Playing House: Stories is a collection of short fiction submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MFA. Each story stands on its own and features a unique protagonist, but some commonalities in theme and subject matter extend across the collection. The stories realistically depict Americans in their twenties during the early twenty-first century. All of the stories involve characters in different stages of romantic relationships, from courtship to the aftermath of the relationship, and the characters struggle to communicate effectively. As the title of the collection suggests, many of the characters are also concerned with creating or maintaining a space that feels like home, a space which often proves to be provisional and elusive.
The protagonist of the title story enters into an unusual domestic arrangement, temporarily moving in with a drug-dealer after leaving the apartment he previously shared with his girlfriend. “Yes, Deer” concerns an engaged couple attending a going-away party for a friend; the friend’s upcoming departure heightens questions about the couple’s future. In “The Lettuce is Always Greener at Mike’s Subway,” a young Subway employee longs to work at the Subway four blocks down the street, but she ends up waiting tables at a pizza place instead. The protagonist in “Popping Plastic” goes to a bar with his alcoholic brother-in-law while his wife works the evening shift as a phone actress. A pizza delivery driver attempts to find her bearings after she ends a confusing relationship in “Asleep at the Wheel.”
Inspired by personal experience and by the works of short fiction writers such as Richard Bausch, Eudora Welty, Tobias Wolff, Flannery O’Connor, Barry Hannah, ZZ Packer, Junot Díaz, and Steve Almond, this collection strives to depict each character with love and care, in stories that are engaging, humorous, and meaningful. Composing the stories was largely a process of discovering and developing the personality of the characters. Each story has undergone a long process of revision focused on crafting a narrative that lives up to the potential of the characters, providing opportunities for those characters to take memorable, if not always prudent, actions.