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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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My story "Your Second Left Fielder" in Barrelhouse 12

Really excited to have my story "Your Second Left Fielder" in the Barrelhouse 12, alongside great work by Roxane Gay, Amber Sparks, Tara Laskowski, Aaron Burch, and others. Unlike most of my stories, some of it is autobiographical (my brother and I did play on a co-ed Little League baseball team in the 1980s, but we were the Tigers, not the Orioles). But what else is true? Dunno.
Your second left fielder, Denise, was retarded. But only you kids would say that, and only then, because it was the 1980s. She would be 38 now, Denise, and her brother, Tommy, would insist that she be called developmentally delayed, or maybe he wouldn’t because she was done developing, physically and possibly mentally. You wonder whether Denise is a virgin. When you worked at the center for developmentally disabled adults during college, sometimes your clients would grab at their privates, rub them like they were rubbing transfers onto paper, like dogs scratching their flanks. You had to distract them with their favorite blocks or bright plume feathers or pound puppy toys but few fell for it, and you waited uncomfortably until they were finished, and then you rubbed their hands down with soap and gel sanitizer. The masturbation made them more human, though. They couldn’t speak, only grunt and cry, and many couldn’t walk, strapped instead to modified wheelchairs on rolling beds. However much of outliers they were in other areas of their lives, their insatiable drive for sexual pleasure, even as if interfered with class time, meals, and the afternoon showing of “Runaway Bride” on DVD, placed them squarely in the middle of humanity’s bell curve.

This story isn’t about Denise. She is a peripheral character. Perhaps everyone is, and that would make you protagonist. But what has changed, what challenge are you facing, really, except that you saw Dickey Richards, the pitcher on your co-ed little league team, the 1982 Eastwood Orioles, at the Exxon station?
If you want to read more, you can pick up Barrelhouse 12 here and other fine stores.