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from Richard Burgin's upcoming collection, A Thousand Natural Shocks

Goliad Press, 2018

 

 

The Follower

By Richard Burgin

Freddie Flowers has had another heart attack, or as they might say today “he experienced a severe challenge to his heart space.” I heard about it on TV while I was crawling on my floor on the way to my bathroom.

                  But really, why was I thinking so much about him? Had I been dreaming about him in the middle of the night or half-watching his talk show where he regularly parades a bevy of famous and sometimes quasi-erudite guests who then engage in an endless gabfest about their latest movie or discovery about the brain?

                  Unlike me, Flowers is a master of self-control and should anything begin to get even the slightest bit heated, he astutely backs away with impeccable control like a graduate student in an argument with his professor who first wants to show off, but suddenly realizes his professor’s appreciation is rapidly turning to anger, and so he drops his argument, often with a clever joke. Of this Freddie was an absolute master and was able to make use of the technique for the duration of his career.

                  Freddy Flowers was born in a small Midwestern town, the kind of place that grows Johnny Carson or Dick Cavett. He was a tall, dark, lean all-American boy who grew into an all-American man with looks that fell just short of a leading man in the movies. Freddy knew how to marry well, too.  His first wife was a wealthy diplomat’s daughter. His second – more directly helpful, was the daughter of a network television producer. I will say he never hyped his own products much, but then according to Wikipedia, he never published a book – an area in which I actually exceeded him.

Yes, we were in fact classmates in the same graduate program at Columbia, where I both admired and criticized him – in my mind that is, as I talked little to or about him to anyone, especially my fiancé, who already seemed dangerously impressed by him. It is highly unusual in the age of memoirs for him not to have authored one himself. Why should someone like Flowers, who ostensibly knew everyone of note in the Western world, (he was still working on the East,) not write about people when he could get them on his show, and in essence consume them?

                  In addition to perhaps being the most widely respected talk TV host, he was also the least controversial. Watching him became de riguer despite his embarrassing dilettantism in virtually every subject and because his other worldly social skills more than made up for it – to the point where he was not only the most nearly perfect TV talk show host, he was perhaps the most perfect American man of his generation, a liberal by all accounts, yet never one who espoused a controversial liberal cause, like say “Black Lives Matter.”

                  I am crawling to the bathroom in the dark because I lack the strength to stand up and do it. I still haven’t figured out how to successfully use the plastic portable urinal I was given by Tamara, or Lady T, my caretaker.  She’s a tall, strong black woman from St. Louis, a little overweight, but in all the right places. Outside of being too bossy at times, I have essentially fallen in love with her and told her so many times. She says she just wants to be friends, but lets me touch her briefly from time to time in special places, making a combination joke/reprimand while I do it. Realistically, she’s about thirty years younger than me and our backgrounds are too different. I am an academic novelist manqué, she a caregiver who doesn’t read literature, probably watches Real Housewives reality TV shows and has no interest in the arts. Of course, I barely do now either. I lost virtually all interest in reading years ago.

                  “I’m a shopper,” she proclaims proudly, so sometimes I give her an extra hundred dollars or so to buy herself a little something. When she returns from her shopping excursion, an incredible childlike smile lights up her face and she hugs me back a few seconds longer than usual and once even let me kiss her twice on the neck.

                  When she leaves I miss her terribly. I must confess despite my age I’m suffused by fantasies of all the things I want to do to her, all the places where I want to kiss her. What finally pulls me out of this world of imagined pleasure, of course, is the realization that because of my neurological illness my penis is now quasi-dysfunctional, and much of my time, I’m trying to find ways I could hide it from her if we ever tried to make love.

                  I stub my toe again as I crawl out of my room towards the bathroom. When I was a kid, crawling was fun, the way hide-and-go-seek was once fun, whereas now it’s more like Russian roulette, especially when I try to walk. Falling is the number one cause of death for people with Parkinson’s.

                  I cannot picture Freddy crawling. I picture him only getting in and out of black limousines. We were at the same program at Columbia grad school yet I’m crawling in the dark and he has his own driver, I’m sure. I know his Wikipedia page says he came from a working class family, but I don’t believe it.  His hands look uncalloused, his face almost anxiety-free, and his hair incredibly thick, considering his age, which is actually the same as mine. I realize now that his show is on while I’m crawling. I can hear him talking in his dulcet, considered voice – because I often watch his show as part of my sleep ritual, (otherwise I would have to talk to myself.) All this explains a lot though it leaves me with the fact that I am crawling in an effort to get to the toilet before I piss my pajamas while he is making ten thousand dollars every time he says a sentence on TV.

                  I guess I’m lucky that I never knew him well as a fellow student; in fact I instinctively avoided him during my years at Columbia. If we were friends, he would probably have slept with my eventual wife or at least with one of my girlfriends. In either case they would have had a lifelong secret crush on him. It’s absurd to be jealous of a man with no talent. It’s even more absurd to be jealous of someone so completely lacking in global vision and compassion, who despite his wealth, gave so minimally to charity, and even then primarily to his own foundation.

I secretly harbored some acting ambitions myself, more secret than my writing ambitions, for which I somehow published just enough to eventually get tenure at my second-rate college but left behind, a resume dominated by two novels that were equal failures like two identically failed twins.

                  I’m now about equidistant from my bedroom and the bathroom. For a moment I’m not sure which is my immediate past and which is the future. Faulkner thought that everything was past – the past was, is, and will be. No one can dispute that as soon as we think of it, the present becomes the past. But where is the future? Doesn’t it too exist only when it’s in the past? Until then isn’t it really more like imaginary time than time itself?

                  It’s been over six years since I’ve had my disease, which no doubt influences my thinking. There’s no question that it’s diminished my capacity to remember my life chronologically, which isn’t completely a curse. The older I get, the less I trust chronological time – the time of clocks and calendars. How foolish it seems, what an endless lake of illusion. Chronological time is to real time what clothes are to the naked body. Its purpose is to hide real time just as clothes exist to cover our naked, helpless flesh.

                  At certain points you hit your saturation with doctors and just can’t bear the process of getting dressed, then undressed, sitting or standing (equally painful,) while you wait, filling out the same forms over and over, tired of trying yet another drug that doesn’t reduce nerve pain because nothing does.

                  When I went with Tamara at first it was better because I had her company, and because there were rewards. She would hold my hand and in so doing let me dream. All of this to explain why I haven’t done anything about my cataracts. My brain, my penis, and my eyes, in no particular order, are the three areas I won’t let doctors do surgery on, although I did have a radical prosectomy, but I was knocked out for the whole time. Tamara wasn’t working for me then. A witch named Wendy removed (ripped off) my catheter.

                  I was an only child. Perhaps feeling some guilt for my sometimes lonely childhood, my father would take me to a ball game, or when he was younger, take me skating or sledding more than he might have. Even so, at school or at the park I would occasionally fantasize that some bigger kid three or four years older than me was my brother. That I merely had to tap his shoulder and he would turn and immediately recognizing me as his brother.

                  This feeling gradually dissipated as I got older, until I enrolled at Columbia’s graduate school in English and occasionally felt those fraternal yearnings, imaginary though they all turned out to be when I looked at and listened to the deep tones of Flowers, the most naturally charming man I’d ever seen, (as if his charm were a sweater he pulled over himself every day). Finally, when I could stand it no longer, I invented a reason to talk to him. He did all the right things though I had kind of ambushed him in the locker room after a softball game. I might have observed a nanosecond of irritation, but after that he gained immediate control and reassembled all the temporarily disrupted parts of his face and personality, like a top of the line, impeccably programmed computer.

                  I stub my toe again, but I still lack the strength to stand up, especially in the dark with every light switch out of reach. Crazy things go through your head when you get on all fours. It’s like going back in time when our species first established itself on earth. Before that, who knows? Maybe we did our first crawling in our mother’s wombs. I told this to Tamara once when I tried to touch her as if by accident, and she agreed with me. (If only she agreed to my other ideas about us.) All of this means that Freddie Flowers once had to crawl in darkness too, though I wouldn’t be shocked if he found a way to wear a shirt by Ralph Lauren while he was in there crawling.

                  It’s in the nature of man to think that if he just had the opposite of one thing in his life, everything would be different, better. A brotherless boy wants a brother, (as I did), a girl vice versa. Nearly every couple at some point thinks they might be happier if married to someone else. Even big-hearted, strong-willed, God-fearing Tamara did. She sometimes would reminisce about a beau from the past. And I of course, had Freddie Flowers.

                  Flowers alone seemed completely comfortable in his world ,which more than anything else might have been the ultimate key to his emcee success. I heard that Flowers hates to be called an emcee. To have someone on his educational TV show call him that is an insult. But, once again he needn’t have worried – no one ever called him an “emcee” or anything close to it. People looked at his Yves Saint Laurent suit and tie and saw his $300 haircut, which I’m sure the network paid for anyway, and thought this man is far above the emcee level. He is at minimum a pundit, and even that doesn’t do him justice, even that is like using the word “colored” when you should use “people of color.” The difference is slight on one hand but immense and unforgiveable on the other.

                  But the issue of Freddie’s name, or title to be precise, didn’t go away as easily as he hoped. Other hosts from other news shows on rival networks were being called “analysts” or “hosts” as well. It wasn’t always easy for Freddie to win the battle for respect, but on one especially lucky day an elderly woman skating in Rockefeller Center slipped on the ice and had to have her hip replaced. Freddie was holding and comforting the woman as the cameras shot away. Even I liked him for that, for a few days until I realized he was being given a Good Citizen of the Year Award, and within six months leapfrogged “emcee”, “pundit”, or even “analyst”, straight to Flowers just like Dylan and Madonna ascended into Hollywood’s one word status.

                  By now I’ve been crawling and resting, then crawling again for fifteen minutes. As I heard the slick, pseudo-jazz theme that ended his show I thought that at least I wouldn’t think of Flowers anymore. I’d wasted enough time doing that and all because his show happened to be on when I fell asleep. I always have the television on when I attempt to sleep and still know of no better remedy for insomnia than one small glass of vodka mixed with an all-night dose of CSPAN. When I’ve asked other people how they get to the promised land of sleep they often cite CSPAN as well, although a number of them also cite Freddie Flowers, which naturally puts a smile on my face. I never tell them, of course, that I knew him at Columbia, that I probably had a lunch or two with him, that he showed no particular intellectual ability in class, and that we may have dated the same woman, perhaps even the woman who became my wife.

                  I’ve told Lady T about my special connection to Flowers but she was unimpressed.

                  “Sounds like you didn’t know him that well, that he didn’t really have much to do with your life, so you’re wasting your time thinking about him now.”

                  I looked at her and it occurred to me that Freddie probably never had slept with a black woman and probably never even had a black friend who wasn’t in show business.

                  “If you’d go out with me I wouldn’t think about him anymore.”

                  “We can go out to a restaurant as buddies. But you want more than that.”

                  “That’s true. I love you, is that a crime?”

                  “You need to meet more people. I’m the only one you talk to. That ain’t right. When’s the last time you had a girlfriend?”

                  “I don’t remember time like I used to.”

                  “Why don’t you call her again?”

                  “She’s very busy.”

                  “You’re not – since you retired you could see her again.”

                  “I would rather see you. You’re the only person I love.”

                  “You love my booty is more like it.”

                  “I love every inch of you.”

                  “I already told you I’m a sick woman. I don’t do sex with anybody no more.”

                  “You couldn’t be as sick as me. How could you take care of me if you were?”

                  “Cause I have to.”

                  “I’ve told you many times I’ll take care of you.”

                  “Not the way I was raised. I told you that. I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t even let you talk to me this way, much less let you touch me all over the place.”

                  “How else can I express my love?” That made her laugh.

                  “I do love you, just keep your hands away from my cooter, deal? And my butt too, while you’re at it.”

                  “But you laughed and seemed to like it.”

                  “Don’t go pryin’ into my mixed up emotions. I haven’t had sex in three years. And I’m not starting with you.”

                  “But you said you love me.”

                  “I do love you, I’m not taking that back, but just as a friend. I want you to be my buddy. I’m a sick woman. I got damaged nerves like you. Sex would just hurt me. I don’t want none of that anymore. Professionally friends, or friends. Those are your choices. You decide.”

                  I actually did think long and hard about it. When you’re a cripple, “thinking”, which is mostly just remembering, becomes your chief way of spending time. I thought of my ex-wife Zoe the most, oddly enough since we’d been divorced over twenty years, and the second most, my basically failed career as a novelist, then as a journalist, then as an academic the next most, in that approximate order. I thought how I had always wished I had a brother, though a sister would have been nice too.

                  “You need to see your friends more,” Tamara correctly observed. I thought of my death a lot and sometimes when I had to crawl I thought of suicide and remembered my father’s observation: “When you’re dead, you don’t even know you’re dead.”

                  The next time Tamara was washing my dishes I walked up to her and said “I’m ready to be your friend.” Immediately she shut off the faucets.

                  “Thank you,” she said, giving me a heartfelt hug.

                  “Thank you,” I said, turning my body away to hide my erection.

                  In the weeks ahead I kept trying to treat her as a friend, though she could have had me anytime she wanted. Meanwhile her client list grew and I saw her only twice a week in the afternoon and sometimes it was just a trip to the supermarket and back. Gradually she became like a fading song whose melody, however, could still break your heart.

                  It’s safe to say that Freddie Flowers had never met anyone like Tamara, much less got to kiss her on the neck. A shiver runs through me. It is dangerous to think of Flowers in the middle of the night. It’s somewhat akin to thinking of suicide. I shut my eyes tightly and the next thing I know I was in an audition room sitting beside Freddie Flowers. He was wearing a beautiful light blue linen suit and a yellow silk tie. It was obvious from his unforced but confident smile that he knew, that we both knew, he was going to get the job. The interview was just a formality.

                  I looked at him more directly than I should have until he noticed me, probably assuming I was some star struck fan, or else another gay man visually in love with him. I had long ago figured out that he occupied the fantasy lives of at least as many gay men as he did women.

                  His eyes were already off me. The door to the audition room was open and his name was called. He rose from his chair and in his typical stately yet natural stride, turned his back to me and walked towards it. Suddenly I got up from my chair and ran towards him. He looked slightly concerned and raised his left eyebrow.

                  “You can help me,” I said. “Tell them how talented I am as an actor and as a writer. You have to Freddie, I’m your brother.”

                  “I’m afraid you want much more than being my brother,” he said, turning to walk through the door that slammed shut and locked behind him.

                  Later, after I’d agreed to just be Lady T’s friend, I told her about my dream.

                  “Millionaires and TV stars. You have a pretty wild dream life.”

                  “But it’s not a fantasy life, not completely. Remember I knew Freddie Flowers. We were in the same seminar at Columbia.”

                  “I hear you. You talk about him all the time.”

                  “I do?”

                  “The last time you told me that you only knew him a little, that you only talked three or four times. Then you keep telling me stories where you talk a lot. So which is it – you can’t know him a little and a lot.”

                  We both laughed. Then she suddenly snapped her fingers. “A month or two when I first started working for you, you used to tell me about this famous British actor you knew.”

                  “I know no British actor,” I said.

                  “Check that. He was American but he moved to England. He was a director too. Kevin…”

                  “Oh yes,” I said rather casually. “It was Kevin Spacey.”

                  “That’s right, Kevin Spacey. H’s the star of House of Cards isn’t he?”

                  “Yes, he is but that was an entirely different kind of situation.”

                  “How’s that?”

                  “I never really knew him.”

                  “But you told me you did.”

                  “I would have liked to have known him. That’s what must have confused you. Whereas, with Flowers I know him but I wished I didn’t.

                  “That sounds confusing honey.”

                  “I’ve had a pretty confusing life,” I said, and laughed again.

***

Many times when Tamara left me to go to her own home (which I never saw), I’d think of an oversized raindrop hitting the sidewalk, a clear sign of things to come, since often it would start to rain. I headed home by taxi, turning down a ride from T, because I didn’t want our perfunctory hug and kiss in the car that made me sad, angry, frustrated, and then sad again.

                  I thought I would think about her as I walked home, but instead I thought about Kevin. On one level it is certainly foolish to follow a human being. Even hiring a detective to do it reveals a certain weakness and lack of judgement on the client’s part. In my case, of course, I was both client and detective and also didn’t receive a detective’s compensation, yet it proved to be one of the most fulfilling experiences I ever had because Kevin was so talented and dedicated to his art. He enjoyed various honors that came his way but the vast bulk of his time he devoted to his serious work, such as directing Shakespeare at the Old Vic, which was ultimately the source of his universal respect.

                  The experience of following Kevin was superior in every way to the experience of following Freddy, although I followed Freddy for a much longer time, and also slightly knew him as I’ve mentioned before. Kevin’s influence was far greater; he had an actual aura that surrounded him like an invisible friend. I heard and committed to memory only four or five sentences yet each had the weight of a prophet’s meditation. As for his sexual ambiguity, I didn’t ask and he never discussed it. I think that made him trust me more and believe in the “seriousness” of my imaginary film quarterly. It’s probably why Kevin accepted my long handwritten interview request. It demonstrated a certain mastery of the form – if only my novels did as well.

We started walking, me following a step behind. I noticed that his t-shirt was magnificently bereft of any sponsors. We talked about his playing Hamlet at the Vic, about his current project Othello, and then he asked me if I’d like a drink at the local pub. Of course I said yes.

                  Everything was going suspiciously well. Kevin told show business stories and I laughed at all the appropriate places. For a while our conversation achieved a kind of perfect flow like the ocean. Then he asked me why I hadn’t been using a notebook or recorder. The truth is I’d forgotten about my stated purpose completely, I was having such a good time.

                  “Oh, well, machines only bring out the dumbness in people,” he said, laughing. “I won’t care about it if you don’t.”

                  “Deal,” I said with such earnestness that he laughed out loud and ordered another whiskey sour. Apparently he was going to let the matter go which should have been enough for me, especially after my colossal blunder. But by failing to record the whole interview I’d also eliminated my reason for a follow-up appointment to go over the material one last time.

                  And then a miracle happened. He said “Oh well, we can always do that another time.” How kind he was. As if he knew I’d been following him for days now and on some level accepted it. He shook hands and smiled again at me. Another drink came with a check. Did I bring enough? What a penny pinching fool I’d been to not bring enough money to buy him dinner.

                  Kevin was talking on his phone now, presumably to one of his “people”. I leaned forward like a jockey so as not to miss a word. Meanwhile, Spacey stayed completely still.

                  “Sorry about that,” Spacey said to the phone that he was holding like a violin. He is the embodiment of grace, I remember thinking. “I promised this interview a long time ago. It’s for a new top notch film magazine. No there aren’t any photographers here. This is a serious journal. They don’t care what my face looks like, they actually care about what I have to say.” Then he turned toward me, letting the violin/telephone dangle as it were.

                  “What did you say the name of your journal was again?”

                  “Cinéma Vérité,” was all I could come up with, a term used to describe a documentary style of film making. Kevin gave me a funny look and I knew it would all be over in a few minutes.

                  “Is your journal a kind of retro nod to Goddard and Truffaut?”

                  “Something like that,” I said, looking around the restaurant nervously as if any second I’d have to photograph it.

                  “Did it start in Paris? Is there an office there?”

                  “I’m not sure.”

                  “I know, I’ll Google it from my phone.”

                  “It’s so new, there may not be anything on it yet…”

                  “That would be surprising if there was nothing. Unless of course, there is nothing there to find.”

                  I buried my head and conceded defeat.

                  “You know, I enjoy talking with people who have your level of understanding of film and drama, whether they’re from the business or not. What I don’t like is being deceived.” My head was still bowed half under the table cloth, as if I were a dog.

                  “What is it that you really do then, and why did you really want to see me?”

                  Still in my hidden position, I said, “I’m sorry that I misrepresented myself. Forgive me.”

                  Finally, I rose from my squatting position and turned for a nanosecond to see the ineffable expression on his face and then ran out of the pub unwittingly sticking Kevin, whom I meant to take out to dinner, with the bill.

***

It was a crushing blow to stop following Spacey. I never spoke to anyone about it, lest of all to a therapist, for whom I still have an abiding contempt. I became my own caregiver. Perhaps that’s why I fell in love with T, or at least thought I did. She kept telling me I didn’t really love her. I guess she had to say that to keep her distance and her job.

                  “You just love the way I look,” she’d say.

                  “That’s true. But why can’t I also love you?”

                  “We just too different.”

                  “If you gave me a chance.”

                  “I’m done with men. Black men, white men, yellow men, all men.”

                  “I love my family even though I don’t see my father much.”

                  “Funny, cause when I was a kid, I was always chasing after my mother.”

                  “See, that’s something else we have in common. I worshipped my father, always wanting to play catch or talk with him. But he was a very successful architect, well, contractor actually. He warned me about trying to write or act but I didn’t listen. I should have. I always followed him but never his advice.”

None of the times I followed people ever led to anything violent, though there was a close call in an airport bathroom. I never really considered it a crime or serious invasion of privacy. There are certainly no laws against it, (unless you’re on their property, and if they leave the wrong shade pulled up it’s really their fault isn’t it?)

                  After Kevin, I never tried to follow anyone of magnitude. By the same token I never tried to scare any of the people I followed, even during my muscular years. I suppose that roughly 90% of the people I followed were men, which never struck me as odd because women understandably get scared more easily than men, and as I said, I had no desire to scare them.

                  After Spacey, I lost my desire to get into their vacant homes as well. He’d set such a high standard of elegance and unpretentiousness it seemed pointless to follow other people, much less secretly enter their homes. I might as well have lived the rest of my days like that were it not for the absurd reappearance of Freddie Flowers in my life. I was still a graduate student at the time, not even married yet, so there was hope when I saw a notice by the library about a seminar on “The Responsibility of the Media,” or some similarly titled tripe, in which the incredibly dapper Mr. Flowers, in spite of his youth, had secured a spot as one of the panelists. In a way, it foretold his whole life. It was the kind of thing my father would have participated in, expecting me to be impressed while a silent inner voice in Freddie Flowers told him this is nothing: “You will never meet anyone truly important here, nor truly rich either. It will just add one more line to your resume, that’s all.”

                  What was in that resume? Who did he know? Could he have met Kevin Spacey perhaps, and seduced him with his Southern charm, impeccable manners, and dark good looks? But surely Kevin had too much strength of mind, too deep a soul to fall for the likes of Freddie, and yet I couldn’t shake the thought.


              When you are so consumed by something while walking, as I was then, it’s like a form of blindness. You are following someone but you’re not aware of it. {I call it “Unconscious following.”}To add to the confusion, the sky was completely gray and it was starting to drizzle. I was walking back from Flower’s disgustingly stellar performance on the media panel when I inexpliably lost my way, somewhere between Columbia and Barnard, {the women’s school that is a kind of female, Columbia, though they hated to be described that way} Apparently I’d been following a teenage boy who was dressed only in a wet pink shirt and torn jeans. We were in a little side street, too small to be a street, but too big to be an alley, when he suddenly stopped walking and turned to face me.


                  “Here,” he said.

                  “What?


                   “What do you think I mean, faggot, you’ve been following me for 15 minutes.”


                  I shrugged. “What about the police?”


                  “They don’t like to work in the rain. Now get over here behind the dumpster and suck my dick and don’t even think about stopping till I tell you, you can.”                             

                  ……I followed his instructions the whole time. When he was done I realized that he was brandishing a gun, I hadn’t noticed before. I was neither hysterical nor aroused, as if I hadn’t noticed it.     

                  “Now say “yes sir’, he said, brandishing a paper bag at me as if it might be concealing a gun or a knife.

                  “Yes sir.”


                  “And don’t spit nothing out either.”


                  Again, I did what he said. He had a weapon of some kind after all.     

                  When he was through {which was very quickly} he walked away without saying a word, as if I were only a mammal.

                  “Maybe you can be here around this time next Sunday and maybe you can do me.”

                  I thought of little else till I got home where I immediately started shivering. It was a singularly hideous experience but since it never happened again, I didn’t consider it revelatory in any way. I did vow to never follow anyone again, more specifically men I didn’t know, but within a week I was following again.


             ……You can make the case that everything in the world is following something starting with the sun and earth} though I’ve never felt that anyone is following me, except on Facebook, if you want to count that.


             Lady T believes that God talks to us directly in dreams. In a sense it’s not too far from what Freud thought. I believe we follow what we yearn for most in life. We are all followers trying to capture what we find missing in ourselves. Last night in my dream I was following my father and someone else through a forest that was also part jungle, which led to a grave. I ran as fast as I could and called out my father’s name but I couldn’t catch up to them. Tamara says she pictures heaven as always being held by her mother. I picture it as a place where men can walk together at an easy pace, not afraid to look at each other. For that vision I’m prepared, old as I am, to begin my education again.

Richard Burgin's 20th book and 10th collection of short fiction, will be published in Spring 2018 by The Goliad Press. His stories have won 5 pushcart prizes and have been reprinted in numerous anthologies including the Best American Mystery Stories and The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction. He is the founder and editor of the literary magazine Boulevard.