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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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Free Characters

I don't like writing prompts very much, but I don't think I'd be adverse to a character or first paragraph exchange. For instance, I probably won't use this little boy, Gordon, or his father Stefan, in a story or novel for five more years, if ever. And yet here they are, clogging up space in my head. So, if someone finds something to do with them, they're yours. Just let me know how it turned out.
For Gordon’s fifth birthday, Stefan has purchased a variety of plastic models—the visible man, a three-dimensional brain with movable parts, a plastic lung, one of a shark in which you could remove plastic, brightly colored organs from its body. He hopes that Gordon will no longer try to break his own finger by bending down and stepping on it with his foot.

“I want to watch the doctor fix it, Daddy,” Gordon explained numerous times, flush from crying after a paddling, his SpaghettiOs curls of dark blond hair sweat-soaked to the sides of his temple. Stefan has also caught Gordon sticking a screwdriver in his ear and turning, his small hands wrapped around the orange plastic grip.

Stefan has asked his father, who lives one state away and is dying of stomach cancer, whether he exhibited such morbid anatomic inclinations.

"You always wanted to be a doctor,” he sighed, picking on the filter of his cigarette the way one pulls the rind off baloney. “Too bad you only became a radiology tech."

He could blame his father for this, his intellectual shortcomings. He is an incurious man who did not nurture Stefan's questions about the world’s mysteries, specifically those of the human kind. But he could also blame himself, that is, the years of listening to Rush and King Crimson in college and taking enough acid to suffer from a psychotic break between his junior and senior year that centered on whether the soul of Sharon Tate lived in his dormitory closet.