Fall 2021, Volume 31

Fiction by Phillip Sterling

Story Peddlers

“Sad is the man who is asked for a story
      and can’t come up with one.”                                                             Li-Young Lee

When Darlene Vieu, the news anchor at WNBR, suddenly turned serious, Curt Taling lowered the crossword he was puzzling over and addressed his full attention to the broadcast. Darlene’s voice had dropped half a tone, and the airplane wings of her eyebrows leveled off. She looked to Curt as if she knew the answer to 57 Across but didn’t want to embarrass him with its obviousness. Now that our weather had become “outdoorable,” she said, viewers need to beware of disreputable transients that every summer roam our more rural counties seeking to bilk innocent, well-meaning Michiganders—especially the elderly—out of money or other valuables. Posing as contractors, these scam artists write up costly repair jobs for worn roofs or cracked driveways, then “deeply discount” the work with pre-payment. Others claim to be low-cost painters or vinyl siding specialists, who require in advance “only” enough cash to buy materials. But once they’re paid, they’re never seen again.

“Modern-day gypsies,” Darlene called them, and Curt followed with the rest of the WNBR NEWS audience as the station went remote, to Kate Stellar, the reporter in the field, standing in front of the North Bank Community Library. Her smile, as she waited for the go-ahead from the studio, looked uncomfortable, if not painful, and she held it for an interminable length of time, longer than Curt would have expected to be necessary. Then she launched into the new scam: story peddlers.

“Did you know she was pregnant?” said Randi, from her lotus-legged position on the couch. Randi’s voice was soft and mysterious, as though she was disclosing to her husband the latest gossip about a friend they had in common. Did she mean Kate Stellar, whose face, now that he considered it, did appear more flush and fleshy than when she’d reported on the Tulip Festival some weeks before? Curt made a mental note to pursue the conversation when the report concluded, and he half-raised his left index finger—slightly pointed—to signal his intention. Just now, however, he was intrigued.

“Listen,” he said.

Over on Thornapple, not a half mile from the modestly decorated family room where Curt and his wife were watching the eleven o-clock news, a retired elementary teacher had been sold “the complete, original journals of Nathaniel Hawthorne,” by a person claiming to be Hawthorne’s great grandson. Only after lugging a half-dozen banana-boxes of writing paper into her house had the woman discovered that the majority of the pages were mere photocopies—and poor quality at that, barely legible. Nor were they of any literary value; apparently, she’d paid four hundred dollars for several decade’s worth of minutes from the monthly meeting of the county drain commission.

Curt shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he said aloud. But he was actually thinking: What an idiot!

As a warning to other carpetbaggers and rapscallions—and enflamed by her own stupidity—the woman on Thornapple had painted a huge red A on her white, intruder-resistant front door. She’d not be violated again! The emblazoned letter made a perfect pan-out for Kate’s concluding remarks.

“Story peddlers,” said Curt aloud at the commercial break, which included—no less idiotically—a 30-second promo for the very news program they were watching. “So maybe they’ll stop here,” he said, for his wife’s benefit. “I could use the diversion.”

He was referring to what Randi occasionally, and enviously, called a “daily-dally” routine. As one of a squadron of low-level state employees pink-slipped in the governor’s attempt to counter a growing deficit, Curt’s unemployment was a flu-like symptom in the otherwise general good health of their marriage. Still, it didn’t deter him from every so often testing the chilly waters of Randi’s mood—and sexual willingness—with a splash of lighthearted teasing.

Her silence was not a good sign. Curt turned to his wife, prepared to soften his comment as “just joking,” but there was no need. Randi’s head was resting on the afghan that stretched along the back of the couch, her mouth open in the form of a sink hole, where any apology would drop soundlessly. She was fast asleep.

“If only,” he whispered. And no sooner had he said it than he knew it would come to pass.


The very next day, shortly after Randi had slammed off to her job at the bank, mumbling something about “martyrdom” during the “current fiscal crisis,” a beat-up blue and red step-van pulled into the Talings’ drive. At the sound of loose stones clattering against a fender wall, Curt zapped Oprah with the remote. He expected his wife was returning for something she’d forgotten, office keys or Midol or something, and he knew she wouldn’t be pleased to find him watching TV. Randi didn’t approve of what she called Curt’s “addiction to lethargy.” Surely her husband had better things to do, not to mention the unfairness of her having to face angry debtors while he vegetated on the couch. She compiled lists of household chores for his benefit—vacuuming, replacing the light bulb in the hall closet, taking down storm windows—lists which Curt inevitably misplaced. Or were lost in the washing machine, laundry being the one task that he completed with any regularity, as it required only intermittent attention. Mostly, he spent his days making up excuses as to why he didn’t get anything accomplished.

He pulled the most recent list from his shirt pocket on his way to the door, as if he was about to get started on it. But when he looked out the front window, it wasn’t Randi’s silver Civic in the driveway. Instead, the vehicle was a used delivery van—for bread or milk—that looked like some hippie had bought second-hand and redecorated for habitation or drug-vending purposes. Each side of the boxy truck was painted either red or blue, with the opposite color used for trim: the hood was red, the front bumper and grill painted blue; the side was blue, the wheel hubs red. It looked like a Cloverdale Dairy truck some circus clowns had commandeered.

“Or gypsies,” Curt said aloud. “Well, what do you know!”

The man who stepped down from the cab looked the part. He was in his early thirties maybe, though it was hard to tell for sure. His face had the tanned coloration and weathered look of a Greek fisherman, and his hair was long and thick and black, pulled together in a ponytail that stuck out from under a red bandanna tied above his ears. A baggy, blue- and red-flowered tropical shirt, open halfway down the front, revealed two gold chains that flashed against his black-haired neck, one laden with a three-inch cross embedded with what looked like rubies. And he wore loose, knee-length, Russian peasant pants, shiny and black. Typical, cinema-quality gypsy fashion. The only feature of his attire that was incongruous with the stereotype were his shoes. He wore neon-green Nike Airs.

“More comfortable than those stupid riding boots,” the gypsy said, as if reading Curt’s mind.

Curt had already stepped out onto the porch. He had read somewhere, or heard on TV, that meeting a solicitor head-on prevents him from getting a foot in the door, and that an aggressive stance will often unsettle a salesman’s confidence. “Whatever it is,” he said loudly, “I’m not interested.”

The gypsy stopped short of the flowerbeds beside the porch, seeming to take interest in their unruly state. Curt followed the man’s gaze; weeding had been on more than one of Randi’s lists.

“But you’ve been expecting me,” said the man. “Your name’s on my list.”

It seemed to Curt that list-making was becoming downright faddish. “What list?” he asked, in a tone of voice he hoped was ambiguous. On the one hand, he meant to give the man the impression that he was not a push-over, not to be dealt with lightly. Nip it in the bud was Randi’s philosophy, and a small voice in the back of Curt’s mind—which sounded a lot like Randi’s voice—hissed disapproval of any concessions he might make. At the same time, Curt hoped the man wasn’t easily deterred. Given his odd attire and carnival wagon, this strange person likely had a good story, and Curt wanted to hear it.

“Oh,” said the gypsy, patting his shirt where pockets should have been, “I must have left it in the van. Let me introduce myself. The name’s Conroy. Gabriel Conroy.” He held out his hand.

Curt huffed, stepped down to the sidewalk and clasped the offered hand firmly. He shook it once. “As in James Joyce?” he said. He felt his lips form a smirk as he gave the hand another shake. While he had majored in public administration at Michigan State, “The Dead” had been one of his favorite stories from Professor Gunn’s “Intro to Lit” course, which itself had been the impetus for Curt’s pursuit of an English minor. No doubt the name was an alias; a flimflam man would never use his real name.

He untensed his fingers to signal a release of the handshake, but the man held on, giving cause for a closer look. Not only was Conroy an unsettling several inches taller than Curt, but the gypsy’s eyes were deep brown, the color of a thick forest, where one could easily get lost. Curt wondered if he shouldn’t have stayed on the porch.

The gypsy’s face skewed briefly, as if he didn’t understand the allusion. Then he smiled perfect teeth. “As in Saul Conroy & Sons, Fabulations,” he replied, with the flourish of a small bow. “But you can call me Gabe.” He returned the two shakes but did not let go of Curt’s hand.

“Storymongers,” Curt said. 

“So you have been expecting me!” the gypsy shouted, and laughed, and pumped their hands wildly before releasing his grip. Curt flexed his fingers; his palm was damp.

“We prefer to think of ourselves as simple peddlers,” Conroy continued, stepping back into the yard. He began to survey the prospects, from the roofline of the house, where Curt knew the rain gutter was clogged with oak leaves, to the paint-flaked porch railing, to the cracked window on the garage, and finally to the thick islands of grass forming in the river of the Talings’ gravel drive. For longer than Curt thought necessary, Conroy’s gaze seemed to settle on the gaudy blue and red boat of a vehicle he’d arrived in, perhaps questioning whether he might not cast off for more promising lands. He seemed to hesitate. When he spoke again, his voice was softer, edged in compassion, as if he felt obligated to forge ahead so as not to make the owner of such sorry property feel bad. 

“You have a nice place here, Mr.—?”

“Melville,” said Curt quickly, with the first name that came to mind. After all, two could play this game. “Herman Melville.”

“You have a nice place here, Herman,” Conroy continued, without blinking an eye at the name—more evidence, thought Curt, that he couldn’t possibly be who he said he was. “You don’t mind if I call you Herman?”

Curt’s slight shrug of this shoulders was meant to read “No.” No, he didn’t mind, since it wasn’t his actual name and since he had no intention of developing an honest relationship with Gabriel Conroy, or whoever this person was.

“You have a nice place here, Herman,” said Conroy, “but you’re not very happy, are you?”

The question caught Curt off-guard. He could see himself rushing across the kitchen linoleum with a bag of groceries and suddenly hitting a slippery puddle of snowmelt. It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement. And it wasn’t so much a statement as it was an assumption, given the fact that the man who had asked such a question was, to Curt, a complete stranger. What did he mean, Not very happy? Curt could feel his heart quicken, his throat constrict. How can this mere passerby, this salesman, this huckster—someone who has no more knowledge of Curt than a handshake—how can he assume to know anything about Curt’s emotional well-being! It was ridiculous . . . 

Careful, he told himself. The man’s interest in Curt’s happiness was more than likely some kind of parry in the mental fencing they were about to engage in; any expression of irritation on Curt’s part would not only be a tally in the gypsy’s favor but might hinder his own clear judgment. Curt had to remain calm.

“I’m not interested,” he repeated, “whatever it is you’re selling.”

“Oh,” said the man who called himself Gabriel Conroy. He seemed to be taken aback. “I think you misunderstand. I’m not selling anything. I’m buying.”

“Buying,” Curt echoed. His voice did not hide the surprise.

“Stories,” said the gypsy, matter-of-factly. “I’m afraid that I’m temporarily out of stock. Depleted. Empty. A milkless udder, if you know what I mean. So it seems you have found me in a vulnerable position, Herman. And I could make it worth your while if you’d help me out.”

Curt’s mind raced through the pause that followed Conroy’s declaration. Admittedly, it was a clever tactic: turning the tables. And while the man may not have judged Curt’s emotional well-being accurately—he wasn’t exactly unhappy—Conroy nevertheless seemed to have a certain knowledge about Curt’s fondness for mysteries and puzzles, his need to counter boredom with gaming and intrigue. Yet no sooner had Curt began to warm to Conroy’s offer than the certainty of Randi’s stormy displeasure chilled him.

“I have nothing to sell,” Curt repeated. “Now, if you’ll excuse me . . .”

“But everyone has a story.”  

The old cliché. Where had he heard that line recently? A Bogart movie? A Raymond Burr rerun?

“Not me,” Curt replied, turning to the door.

“I’ll pay handsomely,” Conroy said.

For the second time, Curt looked the gypsy in the eye. Oddly dressed perhaps, a bizarre vehicle, but he did seem honest. And if Curt could make a little extra money during the downtime, if he could lessen the fiscal pressure on Randi, she might even throw off the covers from her waning interest in sex, which had been a cold mattress between them for weeks. What would it hurt to hear the man out?

“How much is ‘handsomely’?”

“On a good day?” Conroy said.

“On any day.”

“I generally clear a couple hundred by early afternoon.”

Curt’s interest piqued. “Two hundred a day,” he said. “I don’t believe you.”
By early afternoon,” the gypsy repeated. “For you, Herman, maybe even more.”

While the brown of Gabriel Conroy’s eyes seemed to deepen, Curt thought he saw a slight spike of light near the left iris. Certainly there was some kind of a catch. No one goes knocking door to door looking for something to buy; the nature of solicitation was contrary to that idea. Even the evangelists that lodged New Testaments in the mail slot didn’t sally the neighborhood to share the wealth; despite their claims, they weren’t likely to be satisfied by simply being remembered in one’s prayers. They sought donations. Every stranger that came to the door—as far as Curt could recall—had wanted something from him. Even the woman whose car had stalled and who begged to use the phone. No one had ever stopped to do something for Curt. Until now. So what was this guy’s story?

Then it occurred to him. It was a story. And Curt had nearly bought it.

“No thanks,” he said, recovering his resolve. “Not interested.”

“You’re not interested in making a little extra cash?” Conroy’s voice inflected disbelief. “I really admire you, Herman. I thought everybody was into money. What’s your pitch?”

Your pitch. Curt took note of the pronoun, the sarcasm. The air began to reek of reverse psychology and affective behavior—concepts he recalled from a “Policies and Lobbies” training seminar. He took a breath. The light in Conroy’s eyes seemed to be getting brighter, as if someone were coming through the woods with a powerful spot light, shining for deer.

 “I think you’re pitching me a pitch right now,” he said, realizing even as he mouthed the words how stupid they sounded, how they signaled his increasing frustration. He took another breath and tried again: “Frankly, I can’t think of any reason why you’d want to buy something from me—especially since I told you already I wasn’t interested—and I don’t think you’ll give me something for nothing. So if you don’t mind, I really must be getting back to—”

“Oprah?” said the man. Conroy’s left iris twinkled, making his eyes appear more gray than brown.

“That’s none of your business.”

“Or are you finally going to get something done around the house.”

The words were Randi’s, and the tone of the gypsy’s voice mimicked the tone that Randi used. Curt wasn’t sure if he should be more incensed by the man’s implication of laziness or of his preternatural awareness of the couple’s relationship. For an instant, he wondered whether it wasn’t all an elaborate prank, whether Randi had somehow enlisted this guy to pay Curt a visit and stir him into action. Yet surely such a masquerade would be expensive, and Randi was keeping the purse strings pretty taut during the “interim.”

“Again,” said Curt, “that’s none of your business.”   

“Try me,” the man said. “Tell me what you’ll tell your wife when she comes home and nothing’s been accomplished.” The gray of his eyes seemed to meld with the brown, blending into the color of landscaping stone.

Curt dismissed the transformation of the gypsy’s eye color as a reflection of the sun that had appeared over the garage during the time they’d been talking in the yard. “Listen, Gabe,” he said, “—or whatever the hell your real name is—I’m sure you have good intentions and all, but I’m starting to get mad. I’m not interested in buying or selling—or even trading—any stories. So will you please—“

“Try me,” Conroy repeated. He folded his arms across his chest. “Tell me about yourself.” His eyes sparkled even more—unless, Curt thought, it wasn’t the eyes at all. Maybe the light Curt saw in his eyes was not from the sun but was a kind of refraction from the large circular earring dangling from the man’s left lobe like a parakeet perch. Maybe the whole encounter was not what it appeared to be. Maybe the problem was Curt’s own projection of his inadequacies onto no more than a typical marketing ploy. Had Curt fallen into the very trap that he’d meant to avoid? And was it due to his anger and gullibility—anger at himself for being gullible—and not due to some lucky guess about Curt’s marital circumstances? He needed to take control, as he had started to by stepping off the porch when the gypsy first appeared. The thing to do would be to prove to this man that Curt knew what was going on, to prove that there was no story to tell.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s see. I was born in a hospital in Pontiac, Michigan. I grew up, fell in love, got married, and lost a job I didn’t really care for . . .” The man who called himself Gabriel Conroy cocked his head, as if listening intently. “ . . . and here I am. THE END. How’s that?”

Surely that was obvious enough.

The gypsy’s gaze rested on Curt’s left shoulder. He seemed to hesitate.  

“Boring,” he said. “Any child could do better than that, Herman. Your wife has surely heard better.”

“My wife—” Curt began.

But the gypsy interrupted. “I suspect,” he said, “that Randi could tell a better story than that.”


“All her overtime on Saturdays . . . when the bank’s closed . . .”

“What are you suggesting?”

“ . . . How tired she often claims to be . . . her disinterest in sex . . .”

“What a minute!” Curt shouted, so he could hear himself above the drumming in his ears. “How did you know my wife’s name?”

The gypsy paused. “You told me,” he said.

Curt replayed their conversation in his head. He could not recall mentioning his wife. Especially not her name. Something wasn’t right.

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I’m sure of it.” The gypsy’s gaze was steady, piercing. “Unless,” he said—pinching the corners of his mouth together—“it was on my list.”

The certainty with which Conroy spoke caused Curt the most trouble. Surely there were explanations for a stranger to know so much about the couple—public documents that contained the Talings’ names and other specifics—and the implication that Randi had a life beyond their marriage, that she had a different story to tell, was not surprising. Curt himself, in questioning the possible causes of Randi’s apathy toward intimacy, had become aware of how little he knew about what she did at work. So the information Gabriel Conroy was articulating was not, in itself, disturbing. Yet the way those thoughts were articulated, the confident manner Conroy had—Conroy, who was no more than a self-professed story peddler, someone who, by his very profession, could not be trusted to be truthful—that was unsettling. It was the confidence of implied knowledge, of underlying truth. Curt’s head began to swim. He had never given any thought about cheating on Randi—even during long stretches of lapsed physicality—and so he’d never given any thought to the possibility her having an affair, of her finding satisfaction somewhere else, with someone else. The thought jarred him. It wasn’t a direction he ever thought their story would go.

He needed to regain control.

“Alright,” Curt said. “I was born in a dreary castle in what was, at that time, Rhineland. My mother was a princess from a neighboring kingdom, and my father was a hunchback.”

“Better,” said the gypsy.

“As a child I early realized that I was different from the others, for on my left hand I bore a second thumb, which I knew years hence would come to be both my curse and my salvation . . .”

The man who called himself Gabriel Conroy began to orchestrate the air like a maestro conducting a philharmonic. “Better,” he said again. “Better!” His eyes fairly danced with pleasure. “And? And?”
“And . . .” But nothing else came to Curt’s mind. He was thinking about the possibility that his wife was not faithful, was not trustworthy. “And . . .”

The gypsy’s arms remained suspended in the air. The sleeves of his shirt hung grotesquely, as if they were two sizes too large. Sunlight caught on the deep amber stone of a massive gold ring on his right hand. A chill ran up Curt’s back and settled around his shoulders and neck. He thought of the gaudy green and orange wool scarf his wife had knitted when they were first married, a gift she had accused him of never appreciating, never cared for—he could use it now.

“And . . . good-bye.” Curt turned, remounted the steps, entered his house, and closed the door firmly behind him. And that’s the end of that.

When Curt looked out the front window a few minutes later, the man who called himself Gabriel Conroy was still on the porch, writing something on a small piece of paper. Without looking up—as though he’d sensed Curt’s presence—he spoke in a voice loud enough to hear through the door: “Just think of it as being a Truth Technician!”

“Good DAY!” Curt shouted, though he wasn’t sure where he’d picked up that expression. “Be gone!”   

The next time he looked out, both the man and his truck had vanished.


“What do you know about this?” Randi said, when she returned unexpectedly for lunch, claiming she’d forgotten to pack one. “It was wedged in the front door.”

“What do I know about what?” Curt said, stalling. He hadn’t been as surprised by her return as he thought he would, though her question was atypical. Randi’s usual query was more along the lines of How was your day?—implying both What have you accomplished? and Ask me about mine. For once, he was prepared with an answer. After the gypsy had gone, Curt spent the rest of the morning cleaning out the garden shed; he’d gone in there to look for a weeding tool.  

“This envelope,” Randi said, handing her husband what at first he assumed was just another homemade advertisement for some start-up yard care service. Holiday Inn Toronto was embossed in green on off-white stationery. Handwritten across the front was the name “Herman Melville” and their street address. There was no postage. “Herman Melville?” Randi questioned. “Like in Moby Dick?” She began dishing green olives into a bowl of cottage cheese.

“Private joke,” Curt replied, cautiously.

The envelope held two twenty-dollar bills and a note on letterhead from the La Quinta Motorlodge in Nashville, Tennessee. The note said simply, “There’s more where this came from.” It was signed Gabe.

“Well, I’ll be—” Curt held the twenties to the kitchen light. They weren’t new, and they didn’t appear to be counterfeit.

“Where’d you get that?” said his wife. She shook pepper on the cottage cheese and olives, then held the bowl up to him, as if offering a bite. It was a food concoction they both enjoyed.

“Someone repaying a debt,” Curt lied. He looked closely at the bills. Perhaps he’d been wrong about the gypsy, overly suspicious. Perhaps he’d been stupid.

“So that’s where all my hard-earned money goes,” Randi said. Her tone of voice was playful. “I’ll just take that for groceries.”


For the rest of the afternoon, Curt watched for the gypsy’s return. He was certain it would come to pass. And when, finally, the man who had called himself Gabriel Conroy stepped up to Curt Taling’s porch, and knocked on his door, and offered to sell Curt a remarkable story for the low fee of forty dollars, so much time had passed that Curt barely recognized the man standing there, a baseball cap gripped between his two hands, respectfully, at his waist. So much time had passed, in fact, that forty dollars would no longer buy what it once did.

“Well,” Curt said, “what do you know.” The man’s eyes were still deeply brown, though ringed, now, with a dull white color, as of typing paper that had been erased. The man’s hair was considerably shorter, and still black, for the most part, though some gray was beginning to show. Whether he wore a heavy necklace with a gold cross was impossible to tell; his button-down shirt was the color of denim, his tie was red. He wore khaki pants. The only feature of his ensemble that did not suggest he was a typical purveyor of magazine subscriptions were his shoes—blue-with-silver cross-trainers of an indeterminate brand.

“More comfortable than oxfords,” said the man.

Curt had been staring at the shoes. The stranger’s voice was familiar in pitch, though it seemed to Curt less purposeful in tone. Beyond the man, a late model silver Taurus was parked on the asphalt drive.

“I waited for days,” said Curt.

“I heard.”

“And I was prepared.”


“I discovered that keeping busy made the time pass more quickly, and that even the simplest chores could generate great stories. Great adventures.”

“Tell me,” said the man.

“I hung storm windows in defense of Viking marauders. I dusted furniture for evidence of crimes. I commanded the genie in the Kitchenaid to conjure up lavish meals for the Queen . . .”

“Randi,” said the man.

“Randi,” Curt repeated.

“And it worked?”

“For a while, she was entertained. Oh, nothing like a thousand and one nights . . . But a hundred, maybe two . . .”

“And then she left.”

“And then she left.”

The silence that followed was awkward. Often during the years that had filled the space between the first encounter and this one, Curt had imagined what he’d say when the time came, when the man who had called himself Gabriel Conroy appeared again. The questions he’d ask. The anger he would vent. What actions he might, in fact, engage in. But now that the moment was here, all he felt was pity.

“So what’s your story?” Curt said.

The man who looked more like a car salesman than a gypsy seemed to be inspecting the double-paned replacement windows Curt had had installed two years before. He hesitated, then cleared his throat.

“I too was born near Detroit,” said the man, “grew up, fell in love, got married, lost a job I didn’t really care for . . .” He paused. His eyes seemed to search Curt’s face for any sign of recognition.

Curt folded his arms across his chest. “Not worth a plugged nickel,” he said. “A child could do better.”

“ . . . Lost a wife I didn’t really care for,” the man continued, “got another job . . . fell in love with another man’s wife . . . made a fool of myself trying to please her . . .”

“Better,” said Curt. The man’s eyes had become the color of iced coffee. “And?”

The gypsy-turned-magazine-salesman looked down at his unfashionable shoes. He did not speak.

“Let me guess,” Curt said, after a pause. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He removed a ten dollar bill, then a five, and five singles. “And then she left.”

“And then she left,” repeated the man who had called himself Gabriel Conroy. When he returned Curt’s gaze, the man’s eyes looked as if the iced coffee had been left behind—on a desk, perhaps, or in a car—and the ice had melted a long time ago.

“Half a story, at best,” Curt said, holding the twenty dollars in front of him, as an offering. “And hardly original.”




BIO: Phillip Sterling’s books include two collections of short fiction, In Which Brief Stories Are Told (Wayne State U Press 2011) and Amateur Husbandry (Mayapple 2019), two full-length collections of poetry (And Then Snow, Mutual Shores), and five chapbook-length series of poems, the most recent of which, Short on Days, was released from Main Street Rag in June 2020, after several months of quarantine.