“It’s sick. Just plain sick what goes on at that Brubaker house,” Elma complains between mouthfuls of juniper berries. She puts down the paper and begins to pick fallen berries out of the folds in her flesh. On hot summer days she likes to wear green tank tops that let her belly cool. Elma’s daughter Melba shakes her head and says something about how neighbors should have a right to decide who moves in next door. “If we had had a say so,” Elma says, “we would never have let the Brubakers buy the old Gundry orchard.” — “Under the Juniper Tree”
Italo Calvino wrote, “Only a certain prosaic solidity can give birth to creativity: fantasy is like jam; you have to spread it on a solid slice of bread. If not, it remains a shapeless thing, like jam, out of which you can’t make anything.” Jam on Bread takes Calvino seriously.
As I worked on the stories for this collection, I became increasingly drawn to dream fantasies and horrors, and questions of “what if?” Ultimately, Jam on Bread grew out of my fascinations as I sought to explore the possibilities of the fantastic within the relatively conventional world of the short story. These stories do not surrender form to content but seek that ideal mix of jam and bread where the jam is not sloppy and the bread is not dry.
Jam on Bread combines work from my MFA thesis from the University of Notre Dame with more recent stories, an eclectic collection of work bound together with a unifying smear of jam.