Dustin Pellegrini

April 20, 2014
by dustinpellegrini

Flash Fiction – Franklin


Here is an excerpt from a piece of flash fiction, a work-in-progress, that follows a man and his young son as they go about salvaging something for dinner; roadkill.


Franklin edges a booted toe under the rabbit’s neck, lifts the thing from the scarred pavement, and pancake-flips it over. It’s underside’s a hollow mess of maggots, all died red, suckling at fat tendrils of meat. A blue van cruises by, swerves into the gravel and tramples the weeds at the edge of the road. The horn calls out at Franklin, shouts in its own language as he pushes the carcass with his foot, stirring the maggots out.

He crouches to his heels, shakes up the bean in his can, and directs the nozzle, sprays a pink X just next to the thing, marking it for the ride back.

Ethan, in his favorite blue onesie, the one Franklin put cigarette burns in so his thumbs could poke through, crawls near him on the pavement, somehow loose from his special seat in the truck, the one his mother had found, had gotten from a neighbor who’d gotten it from an Aunt. Had given it to Franklin at one of their now-frequent exchanges at the gas station between their house–her house now, though he still paid for it, his name was still right there on the lease–and his new one-room place across town, and said Ethan was either in it or he wasn’t in the car. That simple. The boy crawls too close to the spraying and gets freckles of paint across his forehead. His wobbly arms and legs each pull him toward their own North, the way Franklin imagines a fish would flop until dead if it’s pond dried up.

He takes Ethan up by the armpits, the paintcan spitting onto his onesie. He wants to halt him from stretching a hand too far into the rabbit’s lining, a sight his Mother would remember, would store deep down in that vault she had in her head. The one she dug into anytime they argued and it was looking like she would lose. Franklin called it his Bank of Mistakes.

How can you let him touch that? she’d say. She’d scream. It isn’t clean. It isn’t right. No, Franklin wanted to avoid any chance she’d get of filling that vault.

Too late.

April 20, 2014
by dustinpellegrini

Screenplay – Furiously, Curiously


Here is a scene from the screenplay adaptation of my novel manuscript. Whew, that was a mouthful. This story has been developing for the past four years, both inside and outside of the classroom. It follows a young man, growing up in a small town which is being swallowed up by arsons and the local prison, as he attempts to learn the truth of who his father was. Lots of destruction and small-town doings. Check it out.

April 20, 2014
by dustinpellegrini

Book Review: Never Bet the Devil, by Orrin Grey


Here is the intro to a book review that was commissioned by and published through the review Lab at Columbia College Chicago.

Never Bet The Devil by Orrin Grey

In his debut short story collection Never Bet The Devil & Other Warnings, Orrin Grey strives to take the familiar, tired elements of the horror genre and use them against the reader. His strength comes from the knowledge a reader will bring to a horror story and takes advantage of this situation by giving them just what they won’t expect. Reinvention, of course, is a mammoth task that requires both a purpose and a thorough understanding of the genre being handled. Luckily, Grey not only has the necessary awareness, he’s motivated by a great respect to restore and preserve the dignity that horror once had.

The first real attempt at reinvention comes halfway through the collection, when Grey decides to create his own version of a werewolf before the reader’s eyes. “The Barghest” presents a man’s torturous experience as said monster, but the story is told by his assistant who was witness to the transformation. The terror, then, is created through observing the mental deterioration of a friend, not through excessive carnage. By addressing this story directly to the man becoming a monster, the emotion becomes real and the worry more believable. “I’ve spent a lot of the time since then wondering how it happened. You were so careful. Was it your eagerness that was your undoing, or did something else render you suddenly clumsy?” The assistant’s confusion feels personal, like a parent hurting for their missing child, regretting the unknown. This dramatic relationship anchors the story and allows the reader to be taken in by this monster’s new origin.


Read the rest of the review here.

April 20, 2014
by dustinpellegrini

Interview With Author Ben Tanzer – Non-Fiction

Ben Tanzer

A few Q’s and A’s with Ben Tanzer, prolific Chicago author and all around great guy. This was conducted just before the release of his new book, Lost in Space.

Since keeping away from writing until his early 30‘s, Ben Tanzer has written and published steadily, starting with the novel Lucky Man in 2007 and most recently Lost in Space, his first collection of essays. He is the director of Publicity and Content Strategy for Curbside Splendor, works with the non-profit Prevent Child Abuse America, and somehow still finds time to properly raise his kids. He is an Emmy-award winning Public Service Announcement writer and regularly updates his prolific social media empire, including This Blog Will Change Your Life.

Dustin Pellegrini: With your new book (Lost in Space) coming out now, how have you been going about balancing the book along with your other commitments to Curbside, Prevent Child Abuse America, and your family?

Ben Tanzer: It’s an endless balancing act. Which is a terribly cliche answer. But I really look to put work and family first, and the writing, reading, and Curbside get wrapped around those activities. So, local readings are not that big a deal, they’re mostly at night, my wife and I both go out separately and together,  which is also good for life balance, and readings out of town fall into two categories, though really just one with a caveat. I need to travel for work, and will look to schedule readings that match-up with those dates. In that case I am already out of the house. Or I will only do a reading that allows for something family focused as well. Going to AWP has been a recent exception to that, but in going there I forgo other things I might do.

DP: Do you ever consider stepping back from anything and focusing more on your writing or more on your family?

BT: I’m not sure my family wants more of me, but that might be a separate interview. Stepping back to write more sounds terrific, or frankly, just reducing the stress of getting it in every day, but I haven’t been able to figure that out entirely. I already work at home two days a week, long days, which allow for increased time with the family, but to write more would really involve less day job, and that doesn’t seem practical to me right now, not with small children, health insurance, braces and on and on. That said, my response may also be indicative of my inability to think more creatively about this, and my need for structure and steady paycheck, which on the one hand seems normal, or typical, though I meet people all the time who are not as compulsive about these things as I am, which I assume reflects poorly on my choices.

April 20, 2014
by dustinpellegrini

Fiction – Those Parents



Here is an excerpt from a satirical short story, still in-progress, that follows an inexperienced janitor as he attempts to sabotage the impressive charter school where he works.

Those Parents

The bell strains itself hoarse so everyone is aware that it’s exactly 2:55PM, not 2:50, not 3:00, and the duckling style conga line of single parents in eight-seater SUV’s knows it’s time for them to trudge past the front door of the school and that it’s officially okay for them to honk and scream when their kid isn’t there for them the instant they’re ready.

These parents, all of them in suits the same dark shade of fabric as their car’s seats, they can’t make up their minds. Their fingers twist the volume knob for the satellite radio, Left…Right…Left…Right. Their elbows, stuck crooked in the mouths of their steering wheels, keep them precisely a foot, 12 inches, from the curb while their other hands are stuck up to their ears, their trimmed, buffed nails tap-tap-tapping their blu-tooths on and off.

Call after call.

This is the quality time they fight for with their divorce attorneys.

April 20, 2014
by dustinpellegrini

Flash Fiction – Darcy

issuu cover

This is the opening to a piece of flash fiction which was published through, and performed at, Chicago’s Story Week 2014. It revolves around a peculiar woman named Darcy who has a penchant for snake-skin clothing and may or may not be holding a twenty-year grudge against the members of her step-family.


I call her a home-wrecker because that’s what she is.

Mom made wooden clocks and sold them at craft fairs.
Dad’s a butcher in a grocery store. Darcy wrecks homes. I heard
her cough the first time outside of Mom’s cancer ward. She
gagged like she wasn’t used to clean air and when I stepped
out into the hallway, I thought she was a giant snake. Her legs
were wrapped in shiny green scales, her stomach bloated out of
them like she’d swallowed something whole. Her fingers coiled
around Dad’s arm, claiming him. She smiled as he introduced
her and all I could think was, of all the animals you could dress
like, who chooses a snake?

Read the full story here.