Literature 7-21-2009

mnLIT presents: Rodney Nelsestuen

"Rage" is one of the flash fiction winners, selected by juror Lise Erdrich, in this year's mnLIT/miniStories competition. For the next several months, will publish all the victorious pieces, one poem or story per week, through April 2010.

This week's miniStories winner, Rodney Nelsestuen, with his literary advisor


Oh, your mother’s unreasonable. But she’s going through, well, change of life. Over the edge more each day. 


Nothing to worry about, though. Normal, and all that.

But she’s fussier. Some type of refinement we didn’t have, never really needed, but do now for some goddamned reason. Her motions are sweeping, genteel. Even a bowl of soup has elegance. It’s phony, you ask me.   

It’s no different than her dinner conversation. She elevates everything — hell, the new china.  And that wrist… where’d she get that motion? Not my woman.

Oh, it’s hard you know. I’ve gone back to jeans just as she’s gone upscale. And we can’t afford it. Should be retired but can’t because it’s not enough just to get a motorcycle and spend summer cruising Route 66 with a tent. We take a goddamned entourage every time we go some place and everything, every goddamned thing takes forever. Can’t just do something and be done with it.

Well, she walks slower. Never seen anyone take so much time to get a dollar out of a purse. 

Meanwhile, here we are, you and me, at the urinal pissing two hundred dollar Bordeaux as if it were tap beer. She fondles a wine glass anklet while here at the urinal we kid and talk of sports and, and, and we spit goddamn it, we spit. We men, we spit.

But I’m mad that she’s hurt and wonder if she’ll make it. She’s over the edge I tell you, gone, and can’t really deal with it or anything else and she throws me out of our bedroom at night and threw my clothes out once, told me to move out get out stay out but I won’t because we’re man and wife and if that’s how she wants it, then she’ll be the one to get out and maybe then goddamnit she’d find out what real sweat is instead of making everything everything. 

Hates herself, but it’s not enough, so she hates me. Her sister’s right you know… her life’s too narrow, tied to some magic Jesus. And its my fault you boys don’t sing to heaven like she wants.

Only so much I can stomach, drawn into that damned cesspool, around and around a goddamned whirlpool that never goes down and only keeps going like a thing she can’t get off. She knows she should do something about it, but she never does.

We grow old and change. I change opposite from her and she doesn’t like it while for me she can go another direction without ending it all but she doesn’t want to do that because being married to her means you’re either with her or against her while being married to me means you have yourself as well as me as well as ourselves but they aren’t and don’t need to be the same goddamn thing and it’s all right, you know?


About the author: Rodney Nelsestuen has published more than a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction. His writing has received recognition in several contests and includes three stage plays, four novels, a collection of creative nonfiction, and a short story collection. He is an instructor at The Loft Literary Center, and was a winner of the 2008 Loft Mentor Series competition. He has also been a judge in the Minnesota Book Awards contest in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction. Rod received his MFA from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota where he lives nearby with his wife Diane. For more information see: