Look, I'm not mad at the system. I'm not even going to go into it, I'm just explaining.
YOU WON'T REMEMBER ME unless you're a trivia freak with a stack of Tennis back issues, but that's cool. Hardly anyone, even in the industry, follows the game well enough to know anyone but the men's and women's winners at Wimbledon, plus a few other genuine American heroes. Right now it goes like this: Roger Federer, that Ukrainian chick, Serena and Venus, Agassi, Anna Kournikova, Sampras sort of, and McEnroe, because who can forget McEnroe if he won't go away.
First published December 23, 2005 (Chicago Reader)
© 2005 Keir Graff
I didn't always appreciate his taste in clients, and he didn't always stand up for me in an argument, but you can only ask so much from a white guy.
MY NAME LOBSANG SHERPA. I am Sherpa. Carry big load up mountain. Climb Sagarmatha, mountain you call Everest, seven time. My English not so good. OK to speak Sherpa, you make into English?
That's better. I can speak enough English to make myself understood on the mountain—I know the words for crampon, altitude sickness, and Gamow bag, which is a device that simulates the air pressure of lower altitudes—but for a story like this, I'll need to employ a greater degree of nuance. And my English is—how do you say?—inelegant.
First published December 29, 2006 (Chicago Reader)
© 2006 Keir Graff
One night she heard a series of tiny grunts and echoey thumps, as if the baby had climbed out of the crib and was walking around.
THE BABY HAD BEEN HER HUSBAND'S IDEA. She had known she wasn't ready, but because he owned the condo and had the job and she had dropped out of school with no further ideas, she went along with it.
It wasn't that she didn't love the baby: It was sweet and pink and squeezed her fingers with surprising strength. It rarely cried. But she was only 26. Her friends kept her on their e-mail lists, inviting her to concerts and parties that she could never attend.
First published October 25, 2007 (Time Out Chicago)
© 2007 Keir Graff
If he was biting the hand that fed him, it would be a very nourishing meal.
HE HAD VISITED MORE THAN 200 CITIES in 70 countries, but this was his first trip to Dubai. The plane landed at noon. Hungover and half asleep, he rode in an electric cart through the gleaming airport to the baggage claim, where a slim Pakistani man in a crisp blue suit was holding a sign that read Brazilian.
He climbed out of the cart. "I'm David Brazilian."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Brazilian. Please follow me, Mr. Brazilian."
First published December 20, 2007 (Chicago Reader)
© 2007 Keir Graff
He was no art critic. He was a guard. He had to guard the stuff in the Art Institute because it was valuable, even if it was just a pile of candy, even though it was OK to take some of the candy. What if someone tried to take all of the candy?
QUENTIN JONES HAD NEVER SET OUT TO BE AN ART THIEF. He had been just your garden-variety thief, a B&E man, no good with locks but with a knack for finding open windows or guessing where homeowners hid their keys. His mother never missed an opportunity to remind him of the perks afforded a branch bank manager—that was his younger brother Ike's job—but burglary had been a reliable occupation, helping him buy groceries and split the rent with his steady girlfriend, Juanessa.
First published October 9, 2008 (Time Out Chicago)
© 2008 Keir Graff
He knew only that books were his warrant. If books were not the word of god then god never wrote a book.
IN THE DREAM HE KNELT beside a vast and craven crater. The crater filled with bookwrack. Boards. Paper. Words. The words unadhorn from the pages and falling to letters. Broken bookshelves. Card catalogs filled with dust. That not burned had been drowned. Stewy char. The shorelaps of the polluted waters a sickly susurrus. The world come unbooked and never to be read again.
First published May 15, 2009 (Booklist)
© 2009 Keir Graff
Knitting. If the guys in Kandahar could see me now, I thought. On the other hand, I learned how to make a pair of hunter's-plaid slipper socks that were just darling.
I WOKE UP SOMEWHERE UNDER THE LOOP. I was lying across two handicapped seats in a southbound Red Line train. I got off at the next station, crossed the platform, and got on a train going north. The people in my car looked as miserable as only Chicagoans in late February can look. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window. I made the miserable people look like they were at Mardi Gras.
First published May 1, 2008 (Booklist)
© 2008 Keir Graff
He wrote the word with great care, adding loops and curlicues that it might be rendered more attractive to the reader. Then, as the candle guttered, he stared helplessly. From that first, grand word came no flood of others.
JOHN MACKAY-WHYTE, ESQUIRE, and Gordon Gilbey Boodles, Esquire, climbed down from their hired hackney coach, paid the coachman, and, stepping backward, blundered into the stream of reeking sewage that meandered down the cobblestone street. Kicking the biggest pieces of shit from their broad-topped boots, they shouldered their way into the noisy rabble that crowded the mongers' filthy stalls. High above, the setting sun lit London's soot-stained air with a glow that anywhere else might be called roseate.
First Published April 7, 2010 (Booklist Online)
© 2010 Keir Graff