Steven Dunn, Fiction


Whiting Awards 2021

Steven Dunn. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan.

Steven Dunn, aka Pot Hole (cuz he’s deep in these streets) is the author of two novels from Tarpaulin Sky Press: Potted Meat (2016) and water & power (2018). Potted Meat was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, and shortlisted for Granta Magazine’s Best of Young American Novelists, and adapted to a short film by Foothills Productions. The Usual Route has played at L.A. International Film Festival, Houston International Film Festival, and others. He was born and raised in West Virginia, and teaches in the M.F.A. programs at Regis University and Cornell College.


An excerpt from Potted Meat:


Grandma thinks I’m her husband again. He died before I was born. She says to me, Remember when you came home from the mines all dirty and took me dancin. Yeah, I say, we had big fun. And that one gal, she says, whats her name, you know, that slew-footed heffa, the one starin at you. Aw cmon now, I say, that was nuthin, you know I only got eyes for you.

Grandma slips back in. She says, Boy, you wash them dishes yet. I was just about to, I say. Well what you waitin on. She changes the channel to Wheel of Fortune and solves a puzzle before I do, and before the people on the show do. Them some slow-ass folks on that show, she says. A commercial comes on. She looks at me. That was a real nice date, huh, dontcha remember.

I wasnt dirty I tell you that. I got off of work, came home, cleant myself up, and put on one of them nice suits, a real nice one. I told her to put on her dancin shoes cuz we was gonna hit the town. Now I aint never been the dancin type, but after I had me a few whiskies I shonuff cut a rug that night. I got to twirlin her round with one finger. Beige dress flutterin all over the place, showin them pretty legs. Boy I tell ya, that was a good night.

Grandma is too old to wipe her own butt. Last week when I was wiping her butt, she slipped out again. Who the fuck are you touchin my ass, she said. Like usual I was holding her arms with one hand while wiping her with the other. She started hitting me and trying to roll off her potty chair. My hand slipped down and shit smeared my forearm. Get the fuck off me, she said. The best thing to do is wait until she slips back, so I walked to the bathroom to wash my arm and hand. I walked back to the room and she was still sitting on the potty chair. Its you again, she said, dear God, please help.

I told you we was gonna find a nice church in West Virginia once we got settled. I know the churches aint like the ones back home in Louisiana, but theyll do, baby. The mines payin me good, you makin some good friends, plys we got all these damn kids runnin around here. We gonna be alright.

Grandma finally called for me. I walked into the room and she said, would you mind helping me please, I had a little accident. I started wiping her, but the shit had dried a little and the toilet paper kept crumbling off. I soaked a washrag with warm water and soap. Thank you, she said, it must be something I’m eating thats making me mess all over myself. She farted. And started laughing. Thats enough gas to put in that car out there, she said.

Wheel of Fortune comes back from commercial. After every plate I wash I turn and look at Grandma. As long as I can see her looking up like she is thinking I think she is present. As long as I can hear her calling out an R or S or T or L or N or E, I think she is present. Buy a vowel, she says. She’s still here. Buy another vowel, she says. She’s still here.