NEA Literature Fellowships

Melinda Moustakis

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(2014 - Prose)

Excerpt from "Trigger"

You were conceived on a hunting stand, they say.

Which means: We had no other place.

The homestead is full of my mother's siblings. On the stove, a pot of potato chow big enough to feed twenty. See my mother, back roughed against the wooden platform in the trees. See my father, finger on the trigger—in case.

You have to gut a moose right away, they say, or the meat rots in its skin.

Which means: We couldn't keep our hands off each other.

The night of my making, my father shot a moose through the eye, through the skull and brain and bone, through to the other side. My mother found the red-tipped bullet in the summered dirt. They keep it on the mantle next to a sepia photo—them steering the rack of the dead bull.

They say, you came into the world with a bang.

Which means: Do something to deserve us.

Melinda Moustakis is the author of Bear Down Bear North: Alaska Stories, which won the Flannery O' Connor Award and the Maurice Prize and was a 5 Under 35 selection by the National Book Foundation. She received her MA from UC Davis and her PhD in from Western Michigan University. Her story "They Find the Drowned" won a 2013 PEN/ O. Henry Prize and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and American Short Fiction. She was recently a Hodder Fellow at the Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University and will be the 2014-2016 Kenyon Review Fellow in Fiction at Kenyon College.

Photo by Emily Stinson

Author's Statement

I’m allowed to dream a little longer, to dream of and in Alaska. And the dreaming is a going under and a going away for an uninterrupted time, which is a wonderful gift. Awards such as this one mean that there are others who believe in the work I’m trying to accomplish. If sustaining the writing life means finding little scraps of meat to feed to the wolves of self-doubt, then the NEA is a large freezer full of moose.