Nathan Oates, “How to Walk a Dog in the Rain in the City”

Before the leash even comes out of the closet, distract him. Resort to the baby talk you used when he was a puppy, or from the years before you had children. Give him a cookie. Pat his head, tell him what a good little doggy he is, yes he is, yes he is. Who wants to go out? Come on, let’s go out, come on. Hurry down the stairs. It’s key to have him forget it’s raining from the time he’s lying on the living room rug to the time you reach the lobby and he’s faced with the sopping streets. Be ready with your umbrella so you can walk out and open it and head down the stoop as if it’s no big deal that it’s raining, see, dog? No big deal. Now just go to the bathroom. Disregard all the rules you usually try to follow such as: no peeing on trees, or trashcans, or fences, or the steps of people’s houses. During the dry days you’ve trained him to pee in the street, but now, in the rain, as he hunches in upon himself and looks up at you as if each raindrop was spit from your mouth, you let him go wherever he wants. Ignore him, look around, as if you don’t even notice the rain soaking through your shoes and dampening your pants to the knee. Don’t get angry, even when he stops, half-lifts a leg, then pauses, glances up at the rain, back at you, and lowers his leg without peeing. Don’t start to scold him and say things like, “Do you think I care if you have to hold your pee for twelve hours?” Because he knows you care. And by now he’s terribly wounded, wet through, miserable, completely unable to pee. Eventually, you’ll have to give up. There’s no hope of the dog actually peeing. But you might feel better because you tried, you did your part, and, really, it’s his fault now. Back upstairs, give him a cookie after you rub him down, tell him he’s a good dog. Because there’s always the next time, the next rain. Maybe then he’ll learn.

Nathan Oates’s debut collection of stories, The Empty House, won the 2012 Spokane Prize and is now available. His stories have appeared in The Antioch Review, The Missouri Review, Witness, the Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. His stories have been anthologized twice in The Best American Mystery Stories (2008 & 2012) as well as in Forty Stories (Harper Perennial). He teaches creative writing at Seton Hall University, where he also directs the Poetry-in-the-Round reading series. 
Nathan Oates’s new book:

The Empty House

The Empty HouseFrom the northern wilderness of Alaska to the mountains of Guatemala, from rural Ireland to war-torn Haiti, from the small towns of Montana to the crowded suburbs of New Jersey, the characters in these award-winning stories travel with dreams of escape, but find themselves ensnared by cultural misunderstandings, political strife, and the weight of family. The characters walk the fine line between safety and danger, between good and evil, between life and death, and on their way find their truest selves revealed.

Where to find it: Willow Springs Editions


Michael Piafsky, “How to Assemble Prefab Furniture Without Getting a Divorce”

  1. Never double-check the contents of the box. Only then can you can blame missing parts on the packers. Marriage is about finding common ground—like a patsy on whom you can redirect all of your vitriol and blame, until you are calm enough to find that washer where it was all along, stuck to your left sock.
  2. Always wear shoes.
  3. Tape a piece of paper over the nearest floor vent, even if that vent is thirty feet away and in another room. All screws fall into floor vents. It is a law of the universe.
  4. Sometimes there are extra parts. Sometimes there aren’t. But extra pieces erode confidence. If you think you might be heading into a future with spare parts, throw them into the fish tank before your spouse notices.  If you later need them, then you become the hero who thought to check Sanjay Guppyta’s tank. Win/Win.
  5. Unauthorized power-tool usage, like cocaine, feels immediately wonderful but ends in destruction.
  6. Drink heavily before, during, and after.
  7. Enjoy your furniture. One day it will make excellent kindling.

Michael Piafsky is the director of creative writing and an associate professor of English at Spring Hill College, in Mobile, Alabama. His recent fiction and nonfiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, Jabberwock Review, Bluestem, Ocho, Meridian, Bar Stories and elsewhere. Earlier this year he was a finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers and was a finalist in the 2012 Tuscany Prize for Fiction.

Michael Piafsky’s new book:
All the Happiness You Deserve

HappinessCoverSmall-250x346An Everyman searches for truth and meaning in a life fraught with unsettling challenges, joyful milestones, and the unconscious awareness of the passage of time. The seventy-eight evocative cards of the Tarot deck frame the narrator’s story as he journeys through the phases of his life from childhood to old age.

Where to find it: Prospect Park Books