Episode Four - At first it was just a doodle

photo by David Solce

photo by David Solce

At first it was just a doodle

A boy with a cat’s head and tail. Eric had posted the sketch to his blog with the caption Xavier, two years old. It was a friend who emailed the first article, linked from a conspiracy site. Petri-dish Infant Escapes. There was Eric’s drawing, recreated with blurry stock photos. Right down to the overalls. Soon seasoned journalists reported sightings, warned the public against approaching. Online, people were divided. Some vowed to shelter the little one. Others set out bowls of poisoned milk. Eric pressed his ear to the door, waited for a purr.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

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Episode Three - On dives, the headlamp made the water blacker

image by Timothy Knepp

image by Timothy Knepp

On dives, the headlamp made the water blacker. There was nothing with sizeable teeth in this Ohio river but it was unnerving, the lone illuminated tunnel. Eric thought it must be some deep human fear, shadows on the periphery. Some ape thing like the hypnic jerk before sleep. He was here removing tracking cameras, the funding dried up on his paddlefish study. The population was down, no hiding that. A new dam, lax sport fishing regulations, the zebra mussel’s steady paving. Paddlefish were a barometer species. Eric couldn’t help but romanticize their plight. Imagine outliving the dinosaurs—Eoraptors to Triceratops—only to be squeezed out by twerpy homo sapiens. As he unscrewed the recorder, he was pinched by the anxiety that he might be to blame for the decline, simply by mounting cameras. It didn’t matter your intention, did it? Consequence seeped out just the same. Nothing could sandbag against it.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

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Episode Two - Who would she sleep with now?

Who would she sleep with now? He had shared the same queen- sized mattress for eight years. An Ikea futon for a decade before that. She didn’t want to be the kind of person that keeps stuffed animals or body pillows. Perhaps she would sleep on the couch, allow herself to be spooned by the cushions. How quickly would her weight make an imprint? How soon would guests know? And would they stop visiting, afraid to seat themselves on the mold of her bereavement? She didn’t want to make a spectacle of herself but grief felt like a third limb, something people’s eyes couldn’t help but seek out. A chipped tooth slowly remapped by the tongue.

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

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Episode One - My Son is Given an Ark

DSC01938.jpg

My son is given an ark

Inside the red, plastic hull are pairs of molded elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions and doves. This Noah, clenched in my son’s hand, wears suspenders, hip waders and fisherman’s cap. He might as well be on a cod trawler. I wonder what his plans are once the waters dry up. Another white man with a Big Five game reserve. Surely his wife bites her tongue, wondering about tourists, if she’ll have to breed her own economy. Why not a pair of sheep? Chickens? She pleads with my son, “Wasn’t my sister worth twenty elephants?”

(written by Claire Tacon, read by Chioke I'Anson)

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Welcome to The Oddments Tray

So, I’m terrible at blogging. But I got an offer I couldn’t refuse—the inimitable Chioke I’Anson suggested recording some microfiction together. We’d been working together on a podcast called Do Over (check it here!) and lending me his voice for my own writing was too generous a proposition to pass up. I’m hoping to release one compact story a week with some guest writers popping up as well.

The title comes from the junk receptacle between the two front seats of a car. When I think about my writing process, I often compare it to driving with random objects knocking around in the trunk. Every so often I open it up and see how they’ve come to fit together. Over the years, I’ve written a lot of text that will never find a commercial home—so here, in audio form, I’m emptying out the car tray, lost paper clips, loose change, grimy trail mix and all.   

In case you want to know more about Chioke (and you do!), you can check him out at VCU’s Department of African American Studies, listen to his interviews on SoundCloud, or you could just listen to NPR—he’s the one reading the underwriting

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