NEA Literature Fellowships

Daniel Orozco

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(2006 - Prose)

From the short story, "Officers Weep"

700 Block, First Street. Parking violation. Car blocking driveway. Citation


issued. City Tow notified.


5700 Block, Central Boulevard. Public disturbance. Rowdy juveniles on


interurban bus. Suspects flee before officers arrive.


400 Block, Sycamore Circle. Barking dog complaint. Attempts to shush


dog unsuccessful. Citation left in owner's mailbox. Animal Control notified.


1300 Block, Harvest Avenue. Suspicious odor. Homeowner returning from


extended trip reports a bad odor--a gas leak or "the smell of death." Officers investigate. Odor ascertained to be emanating from a neighbor's mimosa tree in unseasonal bloom. "The smell of life," officer [Shield #647] ponders aloud. Officers nod. Homeowner rolls eyes, nods politely.


3900 Block, Fairview Avenue. Shady Glen Retirement Apartments. Loud


noise complaint. "What kind of noise?" officers ask. Complainant simply says it was "a loud report." "A gunshot?" officers query. "A scream? Explosion? What?" Complainant becomes adamant, shakes walnut cane in fisted hand: "It was a loud report!" Officers mutter, reach for batons, then relent. Officers report report. ...


2200 Block, Felicity Court. Domestic disturbance. Man with golf club pounds


on washing machine in garage. Woman in lawn chair applauds his every blow, whistles, barks like dog. Dogs next door whipped into frenzy by noise, bark like woman in lawn chair. Soapy water jets in jugular arcs from innards of crippled washer, streams down driveway, gurgles into gutter. Officers linger in Patrol Unit, assess scene, swiftly reach unspoken agreement, gun engine, hightail it out of there. ...


6700 Block, Coast Highway. Officers go to beach, park at overlook. Officers


pooped, reposed. They do not speak. They sip double lattes, ponder view. A gash in the bruise-colored sky bleeds yellow. Sunshine leaks into the ocean, stains its surface with shimmering light. He looks over at her, notices a discoloration, a swelling on her left cheekbone. His hand reaches out, his fingers touch the wound, touch her. "You're hurt," he says. She smiles, whispers: "You should see the other guy." They park their double lattes on dash, slip off their sunglasses, avert their eyes. They screw their faces against the jagged harshness of an unpolarized world, slip sunglasses back on. His hands reach for hers, their fingers clasp and enmesh, roil and swarm at the fourth finger of her left hand. Officers tug and pull, remove and park ring on dash. He reaches for her. She leans toward him; it is like falling. Officers fall. Afterward, they linger over their coffee. Wedding ring on dash glints in the shifting light, harmless as a bottle cap or a shiny old button, something a bird might snatch up. Officers watch a ball of sunlight flare up at earth's edge like a direct hit. Officers assess scene, ascertain world to be beautiful.

Daniel Orozco earned his MFA from the University of Washington. He was a Scowcroft and L'Heureux Fiction Fellow and a Jones Lecturer in Fiction in the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University. He was a MacDowell Colony Fellow in 2005. His stories have appeared in the Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and in Harper's Magazine, Zoetrope:All Story, McSweeney's and others. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Idaho.

Photo courtesy of the author

Author's Statement

I'm a slow writer; I work on paragraphs for months. Slow writers need . . . impetus. The NEA fellowship is a wonderful, bracing shove, and it couldn't come at a better time. I'll be using the money to take a break from teaching, to hole up and hunker down, to finish--finally--The Short Story Collection, and then start The Novel. I'm happy.