot by the fighter jet parked on the side lawn. Once when he and John were nine or ten years old, they’d climbed up on the fuselage, which was fine until John fell off and broke his arm. They’d had to make up some dumbass story for the parents about falling out of a tree. The good old days. Danny chuckled to himself.
There were a fair number of cars in the lot, all of them newer and nicer than his. Danny opened the glove compartment, took out the bottle of whiskey he’d bought that afternoon. Knocking back a few healthy slugs of courage, he lit a cigarette and glanced in the rearview mirror. His too-long hair and stubbly, graying beard made him look like he’d been sleeping rough for a month. He’d been an idiot to come back here.
He glanced at the shabby exterior of the VFW. John might be in there, but who the hell else had Danny thought he’d find? Rick went off to Tibet after graduation, which was the last anybody ever heard of him. Larry got himself shot dead on a back street in Detroit. Zach drowned in Lake Huron. The sum of a few mistakes there, for sure.
Inside, the VFW was rank with mildew, stale beer, and old cigarette smoke. By the light of the neon signs at the bar, he didn’t see anyone he knew among the clot of locals nursing their bottles of Bud. They eyed him in the wary, weary way small-town locals tend to regard strangers. He looked around, his eyes adjusting slowly to the dimness. A paper banner on the rear wall read, “Welcome Dalton Class of ’74.”
Before he had to ask, the bartender said, “Party room’s through there,” nodding toward a thinly varnished plywood door at the far end of the bar. Danny imagined the eyes of the locals aimed at the back of his neck as he slipped past them.
The room was strung with little red lights, and red and black streamers had been taped to the stained ceiling tiles. Red and black—the official colors of the fighting Dalton Diamonds. They’d been the Dalton Devils until some right-wing Christian group got all worked up about promoting Satanism and the name got changed to the Dalton Diamonds. Trestle tables, decked out in red plastic tablecloths and black paper napkins, lined the walls, and black cardboard diamonds had been stuck on bud vases of red carnations on each table.
Danny, the Diamond. Right. Even back then, that sounded phony. He’d put on the uniform, pitched their team to the state championship, had a .578 batting average, and caught the eyes of half a dozen scouts, but he’d never hung out with the other players. After practice, when they all went off to do their homework, obey their parents, Danny ran with a different crowd, none of them much the type to show up for the warm and fuzzies of a class reunion.
He shook off the attitude, put his shoulders back, his head up, and went over to the sign-in table, where he recognized the two women checking off names. Both of them had gone real heavy on the makeup which did nothing to hide the fact they’d beefed up like a couple of prize heifers. Barb and Debbie. He couldn’t remember their last names, but they’d been popular. Barb half-smiled at him now, her eyes holding no sign of recognition. He had to tell her his name.
“Oh, of course.” She smiled harder before checking him off the list and handing him a printed name tag, but her eyes stayed flat.
“Hey, is John West here?” he asked.
Barb ran a long red fingernail down the list of names in front of her. “No.” She hesitated, as if she had to consider the risk of giving out privileged information. “He moved to Arizona a couple of years ago.” She kept her little smile in place, didn’t give away any hint about what might be going through her mind. Well, fine. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about her anyway. She and her friends never had been his type. He’d liked the ballsy girls who didn’t get all high-minded when he took them out road-beering, driving fast enough to catch air going over the rise on Finley Road, plinking bullet holes in mailboxes and stop signs with the gun he kept in the glove compartment. Girls like Vicki. He stepped away from Barb and Debbie feeling sixteen again, but not in a good way.
“Hey, Brewer! Hey, buddy, how’s it hanging?”
Danny turned around to see a fat, middle-aged man in a too-tight lemon yellow tee-shirt.
“Jeez, guy, it’s me. Jim. Jim Johnson.”
Danny stared at the man until the mists of time parted and he saw a resemblance to the skinny kid who drove a Pontiac GTO into the community swimming pool on graduation night. That was all he remembered about the guy, but he figured he might as well talk to someone.
“Yeah. Hey, Jim. How you doing?”
“Doing great, man. Come on, I’ll buy the first round.” Jim clapped a meaty hand on Danny’s shoulder.
Danny followed him to a table gussied up with red and black poms. Across its front, someone had taped a poster board with “BAR” printed out in black magic marker. The choices were limited: Suds came from the unlabeled keg, wine from a giant box, Poland Spring water from plastic bottles on the table. Jim handed over a few bills and they each got a red Solo cup of beer.
“This is great, huh? Seeing everybody again. A’course I live right here in town, so I see a few folks all the time.” Jim paused for a slug of beer. “Ahh. That hits the spot.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his wrist. “I took over the old man’s business. Got married, settled down. You know, the usual. How ‘bout you? What’ve you been up to?’
“Doing okay. Moved to Indianapolis.”
“Nope. Divorced two years ago.”
“Oh, hey, sorry, man. Any kids?”
“Yeah, two. Boy and a girl. Chip—he’s my son—graduating this year. Good kid. Ball player, maybe good enough for a scholarship.”
“I remember now. You were a ball player, too, right? So it’s ‘Chip’, like off the old block?”
Danny shook his head. “No. His name’s Charles. Named after my wife’s dad, but ‘Charlie’ sounded too . . . I don’t know, like a horse or a poodle or something.”
Jim looked at him like he was nuts, which was exactly how Cheryl had reacted. For a moment, the name story worked as a distraction, but then Jim went back to the heart of the matter. “Hey, weren’t you headed to the minors?”
Danny felt the sweat break out on his forehead. “Didn’t work out,” he said, raising the red cup to his mouth. Gulping the tepid suds, he watched the other man’s face. He could see the exact moment Jim remembered the wreck, the gossip and newspaper stories, the reason Danny never made the minors, never got to tryouts.
“Shit happens.” Jim looked down at his shoes, nice enough to act like he was the guilty one for bringing up the subject.
“I’ve got a daughter, too,” Danny said to break the tension. “Bree. She’ll be fifteen next week.”
“Yeah? My youngest is twenty. Makes more money than I do.” Jim, released from the awkward moment, knocked back a slug of beer. “And the older one, she doesn’t even have to work. Married a kid from Grosse Point. Family money. Yup, they’re all growed up now, but they sure were a handful when they were young. Kind of like us, eh?” His cheese-curd face grinned as he punched at Danny’s shoulder again. “I’ve got grandkids, too. Three of ‘em.”
“Yup. Life is good, right, pal?”
Danny drained his beer. He thought of a few choice remarks, of sharing Miss Morris’ sentiment, then thought better of it.
“I’ll buy this time,” he said. “If you want another?”
While their red cups were being refilled, Danny asked, “So, you ever hear anything about Vicki Johnson?”
“Yeah, sure. She’s still in town. She’s here somewhere.” Jim tipped the red cup to his lips, looking out over the rim, like he was done talking, needed someone new to boast to about his kids. Danny took the hint.
“I might just wander around, see who I see.”
Jim nodded, “Help yourself. Good to see you, man.”
Danny wandered through clusters of people who seemed no more interested in him than he was in them. He finished his beer, got a third, debated leaving, but found himself wandering deeper into the crowd of faces that were not even slightly familiar. He wondered if this was what Alzheimer’s would be like, losing every familiar connection to the world. Sometimes he thought he was already headed down that road, alienated from friends and family with only the shreds of his past to keep him company.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Danny Brewer. Haven’t seen you since forever.”
She’d come up behind him, and the sight of her, so sudden after years of imagining the moment, shook him.
“Vicki. Hey,” Danny stuttered.
Vicki hadn’t gotten fat like the others. Just the opposite. She was skeletal. She stared up at him with those eyes that were always too large for her face while he rifled through his brain trying to think what to say to her. None of the usual phrases would work. She wasn’t looking so great, and he didn’t know if it was good to see her. Besides, she’d always been able to catch him in a lie.
“Come sit with me,” she said, turning toward an empty table at the back of the room. He followed, his breath faltering when he caught sight of her lurching gait and the cane in her left hand. He tried to look away as she propped it beside the chair when she sat. Taking a seat across from her, he held his red cup with both hands, wishing he’d left when he had the chance.
He stared at her, not quite sure what was odd about her face until he noticed the smudgy mascara glommed onto her lashes and her painted eye brows. His gaze touched her hair, dulled now, its texture cobwebby. Danny felt his chest tighten again, felt his eyes sting. He coughed, cleared his throat, took a long pull off the beer.
The black sweater Vicki wore hung three sizes too large, its sleeves gaping at her papery wrists as she pulled a cigarette from her purse. He lit it for her, thought maybe he shouldn’t have, but dodged his guilt by lighting one of his own.
“So what’ve you been up to the last forty years?” she asked, blowing the smoke out the side of her mouth. Her voice was husky, familiar. He’d always like her voice. Calm and easy, not the shrill twitterings of the Barbs and Debbies.
“Bunch of stuff. Nothing, really.”
“Me, too. Twice.” She pulled a long drag off the cigarette. “Ten years with Jack Kohl, couple years with another guy from Chicago.”
“No. Wasn’t in the cards.”
Partly because he didn’t know what else to say, partly because his head was buzzing, Danny began talking. He told her about his job going south and the foreclosure on his house and the stupid flag decal that he wanted to scrape off his car window. They smoked their cigarettes down to the butts and ground them out in the aluminum ashtray. He fetched them more beer and a couple of slices of limp pizza. Vicki smoked another cigarette and picked at bits of cheese on her pizza without actually eating anything.
“My daughter, Bree, turns fifteen next week,” he said, chewing off a hunk of pizza. “I don’t know what to get her. I can’t afford the stuff she wants. Hell, I can’t even pronounce the names of some of that shit.”
He told Vicki about Cheryl and Cliff, how he’d be going to their house on Bree’s birthday.
“It’s bullshit, really. Cheryl only wants to show off the house and whatever new car they just bought. Bree won’t even notice I’m there. Chip will be out with his friends. And then there’s Cliff. The only thing thicker than his waist is his wallet. Or maybe his head.”
Under the influence of a few drinks, Danny almost felt sorry for Cliff. He sure wasn’t the brightest bulb. Didn’t he see that Cheryl wanted the house and pool more than she’d ever wanted the guy? Okay, so they had a nice place and bought a lot of stuff that Danny could never afford and didn’t want anyway. Cliff was still a dope.
As long as he was talking about himself, he didn’t have to hear about her. He couldn’t not look at her, couldn’t stop the whirring in the back of his mind that kept him jabbering on and on, saying more than he meant to reveal. Couldn’t stop wondering about mistakes made years ago when they both had smooth skin and strong bones and turning thirty was part of a galaxy far, far away.
“It’s okay,” she whispered when a dry silence had fallen between them. “I never did blame you for what happened.”
Danny felt his guts churn. The walls of the too-hot room fell away, leaving nothing substantial enough to hold him upright. He rubbed his hands over his face. “Yeah, well, that doesn’t change the fact that it was my fault. I ruined everything.”
Vicki shrugged her bony shoulders. “We both made bad decisions. It happens. Best to let it go and move on.”
Danny snorted. “Right.”
“Why are you so angry?”
“Why d’ya think?” He slurred his words, his tongue too thick and salty in his mouth.
“My sweet Danny,” she said. With her fragile fingers she clasped his callused hand. He wondered when the last time was that anyone had held his hand, or called him sweet. When was the last time he’d been offered forgiveness?
He muffled a greasy cheese belch, remembering too late the old words to live by: Beer on whiskey, mighty risky.
“How long are you in town?” she asked, still holding his hand.
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Probably not long.”
“You want to come over for dinner tomorrow? I’m a good cook, and I can sure as hell give you something better than this crap.” She flicked her free hand toward her shredded pizza.
So what was he supposed to say to that? Sure, you cook and I’ll eat and we’ll get drunk and naked and crazy. Sounds like fun. But only the word “Sure,” escaped his lips.
“Great.” She let go of his hand and scrabbled in her purse, pulling from it a pen and a scrap of paper. She wrote with the same brittle fingers that had held his, and all the while he marveled at his stupidity.
“I’d invite you back tonight,” she said, “but I’m dead tired. Here’s my address and phone number. Seven o’clock?”
“Sure.” Had that become the only word in the English language he could come out with?
He watched her rise and limp away, leaning on her cane, her clothes billowing around her emaciated frame like shadows, and told himself he would call her in the morning with some bullshit story that would mean cancelling dinner.
On the drive back to Indianapolis the following afternoon, his head throbbed and his sciatic nerve burned before he’d gotten thirty miles down the road. The aching long grayness of Interstate 65 as it narrowed into more and more nothing offered no distractions. He shifted in his seat, trying to get some relief from the fire in his right leg, and contemplated his stupidity of the previous night, which he’d compounded by not calling Vicki to cancel. The thing was, now that he was more or less sober, he wouldn’t mind seeing her again.
Being back in Dalton made him remember when the future had been such a long string of years stretching out ahead it didn’t matter if a few of them turned out badly. If the hard times had gradually out-stacked the good times, well, life was tough. Jeez, even Cheryl had said that. “Things don’t come easy for you, do they, baby,” she’d said in one of her kinder moments. As he recalled, that was just about the time she’d filed for divorce.
Goddamn, he hated this going backwards stuff. “Come on, Danny-boy, focus on the future, think about next week,” he said aloud. Bree’s birthday. What the hell could he give her? He didn’t want to show up empty-handed. He pictured himself giving his daughter a present she’d get excited about, something she’d really love. Maybe a necklace with real diamonds. Not anything too big, but enough so she could say to her friends, “My real Dad got me a diamond necklace for my birthday, and he’s talking about giving me a car next year when I turn sixteen.” That’d show Cheryl and that moron, Cliff.
Except it wasn’t going to happen that way. Cliff would be the one to give her all those things, which, Danny supposed, was good. He should be glad his kids could have the pricey clothes and iPhones and house full of flat screen TVs. Hell, Bree even had braces on her teeth since good ol’ Cliff had the insurance to cover it.
An odd thought winged its way through his head. He didn’t have to go to the damn birthday party. He didn’t have to feel bad that Chip would rather be with his friends than his dad. His kids had a life without him. His fault, not theirs. He could disappear into his past and never trouble them again. Danny pondered the sum of his mistakes and decided he’d take a chance on one more. He pulled off the highway at the Indiana-Michigan border, topped the gas tank, bought himself some strong black coffee, and turned the car back toward Dalton, toward Vicki.
• • •
Mary Driver-Thiel holds a B.A. in Fine Art and a Master of Arts in Teaching. She is the author of The World Undone (short-listed for 2013 Book of the Year by Chicago Writers’ Association) and Twelve Thousand Mornings. Her short stories have been published in various print and online magazines, including Epiphany, Halfway Down the Stairs, and Midwest Prairie Review. She is active in three writing groups in the Chicago area and enjoys speaking to real people about her imaginary friends.