About Stephen

I live in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania with fellow writer, Susan Urbanek Linville, and a herd of reformed feral cats.

2014 – December 16 – Alive and Kicking

It’s the 16th, and we’re reading “Alive and Kicking” by James Claffey.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Tepper Twist: “The river runs through it.”[/cryout-pullquote]

The Shannon burst its banks a week ago and sheep, cattle and the odd goat float bloated and lost in the middle of Ireland’s great start-up lake. Farmers wring their hands in McKettrick’s snug, drowning their sorrows and totting up the EU compensation they’ll collect in the New Year.

As an engineering student back in the day I learned an enduring lesson. No matter how we gird our creations against it, pressure will always win. We might temporarily hold it at bay, but force steadily applied will eventually Continue reading

2014 – December 15 – Twelfth Inning

It’s the 15th, and we’re reading “Twelfth Inning” by Michael Webb.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Ramey Ramble:  “And you were only hoping for first base.“[/cryout-pullquote]

I drive the babysitter home , drink a diet cola in the kitchen, then sneak upstairs, trying not to wake the kids, padding into the bedroom in socks. Angela is facing away from me, looking at her reflection in a full-length mirror. She is topless, wearing only soft green sleep pants that ride low on her hips. I watch her turning, looking at her body in profile, and then straight, and then turning the opposite way. I stand and watch her. She seems focused on Continue reading

2014 – December 14 – Cracked

On the 14th day, we’re reading “Cracked” by Len Kuntz.

It’s not even dawn. I’m broke, somewhere in the middle of East Jesus, Wyoming, and all the radio will pick up is twangy honkytonk or stations playing rambunctious Mexican music. Not only that, but my gas gauge is leaning its elbow on E.

My Long, Uncertain Search for Myself describes this series pretty darned well. We’ve been through a variety of attempts to fill the void left by his wife’s betrayal, including last month’s bar beat-down. The protagonist has abused and been abused, showed and received kindness, and robbed a fast food joint. All in the name of trying to Continue reading

2014 – December 13 – Dust

It’s the 13th and we’re reading “Dust” by Michelle Elvy.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Ramey Ramble:  “Those aren’t tears; I have dust in my eye.”[/cryout-pullquote]

“That’s us,” says Ellie at the sound of the boarding call. She takes Stevie’s hands and pulls him close.

“Yeah.” Stevie laces her fingers in his. “You take care of Manny, right?”

She smiles. “You know I will.”

They lean their foreheads together. They are exactly the same height and they close their eyes, noses touching. They inhale and exhale and remain this way for a few long moments, each feeling the other’s breath, warm and familiar. He will not feel her breath on his Continue reading

2014 – December 12 – High and Bye

 

The 12th finds us reading “High and Bye” by Shane Simmons.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Ramey Ramble:  “This is where a fake address comes in handy.“[/cryout-pullquote]

“You did what?!” I ask. I’m standing in the doorway, an empty cardboard box in my arms.

Sandra sits there, one hand grasping the obligatory glass of wine, her other arm wrapped up in a sling.

“You heard me,” she says. “I climbed out of the window.”

I walk into the room and pause to look her in the eye, just to see if she’s bullshitting me.

She’s not.

12 Lessons in Love (and Hate) is another series that grew on me as we Continue reading

2014 – December 11 – All the Little Labels

It’s the 11th, and we’re reading “All the Little Labels” by Jessica McHugh.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Ramey Ramble:  “The truth will free you.”[/cryout-pullquote]

Nelson Wade loads a box into the moving van. Falling snow hits his nose, and he rubs the cold spot as he faces Edward McKenzie.

“It’s going to be weird without you around, Father.”

Edward clamps a pink mitten to Nelson’s shoulder. “You don’t have to call me that anymore. I’m just plain old Edward now.” He flips his blonde wig and bats his eyelashes. “With a touch of flair, of course.”

I’ve been a fan of The Face in the Jar since the first installment. Father McKenzie Continue reading

2014 – December 10 – Oranges

On the 10th, we’re reading “Oranges” by Susan Tepper.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Ramey Rumination:  “Nothing rhymes with oranges; oranges have no one to turn to.”[/cryout-pullquote]

“When your mind is made up, it’s made up,” Pedersen tells the white rat. Swoon, on the arm of the chair, nibbles Frito crumbs out of Pedersen’s palm. “If you were a man I’d expect you to understand. But you’re not. You’re a third-world rodent. That white fur won’t save your ass.”

And so Saturdays suck, and also Sundays begins to draw its grease-stained trench coat closed. This series has been pretty amazing in the way it has dragged us slowly, kicking and screaming Continue reading

2014 – December 9 – Relationships and Rules

On the 9th, we’re reading “Relationships and Rules” by Gill Hoffs.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Ramey Ramble:  “It’s not work if you love it.”[/cryout-pullquote]

I’m meant to be seeing Trudi at the salon today for some festive fanny-hair, probably a Christmas tree or a snowflake , but instead of a wax I’m sat in Zoe’s chair in the office, spinning round while she nips for a wee or worse and I cover the (thankfully silent) phone. We’d been discussing the best manicure for a work-wank, which finishes would survive a strum, whether glued-on crystals can come off, and the horrors of acrylics and nail piercings, so perhaps it’s just all Continue reading

2014 – December 8 – Christmas Fettucine

It’s the 8th and we’re reading “Christmas Fettucine” by Rachel Ambrose.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The Ramey Ramble:  “It’s the ghost of Christmas pasta.”[/cryout-pullquote]

“It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cuttin’ down trees …” The melancholy lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ wend their languorous, sad way out of my sister Molly’s speakers. We’ve decided to have a classic tree-trimming party complete with English crackers (which explode), American crackers (which hopefully do not), and altogether too much mulled wine for a Monday evening. But Molly’s longtime girlfriend has just walked out on her. Sometimes an older sister needs a younger sister to watch Miracle on 34th Street with her and feed her inordinate Continue reading

2014 – December 7 – Ant

Day seven means we’re reading “Ant” by Andrew Stancek.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The  Ramey Ramble:  “Where there is will, there is way.”[/cryout-pullquote]

The body is leeched of colour. The creases around the eyes and nose have smoothed; the mouth is freed of the howls.

The monitor blips brain activity but the chest does not rise and fall.

Antiseptic silence. A pale blue vase on the night table holds wilted remnants of a white sweet pea, edges curled.

Thus does the body become the tomb. In our verve to understand and imitate Adam, we have destroyed him. And so the wonderfully challenging Wingy Continue reading