67 Articles
John Sheppard

Editor’s Note: This novel excerpt first appeared here March 11, 2012.

Picture this: A pair of jump-boots, spray-painted silver, tied together by the laces and tossed up to a power-line umbilicaled to my barracks. Short-timer!

After my honorable discharge, my DD-214 in hand, I walked outside the out-processing barracks and whooped and spun my class A jacket round my head.

Shit, yeah.

I wasn’t really happy. But sometimes you have to celebrate no matter how you feel.
An old-man colonel noticed me and tsked.

In the out-processing barracks, I was issued a new military ID, one identifying me as TDRL, so I wasn’t out of the Army. Not completely.

They wouldn’t bring me back. I would disappear, I’d decided–naively as it turned out. I threw away the plane ticket that would have jetted me back to my home of record, Sarasota, Florida, put on my civvies and walked off post, heading away from official Washington, and Fort Myer and the big depressing cemetery, down Columbia Pike, just another suburban street in suburban Virginia, my duffel bag slung over my shoulder.

Somewhere near Bailey’s Crossroads, a van honked at me and pulled over. I hopped in.

Steve Carter

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared September 8, 2011.

A Prologue


Alton Reece



There’s been a lot of writing about food lately. Three-hundred-page love letters on the glories of sun-dried tomatoes and porcini this and pine nut that. You wouldn’t think anyone could make Italy boring except for Henry James and Thomas Mann, but now they’ve got competition. Of the twenty or so food books I read before starting my own, I discovered they were not unlike erotica: an overblown significance attached to something actually so prosaic it’s laughable. I’m guessing the popularity of food books stems in part from us becoming such a fat country. However, except for muckraking exposés and an article in Consumer Reports every two or three years, little has been written about fast food. I think that’s snobbish and needs to be remedied.

Before I go further, I should say that all the bad things that have been said about fast food are true. It’s full of fat and sugar and flavorings, and, passing health department ratings aside, a typical fast food kitchen is less hygienic than your own bathroom at home. And, as we all know, the typical franchise is staffed by teenagers: just how often do you meet one of those (God love them) that you’d trust with anything that mattered much? Such as what’s in the hidden part of your burrito.

Okay, so what are the glories of fast food? What is there to write about? Is there really a difference between a Wendy’s Single and a Quarter Pounder?