Two Questions for Donna Vorreyer

We recently published Donna Vorreyer’s beautiful “Silence Is Golden or Maybe a Weapon.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) This story makes reference to one of my most-hated idioms: “Children should be seen and not heard.” What do you think of this idiom? What does your character think of it?

Having taught middle school for over 30 years and having parented a creative and verbal son, I hate this idiom. My own household growing up was full of conversation and music and sound, and I can’t fathom how anyone could ever expect a child to be silent all the time. I expect people who feel this idiom to be true are those who don’t really like or understand other people. Of course, there are places and times where being quiet is appropriate…but to expect a child, or anyone, for that matter, to move through the world in stealth so as not to disturb someone else is a control issue. I think my character has learned the power of not being heard and learned to wield it. Thus the sentence “She has given her parents what they always wanted, and now they don’t want it.” She’s decided that being seen and not heard is the best way to take the power back.

2) I like how you take this teenage rebellion and make it a silent thing — a response to the parents without a verbal response. How long do you think it took before they realized their child wasn’t speaking at all?

I think it probably took a while. They seem like the sort of parents who would be pretty pleased that she was “finally doing as she was told.” If I had to guess, I’d say it may have taken a phone call from the school (which would have embarrassed them, by the way) for them to realize it was actually happening. 

Silence is Golden or Maybe a Weapon ~ by Donna Vorreyer

The girl has been told to be quiet for as long as she can remember. Best seen and not heard. Now that she has not spoken in weeks, her parents beg, scream, bribe her to say something. Anything. She has grown to like the silence. Like the clapper of a bell muffled in cotton, she moves through the world with only the dull thud of her breath, her own footsteps. Her hearing has become attuned to things she never noticed before—the hiss and rumble of traffic on her walk to and from school, the tick of the classroom clock as it makes its slow progress toward the end of the day, the swish of corduroy between her thighs, insects singing their arias on the lawn as night falls.

She has given her parents what they always wanted, and now they don’t want it. They are so angry, and there has been fallout. In order to save face, her parents informed her school that she is “struggling with some issues,” so her teachers just don’t call on her anymore. Her parents don’t know that this is a relief. She has always liked school except for the participation, so her grades are higher than ever.  She is content, a slip of a grin always on her lips.  This makes the teachers wonder exactly what her issues might be. But they don’t ask, and she isn’t talking.

Although she doesn’t have a lot of friends, the few she does have are in solidarity with her silence. After all, they have heard her parents scream her into submission, bitch about “all the damn noise” when they were just sitting in her bedroom watching Tik Tok on their phones. They still hang out, eat lunch together, text and Snapchat, so the only difference is she doesn’t speak out loud. Her

friends don’t seem to mind. They think it’s hilarious, that she’s punking her parents, but she’s not sure if that’s what she’s doing. Maybe it started that way, but the longer she stays quiet, the more she feels alive. In control. As if stilling her tongue has awakened a force in her. Something she has never felt in all of her thirteen years.

She and her parents have just returned from another after-school hour at the family therapist, suggested by the family physician when he could find no medical cause for her silence. Her dad in his work clothes, red-faced, rumpled and fidgeting. Her mother in her best athleisure wear and perfect wine-colored lipstick. Both parents crying as she sat stoic and speechless, shrugging or nodding only when asked direct questions. Is there something that triggered this silence? Shrug. Has someone harmed you?  Negative head shake.

 Now the girl can hear her parents in the kitchen as she comes down for dinner. Their voices are desperate, bitter. Why is she doing this to us? Everyone will think she’s nuts. Everyone will blame us. When they hear her footsteps approaching, they change their tone to cheerful refrains of Time for dinner! and Hope you’re hungry!  They have made her favorite meal, spaghetti with meatballs. Again. She winds the noodles around her fork and slides them between her lips, chewing with her mouth closed. She wonders how far they will go to break her.  How far she can go until they break.


Donna Vorreyer is the author of To Everything There Is (2020), Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016) and A House of Many Windows (2013), all from Sundress Publications. She hosts the monthly online reading series A Hundred Pitchers of Honey. Though primarily a poet, her small fictions and essay work have appeared in Cherry Tree, Thimble Lit, Sweet, MORIA, Lily Poetry Review, and other journals.

Two Questions for Tom Weller

We recently published Tom Weller’s powerful “Hunger.”

Here, we ask him two questions about his story:

1) As you’re well aware, I’m a huge fan of your Scrap Boys series (this is your third Scrap Boys story I’ve had the honor of publishing!). As you’ve worked on this series, how have the characters changed and grown for you?

Sadly, I think over time the Scrap Boys have become less brash, less sure of themselves. In early stories the Scrap Boys are wrestling in a cheap, plastic pool, strutting bare chested through the fair, and flipping off a guy driving a sleek, expensive car. And in the early stories the conflicts the Scrap Boys encounter are largely external, blonde girls from school who don’t acknowledge them, a pool breaking down due to Scrap Boys wear and tear.

But “On the Way to the Fair,” published a few years ago in MoonPark Review, contains what feels to me like a turning point for the Scrap Boys. Riding their bikes to the fair, “They ride desperate to shake the thing that pursues them. This thing that is all hungry maw, all hand-scythe teeth and razor blade tongue. This thing that they never talk about. This thing that has no name. Scrap Boy 1, Scrap Boy 2, Scrap Boy 3, not one of them has ever seen it, but they all know it’s there, feel it from time to time, right behind them, fetid breath, hot and moist on the back of their necks.” So the conflict here is still external, but this thing is in hot pursuit of the Scrap Boys, threatening to overtake them.

After that, the Scrap Boys adventures become more clandestine. They are breaking bottles by a lonely railroad track; they leave town to sneak out to an isolated trailer. At the same time, the conflicts in the stories become more internal. The Scrap Boys have a drive to destroy they don’t really understand; the Scrap Boys are hungry. What has caused this shift is unclear, but I suspect it has something to do with that “thing that is all hungry maw. . .”

2) And speaking of growth, at the end of this story, we have our first mention of Scrap Men! And that ending line — “You are what you have always been.” What does this mean for the Scrap Boys-now-Men? What does this mean for you as their creator?

I think most immediately the appearance of the Scrap Men is a stark recognition of diminished possibilities for the Scrap Boys. But I also think the appearance of the Scrap Men might be an opportunity for the Scrap Boys, a kind of escape hatch from what looks like an inevitable bad ending. Is there away for the Scrap Boys and Scrap Men to interact? What possibilities might that relationship reveal?

As for the creator of the Scrap Boys, I’m currently on a bit of Scrap Boys hiatus to make time for a nascent project that I hope evolves into a series of stories about a secret clown bootcamp. But I do plan to return to the Scrap Boys at some point. I want to circle back and see what ever happened to that hungry maw that was after the Scrap Boys, and I want to see if there’s a way to put the Scrap Boys in communication with the Scrap Men. I think maybe they all need to do some adventuring together, maybe a big group trip to the fair the next time it rolls into town.

Hunger ~ by Tom Weller

It’s the rumbles of twisting stomachs, the slack weight of arms and legs, heavier now than they should be. It’s the hollow place that has bloomed in their centers and spread like cancer, an emptiness demanding to be filled.

Scrap Boy 1, Scrap Boy 2, Scrap Boy 3, three backyard haircuts, three bare little-bird chest, ribs ruffling flesh, three mouths searching, six rows of crooked teeth saliva slick, but just one shared heart. Where one Scrap Boy goes the other two follow, sure as the echo that follows a slap. They walk, out past the four blocks of downtown, where the three bars have all started locking their dumpsters and Bad Betty reigns over the Dollar General, flies from behind her register to harass Scrap Boys away before they can make it through the automatic door. They walk past the elementary school, playground empty in the heat of summer, basketball rim naked of net. That rim has never had a net. There’s no swish when a Scrap Boy scores. Scrap Boy scores are silent.

The Scrap Boys keep moving, too empty to be walking so far, too empty to stop, past slumping row houses, peeling paint and spiderwebbed windows and cat-piss stink, across the railroad track, steel rails shimmering under the July sun, air thick with the smell of creosote, into the woods, stands of maples and young oaks stitched together with deer trails, to the open field where the trailer sits.

The Scrap Boys are ninjas, 1 and 2 and 3, quick, tiptoe steps, duck behind the trashcans, duck behind the rusted pickup, bare tires settled six inches into the earth, weeds growing up through the engine compartment, a burst of green, like fireworks, blooming up past the open hood. A dash to the back of the trailer, quickquick and silent as clouds.

The Scrap Boys peep in the rear window, open the back door sloooowwly, Ninjas on the prowl. It’s ritual. It’s ceremony. It’s not practical. They know nobody’s in the trailer.

There air inside the trailer is thick and stagnant, heavy with the smell of sweat and cigarettes and beer and spunk; the light inside the trailer is grey, the only sound the hum of the refrigerator.

This is the miracle of the trailer, the refrigerator like Jesus with loaves and fishes. It provides. Today there are hotdogs, two packs of ten for the Scrap Boys to rip open and pass around, Scrap Boy fingers grabbing cold hot dog flesh. Moisture from the packaging drips, drips, drips, on the peeling linoleum floor. The Scrap Boys bite the ends of their hotdogs, then pinch them between their index fingers, pretend they are smoking cigars. Shove the end of their hotdog in their mouth, the meat clammy against their lips and tongues. They inhale, make puffing noises before they bite and pull the dogs away from their faces, brandish their hotdog cigars at each other, try to remember lines from old black and white gangster movies they half watched in the shadows of their grandmothers. The Scrap Boys say, “Look here, Bub.” The Scrap Boys say, “The boss has been looking for you. The boss ain’t gonna be happy.”

And with each puff and bite, with each tough guy line, the Scrap Boys feel themselves growing, aging. Their bones stretch and their hair recedes, their chests swell and then droop, aches are born in their backs and shoulders, their knuckles stiffen and swell until they look like knots on tree trunks. The hollow place in their center creeps and expands like an oil slick. Cold wieners no match for it.

And each Scrap Man, 1, 2, and 3, look at their surroundings, look at the other two Scrap Men, a circle of understanding, a knowing without words, not a shared epiphany, instead a reminding of a truth so brilliant and permanent that it just might be tattooed on their shared heart: You are what you always have been.


Tom Weller is a former factory worker, Peace Corps volunteer, Planned Parenthood sexuality educator, and college writing instructor. His fiction has appeared in Booth, Pidgeonholes, Barrelhouse, among others. His fiction collection And There Came Forth a Great Fish: Stories was published from Gateway Literary Press. He lives in Victoria, Texas, with his wife and his ill-mannered but big-hearted rescue dog, Beans.

Two Questions for Abigail E. Myers

We recently published Abigail E. Myers’ delightful “First Time at a Waffle House, As a Hurricane Approaches.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) I love the way this story combines the Waffle House phenomenon with the sense of impending danger — it feels both so of-the-moment and timeless, all at once. What was it that inspired this piece? And that feeling?

I didn’t grow up with Waffle House, but they’re everywhere in Texas, where my husband grew up and my in-laws still live. My mother-in-law and her husband lost their home in Port Arthur during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and although she’s since moved slightly inland, it’s hard not to think of the storm, undoubtedly exacerbated by climate change, when driving along the Gulf Coast and seeing all the oil infrastructure there. There’s a Waffle House just down the road from where she lives now, and a gun range just down the road from there, so for me, this place that feels so cozy and kitschy and fun sits right alongside these places that feel very ominous. We had breakfast there at the end of our visit right after Christmas, when that Waffle House video had just gone viral, so all of those images and feelings were brewing together in my mind. I often sense my readiness to write a story when that brew starts to feel like it’s reached a bubbling point. I wrote the first draft of the story while we were driving down US-90 towards Houston to fly back north.

2) The anaphora of “They won’t tell you this” is so effective as it transitions from the staff not telling you things that will make more work for them to something larger. What made you choose this particular effect for this story?

Perhaps because I didn’t grow up with it, Waffle House and its menu still feel like a bit of a secret to me. I’ll be wondering if I can swap out certain items in combos and my husband and mother-in-law will be assuring me that, yes, I can do this or that. I never want to make a nuisance of myself! So it started with that very concrete experience, and then wondering what else people who live and work in this culture know that I don’t, particularly the ones in this climate that feels very fragile to me. Tommy Dean recently posted a great piece about setting as catalyst in his Substack and it’s something that seems to work well for me, so who knows what beloved restaurant chain I’ll explore next!

First Time at Waffle House, as a Hurricane Approaches ~ by Abigail E. Myers

They won’t tell you this, but you can replace the grits with a hash brown. And when you do, they’ll still make them however you want. Jalapenos and cheese, extra crispy with ham. They won’t tell you this, but you can buy one of the coffee mugs, heavy and emblazoned with the logo. You can bean an intruder over the head with one and do some real damage, but it’s truly suited to provide slow death by the best bad coffee. They won’t tell you this, but you can bring your gun, even though you won’t need it. You saw that video of the waitress who caught the aluminum chair someone flung towards her. These people are pros. They won’t tell you this, but they will stay open till the whites of the eyes of the muddy waters come rolling down the state highway, till you can see them through the smeary, steamy windows. They won’t tell you this, but you can shoot the gun you didn’t need in the first place at the deluge, or try to beat it back with your coffee mug, but you can also crack the crust of your extra crispy hash brown with your fork, a veteran of five thousand trips through the industrial dishwasher, and enjoy it.


Abigail Myers lives on Long Island, New York, where she writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Her essays have appeared in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, with a personal essay (which was also a finalist for the American Literary Review Fall 2022 essay contest) forthcoming from Phoebe in winter 2023. Her microfiction recently appeared in Heart Balm. Her poetry recently appeared in Rough Diamond Poetry and Roi Fainéant, with poetry forthcoming from Sylvia, Poetry as Promised, Amethyst Review, Unlimited Literature, and Musings. You can keep up with her at and @abigailmyers (still on Twitter).

Two Questions for Lauren Cassani Davis

We recently published Lauren Cassani Davis’s brilliant “Teenagers.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

) There’s a great mix of pop culture references and ancient allusions at play here — I especially like the little winking nod to Spiderman! How did you decide on this blend of the modern and the old?

I’d been reading The Odyssey with one of my classes, so some of it just sort of leaked out in the first draft! Then, as I revised, I realized that the modern/ancient pattern captured a feeling I was trying to articulate. The experience of being a teenager is totally specific to your own generation—ephemeral songs, brands, trends—but also transcendently human. 

2) In this piece, I find a feeling of inevitability and loss, but it all seems almost willful. The teenagers won’t “pretend to act surprised” when meteors come; they don’t believe in history and will only “remember what they want to.” Do you think that speaks to the world these teenagers have inherited?

For sure. It speaks to their reckless rebellion against what previous generations have wrought, and at the same time a grim, almost absurd acceptance of their fate. Not to get too existentialist, but I’m thinking of Heidegger’s concept of thrown-ness; we’re each born into a set of historical circumstances completely beyond our control. The willful attitude of the teenagers in this piece (based on the ones I now know and the one I once was) is a reaction to that condition. A way to find empowerment and solidarity in the face of a flawed inheritance; one they’ll have no choice but to face.

Teenagers ~ by Lauren Cassani Davis

They play poker on their phones during fire drills. They hold dead rats in their hands. They are apathetic with curiosity. Some have lost their heads, others have lost their shoes. In their pockets are ring pops and bullets and broken chargers and red lace thongs. That is not their real name. Assign them no sex, no destiny. They are distracted and tender and high on cherry, Molly, sweat. They like the way rain soaks into worksheets and lifts the perfume of deodorant and potential into the air. Has the city always belonged to them?

On the subway they are walking between cars, cutting each others’ hair, deciding who deserves a mauling. They are vogueing in the cafeteria, hands like black doves. They are painting murals in the third-floor bathroom, scratching flowers into the stalls, making shrines to Billie Eilish, knowing no God watches. They need only themselves, only dancing. They savor in 30-second spurts. This is their war against forgetting, their campaign for eternal life. Forget Achilles—look at her face today, eyelashes on point. There is no such thing as history, only bluetooth speaker and report card and loose-rolled joint and first kiss and second fuck and livestream and free throw and group chat and forever awake now here always.

The teenagers are bored to death with our lessons. They’ll remember what they want to. They stay out early and wake up late. They keep their hoods up. They wear all purple. They glide along the block, new Nikes like solar sails. They harmonize with pursed lips and two-inch fingernails and boners tucked into the elastic band of doubt. They smell of cranberry, punk show, detergent, Sour Patch Kid. They shoot webs from their wrists and lasers from their eyes and wear long sleeves to hide the scars. They fold the corners of books they never read. They slit holes in their jeans with shards of tradition. They expect justice and refuse to be punished.

They are afraid. They yearn to be cradled, hate to be touched. They curl up like cats on the counters of the food hall, unable to penetrate the thick glass, wanting. Some feast on the spilled bowels of trashbags. They are always hungry.

They interpret the color of each others’ auras—tangerine, mint green, hazelnut. They want a puppy, but their parents won’t allow it. They intimidate for approval, beg for responsibility. Their futures are still multiple-choice. They steal stray Citibikes, ridicule our choice of emoji, demean our syntax. They laugh at our expense. They are Cambrian, Jurassic, Postmodern, Metamodern. They are gaining experience points and preparing to evolve.

Driving with a temporary license, they steal stop signs and barricade driveways. They gather provisions. They wear beanies to avoid detection, eyeliner to expel optimism. Under the bridge by the river, while we sleep, they chew on their cuticles and rest heads in each other’s laps, dreaming of birthday cakes that look like coffins. When the meteors approach, they won’t pretend to act surprised.


Lauren Cassani Davis is a writer and high school teacher based in New York City. Her work has appeared in No Contact, Monkeybicycle, and Peatsmoke Journal. 

Two Questions for Anu Kandikuppa

We recently published Anu Kanidkuppa’s amazing “Underneath It All.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) I love, love, love how this story moves from the surface to the depths — from appearances to inner workings. That ending just sends me soaring! Was it difficult to balance the observational with the emotional here?

I always find it challenging to suggest the deeper meaning of a piece in a way that seems neither contrived and obvious nor too subtle and vague, and this story was no exception. (I sometimes think—how easy if I could simply state what I want to say!) As you might imagine, a party I attended sparked the idea for this piece. I probably started writing the observational details first (which I gathered by being anti-social and sitting in a corner and just taking in everything), and then thought about why these details were interesting to me—mined my feelings about them. Then I played around with the words a lot and hoped it worked. There are so many constraints—tension, flow, length. Wanting to be a little fresh, a little new. The short length of a flash piece makes it harder, of course.

2) The little glimpses into each of the characters reveal so much about them (I adore that line where the American hostess is puzzled by another mother’s reference to other countries — ” Were there other countries in the world?”). Do you think, when these women look at each other, they only see the differences? Or do the see the sameness that they hold within themselves?

The women in the story are bound together loosely by the fact that their children studied together. At the same time, they don’t know each other or the hostess well. I think they walk in feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable to various degrees, not to mention throbbing with anxiety about their soon-to-depart children. A crowded house party is never a good setting to meet new people. You gather quick first impressions—accents, dress, superficialities—and move on to the next person. It takes effort and, I think, composure and open-mindedness to make connections, but in the course of the evening at least some women—maybe those who tend to choose deeper conversations with fewer people over flitting around—leave feeling allied with another woman. 

Underneath It All ~ by Anu Kandikuppa

The women at the graduation party, mothers of the graduates, wore hot-pink dresses and mint-green dresses and caftans, midis and lace and leather dresses, dresses that The Wall Street Journal and Vogue had declared to be warm-weather essentials, that sold for $1,599 or $59 (cheap-chic is smart-chic) and blended into the garden of the Wellesley home, which was studded with New Guinea impatiens in rainbow colors, the home itself featured in a recent issue of New England Homes, the hostess in a white chiffon with asymmetrical hem, her figure fit, her nails done in coral (the new red); in truth, all the women had had their nails done the day before at appointments made weeks earlier in anticipation of the party, done in French manicures and pastels, their hair too done that morning, in sleek or bouffant styles, and though their skins, beneath tinted foundation and loose powder, spanned a range of shades from pink-and-white to brown and browner, they all spoke the same language and said the same things: congratulations, what a beautiful evening, what a lovely house. That is, they blended in with the New England home, and if they made an effort—if they concealed Dr. Scholls in their high heels or downed anti-anxiety pills or Googled “garden party etiquette in America” and “what do Americans like to talk about”—it was not obvious; they did fit into the house with the lawn and pink-and-white hostess and new outdoor kitchen—yes, they fit in—but underneath their words (which fit in) you could discern traces of accents—a few rolled rrrrs, some lahs, a ze for the or f-ah-st for fast—Singaporean and Russian and Indian accents. One mother, in a straw hat and sunglasses she did not take off even when the sun went down as if she wanted to hide the strain in her eyes, revealed more than she meant to when she said, “This is the best country to grow up in, so many colleges, such good healthcare,” upon which the hostess turned pale blue eyes on her and looked puzzled: Were there other countries in the world? Another mother with a round apple figure beneath whose skin you could almost see the stacked pooris, the greasy ghee, kept pulling her tight dress over her round knees—she’d really have been far more comfortable in a salwar kameez in a hot, humid flat in Mumbai, fan turning lazily, masala tea at hand—and went on and on about her graduating son. In truth all the women talked about was their children, their past worries about their children (vaping, smoking, failing) and their future worries about their children (hazing, drinking, failing), and they all said, in those voices with faint accents—if only he had a friend at college, if only he knew someone—that is, underneath their clothes and skins and accents, they were all just worried mothers, who each managed to find another mother with a child in the same college to whom they talked and talked until they inevitably became hungry and, one by one, wandered to the outdoor kitchen and downed burgers and chips with an urgency brought on by stress—oh, how hungry they were!—they forgot their party manners and picked up the food with fingers and opposable thumbs, like they might a piece of roti, and popped it in their mouths and chewed with jaws and teeth adapted for cooked food only recently—twenty thousand years ago to be precise—because underneath it all, they were all warm-blooded primates that needed to capture energy in the form of grain and protein to keep warm, keep talking, keep living. Then they went home, calmed with food and talk, each clutching the number of a mother, thinking warm thoughts about her, thinking—now I have someone, now I don’t have to worry alone; that is, underneath the clothes and skins and words and accents and jaws and teeth and fingers, they were clusters of warmth-seeking atoms, they were beating hearts, they were the same.


Anu Kandikuppa’s short stories, flash fiction, and essays appear in Gone Lawn, Jellyfish Review, The Cincinnati Review (miCRo), Colorado Review, and other journals. Anu worked as an economics consultant in a former life and lives in Boston.