a hub for short fiction

Joyland South

Songbun Song

Hyo washes his hands in hot water. He presses his nails into his cloth to remove each excess drop to ready his fingers for pinning. The baby fusses but falls back to sleep, dreaming her arms up. Hyo tweezes his find identified easily as Thyas Juno by the orange under markings. He removes it from the aspirator and fumigates it, lulled by its increasingly tranquil spasms. He chooses a spot next to an inferior twin but the spacing in the display box is wrong. He moisturizes the smaller specimen avoiding its antennae, swabbing it with alcohol for repositioning. The radio is on. Kim Jong Un reminds us again that he has met with a famous basketball player Rod Man and they created a great friendship. Praise the Supreme Leader.

In the dream round shapes come toward her, glowing gray. She reaches.

Chicken Necks

It was Willy’s job to feed the big cats. Luray Zoo’s got a lazy Bengal tiger that was rejected by its mother, an ocelot born with a deformed jaw, a limping lynx with a missing chunk of hind leg—but the two-toed serval’s always been my favorite. She’s got this tiny head and long body, with stripes on her shoulders and cheetah spots everywhere else. She looks like some kind of messed up jungle experiment, fitting right into this orphanage for misfit animals. Willy used to say that all the animals at Luray Zoo have something that make them special. But it’s more like they’re unfit to live without a human handful of chicken necks passed through the wire cage.

The Little Pink House


The little pink house on Estacado, along with two mangy duplexes out on Coronado, belong to the late O. K. Gummer’s only surviving daughter, Irene, who packed up and moved to Lubbock a week after her husband’s funeral, so it’s Trey Newhouse of Newhouse Management (number of employees: one) who handles everything to do with her properties, rent and utilities and such, everything except upkeep and repairs. For that, she relies on her only son, Zell, who lives in a rusted-out tin can of a trailer partially hidden behind a spiny fence of cane cholla a stone’s throw south of the little pink house. If you rent from Irene and your washing machine goes on the fritz or your commode swamps your bathroom, he’ll get you fixed up, Zell will, but never as soon as you like, no matter how patient you are, and that’s due mostly to him hauling reefer freight all over the Southwest for Montez Transport.



New neighbors have moved in next door, and we're hoping for an improvement. Our former neighbor lived alone after his wife left him and took their two daughters with her. It was noisy with their girls splashing and shrieking in the pool, but it remained noisy after they'd gone. He worked at home and liked to take his calls in the backyard. He'd pace around the pool holding forth in a booming voice, everyone in the neighborhood able to hear his business, and in the evenings he'd sit poolside smoking cigars and braying like a goat. It took my wife weeks to convince me the sound came from him.

Your Path to Perfection Is Through Me


You are a city of bronze temples. Isolate. Flex. Pose. Welcome the Jacksonville Civic Center to your golden domes of pectoralis major. Usher the audience and judges through the hall of abdominals, down your thigh’s oiled sartorius, and when you arrive at the Mount of Gastrocnemius, flex the calf you’ve labored hour after hour to perfect. The sequins on your bikini shine prolifically. The diamonds in your earrings are worth their cost. Tonight you are unforgettable.

The New Literature

You bought the new bodybuilding books and the pages were filled with what everybody already knows. But you, you want answers, don’t you? Listen: the oracle has not been silenced. Your answers have arrived at last.

The Old Literature


Karen Dietrich's memoir, The Girl Factory, is available now from skirt/Globe Pequot.

My father murdered five people before I was born. 

I don’t know my father in the way a child usually knows a parent, so I don’t know if murder fits him, the way a certain type of clothing fits a certain type of body.  I only know what my mother tells me, what my grandmother tries to tell me before my mother stops her, what I hear teachers say to each other as I walk the worn carpet of the school hallway. 

I haven’t read anything about him or his case.  For now, I’ll let the information build, those stories and articles and court transcripts that surely exist out there, information strung between satellites and underground wires.  It will be there when I’m ready, I tell myself.

Jenny Sugar

Scott McClanahan's latest books are Crapalachia: A Biography of Place, from Two Dollar Radio, and Hill William, from Tyrant Books. Jenny Sugar first appeared on Joyland in 2010.

When I was in the fourth grade this little girl in my class got killed.

I showed up at school one Monday morning and Randy Doogan was telling me all about it, “Hey Scott did you hear about Jenny Sugar? She got killed in a car crash yesterday. Yeah a tractor trailer hit her Mom’s car and they’re both dead.”

The Rings

Eric Barnes' new novel Something Pretty Something Beautiful is now available from Outpost19 Books. Here's a repost of Eric's Joyland story from earlier this year.

The streetlights are shining white in the rain, one after another casting light through the windshield, the motion of the car bringing bright white then gray, the motion of the light seeming to twist the layers of smoke that hang, in circles, around us inside the car.

Carl is driving one-handed. Leaning down toward the gearshift. Taking a hit from his pipe. His face and eyes turning gray and black and white.

“Bark like a dog,” I say quietly, turning to watch him, smiling some at him, smiling wider and thinking I can cast my own little spell on Carl. “Bark.”

Carl is my good friend.

Carl turns to the road, resting the pipe in the ashtray.

Come Over Here and Take Your Medicine

Bad news: they found small white aphids on the Pearl Calico Shebunkins that morning.  These were the moneymakers.  The right kind of customer would ogle them while they darted around their tank and mumble, hypnotized, “How much?” 

The value was in their color, their shine. Goldfish fins refract light, Faye told the employees when they arrived at Faye’s Fins, outlining a tail with one stubby, unpolished nail.  These fish required constant exposure to high-powered lights to keep their colors from dulling.  If left in the dark, the fish would eventually fade to gray.  Then there’d be hell to pay. It had happened once during a power outage: twenty Telescope eyes big as carp and smuggled in from China had gone from vermilion to gray, tropical fruit to gruel, koi pond to grocery store sushi, in less than eight hours. 

Someone asked, “Did they sell?”

Faye snorted and drew her finger across her throat. 


The summer storm crouched behind them while they stared at the gator in the mud. It was hard to say how big he was; only his flat, u-shaped snout appeared above the water line. The rest of his body was obscured by the tangled mass of weeds.  She hadn’t noticed him right away, leaning her body over the railing of the boardwalk that extended just beyond the lake’s edge and scanning the other bank for water birds. A wall of cypress trees barred her line of sight, their limbs draped with shawls of Spanish moss.