Mark Bryk

 — Writer

Life's a game but it's not fair, I break the rules so I don't care, So I keep doin' my own thing, Walkin' tall against the rain. Victory's within the mile, Almost there, don't give up now, Only thing that's on my mind, Is who's gonna run this town tonight. And it's me. I run this town.


Stories

I Met a Fox

In theory, a brewery is the perfect choice for a first date. The bartender tells you he's glad you came in. You grab two board games from the shelf near the bathroom to break the ice when Eve arrives. After that it's just sit, sip, and listen. It doesn't matter if she's late—ten, twenty minutes. There are no reservations to break or previews to miss. And if she never shows up, you can pretend you're just there to taste their new Milk Stout.

When I return home, I shout to Lance, "I think she had a good time," over the broken alarm of Prince's barks. A year and a half of daily reminders and the dog remains unconvinced that I pay rent, too. "I think she liked me."

Lance nods from the couch and leaves his headphones in.

"Yeah, it was nice," I say. Then, "What are you watching?" Then, "Never mind."

For almost an hour, I'd avoided eye contact with the other patrons, flipping through the instructions to Life and Guess Who, forcing myself to invent excuses for Eve. Her phone died. Her grandma died. Her parents' house was broken into. It distracted my ego from the probable reason: namely, that she no longer cared to meet me.

Chances are, at some point since confirming our date with a "Sounds good!"—while... Read More

Learning to Swim

It was early in the afternoon and Ella Taylor was terribly bored. Through her bedroom window, across the street, and over three lawns, she could see the pool in Jenny's backyard, crowded with most of her friends. She watched them practice their dives and handstands, cheering each other on. They took a short break to play with the dog on the grass, and they snacked on potato chips and peanut butter birthday cake. Then, abandoning their half-finished plates on picnic tables and lounge chairs, they jumped back into the pool.

Ella had begged Jenny to have a peanut-free cake, but to no success. "It's my birthday," Jenny had explained, "so I decide what the cake is. You'll just have to sit this one out. There are other parties with other cakes, so what's the problem?"

"Yeah, I guess," Ella had replied. Anyway, she was a little afraid of swimming, so maybe it was better that she had to stay home.

The palm of her hand began to slip down the window, and she noticed that her face was damp with sweat as well. That's the downside of living upstairs. The house's heat rose directly into her bedroom. She glanced one more time toward Jenny's party before taking off, two stairs at a time, all the way down to the basement.

Mr. Taylor was in his workshop,... Read More

Characters

Venus Radley

A delivery girl at Seafood Grill who dreams of being a successful performance artist

Ella Taylor

A curious fifth-grader who could probably accomplish much more than she thinks

Tracy Hunter

A waitress at Seafood Grill takin' it a day at a time

Maggie Smits

An independent artist whose provocative stunts have made her passionate fans