Title: WAITING FOR EL GRECO
Genre: Literary Fiction - Short Story Collection
Word Count: 75,000
An American woman betrays her brother only to lose him to a Taliban bullet, then must confront her demons during a vacation in Morocco. A decadent Spanish aristocrat seduces a naïve American and tricks him - almost - into helping her fence an El Greco of dubious provenance. A grieving woman faces down her jealousy and enlists her late husband's lover to help scatter his ashes at sea. An autistic boy, neglected by his parents, takes matters (and an aircraft) into his own hands.
The stories in “Waiting for El Greco” take us from Morocco to Madrid, from Colorado to Chongqing, from the Chilean backlands to Appalachia. The fusion of exotic locations with brisk plotting and deeply felt human conflict led master storyteller Jim Shepard (“Love and Hydrogen,” “You Think That’s Bad”) to call my writing "arrestingly good." Among the stories are the winner of the 2013 Nelligan Prize, a runner-up for the 2013 Nelson Algren Award, a Pushcart nominee, and a Glimmer Train honorable mention.
My work has appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Colorado Review, Printers Row Journal, In Digest, and Cobalt Review, and has been produced theatrically in both Chicago and Denver. I am currently completing a novel and continue to publish stories.
In July, seven months to the day after her brother’s death, they arrive in Merzouga, Morocco, gateway to the dune sea of Erg Chebbi. The trip is meant to be a healing interlude, a brief escape; by immersing her in this place of exotic sights and sounds he’s hoped to give her a short respite from her grief. But everything has gone wrong—a missed connection in Frankfurt, his billfold stolen in a Casablanca hamam, a bout of diarrhea that kept them from enjoying the lavish riad in Essaouira. The grinding logistics of travel have steadily overwhelmed their interest in their surroundings. Now, in the sand-blown streets of this tenuous Saharan town, its mud-brick houses strung together with exposed electrical wires, they have lost the energy to keep talking. For an hour they've walked in the killing heat without exchanging a word. Even the effort of silence is draining.
They pass a horse cart carrying four women in black burkhas, jumbled against one another like quarry rocks. Earlier in the trip they would have taken a furtive snapshot of the scene, but it no longer matters. The bucking road trip from Erfoud has defeated them, and the heat that permeates everything, and the extreme dryness of the air, and the blackflies that seek out the eyes for the meager moisture they offer. Eventually they head back to the hotel, shut themselves in their spartan room with the clattering air conditioner turned high, and fall asleep in their separate beds.