From Banana Rustlers: Stories

Browse the links below to read stories from Banana Rustlers.









She really didn’t want to do it, but she was hungry and the smell of the fried chicken inside the convenience store was stronger than the smell of gasoline as she stood at the pump waiting for her tank to fill.

To guard against anticipated intestinal mishaps, she ate nothing else for the rest of the day. Throughout the evening and into the night she waited uneasily for apocalyptic heartburn, stomach cramps, hallucinations, maybe a mild touch of dysentery.

All that happened was: she fell asleep with her back still propped against a pile of pillows while re-reading Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut.

She woke up starving.


I dated a girl for a few months who liked to pretend she was interested in my writing. I always found it hard to believe that she really was, maybe due to my poor self-esteem, but more likely due to her never opening or even mentioning a book of any kind since we’d met.

One day as I sat making notes, she asked me what I was working on. I wasn’t sure how to explain it to her. Because I still didn’t know enough about her, I thought to myself, Don’t insult her by dumbing things down.

“You know what a pastiche is, right?”

Her eyes flashed once, then went dead. “Yeah. Isn’t that, like, a flavor of ice cream?”

She wasn’t making a joke, or feigning ignorance to make me feel like an asshole. She wasn’t even trying to mask her ignorance. This was a real answer–based, it would seem, on some vague and tenuous similarity between two words that were in no way connected, words not even plausibly mixed up on a regular basis by the general public. It was like confusing “candle” and “umbrella.”

I would have had no trouble accepting jokes, feigned ignorance, or even actual admission of ignorance. I would have accepted an earnest, straight-faced answer along the lines of, “Is that, like, a fake mustache someone would wear in a play?”

Anyway, I guess I’m an asshole. Because I dumped her the next day.


Right after the funeral, she told me that the moment her mother drew her last breath seven angels flew out the window beside the deathbed.

The next time she told me the story it was only five angels. Another telling of the story at an even later date bumped the number of angels flying out the window back up to six, but the next time there were only three angels flying out the window. Then there was just one, but it was gigantic and seemed to be more of a bright, white light than an angel.

Finally, in a dark movie cinema as the credits were rolling on the screen, she whispered to me that the moment her mother died, a demon slithered beneath the bed, leaving burn marks on the concrete floor of the insane asylum and filling the room with the unholy stench of sulfur.


When my pap owned the donkey farm, the only trouble he ever had for a long time was when a drunk English major tried to steal one of the farm’s prize jennies.

The kid, it turned out, was being initiated into the Cervantes Club, a secret society at the university that had been meeting since 1923. The student was so bumbling in his state of knee-walking inebriation that the cops arrived just as the would-be thief collapsed in frustration with a black eye and a swollen, bleeding bottom lip, having been kicked by a donkey whose hindquarters he’d gingerly touched. He remained unconscious even as he was being dragged off the property.

Pap didn’t come face to face with any questionable activity for several years after that. But one spring after he plowed a couple of acres adjacent to the donkey corral he decided to plant a small stand of banana trees. He tended them for a couple years without incident, but just as his first crop came onto the trees he fell prey to thieves. He did what he had to do.


He did shoot at them, two young men and a young lady.

Unfortunately for my pap, one of the young men was the son of a rival farmer who had ten times as much land and a hundred times more crops than Pap, plus a well-shopped produce stand on the corner of Highways 10 and 33. That rival farmer bribed the judge and rigged the jury to make sure my pap would pay for the crime of defending his banana stand from spoiled rich kids who admitted in court that they were going to throw away the fruit and smoke the peelings to get “high.”

When asked if they knew smoking banana peels would not make them “high,” each of the three banana rustlers said, “Seriously?”

Even so, they are still free to roam the countryside with impunity while my pap rots in jail.


She was seated at the kitchen table with a pile of fresh notebook paper in front of her. To her right she had six or seven new pens lined up and ready to be used, while a cup of tea on her left was going cold.

A mountain of paper wads was growing behind her and she seemed to be adding to the pile every five or ten minutes.

For the better part of two hours she’d been trying to compose a fan letter to Vladimir Putin. But it was proving much more difficult than she imagined it would when merely gazing at his poster on the back of her bedroom door, or watching his speeches every night on the Internet after she finished her homework.

She just couldn’t decide on the angle she ought to use for such an important missive. Should she write to the nerdy attorney? The hesitant musician plinking out “Blueberry Hill” on  piano at a charity event? The ex-KGB case officer? The smoking-hot tiger conservationist? Should she appeal to his shirt-shedding, bare-chested, deep sea fisherman persona? Or to the Yuri Andropov-worshipping, oligarch-busting, anti-gay head of state?

She pondered this as she got up to warm her tea in the microwave, but before she could leave the table she heard glass break. A brick fell with a thump into the living room, landing in a basket of magazines beside the sofa. She could see that there was a note attached to the brick with twine.

She could barely read the scrawl on the paper, but managed to make out “ass… basement … suck… worthless… cops… pissed…”

In that moment, she forgot all about writing a letter to Vladimir Putin. The boy across the street was finally starting to notice her!


On their first date, Brian lifted his empty bowl when he finished his soup and hurled it against the nearest wall. The restaurant went silent and every other patron stopped eating and became motionless, never averting their eyes from the bowl-hurler in their midst.

He kept his eyes focused on his date. “That’s the best way to let them know you’re ready for your entrée,” he said.

After realizing she did not have an opposing argument at the ready, she just shrugged.

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