Literary as hell.

“Economics 1987,” a short story by Rose Ellen McCaig


By: Rose Ellen McCaig


He’s sixteen, never been to a movie theater. But it’s Friday, the night before Valentine’s Day, and Eric has a date for the ten o’clock show. Her name is Jamie, and she’s one grade younger. In the same way that he understands she lives with her mother in an old, metallic-blue Chevy Nova, which may or may not be stolen, he knows that she knows he doesn’t have a home at all.

It’s dangerous to get attached. That’s what he told himself for the thousandth time since he and Jamie locked eyes a couple of weeks ago, on the fifth day of a toothache so awful he could no longer focus in class. Hoping for some ice, maybe an aspirin, he got into the line of kids for whom the school nurse is an angel and outside whose basement office they collect, a throng of last resorts, snaking down the stairwell to her door.

In the overcrowded halls and along the rows of dented lockers, there are girls prettier than Jamie, with their breasts, bottoms that he’d enjoy seeing naked, but she’s the one he watches, craves: she’s raw and ropy like he is. From the way her brown bangs bounce across her lashes or stick oily flat to her forehead, he guesses the day of the week she has gym and gets to wash her hair. At night, wherever he sleeps, he thinks of that hair, his face buried deep and warmed by its every version.

Otherwise, it’s freezing. That’s New England, no point complaining. He’s lucky that his hair, straight past chin-length, shields winter pale cheeks. His back on concrete, palms resisting brick, crunches and presses keep him strong. Still, when a scarf, a jacket goes missing, it’s not worth the fight. If he truly needs to, he can stop anyone with his eyes, dark clouds covering the place where he stores and protects his dream.

In class, he has the answer to every question before it’s asked, but can’t volunteer. Don’t invite attention. He knows what happens to a kid who gets found out, for messing with the wrong people or being honest with the right ones. They’re not putting me into the system.

He’s lonely, though; it pokes and chews, shimmies under his skin, a pointy-tooth mouse flattening its spine through a crevice he’d overlooked, didn’t seal. Ignore it. He has a career plan, to graduate early from high school with a scholarship to a college in New York City. There, he’ll keep a toothbrush in a clean cup on the sink, have a bed in a room in a dorm where he’ll sleep in peace, a poster of water lilies above him. After four years, he’ll achieve his goal, a college degree, and a career–in what he’s not yet sure–but he’ll figure it out. Then, I can fall in love.

So he’d kept his distance from Jamie. No distractions.

First, in a long list of steep steps, is the SAT. He’s almost out of time to register and doesn’t have enough money. No one around can afford to pay him much to shovel snow or repair a window. Even if he could find a regular job, he wouldn’t have a parent or guardian or custodian to sign his application for the work permit. Over and over, he’s begged for a chance, offered to work cheap: dishes, toilets, whatever no one else wants. As long as I can get to school on time in the morning.

Then this morning, he’d overheard his English teacher tell the nurse that she felt guilty, but she needed the money and wrote a term paper for a college kid. I can do that, and I wouldn’t feel bad. He already spends hours in the public library, sleeps in the basement when the janitor lets him. After homework, there are novels, pages of museum art, college catalogs, and a computer. He’d find the campus, offer his services. There’s no assignment I can’t complete, perfectly.

But at the eighth-period bell, Jamie strode right up to him. Standing close, red ribboned ponytail, a Chapstick tube across her lips, she asked him out. “My mom’s new boyfriend can sneak us in to see Mannequin tonight.”

Just this once.

He postponed his mission. They hung around, talked about nothing significant and everything that was.

He told her the terrifying grand total, four hundred thirty-nine dollars, he’d calculated countless times.

She told him what she’d seen her mother do for less, and he said, “She does what she has to.”

He told her what he’s never spoken aloud. Until eight months ago he used to be a hand- me-down, and she asked, “What’s that?”

It’s how he lived with his father who stayed at a girlfriend’s, the top floor of a triple- decker, and one day his father left him there with her. They waited for more than a year, but he never came back. Then, the girlfriend left him with her mother, who lived one flight below; they waited, but she never returned, phone ringing months later from somewhere down south. Then, he arrived home from school, the furniture gone; he hid in the backyard, entered the ground floor apartment through a cracked window. There, people came and went at all hours, and no one took care of him, but no one threw him out. He had an address; a sofa pillow he kept hidden, sniffed to feel better. And there was a television screen where he’d stretch his hand, flat and longing, a way to crawl into sunny kitchens and living rooms filled with families that would want to know how was your day?

Jamie got it, no questions or meaningless murmurs. She sought out his hand in his sweatshirt pocket. On her thumb, he found a sharp hangnail that he tenderly tugged, bit off so it wouldn’t catch and cause her to bleed and hurt.

Her mother picked them up in the Nova. On the way to the movie, he sat in the backseat. He ate some fries from the Burger King bag they shared with him, listened to their high voices mix with the car radio. And when Madonna sang open your heart, he already had.

“Aren’t you the handsome one,” her mother had said to him. “Look at that beautiful black hair. Maybe I can trim it sometime if you want.”

“Mom’s a hairdresser,” Jamie said.

“Here and there,” her mother said.


Now, he and Jamie find seats in the back of the theater, amazed to be there, together, in the middle of an almost empty row. The air is buttery, sweaty from the previous show, the radiator, and Jamie Jamie Jamie.

He watches as she unzips her jacket with its bracelets of dirt around each wrist. She undoes three buttons of her blouse. “It’s from Victoria’s Secret,” she says, showing off a leopard bra that snaps in front. She’s mostly flat, but the bra is padded, and it squeezes to the center what she does have, and she’s so beautiful if he could touch her he’d happily die right after.

It’s an agonizing choice, in the dark, to kiss for the next two hours or escape into the screen. His mind flips around money-test-money-test. He can’t shut it off, needs a rest. He straightens up and loses himself in the movie.

But Jamie is tracing a heart on his thigh. Her fingers dance between his legs. He’s hard all the time on his own, but nothing like this out of this world incredible. He should whisper let’s not but thinks just a minute longer. Her pace is steady. It’s no use. He gives in to what’s behind his closed eyes, an abstract of swirling shapes in iridescent blues and green.

She continues, and he imagines what’s inside her tight jeans, the pink rose from the edge of a bakery-window cake he’s never tasted. With a faded flannel cuff he covers a moan; his free hand clings to her arm, a musical giggle in his ear. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

He kisses her shoulder bone, sniffs her neck, caramel color, caramel sweet. “Can I make you happy, too?”

“Next time,” she assures him.



Jamie. On Saturday, he’s glad about her. But sad too, about how important her bra was to her. She deserves a future more special than that. When they meet later, he won’t mention it; let her keep her proud pleasure edged in lace. They’ll curl up, and he’ll read to her from his new library book; she wants to hear the story, not discover its secrets for herself.


Monday, he wants another next time with Jamie, but he’s not going to delay his mission again. He rushes out after school, a train to North Station and another to Commonwealth Avenue to a university where there must be at least one rich kid who needs my help.


Over two hours to get to the Student Union. But he made it: a packed cafeteria strewn with headphones, parkas, and forgotten candy hearts. He chooses a seat on the periphery and opens his library book. He’s patient, will observe the scene and listen for clues until he figures out whom to approach and how.

Students, they’re studying, laughing; glass plates and Pepsi cans. Most don’t bother to bus their tables, and it takes a while for the maintenance crew to clear the trays. His stomach is empty. Jesus, they leave over so much. When the crowd thins, he’ll skim around, eat just enough, and stuff the rest into his backpack for Jamie and her mother.


Eight-thirty. So far, no opportunity for research or writing, but there’s a circle of male foreign students, a large, cluttered table to forage. It’s fascinating, the amount of time and money they have, gold watches and wild colors like kings and December decorations in storefront windows. Animated, they gesture, speak fast and loud in what sounds like Arabic. Maybe they could use a translator in the lecture halls? But when they call out comments to girls passing by, it’s obvious their command of English is clear and precise.

In Eric’s line of vision, one of them holds court: enthusiastic, argumentative, he swipes to the side sandwiches and chips to make room for The Boston Globe. Eric wants to call out, I read the news too. Can I sit with you guys and talk?

All he can do is wait.

Finally. They get up and make their way toward the exit. He’s hungry, a long trip ahead. He wants to find Jamie, fold her in his arms wherever her mother parked the Nova for the night.

He hurries to their vacated table. But that same student is returning, motions to his posse to go on ahead. Eric halts between the tables while the guy glances around, annoyed, as if he’s lost something valuable.

He approaches Eric. He’s shorter but bulky, with muscular arms that show through his shiny shirt.

Eric tries to catch his eye you don’t scare me, but the guy looks beyond Eric. Whatever his problem is, I’m not leaving all that food.

Then, the guy steps closer, pokes Eric’s chest with a thick finger. “Why have you been staring at me?”

Eric steps back and holds up his hands. “Not staring at you, man.”

“Sure you were,” the guy says.

I can’t be bothered to lie. “Look, I just want the food that you don’t.”

“You’re going to eat our garbage?”

Eric is dizzy from the fluorescent lights, the combination of the guy’s brash cologne and vague tobacco. Don’t give me this crap, buddy. “It’s not yours once you leave it.”

“That’s pathetic,” the guy says, but his voice, it’s not as mean.

He’ll run out of steam. But the guy blocks Eric. What now?

He motions toward Eric’s book. “The Prince of Tides. I read that last year when it came out. What do you think of it?”


“I like the characterizations of New York City. That’s where I want to live,” Eric says.

This guy won’t need me to do his homework but maybe errands?

“A fantastic town,” the guy says.

“You’ve been?”

“Sure.” Pause. “You don’t go to school here, do you?” 

Eric shakes his head, no.

“You can call me Frank. I’ll buy you a burger if you’d like.”

Like the surprise steam from a vent or fire in a can, the invite is a relief, heat on a cold street. He’s about to say that’d be great, thanks when he feels Frank’s palm flatten, careful and light, on his arm, fingers splayed, settling there.

Oh gross.  He’s never been in this situation but no mistaking the touch: the painful wistful wanting of something you cannot have. Too bad. He lifts his hand to brush away Frank’s, ready to say no offense, I’m not into that.

But, then.

There’s the cost of the SAT and college applications and interview clothes and, for Jamie, a never-before-opened bottle of shampoo of her very own.

He finds Frank’s eyes, the longing. He taps Frank’s middle knuckle.

I am going to do this.

He holds the look, stokes the need now unguarded. “Five hundred dollars,” Eric says.

“I’m not a faggot,” Frank says, but he doesn’t move.

Sound calm.

“I don’t care what you are, or you’re not.” He’ll probably take me into the men’s room.

Soon I’ll be on the train home to Jamie.

“I have a single at Campus West,” Frank says.


“Cash first.” Eric shifts his body away, holds the eyes.

But Frank looks at the floor. He pulls out a wallet and gives Eric bills that equal three hundred dollars. He shows Eric there’s nothing left.

Eric doesn’t move.

“I have more in my room.”

He follows Frank’s lead, trails him outside. They travel the white dusted sidewalk, casual, with no indication that they’re acquainted. Don’t worry. I’ll act whatever way you tell me.

Frank glances back at him. “Aren’t you cold in that sweatshirt?” Franks unwinds, rewinds a red scarf. Jamie, ribbon.

“I’m good,” Eric says. I’d give it back, Frank.

They arrive at a busy dormitory complex. I’m not even that nervous.

Frank ushers Eric through a door at the end of a long hall of doors. Eric hears the lock grip click behind him.

He doesn’t know where to look first. The room is a small rectangle filled with so much interesting stuff, inviting titles on unbroken spines, a seductive game on a Macintosh Plus. For a moment, he forgets why he’s really there.

Pressure on his shoulder. Frank turns him, coaxes him near, strokes his cheek.

Eric retreats. “My money.”

“It’s not your money while I still have it.”

In a flash, Eric grabs Frank’s wrist and twists it against a wooden bureau. “Don’t fuck with me.”

Frank wrestles free. His face bright with excitement, he tries to kiss Eric.

A violent cognition rises. I want a treasure of my own, too. Jamie’s mouth only, pure.

“No kissing.”

Frank stops. He removes the lid of a leather box on the bureau and gives Eric two hundred dollars.

“Who do you think you are? A movie star?” Frank says. “Pretend I’m your girlfriend.”

Don’t you dare bring her into this.

Frank reaches for the back of Eric’s head, draws him in, and kisses him with his tongue.

Do not cry in front of him.

“Take off your shirt. Sit on the bed,” Frank directs.

How bad could it be? It’s worse. Instead of what he’d expected, awful but quick, Frank is hugging him, slow kissing, playing with his hair like they’re on a date. If he had anything to vomit up, he surely would. Please, let’s just get this over with because the trains stop at midnight.

“I want you to do it to me,” Frank says.

What I am I supposed to do? He doesn’t know this answer, is not going to guess. This whole enterprise is off balance.

He waits.

“I liked it when you got rough before,” Frank says.

“Look, just spell it out.” Frank explains.

No way. No way am I going to be able to get it up. What if he decides I’m not worth the money? Think, think. Rough?

He pushes Frank on his back. He rubs Frank’s crotch; it’s short and wide. Probably looks like him. He attacks the belt buckle, the zipper, the pants, the black briefs that say Calvin Klein. He lowers his head. Frank guides him. She does what she has to.

“That’s good, that’s good,” Frank says.

His brain, it’s well-trained. Focus on photographs of Columbia University, a celestial point far beyond this never-ending night.

Frank’s body shakes.

Fast, thank God.

His hot fist pounds Eric’s shoulder. I’m going to choke.

“Swallow it. Tell me how good I taste.”

I got through it.

“Sure, sure you do,” Eric says. “So, we’re finished here. Is one of those doors in the hall a bathroom?” I could use a glass of water, too, maybe a candy heart if there’s extra lying around?

He tries to stand.

But Frank is pinning him down.

So confused, tired.

He’s worn out and sinking, his bare back on the puffy quilt, and there’s a fresh pillowcase, inches away. I want to sleep so bad.

“I paid you, and this is the third time you’ve attempted to renegotiate. You don’t seem to get it,” Frank says.

I get it, now, asshole. I didn’t know you weren’t satisfied. Not like I’ve done this before and never again.

He’s trapped. Frank holds Eric’s arms above his head with one hand. Don’t hit me. I can’t attract attention at school. “Whatever you say, Frank.”

“You don’t have to like me, but you have to do what I want.”

Right, I don’t like you, not the way you like me. But don’t you think I’d rather be discussing books over a burger, and not just because you were going to pay?

Frank pulls off Eric’s pants and lifts him up, arranges him on his back, legs on Frank’s shoulders.

He’s exhausted, starving. He could reason, argue, fight, but he couldn’t beat Frank. He could scream. Screw you, Frank, like that’s your name. None of these options is real, either, nor is stealing the gold watch, the red scarf. He already knows. He’d never risk losing the money or do anything where he might get found out.

More kissing, licking. And Frank starts to probe, back there. No, wait! You read the news use something.

It comes out a squeak. Like a whiny ten-year-old.

“Oh, pretty baby, don’t worry. We’re each other’s first,” Frank says, like a friend.

Maybe he’ll whisper, let’s not.

But the next minute, Frank’s pissed. He says things like open up sweetheart and you little bitch, and Eric doesn’t care what’s going to happen; he’s thirsty, chlorine throat, throbbing tooth, and the world, it’s going to go black any second anyway.


“So nice,” Frank repeats as he pushes in and it is motherfucking brutal, more after he was ordered look at me don’t shut those beautiful eyes.

When it’s finally over, Frank says, “Now I’m done.”

Somebody help me.

“Get out.”

I can’t move.

“Go,” Frank says.

His shoulder aches, vision blurry. He strains to see the time on the gold watch on the bureau. What do I have to lose? “Is there someplace I can stay? There’s no train till five o’clock.”

“I’ll have my own problems if any of my friends see you. You have five hundred bucks. Call a taxi.”

Okay. Okay. He manages to get up. It’s normal not to shower, but there’s a blood paste and it’s sickening; he wants a wet rag. Forget it. I’ll live. I’m not asking for another favor.

He gets dressed. He feels Frank’s presence behind him, watching him.

“It was only cigarette money to me,” Frank is saying. “Learn economics before you go out and do this again. I would have paid two thousand to be with a straight boy like you, so tough and beautiful.” Then, sounding like he has to add it, Frank says, “You stupid piece of shit.”

Say it again, I’ll turn around, this time, I’ll snap that wrist. And, buddy, I’m not the one who’s ashamed of what I need.


The wind along Commonwealth Avenue is harsh, but walking is better than sleeping against a building in an unfamiliar part of town, one eye open. He appreciates that each step is a blade, stinging and burning. Now there’s nothing I can’t do, no pain that can break me.

In a few more hours the train will come alive, and he’ll be on his way to first-period; if there’s time, he’ll wrench out that tooth. After school, he’s going to buy Jamie a soft smiling teddy bear. Then she’ll have something as innocent as she is to hold on to, especially on the day that they’re no longer together, when the Nova disappears or when he moves away to a college in New York City, whichever comes first. 

REM HEADSHOTRose Ellen McCaig is from Brooklyn, New York. She earned a B.A., cum laude with Distinction in French from Boston University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. She practices Family and Business Law in Boston, Massachusetts. In the creative realm, through her Nantucket-based company, pretty strong girl productions, Rose Ellen produced a short film Twenty Minutes (2014) and a web series, Unsure/Positive (2015). Currently, she is studying fiction writing at Grub Street and is working on a novel. Economics 1987 is her very first short story!


  1. Collin Bray

    Good short read. Your first? wow.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Collin,
      Thanks so much for your comment. If you are interested in reading more, please let me know or stay in touch in any way that is convenient for you! or

  2. Melanie

    Rose Ellen, Congratulations on your first short story. Pretty strong, girl!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Melanie,
      Thanks so much for your comment. If you are interested in reading more, please let me know or stay in touch in any way that is convenient for you! or

  3. Barbara

    I was late picking up my daughter because I had to finish reading this story first. Remarkable how quickly you can feel like you care deeply about a character. Great debut story, RE!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks so much, Barbara!

      Please stay tuned for more of Eric’s story in my novel, THE UNENTITLED. or

  4. Ellen Lemire

    Congratulations, Rose Ellen!

  5. Nina Avedon

    I was blown away by the quality of writing and singular voice of this author who weaves a powerful tale that is both particular and universal. Her astute and detailed descriptions of both the inner and outer world of her protagonist are enormously moving. Words spring from the page in new combinations that are raw and gritty, deep and powerful. If this is a first literary attempt, I can only imagine what is in store for us next. More, Ms McCaig, more.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Nina, thank you for your comment! For more of Eric’s story, please keep in touch or stay tuned for news of my novel THE UNENTITLED as it progress through the publishing world. Best, Rose Ellen McCaig or

  6. Charles Catanzaro

    I find it difficult to believe that this compelling short story is Ms. McCaig’s first. The story line is real and reflects a regrettably true aspect of American life to which all too many are ignorant or apathetic. The writing itself is clear and Ms. McCaig blends her very visual metaphors into the tragic nature of the story’s events.
    I look forward to future stories from this author and hope her novel becomes available soon.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Charles! I’m honored you enjoyed Eric’s story. For more, please stay in touch as THE UNENTITLED progresses through the publishing world.
      Always, Rose Ellen or

  7. Cindy Richard

    I had a chance to read your story – so powerful! You packed a lot into the story so we could understand his desperation to catch a break and improve his life. My heart went out to him, but not in a pitying way; I understood that whatever traumatizing experiences he goes through will make him stronger and ultimately fuel his success. Way to go!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Cindy,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, Eric leads interesting life after 1987! To read what he does next, please stay in touch!
      –Rose Ellen McCaig or

  8. Christine Kent

    Powerful story, beautifully, heartbreakingly told — congratulations!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks, Christine! I hope you’ll stay in touch to read what Eric does next! or

  9. Ron

    Read your story last night, I was just going to read a little, but I had to read the whole thing.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks, Ron. I hope you’ll feel that way about the rest of Eric’s story! For updates on my novel, THE UNENTITLED and its progress through the publishing world, please stay in touch. –Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks so much for your comment. If you are interested in reading more, please let me know or stay in touch in any way that is convenient for you! or

  10. Brian

    What a great piece. I literally flew through it, did not want it to end and was looking for more. Where oh where is the parked Chevy?

    In such a short work of fiction, I feel I know these characters and what characters! I could have easily hated Frank and pitied Eric, but their respective humanity shown through like a beacon

    The way the writer shared Eric’s interior dialogue engaged me in a way that surprised me. As a result, for the scenes between Frank and Eric, I could understand how Eric could possibly make it through such a disorienting experience. Although this encounter could be viewed as a cheap shock and awe device, pandering to a pure sexual situation, instead its purpose was to reveal some of Eric’s admiral character strengths and Frank’s very real human desires. The effect was to give me access, in a very efficient and effective manner to what I might have closed my eyes and mind to.

    For Rose Ellen’s first published story, it reveals a writing talent that affected me and I look forward to reading her next work.

    Well done!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Brian, Thank you! To read what Eric does next, stay in touch in any way that is convenient for you! or

  11. Allison Ahern

    Fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. Very compelling story.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Allison, Thanks! If you are interested in Eric’s story and what happens next, please stay tuned for updates on the full novel, THE UNENTITLED, and how it is progressing through the publishing world.

      Thanks so much for your comment. If you are interested in reading more, please let me know or stay in touch in any way that is convenient for you! or

  12. KL

    I’m SO happy for you!!! I love love love this story and am delighted that now the rest of the world can love it, too!
    Big, big congrats to you!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear KL,
      Thanks! If you are interested in Eric’s story and what happens next, please stay tuned for updates on the full novel, THE UNENTITLED, and how it is progressing through the publishing world. or

  13. Lisa Flores

    WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!!!!!!!
    I am overwhelmed and way impressed!!!! This was amazing!!!! Very intense. I did not expect any of that. Do you have more?? Can I read more? I am obsessed now!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm! For more of Eric’s story and those he loves, my full novel, THE UNENTITLED, is beginning its journey through the publishing world.

      Please stay in touch in any way that is convenient for you!

  14. Michele

    I was engaged with the story and the writer’s style after reading the first three sentences. Although I read the story over 36 hours ago, Eric’s plight remains on my mind — I can’t stop thinking about how real and prevelent his situation most likely is. I applaud Rose Ellen McCaig’s ability to inspire us by juxtaposing Eric’s wonderful, shatterproof determination against unimaginable odds.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks so much for your comments! For more of Eric’s story and those he loves, my full novel, THE UNENTITLED, is beginning its journey through the publishing world.

      Please stay in touch in any way that is convenient for you!

  15. Glenn Rosengars

    Is this really your First! Wow. Didn’t know you had it in You. You’ll be in the NY Times Best Sellers soon. Hope you will remember me!


    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Glenn,
      Thanks for your comment! I hope you are right about the NYT! Stay tuned for updates as THE UNENTITLED begins to move through the publishing world!
      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm! For more of Eric’s story and those he loves, my full novel, THE UNENTITLED, is beginning its journey through the publishing world.

  16. Melinda

    The perspective is unique and invites you to look outside of your comfort zone to try and understand the choices made that are not your own. Envoking thought and understanding for others.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks, Melinda!
      For more of Eric’s story and those he loves, my full novel, THE UNENTITLED, is beginning its journey through the publishing world. I hope you’ll stay in touch!

  17. Jerry Facey

    “wow” although generic seems the best adjective for the reaction this short causes as you try to process what the kid must have been going through! For a second I forgot it was fiction and felt like yelling “get out of there Eric!”. The author’s command of the English language is superb and I hope she keeps producing more. See you in Barnes & Noble!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Jerry,
      Thanks for your comment! I hope you are right about Barnes & Noble! Stay tuned for updates as THE UNENTITLED begins to move through the publishing world!

  18. Frank Davis

    This is the kind of short story I rarely read anymore. A GOOD one. Not that there aren’t plenty of good stories. I just haven’t had time to find them. Fortunately, this one dropped unexpectedly right in front of my face on Facebook

    I really like the author’s voice — or maybe it’s the mourning sound of her young narrator’s mind. Eric reminded me of another young male narrator I came across many years ago, Holden Caufield aka, The Catcher in the Rye. Only Eric sounds a good deal more worldly in 2016, just as kids today seem less innocent than kids I played with in the 1950s.

    It’s hard to believe this is the writer’s first story. I used to think that real writers are born not made, but apparently someone who teaches a writing class at Grub Street in Boston is an exceptional midwife. So, I guess I’d consider this story a kind of breech birth, a joyous, painful, atypical debut.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Frank,
      It was an honor to read your comment on Facebook and now this longer one, here. Thank you! And yes, I had a wonderful instructor at Grub Street. Annie Hartnett’s novel RABBIT CAKE will be out next year and if you stay in touch, I’ll keep you posted on her book, too. –Rose Ellen

  19. Jessica

    Congratulations!! This is so great! Such wonderful detail throughout! I found myself obsessed and wanting more!! Looking forward to the future of you’re writing, it’s always so thoughtful, entertaining and real! Love love loved it!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm! For more of Eric’s story and those he loves, my full novel, THE UNENTITLED, is beginning its journey through the publishing world.

  20. Carey Erdman

    Congratulations Rose Ellen on pursuing your passion and sharing the results publicly. I rarely have time for “fun reading,” so this was a treat. Will you expand on these characters or move on to others? I hope we get to read more!

    • Rose Ellen

      Dear Carey,

      Thank you for your comments. To answer your question, there is a novel in progress, and Eric is the protagonist. So there is a lot more to come!

  21. Sara Schreiner

    Fell in deep like with Eric instantly; and deep dislike with Frank shortly after. Only good writing can make you feel so strongly about characters in such a short story. Descriptions painted such a clear picture in my head… the sharp toothed mouse, the bracelets of dirt, the painful steps down Commonwealth Ave. I sort of felt like I was watching the story rather than reading it. This short story, while complete on its own, feels like it was pulled from a much longer story. It left me wishing I could read the whole thing!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Sara,
      Thanks for your comment and your enthusiasm! For more of Eric’s story and those he loves, my full novel, THE UNENTITLED, is beginning its journey through the publishing world. –Rose Ellen McCaig

  22. Pervez Taufiq

    Well .. WOW. “Brilliant” is an understatement. This was a real glimpse in a life that I couldn’t even have imagined, and yet.. you did. With such detail and raw emotion that I truly felt Eric’s world, his plight, and his incredible strength. What resonated with me the most was the way you gave his inner thoughts a voice, and his feelings an eloquence in a profound way (a longing to know the normalcy of a simple “how was your day”). It’s a rare and beautiful thing when I finish reading something like this and truly wish there was more to satiate my curiosity of what happens next. I can’t wait to read more. Brava, you’ve written incredibly well. Please do let me know when there’s more, I can’t wait!

    • Rose Ellen

      Dear Pervez,

      Thank you for your comments!
      What happens next?
      Yes, there is much more! Keep an eye out for updates on the novel!
      Facebook or
      Follow @prettystronggir

  23. Joseph Leary

    Ms McCaig really knows how to move the story along. The piece is well paced and Eric is an interesting and complex character. Circumstances have conspired to defeat him leaving him isolated and without resources, yet he sets out to use his writing skills to earn the money needed to move his ambitions to the next level. Along the way he finds a moment of love to relieve his loneliness, but resolves to put that on hold until he achieves some stability. His plan goes badly awry, but he’s willing to do what’s necessary prevail, no matter how repulsive. The sex scenes are vivid, detailed and sometimes disturbing, but our hero weathers it all and lives to struggle on. I expect this is only the beginning of Eric’s story. Nice work Ms McCiag.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Joseph,
      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm! For more of Eric’s story and those he loves, my full novel, THE UNENTITLED, is beginning its journey through the publishing world. –Rose Ellen McCaig

  24. Matt McManus

    Well done Rose Ellen. Hard to believe this is your first piece of work. Vivid details. Congratulations!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Dear Matt,
      Thanks for your comment + I hope you’ll stay in touch to find out what Eric does next!

  25. Josh S

    Rose Ellen,

    Congrats on the first published piece! You writing style is very distinct, I’ll look forward to reading the novel.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks, Josh.
      I hope you’ll stay in touch to find out what Eric does next!

  26. Eric

    Wow, not what I was expecting. I am always fascinated by events in peoples lives that are so vastly different than mine. Eric found a means to an end no matter what the cost. Who know how far this $500 will take him.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks, Eric! To find out how far the $500.00 takes him, I hope you’ll read the novel when it comes out :))

  27. C.frost

    I was intrigued to continue reading more. He is living many “loss of innocence” situations, yet I see him as a determined character from a young age. I liked the use of swearing to describe that particular situation. It was a tough place for him to be in and I felt the wording made it real.

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks for your comment + I hope you’ll stay in touch to find out what Eric does next!

  28. William Mogan

    Engaging story. Does he make it to NYC?Congratulations!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Thanks for your comment.
      To find out if Eric makes it to NYC, I can send you updates on the full novel, THE UNENTITLED and its progress through the publishing world. Or keep in touch:

  29. Kate C.

    Rose Ellen’s prose is fearless and gritty, her characters both believable and raw. In this piece, she writes that Eric’s loneliness “pokes and chews, shimmies under his skin, a pointy-tooth mouse flattening its spine through a crevice.” This is much like the unabashed way Rose Ellen’s fiction enters us. It forces us to face a rich well of emotion: struggle, shame, passion, hope. This is a gutsy story, one that challenges and enriches the reader. Thank you, Rose Ellen! This piece may be the first, but I’m sure it will be the first of many.

  30. Jamie

    Very good short story.. Can’t wait to read your full novel!!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Jamie! Thanks for your comment. If you’d like me to send you updates on the full novel, THE UNENTITLED and its progress through the publishing world, feel free to contact me or keep in touch:
      Follow @prettystronggir

  31. Deborah

    Just read your short story…it felt “real” and “believable”….like I was right there along with him….I was thoroughly enjoying the read and.. ‘BOOM’! … it was over…..really wish it had been longer…definitely could this turn into a series of some sort….. or short story…..hope to see more of Eric…
    Great read…Best of Luck and Congratulations!!!!!

  32. Keiran

    This is a wonderful read, the ebb and flow of the text is exciting, and the world the author creates is very nuanced which is a perfect frame for such raw brutality. I hope to read more from this author soon, and while this was a short story, I felt as though it might be connected to a larger narrative– maybe about Eric, but also about Jamie; she’s sort of canonized in this piece, but I suspect her world is rich, too. Very impressive for a quick read!

    • Rose Ellen McCaig

      Keiran! Thanks for your comments. Yes, the story was woven from parts of my novel, THE UNENTITLED. If you’d like me to send you updates on its progress through the publishing world, feel free to contact me or keep in touch:
      Follow @prettystronggir

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