Selected Publications & Excerpts:
My father dug a well in the backyard. There was nowhere else the water was going to come from. We let buckets down, length by length of rope. The buckets clanged against the stone walls, came up empty every time. I complained about the smell emanating from the well. It was like dead fish. My father said it must be that we are close to the water. But suppose the fish were dead because they were out of water too […]
for “If My Book”
The startup says, “What’s important is we keep this film relevant. Fabulism is dead. The western is dead. A-stranger-comes-to-town, the road story, dead and dead. Airplanes are grounded. The highway rest stops are all closed. You are where you are, and you just have to deal with it.” […]
Originally published by Columbia Journal
Reprinted April 2020 by Autumn House Press, accompanied by a video recording of Michael reading the story
A serow appears before him, wearing the beard of god. Slugger’s instincts stir in his stomach. He attempts to spike the throat of the serow. The serow leaps out of harm’s way, shakes its beard of god at Slugger. “Americans,” the serow bellows […]
1. The oldest story in the book is “I Bought Her a Bird,” about a woman and a man and the literal widening distance between them. I wrote the first draft in 2012.
2. The woman explores the West. The man suffers himself at home.
3. Real people how Elizabeth Hardwick describes them in Sleepless Nights: “living in the family house alone… set up at last, preparing to die” […]
An excerpt from American Water
A body emerges from the river, climbs the muddy bank to the road to an intersection. On each corner the decaying remnants of a strip mall, and acrid gutty men readying the properties for demolition. They call out to the body, “Where are you going?” Whistle. Spit. The body goes. The next intersection: more strip malls, only recently shuttered and now for sale, store signs removed but their names still apparent in the dirt on the walls. Another intersection and another and another […]
An excerpt from American Water
I am in a state of disappearance, back inside Ohio. I drove all night. The car stalled before I could ram it through the perimeter fence. The Great Lakes have been cordoned off. The last of the world’s drinkable water. I cannot see it through the dark, but I can smell it: fishgut, bleach, and exhaust. I have honeycomb welts from pressing against the perimeter fence, a bruise on my arm swirling and expanding, and a baby in the passenger seat I think is a boy but is not my boy […]
“A Black Eye. A Drowned Eye.”
It begins with a sore throat. Trouble swallowing. An abscess.
Then an enormous bloodshot eye growing out of the abscess and overtaking the rest of her.
She is very peculiar!
Her husband is furious that he can’t understand what she is looking for […]
The Science Issue
I reemerged fifteen years later. I wasn’t supposed to come back. “Miraculous,” I guffawed in front of the man I presumed a coworker, the man attempting to conceal that he had been masturbating at his desk, our desk […]
No good Western begins with Indiana. Never mind how American it is: me, the Eldorado, and me having stolen the Eldorado from a One Stop in Fort Wayne.
I am trying to escape the heartland.
I want to be the type of man who would shoot another man for his wants. But I could never shoot another man. It’s why I waited for an empty vehicle left running. Why it was done under the cover of dark […]
“I am the Heaviest Feeling Man on the Planet”
The TV decides for him that he should have everything. And then suddenly there he is, crashed through the glass front of a fast-casual American restaurant, concussed, and bleeding from the nose. He’s fallen into a ball pit. The balls stick to his clothes. He removes his clothes. He can’t remove his skin. He feels them like overgrown pustules. The small hand of a boy smelling like the lake reaches in, pulls him out […]
“I flipped my Word-A-Day desk calendar to this day and saw the word grievous and tried to use the word grievous in a sentence and realized the sentence is life.”
“I have been reduced to yearning for a blanket of heavy, impenetrable sod.”
“I go home and attempt not to decompress but to decompose.” […]