Published Prose (stories & non-fiction)
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 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.
Michael 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.
Thuglit, Issue 8, Nov-Dec 2013
Marcel 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 Booked. Anthology, July 2013
A 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.
Daddy Cool, an Anthology of Writing by Fathers For & About Kids, April 2013
“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.”
Sick, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sideshow Fables, issue 1, Summer 2009
“Who taught you to be ashamed of us? I want to know.
They take everything from us, don’t they?”
Vain Magazine, issue 7, Summer 2009
If pressed Lori might remember her mother’s eye color, but distance has dulled the hue. Blood doesn’t translate well through telephone lines.
The 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.
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.
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.
1000th Monkey, Issue 2, Spring 2009
Her 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
When Samantha Gregory woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, she found herself buried beneath her own artifacts.
Pear Noir!, Issue 1, January 2009
He’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.
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.
Colored Chalk, Issue 5, November 2008
Tiny 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.
Literary House Review, Second Annual Edition, 2008
It 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.
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.
Colored Chalk, Issue 2, June 2008
You 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.
Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Issue 7, January 2008
The 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.
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.”
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.”
Vestal Review, Issue 27, Oct 2006
The 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.
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.