Our Pshares Singles eBook series allows us to publish long-form submissions every month in a format that is affordable and easily accessible. We’ve had a great response to our first two Pshares Singles, Timothy Schaffert’s “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet” and John Duncan Talbird’s “Daydream Nation.” We’re excited to announce the third addition to our series: “Phoenix” by Megan Mayhew Bergman.
Working off the books at a small goat farm in Vermont, without a birth certificate, a driver’s license, or a credit card, Phoenix is as close as a young person can get to disappearing in modern America. Intelligent and lonely, the child of free-spirited parents, she takes her modest pay at the farm and waits for a sense of what her next step should be. As she navigates the mysteries of her own birth and parentage, and lives with the crumbling marriage of the couple that owns the farm, Phoenix looks for direction through her work and her care of another lonely creature, a wounded goat named Jesus.
An excerpt from the story:
My parents, I learned at an early age, are not the kind of people the world cheers on.
“We were drawn to places of freedom,” Mom said when she talked about their early life, usually at the kitchen table after dinner. I loved them both, then. I loved to watch the inner mania take the shape of words. Mom had fashioned a messy bun on top of her head with two pencils and wore a crocheted poncho over jeans. Dad wore jeans and a white T-shirt, a cigarette behind one ear; it was the early eighties and a short-lived mustache consumed his upper lip.
“First we took the bus to Nanaimo where we dressed like pirates and raced bathtub boats,” Mom said. “We looked for spirit bears on Princess Royal Island.”
“Where we were almost eaten,” Dad said, leaning forward in his chair. He never stopped moving. There was a bright light inside him that came out through his mouth and eyes.
“We were driving to Alaska,” Mom said, “slowly. The van—we called her Gallinule—would only go 55 miles an hour, pedal to the floor.”
The globe light that hung over our kitchen table was filled with bugs; you could look up and see the silhouettes of their still, black bodies. Mom and Dad were caught in the throes of the story, the way they were often caught in the throes of music and arguments.
“We were, essentially, running away from your folks,” Dad added, turning to Mom. “Your father was on to us…your husband too.”
“When we realized we were pregnant with you,” Mom said, “we went to the most remote place we could find and settled down for a while. We didn’t have a map and sort of ambled into Shaktoolik. I needed to rest.”
The way she said it made me feel as if I was a storm they could see on the horizon, something to prepare for.
About Megan Mayhew Bergman
Megan Mayhew Bergman was raised in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She now lives on a small farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont with her veterinarian husband Bo, two daughters, four dogs, four cats, two goats, a horse, and a handful of chickens. In November 2010, Megan was elected Justice of the Peace for the town of Shaftsbury. She also teaches literature at Bennington College.
Megan graduated from Wake Forest University, and completed graduate degrees at Duke University and Bennington College. She was a fiction scholar at Breadloaf and received a fellowship from the Millay Colony for the Arts in November 2007.
Scribner published her first story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, in March 2012; the paperback version, which includes “Phoenix,” will appear in November 2012. Her first novel, Shepherd, Wolf, will appear from Scribner in 2013.
Her work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in the New York Times, Best American Short Stories 2011, New Stories from the South 2010, Oxford American, Narrative, Ploughshares, One Story, and elsewhere.
Interested in submitting a story for the series?
If you have a longer story or essay – roughly 6,000 to 25,000 words – please read our guidelines and submit online. Make sure you select “Pshares Singles: Long Story/Novella” from the drop down box under “genre.”Might we be so bold as to suggest that you subscribe to Ploughshares?