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The StoryVault

The StoryVault is a central database of stories and non-fiction essays written by author Caleb J. Ross.The StoryVault will be updated with new fiction and essays as first publishing rights expire. To make sure you don’t miss a single story, subscribe to the StoryVault RSS feed.To start reading right away, use your mobile phone or tablet to scan the QR code to the left. You will be taken directly to the StoryVault site. Step 2: read.Or, if you don’t have a mobile phone or tablet handy, just click on this StoryVault link to read right from your computer screen.


When Susan's Daughter Sank
Microfiction Monday Magazine, Issue 2, June 9, 2014
When Susan’s daughter sank to the bottom of the swimming pool, she was supposed to stay. I reduced her to a drowned raccoon, like the ones always bobbing in Susan’s pool.
We'll Learn Together
The Dying Goose, Vol. 1, Issue 4, Winter 2013
TheDyingGooseMichael and Iola left the foreman, stabbed in the gut, bleeding out, one leg wedged within the shard planks of Iola’s rotting wood porch floor. One angry step in the wrong direction, to the wrong weak spot, and he’s suddenly up to his thigh in wet particle board splinters. They left him sucked into the porch, clamped like the dilapidated house itself offered the dying man to stray, hungry dogs. As they left him, Michael told the man to keep quiet. It wasn’t a threat. It was advice. Dogs have great hearing.
Three Days Ahead

Thuglit, Issue 8, Nov-Dec 2013

ThugLit-8-smallMarcel was an uncle, the brother of a step-dad who stayed only long enough to plant my sister before moving on to the next vacant womb. My mother sniffed out another suitor, but Marcel found ways to embed himself into my life, becoming a loose thread I couldn’t snip. He’d show up at school. He’d walk me home. He’d ask about homework and offer his help. He’d insist.

Marcel charmed his way into my life the way a mold charms its way into your walls.

The Removal Kind

The Booked. Anthology, July 2013

Booked Anthology Caleb J. RossA few solo men, with pickup lines better left on the barroom floor, took aim at the new skin. But Merkle had no use for a flaccid dick at this hour; she had ends to be tied, loose strands of courtroom fodder to be spooled back and silenced. The buyer wasn’t just a missing person. He was a liability.

The Three-Legged Dog (a story for kids)

Daddy Cool, an Anthology of Writing by Fathers For & About Kids, April 2013

DaddyCool“It has to hurt,” Nicholas said. “When you stub your toe, that hurts, right? When you get a splinter in your finger, that hurts, right? Getting your finger bitten off is ten thousand times worse than either of those things?”

Evan said. “I can’t explain it either.”

Vertigo Unbalanced

Gold Dust Magazine, Issue 14, Autumn 2008, reprinted in Solid Gold, September 2009, reprinted in Nova Parade, July 2012

GDiconSick, that’s the term I’m told to use, like it’s supposed to work on me, grating away at preconceptions. Because being sick implies a cure. Simply being fucked up implies a lost cause. The jargon changes. Social Anxiety Disorder some days. Cardiac neurosis. Even agoraphobia. My files say that I have an idea of perfection coupled with a crippling fear of attaining it.

Slit Your Wrists Magazine, April 2012

Between classes, when the hallways crowd with folded skin, he’s often had to claim seizure when caught staring. Nobody calls him a liar. All assume he’s the seizure type.

Different People Entirely
Rainstorm Press, March 2012

I’m simply too old to care about health and too tired to be shaken by death. Three hundred forty pounds is well past a wakeup call. At, three hundred forty pounds, the simple shock of a call would burst my heart. The chill from this open icebox is enough to freeze my perpetual forehead-perspiration.

The Lipidopterist

Viscera Irrational, March 2012, reprinted in Noir at the Bar Volume 2, September 2012

Vasquez collects human lips. His ex-wife is coming back for half of his collection, her lawyer in tow.

Denis Johnson Almost Drank My Pee

Dark Sky Magazine blog, September 2011

These strangers, I suddenly understand, can be personal cults, rife with tithed elaborations. But a stranger can lead you too: Denis Johnson almost drank my pee, but whose to say he didn’t almost drink yours?


Warmed and Bound: a Velvet Anthology, Velvet Press, July2011

Some say the train’s click-clack echoed his mother’s escape, that the looming engine overtook and ultimately replaced the sound of her footsteps, leaving Ernie, with only the train’s passing heat for warmth and its lumbering weight to serve as the heartbeat he had nestled for the past nine months.

Kind words from Spinetingler: “This vignette is a song masquerading as short story. It achieves this with a brilliance as flawless as any modern masterpiece of music.”

Even Strippers Bleed Red

Undie Press, June 2011

I can safely assume that I am the only person to have sat alone in a Hooters restaurant reading Lisa Zunshine’s Why We Read Fiction, an exploration of how the human brain has trouble distinguishing the world of fiction from the world of reality.

Evenson's Tongue

> Kill Author, April 2011

Rhanke wraps his warped teeth under his mug’s lip, takes in a short sip, and returns the cup to the table, puzzling it into the same wet ring from which he lifted it. “Who do you think did it?” he asks.

Untitled (part of the Life in 100 Words or Less project)

Life in 100 Words or Less, February 2011

Once a man at a trade show called attention to a pepper speck mussing my gum line. His teeth have blinded hundreds.

Untitled (part of the Pushcorpse project)

No Colony, February 2011

With my wallet, Ginger could buy a rosary with buds the size of anal beads and wrap her wrists in prayer until the formed pedals swell with her own grease. She could build weak phrases out of arrested breath. When the thread snaps and all the bloated flowers smear against the asphalt under her escaping wheel, she could ask forgiveness in whispers between the beats of her stained spokes.

The Author Who Gets Free Drinks: a (Hopefully) True Story

Cannoli Pie Magazine, July 2010, Broken Piano For President, April 2012

This is the already true part: in June of 2008 I stood on a beach in San Diego wearing a full suit, paying more attention to my watch than to the ocean in front of me. For a boy from Kansas City, where the largest body of water might be a wort vessel at the Boulevard Brewery, this transposed priority says a lot. I had a flight, and as always, the airline schedule superseded any perceived relaxation. And it’s especially hard to relax when, with my suit beachwear I looked the part of a misplaced predator. Bikinied women covered themselves as I strolled the boardwalk.

Our Guy

Word Riot, Sept 2007, Orange Alert Podcast (read aloud), 2 April 2010

If we tell ourselves the culprit sits right there, in front of us all, then we’re free to ignore our backs. In this place of kindreds the last body part you want to have to protect is one you have a hard enough time seeing sober.

As a Machine and Parts (novella excerpt, chapters 1 & 2)

Lobster Cult, February 2010

Eric tosses night-glow emergency phone number magnets at a 1970’s retro avocado-green fridge, hard enough to rattle the rebuilt compressor. “Rebuilt” used loosely; he brags weekly of having fixed the botched part, defending his neophyte mechanic’s talents by blaming subsequent failures on untouched pieces.

Born Again Michael

Eternal Night: a Vampire Anthology, Living Dead Press, January 2010

History: Michael has crammed the life of a 40 year old into his 8 year frame. His mother lactated ketamine, drowned his cornflakes in bourbon, and where other mothers christened kindergarten lunchbox napkins with “I Love You’s”, Michael’s sent reminders to life cigarettes from the 7-11 on his way home from school.

Legs Unwilling

Rotten Leaves, January 2010

Max’s father was probably the frat boy who fucked me on a dare. I remember his loose jaw, the way it flapped, guided by so much alcohol. Max has the same way about him. They share eyes, too, always spinning and barely open. After, he hi-fived his roommates, and I went back to the bar, unsatisfied. But the glow had already been planted.

Sarah Palin, 12, Strikes for Workers

Oprah Read This > Oprah, Read This

She wears ironed cotton now when addressing her followers, and pressed jeans, skirts when the weather allows, but not today; she has a meeting in Cheboygan. Clothes, shifts in weight, her diet, hairstyle, the pauses between breaths; these are the syllables to her narrative.


The Green Muse, V.1 Ed.4, Aug 2006, Troubadour 21, Dec 2009 (reprinted)

He’s been out of anti-depressants for two weeks. He’s been out of various other things for longer periods of time—rubber bands, staples, relationships—and it’s never bothered him much, but “being out of anti-depressants,” he says, “tends to depress a person.”


Pela Via’s blog (at the end of the interview), December 2009

His neutral expression reminds her of a blinking cursor | | | ||| | | awaiting input, a spaceholder for impending | | ||| | | | emotion. His full cheeks the (parenthetical wrap) around colon : eyes and a bored, backslash \ mouth. She tries to coax nuances from him, massaging his earlobe, letting her fingers navigate the subtle ripples of his stomach. He might as well be dead. She imagines this for a moment, her face falling to her own version of a blinking | | | | |||| | | | cursor.

Norman Rockwell Nostalgia

Full of Crow, October 2009

Mrs. Bellin’s husband strips away his amiable social veneer at night to accessorize his wife with welts and purple flesh, like an eggplant leather exterior. “Hitting me only where nobody can see the marks,” Mrs. Bellin says. Tiny Brian’s father returns some nights, when his mother leaves for bar therapy among fellow domestic targets, to make sure his boy knows how to be a man. Taking a few smacks is a manly thing to do. His father surveys the refrigerator, leaves, promises to one day come back for good.

It Sparks

Sideshow Fables, issue 1, Summer 2009

SideshowFables1_icon“Who taught you to be ashamed of us? I want to know.
Society, dad.
They take everything from us, don’t they?”

Charactered Pieces

Vain Magazine, issue 7, Summer 2009

VainCover_iconIf pressed Lori might remember her mother’s eye color, but distance has dulled the hue. Blood doesn’t translate well through telephone lines.

A Trench is No Place for God

Nefarious Muse, March 2008, Cause & Effect, Winter 2009, issue 7 (reprinted)

CEiconThe medical tent stank of baked flesh and the wasted effort of sterility; bleach puddled dirt into mud while ammonia sat in open buckets just feet away, its fumes warping the air. The suction of each chemical step—heal, sink, toe, heal, sink, toe—failed to drown the ambient moans of the dying. Lowell stepped past an unconscious man, his sweat and blood boiling to the surface of his skin in the trapped heat under the canvas tent. Outside too, the sun tortured survivors.

Globe Value

Full of Crow, MiCrow supplement, Summer 2009

Within a single heartbeat, a body goes from one of the Earth’s residents to just one of its craggy imperfections.

The Word Will Die Too

Cherry Bleeds, March/April 2009

I don’t need something as complicated as god in my life. Give me a bible and I’d pawn it for a blanket. Though no one would be stupid enough to let go of a blanket.

Reviews: Caroline Meyer’s Hidden Cigarette Butt, Joel Reynolds’s Dried Bar of Soap

1000th Monkey, Issue 2, Spring 2009

1000miconHer father embraces fresh cigarettes with a longing romance Caroline yearns to share. She will learn the ways of capture. Until then, she studies her father’s spent filters for the transcripts of love.


Colored Chalk, Issue 6, February 2009

cc6iconWhen Samantha Gregory woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, she found herself buried beneath her own artifacts.

The Camel of Morocco

Pear Noir!, Issue 1, January 2009

PNiconHe’s navigating a labyrinth of sound; his hands aren’t thick enough over his ears to keep the blame from his head. He asks what they want. Finish our prayers, they say.

Formaldehyde (an excerpt from STRANGER WILL)

Red Fez, December 2008

He removes stains for a living, those left by dead bodies. When a heart stops, his wife gets cable for another month.

Eyelid (an excerpt from STRANGER WILL)

Colored Chalk, Issue 5, November 2008

cc5iconTiny William guts his jeans, skins them down to the lint. His father surveys the emptied contents, warns the boy of lying to his father, and demands that he empty his mouth as well. Tiny William opens and offers upon his tongue a tiny ball of salivated beige tape.

The Camp

Literary House Review, Second Annual Edition, 2008

LHiconIt is the routine, I believe, of the packing, then the leaving to somewhere new, then the returning home refreshed that matters most to mom. The vacation itself is just something that happens between fresh starts.

Snake Girl at Scab

3:AM Magazine, October 2008

Sometimes I go out on the weekends without my wedding ring. I’m not hunting for other women, but conversation tends to be so much simpler if they assume I am. Other times, I think, I forgo the ring as an invitation for misery.

Exhibit One - A Letter from Alex Fumar

Colored Chalk, Issue 2, June 2008

cc2iconYou think it’s true, that bugs eat anything with protein? Guess they could feast on my sheets at home. Oh yeah, I’ll need your help with those, too.

The Barber Who Calls Himself Ferguson

Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Issue 7, January 2008

BDTDiconThe Eye’s hair grows long and tangled. He avoids mirrors, still water, and recent photographs, not out of fear for what they might reveal, but because he believes that nothing trivializes progress more than a reflection.

Car Dodging

No Record Press, January 2008

How the bald man with the needle in his median cubital vein said he found God felt like what a rape would be if afterwards the woman zipped up her pants, fastened her belt and said, “thank you, I’ve been so busy lately.”

Dry Dot

Present Magazine, December 2007

Photographs leaked of the old man’s wounds. Durzenkya turned public outcry and protest into support by claiming that the bruises were “welts where ideas have lashed this man.”

5 x 6 in a Sturdy Frame

Vestal Review, Issue 27, Oct 2006

VRiconThe first morning we met—I remember the rain, soft the way I like it—was a series she later attributed as a fourteen-frame sunrise.

Petty Injuries

Dogmatika,June 2006

Fault and blame can be forgotten after three steep flights of stairs. Pregnant-lady-take-the-elevator kind of steep. I-said-elevator, holy-shit-she’s-falling kind of steep. A-faked-relief-when-the-child-is-born, but-born-special kind of steep.