Recommended Reading: The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories.

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Excerpt from “Ten Penny”
From The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories by Wendy J. Fox
Winner of the 2014 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction

M. used to come to me late at night, when he was stinking from the bar, all the alcohol and cigarettes and the heavy smell of desperation on his skin—he was like me and hated going home alone. He would ring my bell, and I would let him in—his smile and those teeth as white and hard as picket; I’d never not let him in. I’d fix bourbon and roll a joint and climb up to the window seat with him, and we’d blow our smoke out at the city, my back against his chest. 

The window seat in my small apartment saved me. The window seat kept M. coming back, along with the promise of whiskey on fresh ice and mild narcotics and sticky sex on my low bed, though I think it was the view that held him. Looking onto the city buildings at night, he said to me what he was trying for: the same thing as a high-rise—keeping his lights on and reaching toward the sky. I’d push my face into his shoulder and hold my head there until I found it, under all that sweat and smoke, the smell of wood.

M. was a finish carpenter, though he could also frame. I admired his hands, which were long and slim and splintery and could feel out all the imperfections. There, at my elbow, the rough patch of scar from a decade-ago cycling accident—I remember sun and the dirt road and the deep drop down at my left, and then suddenly I was flying, and then suddenly I was stopped. M. knew nothing about how I lay on the road and bled, how I cried and cried at the falling, how I threw the bicycle into the ditch and walked into the little town nearby, how I never rode again, but he ran his finger around the ruined part of skin like he was a healer. He found the place on the back of my thigh, a puncture wound I got one day when metal collapsed around me; he touched the tiny dent above my eye, a fall onto a concrete step. He held my hand where it is crooked, outlined the asymmetrical ear. These were the every time things. He couldn’t stop himself from lingering around the broken places. 

M. was a man who built from scratch, who fit wood into wood without a seam. One night he came, and it was no different, as we got stoned and he recapped his life since the last time I saw him. I gave him my own summary, and we sat in quiet for a few minutes, watching the traffic and the streetlamps. I knew more about him than he’d like to admit—can’t kid a kidder, that’s what someone said to me once. I had some of the dirty things inside of me too, like M. I could see how his eyes wouldn’t clear, how he sometimes lost a beat between words. I imagined him working, getting every line perfectly straight, angling the nails in to not show. Right here, I wanted to tell him, right up my side. You can’t feel it, you can’t see it, but there’s a row of steel. 

About The Author 

Wendy J. Fox is the author of The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories, which was the first winner of the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction, and was finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Her novel The Pull of It was named a top 2016 book by Displaced Nation and her novel If the Ice Had Held was selected as the Santa Fe Writers Project grand prize winner by Benjamin Percy and named a Buzzfeed top pick for in 2019. Wendy tweets from @wendyjeanfox and lives in Denver, Colorado.

About The Book

The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories in the first winner of the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction, selected by Kevin Morgan Watson, Publisher, and Christine Norris, Fiction Editor. Carol Guess, author of Darling Endangered and Doll Studies: Forensics, says, “What happens when a still life speaks? Wendy J. Fox invites us to eavesdrop. These beautiful, lyrical stories describe ordinary lives: speckled eggshells, creeping vines. Here’s the threat of fire out east and endless rain when the map meets Seattle. Here are characters so real you know them already. They’ve misplaced your keys and borrowed your car.”

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Article originally Published in the February/March 2020 Issue “Short Stories”

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