interview with famed author j. robert lennon about his book Happyland.

In 2003, my friend John wrote a book about a maniacal doll tycoon named Happy. It was a good book, but some people got mad about it, and the book stayed unpublished until now. You can read a description of Happyland here on good reads. (Be my friend if you want, I just joined!) I emailed John some questions and he answered them.

1. In the novel, Happy Masters visits a tiny fictional town in New York. She decides to build a kind of living dollhouse/tourist attraction out of the place, thus effecting the lives of many of the shop owners who live there. I liked especially Dave the on-the-wagon bartender and Janet the lesbian college student in love with Happy. It’s quite a thing to encapsulate a whole town in a book. I wondered if it took courage, if it was ever too hard and you wanted to give up. Is it an especially long book? I wasn’t sure because I read it on kindle. (Most cursory of research after the fact reveals the book to be approx. 325 pages.) The scope reminds me of Preston Falls by Richard Russo and maybe some other books as well. What were you reading and thinking of at the time you were writing this epic saga and just who do you think you are in general.

I’m your worst nightmare, missy, that’s who I am. Seriously though—I think this is a little longer than the novels I’ve been writing lately, but I must say that it was incredibly fun to write. I’d set out to intentionally create a set of extreme personalities and stage a bunch of over-the-top drama for them to suffer through. I think the problem with trying to evoke an entire town in a novel is to make it seem populated by more than the people and things that are the focus of the story—to give the place an overall personality above and beyond your immediate literary concerns, and without cluttering the whole thing up. The first draft was extremely different—it had an art professor, and The Oldest Man In The State Of New York, and a ghost, and a little crowd of precocious children, and no real narrative drive. I’d just been amusing myself, really, in the hope that a novel would emerge. It didn’t, not right away. For the next draft, I basically kept the first 20 pages and started over, and the result is more or less what was published.

2. More about the characters. Did you have some kind of model in mind when figuring out the combination of personalities? For example, it seems to me that Kevin is a classic “chaotic neutral” if you’re into Dungeons and Dragons. I think I read you say somewhere that the ineffectual apple orchard keeper/mayor is akin to Colin Powell.

The characters aren’t strictly allegorical, though I did think of Happy as an expression of Karl Rove’s politics, and yeah, Archie as Colin Powell, the man doomed to commit sin after sin of omission. Mostly, though, the characters grew out of the other characters. What kind of person would Happy really hate? An old-school feminist like the librarian. What kind of man could Happy humiliate? A sexually insecure bundle of nerves like the college president. Who would worship and desire Happy? Someone shy and malleable, like Janet. Once I had the major players I could invent secondary characters designed to vex, tempt, or otherwise ruffle them. And yes, I am into Dungeons and Dragons.


3. I don’t want to give too much away, but do you think any of these characters found redemption? Is Happy Masters a better person by the end or has she just learned how to be more cunning?

I wasn’t really aiming for redemption—I think everyone stays more or less who they were at the beginning of the book. Except for Janet, I guess—Janet is the character who finds herself, or invents herself, or at least appears to have done so in the coda. I didn’t have any real goals for this novel other than to wind up these people and watch them bumble around. It was a challenge to tease a plot out of it all!

Time out for a personal anecdote about me as it relates to the American Girls dolls:

When I was a kid my grandmother gifted me the Molly book series, for obvious reasons. Like me, Molly was in the third grade, but in 1942 with a father away at war. She had stringy blonde hair in braids and glasses, and worst of all, a neurosis to match my own and I didn’t like that. I didn’t know I was cheated out of a doll until a girl in our class brought in her Samantha doll for show and tell. She asked the class to note how much her and Samantha looked alike and it’s true, they were both very pretty. For three years I needed glasses and pretended I didn’t because I didn’t want to be a nerd like Molly.



great beauty.

great beauty.

4. Which character do you feel most closely aligned with? Whose story do you think this is? Which of these characters are you most romantically interested in if you liked girls? If you liked guys?

That’s a thoroughly bizarre question, the sexy part anyway. I’m most aligned with Happy, of course—I’m the guy pulling the strings! She’s playing the role of a villain, of course, but I find her pretty sympathetic, ultimately. She is just completely impatient with anyone or anything getting in the way of what she wants, and this is an impulse I am always tamping down in my own personality. I mean, there’s a Happy in me always fighting for dominance. She usually loses, but she’s in there. As for romance…is it narcissistic to love one’s own characters? I guess it is. That said, Happy and Janet could be said to represent extremes of the two types of women I’ve tended to date—brash, socially confident self-actualizers and demure aesthetes with hidden strengths. I married a Janet, ultimately, but count a few Happys among my best friends.

Interviewers note: Kevin and Dave are the sexiest men characters in this book because they work with their hands and/or own a bar. 

5. Did you feel hopeless and upset when you couldn’t get your book published back when you first wrote it, or did you have a system in place for dealing with crippling rejection and disappointment? When do we let go and put our precious in a drawer?

I’ve got some novels in drawers, for sure, but they aren’t very precious. This was different—a book everyone agreed was worth publishing, but couldn’t be published because of obscure and unreasonable fears. I was enraged at the time, of course—I ground my teeth at night and cursed the day various people were born. But the experience has taught me to detach myself from others’ regard and accept rejection and disappointment as the norm. Every writer has to eventually, even, I’d imagine, the wildly successful ones.

6. Have you ever tried to write a screenplay? Should I?

The screenwriter Michael Caleo and I have written a TV pilot and we’re gonna try to get a series made. Fingers crossed!

7. What question do you wish people would ask you about the book and what’s your answer to this question?

Q: Are you going to do ensemble social comedy again? A: Yes!

8. Seen any good movies this year? Books?

I haven’t been to many movies, oddly. Breaking Bad was the best piece of filmed entertainment I saw this year—I think Walt and Jesse are extraordinary characters, legendary ones, even. The writing on that show was amazing. And maybe I’m just thinking visually this year, but lots of my favorite books were comics—Anders Nilsen’s BIG QUESTIONS and Adam Hines’s DUNCAN THE WONDER DOG are standouts. I also loved a couple of new poetry collections by my friends Ed Skoog (ROUGH DAY) and Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (CHORD BOX). 

9. I need you to speak to me now like a sage and an elder. I want to start a book and finish it in a relatively quick amount a time. I’m a full time dog walker, but the grind isn’t so bad. I have a fair amount of free time. What’s a reasonable goal for getting a first draft done? Is that an insane way to look at it? I feel that I need a plan and a goal.

No system is insane, however artificial it may seen. Whatever gets the shit done. Before I taught full time, I could finish a first draft of a novel in nine months—these days it’s more like a year and a half. I tend to do a lot of work in revisions, especially now that I’m older; I’m more willing to ignore what I thought I was trying to write and accept what I discover during the process of failing to write it. When I’m doing a first draft, I try to work on it every day and crank out four or five pages in three or four hours. I just want a pile of pages I can give to people so that they can tell me what’s wrong with them. As for your plan—yes. Set goals. Meet them. Don’t worry if it’s not awesome. It can’t be awesome, it’s a first draft.





oh, shadow!

My body’s been going through some exciting changes. All the walking has made my legs taut and sturdy like trees. At night I go to the gym and hit a bag. I can do one male pushup with confidence, but walking dogs makes me hungry so I still weigh a lot. I look at my body and think, where is all this weight distributed? My tan is fading. Further, I’ve been going to the same gym for three months and I haven’t made a single friend. I don’t think anybody paid my gym fees, so for the last several weeks I’ve just been slinking by the front desk. From this I can conclude that everyone agrees I’m supposed to be there but would rather not talk to me, which is a good position to be in when you haven’t paid your gym fees.

This morning at 7:30 I took Beatrice the bulldog for a walk in the alley behind her dad’s house where we came across a golden, jewel-encrusted turtle sitting on a wet chair. It looked like a trick, it was so perfect. At first I was afraid to touch the turtle because it seemed alive, and then I thought if I picked it up a loud alarm would go off. I decided to leave the turtle for the time being, and if it was there when I came back at 11, I’d take the turtle home and put it under the covers at my new boyfriend’s house so he’d know what I’m like and maybe feel the same way about it as I do. Basically it’s a test that none of us know we’re taking. At this point I’ve put the turtle in my car and the rest of the story hasn’t happened yet.

A few entities have approached me in the last year asking if they can put up advertising on mollylaich.com, mostly for “learn how to write” products since that’s what most of you are into apparently. If there were serious money involved I’d do it—don’t get me wrong—but it’s not serious; it’s like 100 bucks a year if we’re lucky. I was going to say that I’m not going to do it for the principle or whatever but now I’m wondering if it isn’t just laziness. I think it’s funny how the moment you manage to create something remotely interesting, a thing that people want to put their eyes on willingly, somebody else wants to come along and squeeze the blood out of it. It’s like an insect bite. The bug wants to eat you: Be flattered, but strike her dead.

The reality of my situation is creeping up on me, that I only have 729 twitter followers and I might not have the work ethic to make any sort of profound impact on the literary world. I’m coming to terms with my ordinariness, basically. But even as I type it I don’t believe me. I just keep living my life as though it’s about to start to matter as soon as we clear this next big hill. It’s just a series of hills, you guys! It’s like in Homeward Bound when they make it over the first mountain only to see a million more in the distance, and Sassy the cat says, “Oh, Shadow!”

Plus I’m in love with a nice man. How gay is that.

Free letters is still a thing, send me your address! I just sent out a bunch of them. I tried to give everyone a dollar, but toward the end of the pile I ran out of cash, and it’s like, why am I paying you? I don’t have enough turtles to put in everyone’s bed, probably.


open interviews.

In honor of my new, slightly used macbook air and the Hunter’s Moon (October), I asked people to ask me questions. Here they are.

@5redpandas wants to know:

1. What makes you angry?

Foie gras. When I think of this and other rich people, animal torture delicacies, I see red. My blood boils.

2. Name three artists/writers you’d like to be compared to.

When it comes to art, lifestyle and temperament, I relate with Charlie Kaufman, Joy Williams and Charles Bukowski. You don’t really want people coming up to you and saying you remind them of Bukowski, though. He had a bad temper and a hideous face.

Certain shit has come up in my life, depending on the decade: Clarissa Explains it All. Blossom. Angela from My So Called Life. Peppermint Patty.

3) What’s overrated (could be a book, movie, and or idea)? WHY?

Breaking Bad. Drive. Blade Runner. I dunno, these are all things a lot of people like that just look like bad art to me. Psychologically inconsistent or all style or boring or dumb. Breaking Bad is pretty good I just feel left out because I don’t care. I wish everybody was riveted by Who the Bleep Did I Marry? Or Werner Herzog films or some of the shit that I like for once.
4. What’s underrated? Why?
Reincarnation, the enneagram, tarot, meditation, the moon, Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way school and other weird mystic philosophies I wish I could talk about with more people.
5. What was you at your personal best?
Once at a coffee house in Missoula, Montana, somebody had my feature story spread out on the table and was reading it. I watched them for like a solid 1o minutes. Another time I stared at somebody while they read my movie review in a bar, waiting for them to laugh. (They didn’t.) I don’t know if it will ever get any better than that. If I could watch people read my blog posts every week I don’t think I’d need food or water.
6) At your worst?
Pierce Middle School, the cafeteria, 1994.
B. Michael Payne @bmichael wants to know:
1. Time travel 5,000 years (either direction) or gain $5,000,000 and why?
I feel like you’re asking me if I’d rather have my life be a paradise or die a lonely, painful death in a terrible, inhospitable place. I’d take the money, obviously.
If I had to choose a direction I guess I’d go forward, but I’d be terrified. Terrified! 5,000 years is a long time. It’s probably not like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
2. So how are dogs these days?
They are all over the map. They experience a happiness and excitement that is unparalleled, followed by an all consuming terror and anxiety, with murky, mysterious mind states in between. I feel like my job is to wrangle up their chaotic minds. It’s a somber and important responsibility. I try to take it easy with them. I’m like a cool aunt.
3. If every single internet writer struggles with the lack of so called monoculture and the universalizableness of their opinions (is this thing really popular enough to write an essay about? those nyt articles on hipsters are insufferable) then why do we still value discourse generated by observations on tribal food practices or little slices of Bavarian social life?

I truly have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m glad for it.

4. What’s your chosen last meal?

I’d get Massaman with tofu, hot from Thailand Express near my mom’s house in Waterford. And I’d be like, “This is my last meal, let’s put a little effort into it.” And I’d say, “Put it on a real plate. I’ll be dead soon.” I should do that every time anyway.
Josh Fomon from facebook wonders:
What has been your favorite piece of writing that you have published thus far and why? Also related, could you expound about publishing in general? Would love to hear your perspective on it.

I prefer the longer stories to the shorter ones. I like The Sting and Trevor and the Gun because I think they’re fun and easy to read. I want my writing to be as easy as watching television, but profound or whatever. I’m really proud of all the features I wrote for the indy but it’s also incredibly painful since everybody hated them and I made a lot of embarrassing self declarations that turned out not to be true in the long run, so that’s a mixed bag.

I think my movie reviews are mostly all excellent. I think I really know what I’m talking about and that I deserve to be one of the top people in the world who explains why a movie is or isn’t good.

Stillwater is a good story. Make Do is okay. I haven’t written my best story yet, I’m certain.

I don’t have much to say about publishing. I helped edit a journal for awhile but it was hard and I quit. I could say that I’m against self publishing, but I’ve been self publishing a blog since I was 16, so that would be a lie. Right now I’m more concerned about creating work in the first place, so talking about publishing is a case of putting the cart before the horse.

BTW, I have a 5,000 word story called Sledgehammer I’d really like to see published someday. If anybody knows a good place for me to send that shit, help. Sledgehammer wants to be free!

H.L Nelson from Facebook asks:

Did you find anything cool out about Aimee Bender when you interviewed her? That maybe wasn’t in the interview? Was she as nice and shit as she seems? I found her pleasant when I briefly emailed her about the anthology.

What you see in this interview is basically the totality of our interaction. The director’s cut includes things like me emailing and asking when and how she’d like to talk and her prompt, courteous response. She was cool, you know? She acted like a normal person. She did tell me she didn’t have a gmail account or know what gmail was, and I think I gently suggested that she should get with the times and get one before some crazed fan snatches aimeebender at gmail up, but I might not have said that. I might have just thought it.

Not to sound like a fucking elitest name dropper or anything, but I’ve managed to meet a lot of writers of varying prestige and success levels, and I don’t really get star struck. I mean, nobody besides other writers gives a shit about a writer. I thought it was cute the way she reacted to my question about her literary celebrity. Not the answer itself—the answer was honest and down to earth— just that she thought it was weird that I asked. But it was at the forefront of my mind. She was unequivocally the biggest name in the anthology. Basically she said it’s all relative and I agree.

And now here I am being interviewed! But I asked you all to send me questions as a favor, so it doesn’t feel good.

@allthejenns from twitter wants to know:
1. There’s a lot of talk of blood and homelessness on your twitter feed, are you okay?
I’m okay, you’re okay. About the blood, I can explain: The TV got punched, it broke open the man’s hand. The man took a long nap and then we took him to the emergency room where a handsome Asian doctor pulled tiny pieces of glass out. It’s a terrible wound that’s taking a long time to heal. Why the man punched the TV defies logic or explanation, but it’s fine. He said he’s sorry. He bought another one.
Walking dogs in the downtown area, you run into a lot of hobos. Animals, nutbars and old people: I am drawn to them like a moth. It’s best to give your dollars freely in order to make friends, in my experience. You get lonely all day at work with no one to talk to.
Side topic, I hate when people can’t tell I’m working. I just look like a rich asshole with no job/cares walking two german shepherds at 11 in the morning. It takes two conversational strokes to get to the heart of the matter. Strangers at crosswalks say, that’s a cute dog, and then they ask a question about the dog, and by then it’s time to disclose the reality of the relationship. I say, “The dog’s not mine, I’m a dog walker.” A lot of people tell me I have a cool job, which I could just accept, but instead I internalize it as condescending, and then I feel bad about myself and my station in life.
It’s good to have hobo friends is what I’m saying. How the fuck they going to make you feel bad? They have totally failed at life. They’re hobos!
2. what is your favorite thing about dogs?
There’s been a misunderstanding. I don’t like dogs.

nothing to see here.

The dogs are like little touched children. They are low to the ground children who are covered in fur and can’t talk. When people aren’t around, the dogs are dormant and listless. They curl up on the floor and wait until I come up the walkway, a hero! No human is ever so happy to see me. Herman, the little bulldog terrier runs around in circles and picks up his toy and shows it to me. He’s like, “I just wanted you to see this toy!” Which makes sense at the time but now I don’t get it. The white and brown hound have huge grins and people are all the time saying to me, “Why those dogs so happy?”  Nobody knows why smelling a lot of different things outside makes a dog happy. What’s in the scent? All I know is, the dogs like the walk so much, and I gave it to them. I hardly see the point of writing anymore.

But seriously, my laptop died. Then went the plants, my pride, the pride of lions, the grass under their feet, the osprey, spots on the sun cracking and fading away like flashbulbs, a native language every 9 seconds or something, all of it died, died, died.

Also what is the point of this website again? It’s embarrassing. I’m so embarrassed.

Got a new boyfriend. He’s a mathematician who listens and hopefully doesn’t know how to use the internet.

I’m so happy. There’s a library around the block from my house. Their computers move as slow as a turtle and use internet explorer. It’s like my hell and I don’t even care.

Going to Montana later on today for the weekend to float in the river and try to not hate myself. Same thing I do every day but on a river this weekend.

I am long overdue on my letters. I love you. We love each other. Maybe you’ll get a postcard.



my boyfriend’s back (and you’re gonna be in trouble).

Too much time has past since my last confession. All the quality people have died or moved on. So much has happened, where to begin:

1. Becoming a full time dog walker/pet sitter is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s as easy as you imagine and weirdly lucrative so long as you work all day every day and sleep in a stranger’s bed with a pug under each arm every other night of your life. My enthusiasm is tempered only because dog walking is a well known loser job, as evidenced by this recent onion video, “Friends Don’t Understand How Man Not Depressed.”  Three guesses for what this sad, pathetic man does for a living. I’ll give you a hint: He’s not a doctor. If you saw the way the dogs look up at me from the leash with total devotion, you’d understand.

2. An attractive, newlywed couple moved into the upstairs of the house I’ve been living in and are converting the space into their own personal love nest. They dismantled the pool table and threw away the television. Day by day, the ugly tile is covered up with pretty hardwood laminate. Imagine a Charlie Kaufman film. Every morning I wake up thinking, “Oh God, my life.” But I move into my new place in Greenwood this weekend and I have big plans to throw away everything that isn’t an elephant. Speaking of which.

3. In a surprise twist, Jesse moved to Seattle a couple of weeks ago with my first and last name tattooed over his heart. He rolled up with everything he owns in the $300 Subaru, and now he’s making $500 a day roofing, like a game show screaming, “All this could be yours!” But money’s only fun when it’s buying you freedom, right? He moved in with his second choice, a young, rich, beautiful girl in Kirkland. She has no idea what she’s up against. He hates me, he wants to marry me, I’m a whore, I’m beautiful, I don’t know, it changes on a dime. Jesse Casado is Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood. He is Brandon McCarthy from Welcome to the Dollhouse. He’s Mark Wahlberg from Fear. He’s the guy who killed McGinnis in Jesus’ Son. He is Raging Bull.

“Will you believe me when I tell you that there was kindness in his heart? His left hand didn’t know what his right hand was doing. It’s just that certain important connections had been burned through. If I opened up your head, and ran a hot soldering iron around in your brain, I might turn you into someone like that.”

The last time I saw Jesse he’d started drinking at 5:30 in the morning. He bought me breakfast at Denny’s and I sat across from him on a bed of eggshells thinking, forgive me, please. I’m sorry I hurt you. Forgive me. Love me like you used to. Let me love you. Just be my friend. Guess what’s never going to happen? On the way home I puked up the Denny’s in a plastic bag, and it’s like, what the fuck is the point of this? What am I doing? I quit.

4. The worst of it is that I haven’t been writing, but I’ve been off the Jesse for a few days now and I think I’m coming out of the fog. I’ve got my sense of smell back! I can feel myself having ideas again. I want to write essays on dogs and how to be nice. I want to write you free letters and a novel and a million short stories and more film articles. Now it’s just a question of where to start.

Where do I start?


let’s talk about all the movies I saw by myself this month.

Feeling the suffocating weight of the human condition and my life choices, but what else is new. Writing is a shitty vocation on any day but it’s been particularly difficult for me lately for some reason. Sometimes you go to paint and the colors are wet mud, that’s all, it happens. Like breathing, writing for me has been labored and difficult.

I’ve got this new life plan. My mother taught me from a very early age that people who are happy and love themselves are assholes. I think she was thinking of my father but I analogized the lesson to include everyone, chiefly myself. So my new thing is to from now on go incredibly, uncomfortably easy on myself. You remember the four agreements, right? 4. Always do your best. Maybe on Tuesday my very best means eating an entire frozen pizza and going to bed at 7:30, I don’t know, I’m not a psychic.

Holy fuck, I’m so lonely, I go to the movies every weekend by myself, sometimes twice a weekend, that’s how lonely. I go to movies whether the paper assigned me to see the film or not. If writing is a knife in the heart than cinema is the balm. You just watch it with your eyes, get on the internet afterward and bitch about what you saw. You don’t have to create anything or guess what the characters look like.

For example, I saw After Earth in theaters on purpose. The scholarship has been done, it’s hardly relevant anymore, but seriously, what were they thinking. Gifting your kid a 130 million dollar movie to star in is not inspiring, Will Smith. We do not relate, this isn’t a father/son story the American people are interested in getting behind. Will and Jaden are speaking in accents because it’s 1,000 years in the future and language changes but this is a dumb future detail to guess at and also distracting. It was stupid when they did it in Cloud Atlas too, we don’t need to have them talk funny to know it’s the future. The plot says everything on earth has evolved to kill humans since they absconded long ago. That’s Lemarkian bullshit—evolution doesn’t work that way. Why is M. Night Shyamalan obsessed with plants killing us. The plants aren’t going to kill us, bro.

The CGI is bad, the story is boring and Jaden has no charisma. The lesson of the film is that you should never be afraid of anything. Not being afraid of a monster who wants to kill you is known as “ghosting.” To ghost is to truly not give a fuck but I think Will Smith takes it too far. What I hated most is the moment when Will Smith puts a necklace on his wife in this single, sweeping gesture that only works in movies. Cal does the same thing when he puts the Heart of the Ocean on Rose in Titanic, I fucking hate that. Necklace clasps are a bitch and we all know it, why can’t we just be real with each other.

we are royalty, Rose.

we are royalty, Rose.

Star Trek: Darkness Falls, The Iceman, Now You See Me and Before Midnight (coming this thursday) I wrote reviews for in the Indy.

What else.

My roommates and I snuck into an advanced free screening of This is the End last week, and maybe this is all the liquor and candy we smuggled in with us talking, but it might be the greatest and funniest film of all time. This is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut and I think they learned a lot about how to make a comedy look pretty from David Gordon Green (the indy genius who directed All the Real Girls and Pineapple Express, holla). My love for this film is just more evidence to a growing internet rumor that I’m actually a 14 year old boy.

Not in theaters (and not streaming on Netflix so you’re so fucked), I watched a movie called Killer Joe (2011) starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and some other people. Hirsch’s mother is awful and has an insurance policy, so he and his Dad hire Killer Joe to, you know. The best part is how nobody lingers too much on the morality of the situation; a good dark comedy is hard to find. I love films about poor, violent and otherwise not very bright people. I want to write a short story collection in which every story is as fucked up and entertaining as this movie was.

what could go wrong.

what could go wrong.

Since Killer Joe was so thrilling, I can’t write and my life is as empty as a shell, I went and saw Mud, again starring McConaughey. The movie has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which sounds good, but what it really means is that the film is unobjectionable so perhaps a little soft. It’s about 13 year old boys in Arkansas, which I find really relatable. It’s a Cormac McCarthy style morality tale about how women hurt men, tempered with the optimism and guarded violence that comes with a PG-13 film. Seriously, I wish I’d never known the rating, it was a real spoiler to know that nothing truly terrible would happen.

Last night I tried to watch The Descent (2005) but it was too scary. I can’t watch scary films alone, and unless you’re a dog don’t even bother inviting yourself over. Right now I’m doing a me time thing.

me. alone in my room. calmly reading.

me. alone in my room. calmly reading.



you haven’t met yourself yet.


Nobody didn’t see this one coming: I put in my two weeks at the retirement home. I knew for sure I was on my way out when they told me I had to go to a meeting designed to hone our team building skills, and much like Camus and the Myth of Sisyphus, my first thought was, “Should I go to the meeting, or should I kill myself?”

You don’t understand. The lady made us answer ice breaker questions. When she asked me what my two favorite foods were, I said, “Ramen and tofu,” because that’s actually what I eat the most of, and aren’t you supposed to love the one you’re with? I really let the team down with that answer; you could feel the energy in the room deflating down to nothing. You’d have thought I squashed a sparrow under my boot in front of everyone and laughed about it.

Really though, this country fetishizes food and the food industry exploits animals, I’m not in the mood, I hate when people ask me what my favorite food is. The team should consider itself lucky I didn’t elaborate. [In high school, my friend Kevin used to do an impression of me wherein he put on my glasses, waved his hands in the air and said, "I'm Molly. I'm anti-everything!" It's still true! I still wear glasses!]

So ends that reign of terror. I got two new jobs, get this, we’re all really pleased about this: 1. Dog walker. 2. Mentor/college tutoring.  But let’s not get into it here. Old people don’t really google, but everybody else does and I’d rather not get fired immediately.


I made friends with a poet on the internet and I visited him in his basement apartment. It was a neat room with wood paneling on the walls, important books and hundreds of VHS tapes of violent films. The poet told me more than once that if not for poetry he’d be a murderer and if you’ve seen his beard like I have you wouldn’t doubt it. I feel like I find myself alone in rooms with men like this all the time lately and I’m never scared. I saw his bedroom in a dream ten years ago and I told him so. In the dream we sat on the floor on the edge of his bed. The poet didn’t talk much and I don’t know if he thinks I’m a necromancer or a dumb girl who says untrue things or what.

In a diner not unlike the one in all of David Lynch and indeed many films, the poet told me for a second time about a book he liked called The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell. He told me about turning to a random page (57, he thought?) and reading a passage that said something like “You’re looking out a window at rocks on a Tuesday in 2009” and the Poet swore he was doing just that. I had ordered the book from a second hand seller on amazon not long after the first time he told me he liked it. I pulled the book out of my purse and looked for page 57, but pages 53 through 58 had been ripped out. The coincidences just stack on top of each other without meaning anything. They stack and stack like a room full of dirty plates until you can hardly move but still your life doesn’t mean anything. You want to smash the plates but the plates don’t care if they’re smashed or in tact; you can’t win.


You’re not allowed to talk about drug use in the present tense, so assume this happened a long time ago, to someone else, in a dream, with a wrench, on a boat:

She took LSD with some old friends for old time’s sake. It was terrible, she just crawled inside her heart and saw how black it was, but her friends wanted to have a good time so she pretended like she wasn’t in a private hell. They watched a lot of Eliot Smith and Sparklehorse videos and mourned their suicides all over again. She'd eaten pizza earlier and spent all night puking up the pizza, and then all sorts of items that weren’t pizza; she puked marbles and spare change and keys with no locks. She felt like she didn’t love anyone or care about anything anymore, and that’s wrong. There’s no point in doing LSD, she decided. Taking LSD felt like arriving at a fun party hours after everyone’s already left and the lights are turned off. Then you put your hands on your knees and spit up a wilted balloon, and there's not even anybody around to laugh at you.

New, better jobs. Seattle stays in the picture. I’m so happy. Look at this photo of me. I’m so happy:



training for a big fight.

The other night at dinner I tried to take a lady’s order. I said, “Would you like to order dinner?” and she said, “I would, but no one has asked me yet.” I said, “The special tonight is dill encrusted halibut with wild rice and broccoli and cauliflower.” She stared at me and I said, “Would you like the special?” She said, “I don’t know what the special is!” I told her what the special was again. I told her about the other menu items but she was equally astonished by everything. I eventually talked her into ordering the special.

Later I asked her if she wanted more coffee. “What did I order?” she grabbed my arm and begged me to tell her, and the circumstances forced me to answer back “the special,” all cryptically like some horror film villain.

I brought out the special and set it in front of her sharp yet uncomprehending eyes.

“What is this?” she said. And I explained to her that it was dill encrusted halibut with wild rice and vegetables. I pointed to each food item, apologetically. She looked at the food like it was a pile of calculators.

“Does it not look good?” her dinner companion said.

“Would you like something else?” I asked. We all just wanted to be helpful.

“I don’t know what it is!” the woman said, and kind of snotty this time, like it was my fault. Like she was mad at me for bringing her a plate of calculators for dinner.

I told her all about halibut, that it’s a kind of fish. Again I asked her if she wanted something else.

“I just don’t know what this food is,” She said again. “I’ve just never seen anything like it before.”

And this is what it is to be old, everyone. The world stops making sense. You’re lonely and scared and no one can help you. Dementia isn’t a river in Egypt. It’s a thing, and it’s waiting for you.

Lately, every morning when I open my eyes I think, “I hate my life.” I know, that’s not ideal, and I’m not trying to upset everybody, but there it is. Every day I try to get fired, but I make every light. There’s always a parking spot. It’s like God wants it this way for me. The residents are always ordering dessert at lunchtime, and I think that’s wrong. But Tony Robbins says it’s fine to hate your life as long as you’re working toward something better, so let’s say I’m doing that and nobody worry about me.

I joined a mixed martial arts gym and I spend a lot of time pretending that I’m Hilary Swank from Million Dollar Baby, training for a big fight. In class we pummel bags with our fists. I try to get angry and imagine the bag is the face of my enemy, but there’s nobody I’m mad at. I’m not mad at my ex boyfriend. I just want to rewire his brain or bring his mother back to life. It sucks that my job sucks, but that’s a thing, not a person, and whose fault is a shitty job, the sun? Fuck the sun, I fucking hate it too, long live the fucking beast.

Remember when I sent some of you postcards? That was fun. I made it a permanent thing. Check out the free letter  section.

I’m going to Detroit this weekend, hide the fine china! JK I know you don’t have any, you’re Detroit.


congratulations on my new job.

I got a job as a server in the dining room of a retirement home. They make me wear black pants and shoes. I bought the whole outfit in the men’s section at Target, because who gives a fuck what I look like? The shoes are excellent except there’s something about the shape of them that makes me trip over my right big toe often and without warning, and every time is a little more perilous than the last. I feel like the shoes are cursed and something really bad is going to happen, but it’s probably just that I’m humiliated about my job and my pathetic station in life.

The old ladies think I’m some kind of big blonde giant lumbering toward them, and they’re all spellbound by my name, which I guess is more modern than I thought. You would think that old people would be more aware of things in life instead of less, but that’s not the case. Like, you’d think that they might have met at the very least a little dog named Molly in their 70+ years on this planet, but no. I tell them that I’m named after my great Aunt Mary, that historically Molly is a nickname for Mary, and it’s as if I told them we’re all going to start tasting with our feet from now on like butterflies.

The thing about being old is that you can’t remember anything. The old ladies hang out together and help remember each other’s orders. (“What is that thing I like?” “You like honey mustard. You like honey mustard so much.”) Here’s an example of a hilarious conversation I overheard in the dining room.

Joan: I’ll go grab your walker.
Ester: I don’t have a walker.
Joan: I’m pretty sure you have a walker.
Ester: I really don’t think I have one.
Joan: This is your walker.
Ester: Are you sure?
Joan: I’m pretty sure.
Ester: I really don’t think I have a walker.

They went back and forth like this for a pretty long time. The exchange felt comfortable and laid back, like the ladies were old friends.  The story ends with Ester wheeling herself out of the dining room, all the while convinced that the walker in her hands didn’t belong to her.

If I’m making it sound like I hate these people, that’s not the case. A few of them are assholes, but most of them are kind, beautiful snowflakes and it gives me genuine pleasure to bring them extra napkins when they ask for them. I have a particular fondness for old people because they’re such misfits. They’re complete fucking messes and everybody can tell. If I have any regrets about the job, it’s that I’m bummed out that I’m a terrific writer with a master’s degree, 60+ publications, 2+ years of teaching experience, I’m 31 years old, and the only job I could find in Seattle after months of tireless searching is working in an old folk’s home for $9.50 an hour. It’s embarrassing because I’m sure the world expected more out of me, but then again, does it really matter? You get up, you go to work, you come home, you go to bed. There’s more to life than a little bit of money, you know. Whatever, I’m sorry. I’ll keep trying.

I have a story at Spork Press called “Black Dog, White Rhino.” If you read that and you’re champing at the bit for more, the protagonist continues her sad life in another story on Monkeybicycle from last year called “What People Without Jesus Do.”

Thanks for reading! Also, am I boring you? What do you think I should write about? Any suggestions would be appreciated. I don’t really get this website or what it’s supposed to be about or why I’m writing it.


two short stories.


I thought I wasn’t going to see my ex boyfriend when I went back to Montana, but that turned out to be wrong. He picked me up in the Orange Street Food Farm parking lot in the dead of night after all the bars were closed. Everything he owned was piled up in the backseat. It was snowing and I didn’t know where he was taking me. He told me I looked pretty in a soft and unfamiliar voice and I knew I was doomed.

The next morning, a couple of old men called my ex boyfriend about the moose antlers he had for sale on craigslist. We got in the $300 silver Subaru we bought together in November and drove to the old Walmart off of Brooks to rondevu with one of the old men. I thought the old man wanted to buy the moose antlers so he could display them on his wall as though he’d killed the moose himself, and it seemed pretty weird and sad, but again I had the wrong idea. It turns out you can make chandeliers and lamps out of the material, and Montanans go fucking wild for creepy antler crafts. My ex boyfriend sold the moose antlers along with a set of elk antlers for $50, but the man said they were worth twice that. My ex boyfriend knows about a place where there are 15 or 16 elk antlers just lying around, and the old man said he would be very interested in that.  Elk antlers go for $8 a pound. I think the elk’s life is worth more, but no one cares, so it isn't.

We’d shared a two bedroom house together on the Westside for four earth-shattering months, but it ended pretty swiftly when I absconded to Seattle under the cloak of night in January. I was thinking that I still loved him, and it was a feeling like if stabbing were something that felt good and people were into.

There was no traffic on the street and the mountains looked cold and right on top of us. we were headed back to his friend’s house to hang out and pass the time until the next thing.

“What happened to my bike?” I asked. We both pictured the black frame and the gold rims. The gears didn’t work so it was a pretty shitty bike, but still it was all I had and I wanted to take it back to Seattle. Nobody thought I'd be back for it; he'd thrown it away or it had been stolen. The bike was long gone and it made me feel tired. With regards to the bike situation, I was back to square one.


The newspaper sent me to review the film adaptation of On the Road. I was glad because I love money, but I never liked the book, and the guy who just dumped me loves it, so it was a mixed bag I guess. I saw the one o' clock showing alone in a mostly empty theater on a rainy Thursday in Seattle. The movie made me think a lot about my life because it’s a dreamy story about writers who don't have jobs and like to get fucked up. The character's don't know they're going to become famous and then die of alcoholism anyway; it's depressing. When I got off the bus on Lake City Way I felt like I was someone else. I felt as though someone had stepped into my body and was taking over, but it's always just me.

A man leaning against the wall near the Value Village called out to me and I walked toward him. He wanted me to sit down and hang out. It seemed like it would make him happy so I agreed. A second mad person approached us, a woman this time. She said she found the man I was sitting next to attractive. If you looked closely you could see that he'd been handsome once, but now he went on and on about a divorce that could have happened last week or never, and it showed.

The lady said I was okay-looking too but she assured me she wasn’t a lesbian. I said I didn’t care. She got a little graphic about what she wanted to do to the guy. Her and the man bickered and I couldn’t figure out whether they’d met before this moment or not. They were like crazy hounds circling each other and sniffing.

The woman opened her backpack and showed us a bunch of pills. She kept waving around the bottles, saying, “Social Security gives me all these pills with the money but I don’t take them.” She really wanted to unload all these pills on me. There were white oval pills and round orange ones. I held out my hand and said, “No, don’t," and then I put the pills in the front pocket of my backpack.  I was trying to get her to show me the labels on the bottles so we knew what we were dealing with here, but she kept flirting with the man and I couldn't get her attention.

The lady pulled out a third bottle and turned it around magically in her hands. I could see by the look in her eyes that the third bottle of pills meant something. A few hours earlier, my roommate had given me a mini bottle of cinnamon flavored whiskey. He said to me, “Use this when the time is right.” Long story short, I traded the mini bottle for a handful of pills from a woman with wild hair and broken glasses.

The man had his own agenda but lord knows what that was. He wanted to go find weed. I said it seemed like a good time, but we were strangers on a city street corner in a shitty part of Seattle, and even though that sounds like a recipe for finding drugs, you’d be surprised how helpless you really are when the time comes. I just wanted to go home and look up what the pills were on the internet. Every pill comes with a unique number and letter, so anything you find in a change purse or buried in the carpet can be identified. It’s as if the drug companies knew what they were doing.

The man followed me down the street for a few blocks. I had a few hundred dollars in my wallet for rent, but his puppy-like energy suggested he didn’t have much power inside of him for violence and I wasn’t afraid. He followed me for a while and then I dodged him in a complicated move involving a grocery store restroom. The other pills turned out to be Lexapro and some kind of stomach ulcer medication, so not worth much, but the muscle relaxers are nice for going to sleep at night.

Do you think you're better than me? We’re exactly the same. On you it just looks a little different.