The 2015 Whiting Awards: Dan Josefson


Dan Josefson



From That’s Not a Feeling


I turned when the door opened and took a step back when I saw Tidbit. She was short, with a thick waist and large breasts. When I caught myself staring, I quickly looked around to see if anyone else was there. Turning back, I thought it was strange that she walked toward me normally, as though nothing were out of the ordinary. I assumed girls walked differently when they were naked, and it briefly occurred to me that it was because all the naked women I’d seen were in photographs, where they generally wore high heels.

She leaned her hip against the desk and looked me in the eyes. She wore glasses with round, red frames. “You’re new here, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I got here today.”

“I saw you kick the window out of your parents’ car.”

“Oh. I didn’t think anybody saw that.”

“I was under some bushes. And then them dragging you in. What’s your name?”

“Benjamin. I’m Benjamin.”

“I’m Tidbit. Here, look at this.” She turned around and held her hair away from her nape to show me a tattoo on the back of her neck. My eyes followed the curve of her spine down to her waist and hips before looking back up to see what she was showing me. It was a homemade tattoo in blue ink that said, simply, TIDBIT.

“Can you see it?” she asked.

“Yeah. The tattoo.”

“My friends did it.”


“No, at home.” She turned back around.

“Is that why you got sent here?”


“So what are you here for?”

Tidbit stared at me. “I have a self-afflicting personality,” she said.

I nodded. The pulse of blood in my skull had slowed to a drowsy thump. Her face was sweet, not too pretty. A soft, round forehead, a wide nose. There was something about her that seemed restless and oversensitive. The frames of her glasses cast a rounded shadow across her cheek. “Aren’t you worried about getting into trouble?” I asked.

“Why? We’re not doing anything.”

“I know.”

“So, did you meet Aubrey?” Aubrey was the headmaster.

“For a minute. He didn’t say much.” I was struggling to return her gaze. “Is he nice?”

“Nice? No. He’s fucking crazy.” Tidbit picked a pencil up from the desk and began playing with it. “My first day here, he bit me.”

I followed Tidbit’s eyes down to look at the pencil in her hands, stole a glance at her breasts. “What?”

“Well, I bit him first.” She laughed.


“I know,” Tidbit said, looking up. “It’s part of his philosophy.”

I felt like we should be talking about something else. “He was okay with me. He just ate a salad.”

“Here’s all you need to about Aubrey: at breakfast once, he came out of the bathroom with this long strip of toilet paper hanging out of the back of his pants. It was like a tail, it reached all the way down the ground, dragging through the Cafetorium behind him. Of course everyone was terrified to tell him because who knows what he’d do. And I know some of the teachers and dorm parents saw because they were careful not to step on it. But nobody said anything. When Aubrey finally sits down in the armchair at Campus Community and sees it you know what he says?”

I shook my head.

“ ‘I have never felt so alone’ ”.


Dan Josefson holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a BA from Williams College. Josefson received a Fulbright Research Fellowship to Romania in 2002. He worked as a freelance writer for the Las Vegas Mercury, and has been Assistant Editor of the Junior Library Guild in New York since 2006. His novel, That’s Not a Feeling (Soho, 2012), was a Barnes & Noble Discover selection and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. He lives in Brooklyn.