The third place finalist from our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers, “The Easiest Thing in the World” by Taylor Grieshober, quickly caught the attention of guest judge Kimberly King Parsons. “I was immediately hooked into the funny, irreverent, voice-driven prose that dominates ‘The Easiest Thing in the World.’ Narrator Nadine wants “to be a famous biographer, to…awaken with a clear purpose each day—to unravel someone’s life question by question, to create an in-depth record of every dalliance and heartbreak, every death, figurative or literal.” Yet, like most of us, Nadine has a big blind spot when it comes to examining her own hopes and desires. For all of her bad decisions, odd attachments, and zany fixations, Nadine is charming and endearing. I found myself rooting for her and hoping she gets what she wants, as soon as she figures out what that might be.”
Blaise dropped the mouse into a cage with a white and orange snake, a Corn Snake he told me. Its jaw unhinged and seized on the mouse swiftly, clamping down on its head, deflating it like a pool toy. It was off-putting, not only because of the circumstances of the death, but because I could sense the snake’s longing, its short-sighted goals, how satisfied it seemed when it attained them.
What was it with the men in my life? There were simple solutions to their problems, but they never thought of them. My boyfriend slept on a sleeping bag he’d had since Scouts. He had no other blankets. He lived by the highway in an uninsulated attic studio because it was cheap. He got a handyman discount.
I refused to stay at his place. It was frigid and his pillows were bullshit—all the cotton balled up in the corners of the shams, rendering them useless.
“They’re fine,” he said. “You just have to wrap the pillow around your head like a hot dog bun.”
“So, my head is the hot dog?”
And then there was Timothy, my roommate. Timothy, who at forty-two still bragged about his undergraduate GPA, made a big show of sweeping the stairs with a bandana tied around his face and sneezed loudly all day, punishing me for my dogs instead of just moving out. He complained they kept him up at night. “They bark at a fart,” was how he put it. I didn’t buy it. Sure, sometimes they needed to go out in the middle of the night, and they’d get antsy if I didn’t wake up right away, and romp around, their claws click-clacking on the wood laminate, but overall, they were good boys.
We lived on the shitty side of a fancy neighborhood that flanked the city park—me, Timothy, my dogs. I tutored rich kids who went to schools that didn’t use letter grades. The work came and went. My pupils graduated with glowing performance reviews and no longer needed me. I supplemented my income by writing human interest pieces for the local paper for ten cents a word and a yearly pistachio allotment. I was twenty-eight and spent a lot of time daydreaming. I wanted to be a famous biographer, to live off the writing and awaken with a clear purpose each day—to unravel someone’s life question by question, to create an in-depth record of every dalliance and heartbreak, every death, figurative or literal.
My column, “On the Record,” appeared in the weekly City Paper on Thursdays. I’d written profiles on all kinds of local weirdos: a geriatric who ran a tantric sex workshop, a woman who ate with plasticware because she thought real flatware caused cancer. One of my favorites was on this homeless guy who blasted 90’s R&B from a gigantic boombox. People called him Radio Raheem. He claimed he made $300 a month playing songs for passersby, which was enough at the time for an apartment in Pittsburgh, if you knew where to look. He seemed to know something I didn’t about satisfaction, how to limit my expectations and get more out of life.
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