Story Shots

Story Shots: Silence

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Sometimes the most terrifying thing isn’t what you hear, but what you don’t hear. Silence can be tranquil and peaceful, but often what breaks that silence isn’t something we wish to be greeted with. For October’s Story Shots, we asked our writers to tackle silence and this is what they came up with.


“I don’t think it’s natural.”

“What isn’t?”

“The silence.”

“Let me see,” the doctor said in a heavy accent as she pulled her chair close to me. I had small ear tubes or something, which made me prone to ear infections all of my life. If I got any sort of cold or sinus infection, an ear infection wasn’t far behind.

“I think there’s a blockage,” she said as the warmth of the light made my ear slightly uncomfortable. I sat there in jeans and a t-shirt on the doctor’s table while my little sister sat in the room with me. I didn’t want her to be afraid of doctors, so I took her into simple examinations like this with me. I thought it was good to teach her not to be afraid by showing her not to be afraid.

“I think it’s just my inner ear being swollen,” I offered. This wasn’t my usual doctor. I had an HMO—Kaiser Permanente, so really, I never had a usual doctor. I had whoever was on at the time at whatever hospital I happened to stop at.

“No no no, it’s a waxy buildup,” she insisted.

I hesitated, “I’ve never had that before, but I’ve had ear infections all of my life. I have small tubes and I get them frequently when sick.”

“Trust me” she said as she fetched a long blue plastic stick with a loop at the end. “I’m just going to pull this wax right out and your hearing will be fine again.”

She had me sit still while she fished around my ear with the long blue noose until she hooked what she wanted.

“I don’t think that’s wax; I can feel that,” I said as she yanked.

Blood started to pour out of my ear.

“Oh!” she exclaimed as she got up to fetch something to catch all of the blood.

My sister recoiled and started to cry, “Manda!”

“Fucking shit,” was all I could say as I felt the warmth of the blood from my ripped eardrum sliding down my neck.

The doctor pressed some cotton to my neck and then left the room. Another doctor came in to look at my ear.

“It’ll just need to heal. Here’s a prescription for amoxicillin for your ear.” He handed me a piece of paper. The thing I wanted in the first place instead of the bloody and ripped ear drum.

The silence in my left ear lasted for months as it healed. It never fully recovered due to some scarring from the ripping itself. And, to boot, my sister was now terrified of doctors. And, to be honest, so was I little, now that they had ruined my dreams of being a recording engineer.

How could I mix music if I couldn’t hear it?

– Amanda Riggle


The headboard presses at the back of my skull as I close my eyes and sink into it. For a while, it’s just me, alone in my basement bedroom. I imagine my brother sleeping across the hall, his arms stretched out. The hair on his forehead slick with sweat—the musty scent that is teenage boy in the air, sticking to his sheets. And my mother, in the room above me, face-down on her king-sized bed, her thin hair a halo, her deep snores a lullaby. My sister and her newborn son in my old room. His body rigid. “Relax,” his brain screams, but his muscles don’t listen.

My body screams “sleep,” but my mind won’t listen. In the darkness, I begin to hear voices—muffled, but familiar. I open my eyes and walk to the door. I open it, peer around the corner. Left to right. Right to left. The house is dark and silent, but in the distance, a man laughs. His voice is raspy and high. I quietly close the door.

“Matt,” I call, but there’s no answer. Padding back across my bedroom, back to the bed, I dig my knees into the mattress, lean over, and draw back the curtains. Outside my window is a sea of black, but a woman stares back at me. Her short, brown hair curls away from her face, round and grey as the moon. I lean closer, pressing my skin against the cool pane until she disappears. I squint, trying to make out the landscape of our backyard, the weeds overtaking the flowerbed, the glow of the street lamps lining the freeway behind our fence. The window pane vibrates as a semi passes. The thin walls shake. My world is blue, and there’s no one it.

Back in bed, I reach for the phone on the nightstand. I dial his number with shaky fingers.

“Are you here?” I ask.

“I’m at home,” Matt answers.

Story Shots: Police

Story Shots

We’ve all had some sort of interaction with the police. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting pulled over and getting a ticket or, especially with the news as of late, seeing police misconduct on television. When our writers were asked to use the word police as their inspiration for this month’s Story Shots post, a vast array of interaction came forth ranging from childhood memories to America’s interaction with ISIS.


Our relationship started out with a lie. He taught me some truths, too. He knew the most effective way to tell a lie was to paint it with little flecks of truth.

“Marijuana is a dangerous drug, children. It’ll get you addicted. It’s a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs. If you think pot is okay now, later you’ll be doing cocaine. It’s a fact.” He’d tell us in D.A.R.E. class in sixth grade.

I learned to lie back. He caught me on the streets after curfew when I was 13.

“Where are you going?” he asked as he flashed a light over my face.

“Home.” Here came that lie. It rolled off of my tongue so easily. I wasn’t intimidated by him, nor by his flashlight.

“Where do you live?”

I looked up at the street sign. “Right here. On Homer Street. I got into a fight with my friend at a sleepover.” I looked sad. Sad was easy to fake.

“Alright, do you need a ride to your door?” He followed up.

“No, I’m less than a block that way.” I smiled.

He let me go.

I ran into him a year later when I was ditching class. I was never a good kid in grade school or in junior high, and I continued my bad habits into high school. I was a freshman ditching class. He caught my friends and I on some railroad tracks that ran under a freeway by the Westminster mall, back behind what used to be a Super Best Buy. He chased us. We ran.

I fell into some bushes. I cut up my leg pretty badly but I sat there, silently, hoping to not be caught. He passed right by me.

The next time I saw him, he fucked me. I ran into him at a bar when I was 22. He had a clean-shaven head and piercing blue eyes. He was tall and muscular. I’m sure he was the spitting image of a thousand romance novel fantasies, and he was mine that night.

We went back to his place. There was no pretense of coffee. There was no awkward moment at the door. We went straight into his bedroom and he pinned me against his door the moment it clicked shut. His lips pressed against mine. They were hungry.

We stripped each other and got into bed. He pulled a condom from his nightstand.

His whole body was hard. His chest was rippling. His abs were well defined and glistening with the sweat from the labors of our passion. He ass was perfectly sculpted with little dimples above where his cheeks met his thighs.

The sex was violent and angry. He wielded a weapon at work with an air of authority and he did the same in bed. I was thrown around. I was held down. I was going to be sore for days. It was fantastic.

He has a violent streak. We all have it, but he has the chance to wield it, and wield it often. He makes the news for it. He terrorizes low-income communities with it. He protects the wealthy and affluent with it. He keeps the status quo in order and doles out a corrupt justice that sometimes goes mad.

He pulled a gun on me once. I was driving and he thought I was someone else. I’d never had a gun drawn on me before. I’d been stabbed on accident, by a classmate with a pen. I’d been cut with glass. I’d been punched. I’d been kicked in the chest in a mosh pit. But a gun was a new thing to me. It was scary. He wanted me to pay attention and I did. I was. He let me go. He never apologized.

He’s never been there for me, except for that one night he fucked me. When I called him to find the drunk driver who hit me at the age of 28, he did nothing. He filed some paperwork. He never followed up. When my car was sideswiped by a semi-truck at the age of 29, it took him 45 minutes to help me get off the side of the road. He never bothered to look for that semi.

Our relationship is strained. What else can a relationship be when it’s started on lies? The man and I, we’ve known each other for a long time. And I don’t trust him.

– Amanda Riggle


Great, it’s that time again. Look, I’m not ignorant to police brutality. How can I with the footage I have been presented with? Beatings by baton, pepper spraying peaceful protests, murdering the mentality disabled… I am not ignorant. But I wish the same could be said for the opposing side. My dad is a retired deputy sheriff. In order to spend more time with his only step-daughter, me, he decided to take night shifts and work in the jails. Every night he went to work, I knew that could he could be injured… or worse. And every day he came home, the bags under his eyes were heavier and he was exhausted. I have always been proud of my dad, and always appreciative of the work he does. But not every is. I have been told that my dad was a pig, that I should go fuck myself, that they intended to harm him. I often lost friends and became a target of ridicule, but I never stopped being proud of my dad. My dad did not beat inmates, he did his best to treat them like the people they are. My dad never pepper-sprayed anyone, he always tried to talk things out calmly. And my dad has never killed anyone because he has never had to draw his firearm. I wish more policemen were like him, that more people would realize the good policemen try to enforce, that people would stop being derogative towards all cops. And I in no way feel that we should stop having discussions about police brutality because it does exist. But maybe the news could strike a balance between the injustices committed and the righteousness upheld? Maybe the media could accept responsibility for the general hatred they have cultivated in the masses? Maybe we can stop saying “Fuck the police. Fuck them ALL!” Maybe. But probably not.

– Nicole Neitzke


Story Shots: Vodka

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Story Shots started off as an ode to tequila—that golden liquid that impairs us so perfectly. While tequila seemed to be a party liquid that made us think of margaritas and concerts, vodka has a very different relationship with our writers. Vodka for some is a social lubricant, but for others, it has a much darker connotation.


“Are you from Los Angeles? You look like you’re from Los Angeles,” he said.

“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult,” I replied, taken aback by his strange, intuitive remark. “How did you know?” I asked.

“You look like you put thought into your outfit for tonight,” he replied with his voice flat.

Your outfit looks premeditated, too, I thought to myself. He wore an Arab keffiyeh around his neck, a black and white checkered scarf, and a thin layer of eyeliner beneath his eyes with his hair perfectly coiffed to the side.

I shifted my body from the awkward tension.

“Again, I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult.”

“It’s an observation. See, that’s exactly what I mean. People from Los Angeles are always worried about what people think, or what they mean. Who gives a fuck? I used to live there. That’s why I moved here.” He glanced around the San Franciscan apartment and returned his eyes to mine, as if summing up his statement. I didn’t see the conversation going anywhere further. Wherever he was, I didn’t want to be. He had a point that I didn’t want to mull over, in fear of losing my buzz.

I walked into the next room, which was supposed to be the dining room. Instead, the oak dining table had been converted into what looked like a mountainous collection of red Solo cups.

Someone whispered into my ear, gently tingling the soft fuzz around my skin. When I turned to admire my boyfriend, I was abruptly startled by the crass voice of one of the roommates making an announcement: “Seriously, no one wants to fucking play?”

“What are we playing?” said my boyfriend.

“Oh! So you’re in! It’s just like beer pong. You know the rules of beer pong, right?”

“You just throw the ping pong ball into the cups?” he replied.

“Yeah, sorta. Except we’re using vodka.”

I chimed in, “Vodka? Are you kidding me?”

“We don’t have enough beer. The cups are empty. No one wants to drink from a cup with some nasty ping pong ball that just fell on the floor. You score, we remove the cup and drink a shot of vodka. You can chase it, if you’d like.”

I looked around the room, spotting my flattering, yet undercutting scarf-wearing friend, and shrugged, “Alright. I guess I’m in, too.”

“She’ll drink for my shots!” declared my boyfriend.

Again, I shrugged the declaration off, assuming we were in the game to win it.

He missed the shot. In fact, we both missed all the shots. The other team, like some dauntless heavy weight champions made every single shot and I, as a result of poor ping pong throwing skills, drank all the vodka. In the morning, my nineteen year-old frame laid stiff on a deflated air mattress due to my inability to figure out how to use the air pump in my drunken stupor. I managed to stand up, twisting my back from side to side, becoming increasingly nauseous with each movement. I stopped, seemingly, while the room kept moving. And when the room settled and I was on the brink of hating myself for venturing out with enough brazen confidence to play a vodka-pong tournament, I inhaled and thought to myself, “Who gives a fuck?” Then, all sudden-like, that rumbling feeling, like an internal landslide, loosening age-old gravel, free from it’s tightened and rigid past. A moment of invigoration. All at once. And then I puked.

–Lauren Sumabot


I was nineteen. I shouldn’t have been drinking, so my drink of choice at the costume party was simply vodka and cranberry juice. The party wasn’t very intense—it was a bunch of twenty-somethings, plus one nineteen year old, drinking and watching scary movies. That all changed when there was a knock at the door. The party had officially been crashed.

These uncostumed men were older and cousins of someone living across the street. I was dressed like an angel—irony, I thought, because of my atheism. It wasn’t a sexy angel, either. I was wearing a long white robe, sandals, and wings.

After my third drink, I had to pee. I went to the downstairs bathroom only to find it occupied. That was fine. I wandered upstairs. One of the men followed me up while the rest of his crew stayed downstairs and turned the music up.

I was a little fuzzy, so as I was washing my hands I splashed a bit of cold water on my face and looked up. I was makeup-less. I was wearing a baggy white sack. I was there with my bros. The night was a little scary with the new additions to the party, but they weren’t bothering me any so I was fine. Or so I thought.

I opened the door and he pushed me back into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

“Hello,” I said, confused.

“You’re pretty,” the drunk, probably thirty year old, said.

“Thanks, I guess,” I replied as I went past him and to the door to unlock it and leave.

He pinned me against the sink counter and tried to kiss me. He started clawing at my chest.

“No,” I breathed.

He ignored my words and my struggle and continued to try to kiss me. I wiggled out of his grip and walked towards the door again. This time he pushed me into the large bathtub. I continued to push him off of me and fight his advances. As I struggled against his large body, I felt it. His gun. He was armed.

He didn’t reach for it, though. Maybe he didn’t remember that he had it. Maybe he genuinely thought I was playing hard to get and he wasn’t trying to rape me. I got away once again and got to the door before him. I ran downstairs. He followed, casually, and found his friends had left.

“You missed it!” my friends cried.

“What?” I said while eyeing the man that had assaulted me in the bathroom.

“Dude, the cops came and one of the crashers pulled a knife on him. The cop slammed him down and arrested him. The rest of the guys left.”

“Fuck,” said my assailant. He walked out the front door.

I took off my wings and sat on the couch. I stared at my sandals.

–Anonymous


Story Shots: Fireworks

Story Shots: Fireworks Our monthly column featuring creative nonfiction from our contributors—stories so short you can read them in the amount of time it takes to drink a shot.

When I think of July, one thing comes to mind: fireworks. July is a month that is full of barbecues, beer, family, and fireworks. Americans love to celebrate Independence Day by playing with mild explosives after probably a few too many hot dogs and Bud Lights. So for this month, we asked our writers to create a story shot with the inspiration of fireworks.


“I don’t want to see fireworks. None. I’m too mad at America today.”

“Okay,” he replied.

“And I don’t want American food, either. No cheeseburgers – in fact, fuck cheeseburgers.”

“Got it.”

He listened to my stupidity so well. He shared my anger, I think, or at least he let me vent it. The Fourth was not a day of celebration for me; indeed, the fireworks depicting independence and sovereignty were lost in irony to me. Earlier that week, the Supreme Court had ruled that corporate religious rights outweighed individuals rights of free choice and privacy when it came to medical treatments. The night before the Fourth, the Supreme Court had extended this decision to include not just Christian for-profit companies, but non-profit companies as well.

I showed up downtrodden. He gave me a smile and we went inside. Nothing was red, white, and blue. We sat and watched Blazing Saddles and then grabbed some Indian food for dinner. Later that night, we both comforted his dogs through the loud bangs that echoed in the dark. For a bitter, sad lefty like me, the night was perfect.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but see fireworks going off in the air. They sparkled, but I saw no reason to acknowledge their shinning. I lost the awe and wonder of shiny things long ago, and instead of being dazzled by the brief and wondrous flash of chemicals burning up the night’s sky, leaving behind a pollutant tail of ash, I saw the burnt up cinders of freedoms and rights we had fought so hard to win not too long ago being blown away on a wind bellowing in the wrong direction.

– Amanda Riggle


When I arrived at George’s house, I pulled down the mirror and checked my makeup, spreading more balm on my chapped lips. They were at the park down the road, waiting for the fireworks to go off, and I was late. I had tried on my entire closet before settling on a gauzy, tie-dyed top and a pair of jean shorts. I made it half way out the door before realizing I had forgotten to shave. I stared down at my legs, where a thin layer of hair had begun to sprout. “Shit,” I muttered. Now, as I walked down the hill, I rubbed my ankle against the smooth skin on my calf, casually trying to get rid of the itching sensation that had begun to spread across my legs.

When I saw him, my heart began beating so loudly I could feel it rattling in my skull. My breath came in sharp puffs. I tried to summon the rhythmic chanting of my yoga instructor, breath in and out. Or was it out and in. I no longer remembered. Half the time, I lay curled up on a mat at the back of the classroom—the dark, musty atmosphere lulling me to sleep. They were headed in the opposite direction, and when he saw me, his lips curled into a smile. His sharp canines spilling over his full lips.

“Leaving already?” I asked as I joined them.

“George forgot the whiskey,” he said, lightly punching his friend’s arm. Later, the night grew foggy and dense. Ice clinking in a glass. Billiard balls smacking into one another. My torso bent over the green cloth as I closed one eye and aimed, his palm resting, for a moment, on my hip as he passed behind me. And later, spilling onto the carpet, together, because the bed we shared creaked too loudly under our weight. It was the first time I missed the fireworks. I could hear them, the high-pitched whistle as they shot into the air. The crackling, staccato explosions as they descended, their willowy branches dissipating as they reached the earth. I was nostalgic for them, even then. It felt like I was turning my back on something, leaving it behind like my belief in the tooth fairy or Santa. Like my belief in God.

– Melanie Figueroa


Story Shots: Shooting for the Stars

People are as unique as snowflakes. It’s really true – even twins have variance in their fingerprints. When I assigned “Shooting for the Stars” as the topic for this month’s Story Shots, I expected a bunch of stories about reaching for goals and either obtaining them or falling short. What I got back from our writers surprised me. They were brilliant and their stories were riveting, and while some stuck with the idiom theme, some writers were wildly interpretive and redefined the idea of shooting a star.


“Who would see a movie about this? I mean really, its just a bunch of shots of a Lohan-look-a-like and Franco reading her Salinger.”

“Sh! He could hear you and then we’re out of jobs!” The set was bustling with stage hands powdering the red-head’s face until she looked like porcelain and draping the sheets on the bed so it looked liked it had been used, but only for sleep. Not sex. Never sex. He definitely did not have sex with that woman.

“Director on the set!” Mr. Franco saunters into the studio, crooked smile cracking his face permanently, and glances at the carbon copy.

“Her hair isn’t nappy enough.” He waves his hand, and more stage flies buzz around her, tugging and pulling at her hair.

“Better. Okay everyone lets get started. Now Lindsay…”

“Her name is Amber.”

“Excuse me?” Franco turns on the camera man, glaring at him with his dead eyes.

“The actress’s name? It’s Amber.”

Franco breaks his face again by stretching his grin. “Well here she’s Lindsay now isn’t she?” He puts his hand up to silence the camera man’s protest and turns to the woman on the bed. Not in it. Never in it. He did not sleep with her. “Now, Lindsay,” he stresses, “are you ready to perform the scene?”

“Yes, I’m ready.”

“Okay, let’s get started. You ready camera man?” He lowers his hand.

“Sure,” the camera man replies, holding back his disdain.

“Good. Get off the bed and enter the door. The dead bolt will be on, so you need to press your face in the crack to deliver your line.”

The clone exits the set and waits at the door. Franco lays out on the bed, pulling up his pajama bottoms so that his dick was faintly outlined. He glares at the camera man through the lens. “Ready?” The camera man counts down, and then “Action!” The red-head opens the door until it catches.

She pushes her face in the crack “Open the door, you bookworm punk blogger faggot.”

“Cut!” Franco jumps to his feet and places his hands tersely on his hips. He shakes his head as he unlocks the deadbolt and looks his Lindsay duplicate in the eyes. “You see, you sound mad. Angry. What you need to sound like is like you want me. Like you need me inside of you.” Her eyes flutter as she apologies and promises to get it right the next take. “Actually, let’s take a break.”

“A break?! We just did one take!”

Franco returns his harden glance to the camera lens, though the camera man was standing next to it. “I’m the director and I say we need a break.” He turns back to Lohan and gently takes her hand. “Want to go grab some lunch? There is this diner by my hotel room I’ve been meaning to try.” As they left the studio, the crew knew that he was going to sleep with her. Actually fuck her. He did have sex with her. “Okay, let’s break down the set.”

The camera man spins around. “What, you don’t think he’ll be back?”

“Oh hell no, he’s done for the day. This is what happens when you shoot movies for the stars.”

By Nicole Neitzke


That old saying, “nobody is perfect” – ain’t that the truth. In fact, no one is anywhere near perfect because sometimes life throws some crazy shit in your way and despite your best efforts or talents or hard work, the opportunities are simply not there. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try. Sure you might fail, but you absolutely need to try your hardest for what you really want in life because, well, it is what you want out of life that is important.

I realized that I wanted to be a teacher about the time that I entered high school. I had some pretty kick ass mentors that gave me a quality education. Someone gave this poor little Mexican boy a chance to succeed and I wanted to take that opportunity and show the world that I could pay it forward to several generations of students by encouraging them, motivating them, and showing them that they had potential to be somebody in life. I wasn’t going to be just a teacher, oh no. I was going to be the teacher.

Story Shots: Shotgun

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There’s something so Americana about the riding in the front passenger’s seat of a car. For me, movies like Grease pop into my head and I see all the greasers at the drive-in. For others, riding shotgun invokes memories of childhood, riding alongside their parents on road-trips or sitting alongside a friend during their first time driving as a licensed adult. Like our other pieces of short creative nonfiction, these stories are uniquely our own yet share a common theme. We invite you to read our tales, and add your own to the comments below.


“Shotgun!” She yelled. That meant that I was in the backseat. Her new boyfriend was driving. He was a friend of both of ours before they started dating; he was also a really nice guy. I had just gotten hired at my first job. We were all going out that night to celebrate. I got into the backseat, behind the passenger’s seat, and we were on our way. We were about a block from my house when we were rear ended in an intersection. It had happened so quickly and unexpectedly that not one of us looked back to see the car that had hit us pull back into the intersection, change directions, and drive away. No one pulled over to see if we were okay. I was dazed. “Are you guys alright?” the driver asked. “I think so,” his girlfriend replied. “I think I broke your passenger seat headrest with my head,” I replied as I looked at the damage. It was definitely bent in a way it shouldn’t have been bent. His girlfriend was leaning against the window instead of the headrest, at least, so I didn’t hurt her with my big, thick, seat-breaking skull. “Is your head okay?” he asked as he turned around to see if I were more damaged than his car. “Just a little stunned, I guess,” was my reply. We didn’t call the cops because we didn’t want his car insurance to go up. We were young and stupid and not sure how to proceed with these kinds of incidences. The only real damage to his car was a dented bumper, and the shock the three people inside the car were in didn’t register with any of us. We went to the mall that night and I spent my first paycheck on posters. Let me repeat that: I spent $75 on posters – really shitty posters from Spencers. I probably should have spent that money on an emergency room visit to make sure my head was okay. In the morning, we found that Mindy, the woman driving, had left an imprint of her vanity plate on my friend’s bumper – 5MINDY5. We called the cops then, but they told us because we didn’t report the hit and run at the scene of the accident, there was nothing we could do. We just had to live with our sore necks and the fact that Mindy is a bitch.

By Amanda Riggle


I called shotgun in case I had to take my shirt off. It seemed safer. The name of the game escapes me, but it involved risk and the removing of clothes—it screamed “I’m sixteen” and “Fuck you, Dad.” We watched the streetlights as the car neared the intersection, waiting for a flash of yellow. The boys waiting for the sight of bare skin and the girls waiting to be seen. I sat, spine leaning forward and hand clutching the door handle. The light turned. “Slow down,” it said. I slapped the ceiling with the back of my hand, hearing the loud thuds of the others who followed. I always had quick reflexes. Bunny rabbit girl.

A month earlier, we played battle of the sexes in health class. The girls lost in every category, except for reflex. The teacher dropped the yardstick above the empty space between my thumb and fingers. And the bunny rabbit girl closed her fist before she could remember to hold her breath. You had to move fast.

Stacy took off her top and threw it in my lap, the soft cotton brushing against my thigh. Her hand was the last to hit. And he draped his arm against the back of my seat, his fingers delicately wrapping around my shoulder. He was leaving tomorrow. To a college in another state. I figured, what better way to say goodbye.

By Melanie Figueroa


He looked nervous as he dropped me off at my car. He was twiddling his thumbs on his steering wheel. He unbuckled his seatbelt as I struggled to figure out a way to carry all my books. I like books, and I had bought too many from a used book store out in L.A. He offered to drive because I didn’t want to drive. We had had dinner together. It was a good night. I just didn’t know if it was a date. I can never tell. Do I make him too nervous to make a move or is he just not interested in me like that? I’m not pretty. I’m not skinny. I’m not quiet. I’m not the usual girl guys pursue. I know that. But I’m also a great friend. My default mode with everyone is to treat them like a new best friend. I smiled as I tried to jam another book into my bag. It wouldn’t fit. It looks as if my hands were pretty full. He looked over at me and shot me a nervous smile. I smiled yet again. We smile at each other a lot. Is that flirting? He made a motion like he was going to get out of his car, but I panicked. “You can give me an awkward car hug,” I offered. “Oh, okay,” he said, gave me another smile, and wrapped one arm around my shoulders as I sat in his passenger seat. I blew it. I think?

By Amanda Riggle


Story Shots: Espresso

StoryShot

I can’t take coffee black. I can’t stand a small cup of espresso either, but I can stand three shots of espresso in my chai tea lattes. We all have a connection to this caffeinated wonder, the blessing and bane of a writer’s existence. And sometimes that connection is worth writing about.


     The glow of the screen lit up my face as trembling hands raced across key, the clanking of each push echoing through the room. I could feel my heart race as I reached my hand out. I was already on my third cup of the bitter dark liquid. It’s happened before but the richness of the contents of my cup called to me.
     I would have one cup after another knowing full well my body’s reaction to an excess of the steaming liquid—especially with the delayed affect it had on me. The stress of what I had to do, and what I gauged to be the long night ahead of me, drove me to that third cup. But I always over think and over estimate what I’m doing and how long it would take to get to that finish line. And as always, I gave in to the third cup.
     That night as I lay in bed, the clanking of the keys a long forgotten sound, my heart continued to race. It beat a rhythm that would make me think I just ran a marathon if I didn’t witness myself give in to that third cup. And as always—after coming down from my post third—cup, freak-out over my racing heart—I cursed that heavenly liquid we all know as coffee.

By Tiffany Shelton


     As a teenager, my mother would drive me to school each morning. My brother and I would pour into the car, late, as a rule. It took several attempts on my mother’s part to lull us out of our warm beds. She never set an alarm for herself, like the one she set for the coffee maker, and as a child, I wondered at this, chalking it up to one of those superpowers mothers have—like the ability to find missing socks or make turkey sandwiches that somehow tasted a million times better than any I could produce. She’d pour the steaming liquid into a large, round mug and sip from it as she herded us around the house, fixing her hair or placing her heels on her powdered feet. Some days, I’d sit in the car, the air inside chilled over night, and warm it up. She’d hurry, mug in hand, out of the house, and inside the car, she’d try, each time, to make it fit into the cup holder—the cup’s handle clinking against the plastic. I’d reach out and take it from her hand—occasionally daring to taste it. I always thought coffee had to be bitter. I thought this of beer too, once. And wine. At twenty-three, I can finally appreciate the taste—of coffee and early mornings.

By Melanie Figueroa


Story Shots: First Kiss

First Kiss Banner

Love hits us all differently, and firsts are sometimes the most painful memories to recall. Firsts are the memories that never leave you. I remember the first time I got into a fight in grade school. I remember the first time I split my lip open playing softball. I remember my first day at both of my high schools. I remember my first car accident. I remember the flow of blood when I got my first stitches. Firsts live on in our memories well after our first times have passed. This is why Cupid is a little bastard. No one ever has a good first memory of getting shot by his arrow. No one has a good first love.


NicoleThumbnailIt was bland. Dead lips and cold fingertips bland. He was a womanizer and I just a girl naïveté. My friend accompanied us to the movies as a clever cover, but became an added bonus for his teenaged testosterone. Arms around us both, he complained of an ouchie on his hand, which I kissed away. Then his shoulder and neck, and finally, his lips. It was a peck. Plain pursed lips with a pop. And that was it for me. He turned to my friend and kissed her too. Her last name was Bland.

By Nicole Neitzke


AllisonThumbnail Thinking back, I still remember how giddy I was whenever he was in the same room, or when someone mentioned his name. We were in my parents’ garage on a warm, October Friday night when he asked me to be his girlfriend. I said, “yes.” Of course I wanted to be his girlfriend. Nothing would make my sixteen-year-old self happier than to hold his hand between Biology and History; the classrooms were on opposite sides of our enormous high school campus. He went in for the kiss: my first kiss. I panicked and turned my head so he kissed the side of my face, just where lips end and cheek begins. I was mortified. I joked it off and said, “That was my first kiss, and I ruined it. Can we try again?” He smiled at me and kissed me. It was still awkward, but I had finally gotten my first kiss, and I was high on happiness and excitement. We dated another twelve days before I decided I didn’t want a boyfriend. I was a heartbreaking bitch. Sorry, Daryl.

By Allison Bellows


Story Shots: Tequila

STORYSHOTS
A shot of tequila is always served with a little something on the side. Before the bartender pours the shot, he or she usually pulls out a saltshaker and puts a slice of lime down on the small square napkin on the bar in front of your seat. The bartender can now concentrate on pouring the perfect, one-ounce shot. The perfect one-ounce pour is four counts with the bottle at a sixty degree angle. One, two, three, four, and then the bottle is turned upright. If the bartender is fishing for tips or not very good at counting, you might get an extra half second in there, which means you get a little more bang for your buck. But tequila comes with more than salt, a napkin, and a lime. Tequila always comes with a story or two. In the length of that four-count pour, memories start to flow just as the amber liquid escapes the bottle, landing in that tiny glass.

Maybe?
(Credit: Mike’s Liquors)

     “There’s a worm in it.” I tap the square bottle tentatively.
     “Yeah, all good tequila has that. That’s how you know it’s good,” she tells me as she takes a swig. She passes it to the supplier and he takes a gulp. Not to be outdone, I take the bottle and gulp. I nearly vomit, but manage to swallow the hot liquor with stomach acid. We sprawl out on the blanket she packed and watch the clouds form blobs in the sky as our eyes become crossed. We laugh as we light up a cigarette to share and ask each other to share personal secrets. He scoots close to me and I slide away. She takes my place. Before we finish the last drops of hell, the bell rings.
     “Crap. I gotta get to my AP Bio class. I’ll see you guys later.” And I depart.

By Nicole Neitzke