Home Like a Shadow
College girl accompanies her new boyfriend to his decaying San Joaquin Valley home town for his mother's birthday and is pulled into family conflicts and lost dreams dating back to the Civil War.
Meghan is a cynical, worldly, disillusioned college girl who thinks she has insulated herself against almost any experience. But when her new boyfriend, Cliff, unexpectedly invites her to his mother's birthday dinner in his tiny San Joaquin Valley hometown of "Alton" California, she braces herself.
"I am not particularly worried about meeting his family, either. I know by now that I am not the type of girl parents approve of. “Slinky,” one mom had sniffed, as if that were something bad.
When they finally arrive, Meghan realizes that Alton is a poor California town, straight out of The Grapes of Wrath.
"Piles of sunbleached lumber and crusted paint cans lie about in patchy, weedy yards, as if people had once hoped to renew their lives, but gave up."
Suddenly, I ache for Cliff. Beneath his lanky, cynical pose lies this sad origin."
“C’mon in.” But Cliff opens the door only enough for him to poke his head through and glance around. After a moment he throws it wide and pulls me after him."
Meghan meets Cliff's mother Lili, and his Auntie Verna, both of them sipping bourbon from teacups and already half in the bag. Of Lili, she says:
"Her face is radiantly beautiful, but the fragile skin has been no match for the Central Valley sun. Something about her makes you want to console her."
Auntie Verna, Lili's sister, gives Meghan the once-over:
"I get a whiff of hard liquor, tobacco and perfume. Her sharp blue eyes scan me so quickly that I can almost feel the wind of their passing.
When Cliff's father emerges, Meghan sees yet another truth:
A stubby, graying man in a blue striped seersucker bathrobe hanging half open to reveal a hairy, concave chest above an ample belly. His eyebrows are thick black bolts drawn together by his scowl. His beard is about three days old."
Meghan is now pulled into the family's life. Against her will, she begins to lose the hard shell she has grown around herself.
When the father leaves for a bout of gambling, and Cliff takes off after him, Meghan realizes that it is going to be a long, long night, and that she is going to wake up the next morning changed forever.
The Brothers McMullen
The Last Picture Show
Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in fiction in 2021 and 2016
I wrote the feature film, Murder in Fashion, about the shooting of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. The film played at theatres and festivals and was reviewed in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/movies/22murder.html?_r=0
My short story, published in Cornell University's literary magazine, Epoch, is currently under option to Sony and Road Less Traveled Productions.