Category Archives: Short Stories

Divided Loyalties in Revenant

manzanarMy short story “Divided Loyalties” is published over in the inaugural issue of Revenant. The story was inspired by my visit to the internment camp of Manzanar and by the subsequent reading I did about life in the camp. It’s always risky to write about a culture I don’t share and experiences that are still lived reality for some people, so I apologize in advance if I have made any mistakes. I do hope that the story might encourage others to learn about this shameful moment in U.S. history … a moment that seems especially relevant right now, when prejudice and fear again threatens to undermine our nation’s ideals.

Photo Credit: Manzanar Entrance by Ansel Adams, from the Manzanar Photo Gallery

Viral Story

(I quickly whipped this up for a friend over at LJ who tagged me with “make up a fictional memory about us.” Since it’s fiction, I figured I might as well post it here on my writing blog…!)

I don’t really like to think too much about that night. We were drinking too hard, Coz, you, Jeff, and me, down on Hollywood Boulevard. Dressed in our best scrounged-from-the-closet leather and gothy lace, pretending to be vampires because “Interview with a Vampire” had just come out and we’d seen it over at the Chinese and then headed over to Gazzari’s. The club was one year from closing down, but we didn’t know that then; it was a legend and it seemed eternal at the time, kind of like a vampire itself, and you and I were there high on sexy-gay-vampire-horror (Coz and Jeff spent all evening trying to out-cool each other like Lestat, and Coz was better at it because he wasn’t afraid to flirt with Jeff, and Jeff kept getting flustered) and we had too many Long Island ice teas. I remember we were driving back through West Hollywood laughing half-scared about getting pulled over by a cop. They were all over Sunset Boulevard looking for drivers like us. Jeff and I were living in Glendale back then, I can’t even remember if we were married at the time, the marriage ended up being so short, so we veered north over to Los Feliz Boulevard to take surface streets back and decided to go to the observatory over at Griffith Park. We didn’t know it then, of course, but the observatory showed up two films after “Interview,” in “Queen of the Damned,” and when I saw it in the movie I nearly puked because the whole incident came flooding back, and my friends thought I left to go to the bathroom because the movie was so bad, which it was, but actually I just needed to rinse my face with cold water and sit under the bright bathroom lights for a few minutes to clear my head.

It was stupid, but we weren’t thinking clearly … Vermont Canyon Road is small and twisty and dark, and Coz was driving too fast up the road, doing some kind of “do you want to live forever — oh, wait, we’re vampires, we do live forever” schtick while we screamed and giggled. And then it seemed to come out of nowhere, standing in the middle of the road, and the front right side of the hood clipped it. The car jerked to the left and Coz was swearing as he tried to keep it on the road and you and I were holding each other screaming. Then the car stopped, half in the ditch, and we all piled out, shaking. You were saying, “it was a deer, it must have been a deer,” but it wasn’t the right size for a deer, it was too bipedal for a deer, and besides a deer would have smashed up the car, and we all knew it. We stood next to the car, trembling. None of us wanted to go see what we’d hit, even though we all knew we had to or else we’d never be able to look at ourselves in a mirror again. I asked, “do you have a flashlight?” and you said “maybe in the glove compartment” and Coz leaned in through the open door and looked for one, but there wasn’t anything in there but maps and things. “Well, we have to do something,” you said, and then you sat in the front seat and turned the key and started up the car again. Coz and Jeff and I stared as you backed it up and half-turned it, so the headlights lit the narrow road.

We didn’t see anything. I remember it was late November. The Santa Anas were over and the weather was almost chilly, but sweat was running down my sides under my leather jacket, the one my sister had borrowed from a boyfriend that had ended up in my closet, somehow. We kept looking around for someone else to drive up, half-afraid of being caught by a cop — God, what would happen to us then, we were all scared stiff at the very thought of it — but half-afraid of being alone if we found what we were afraid we’d find. We moved across the road in a ragged line, not touching each other, not talking to each other, as if afraid what one of us might say if we actually started to talk.

I think you were the one who found the body, a dark shape half-hidden by scrub. Your voice was shaking as you said, “Look, what’s that?” We all froze, then started to head in your direction. I felt sick, all the alcohol coming back up, thinking about the end of my grad school career and a jail sentence, but worst of all imagining what I’d say to my family, who’d be so disappointed in me for doing something so stupid.

I only caught a glimpse of the shape. We were just getting closer when all the sudden it twisted. Dry sage brush snapped under it as it moved and someone gave a short shriek, I don’t know who. I was scared, I’ve never been that scared before; it was moving so fast and so … well, you remember. I was drunk and maybe I was imagining things, but I don’t know, it seemed to move more like an animal than a human, but I don’t think it was an animal, not really. So it sprang up and turned its head and there was a flash of yellow-green from its eyes when the headlights caught them, and then it plunged away into the bushes. We heard this crashing sound, breaking branches and crunching underbrush, and for a moment we could follow its passage in the movement of the branches, ghost-white and flat-looking in the headlights, until it passed into the darkness. And all the while it was making that horrible high-pitched whining sound. We’d hurt it, I’m sure of it. The noise, and the dark smears on the branches where it had been thrown when we hit it. Sometimes I still hear that sound in my nightmares, and I wake up sweating and need to turn on the light to remind myself that I’m inside and safe.

We stood in silence for a long time. Then we just kind of headed back to the car without saying anything. Earlier Coz and Jeff had sat in the front and you and me in back, but now we paired back off again, you and Coz in front and Jeff and me in back, but none of us said anything. We sat there a long time until Coz turned the car around and we headed back down to Los Feliz Boulevard. By the time we got to my apartment and turned on all the lights it was like we’d made some kind of promise never to talk to each other about it. Jeff and I never did, even when things got bad between us, and sometimes I wonder if that night was part of the problem, even though there was a lot of other stuff going on, too. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing about that night now, here, but so much has changed since then that maybe it’s okay, and you asked me to write about a shared memory between us, and this is the most vivid one I have, even though it’s not one you probably wanted to hear.