For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“My Volcano”

Carmen Petaccio


Winner, The Short Form Story Contest, Spring 2013.

Full Story

Here are some facts about my volcano:

  • It is a mud-brown rise of earth, ankle-high, with a candle’s curlicue of smoke.
  • It is made of pulverized secondhand bricks and a polystrene/rebar composite.
  • It was manufactured by the Eisaku Noro Company in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan.
  • It cost $427.98, after New Jersey sales tax.
  • It is now the nicest thing in my dumpy backyard.
  • When I cup my hands round its glowing quarter-sized vent, my palms get warm.


Here are pieces of advice from my volcano installation specialist, Stan, after he’d successfully installed my volcano, and was guzzling the Sprite I’d brought him, in the staid heat of my backyard:

  • “Never add more than one teaspoon of lava per week. That’ll cause a meltdown.”
  • “When you run out of cinder-scented potpourri, order more from the website.”
  • “If the external bubbler makes like a grinding gears noise, turn it off immediately.”
  • “Recycle this Sprite.”


Here is a list of my coworkers at the coffee shop, as well as a few choice others, who I invited to my Volcano Unveiling Party:

  • Daniela, nightshift waitress
  • Danny, dayshift manager
  • Jeff, line-cook
  • Manny, barista
  • Chris, dayshift waiter
  • Myself, nightshift waiter
  • A bunch of people who didn’t leave town after high school either.


Here are the preparatory measures and grounds keeping tasks I performed in the sweltering days leading up to my Volcano Unveiling Party:

  • Soldered the spots in my fence where rust had unknotted the chain link.
  • Laid sod where the crabgrass had taken over.
  • Sold my old, unused tandem bike on eBay for $140.
  • Used the $140 and the remaining $180 in my checking to buy beer.
  • Scattered extra cinder-scented potpourri around my volcano.


Here is a list of everyone who showed up to my Volcano Unveiling Party:

  • Everyone except Daniela.


Here are the two things Jimmy, night manager said to me after I showed to my shift reeking of beer and volcanic ash, and dumped a latte macchiato into the lap of Rosie, one of our regulars, who is confined to a wheelchair due to a childhood ailment:

  • “Why didn’t you invite me to your party?”
  • “You’re fired.”


Here is what I said to Daniela when she found me smoking by the dumpster behind the coffee shop, and she apologized for missing my party, she and her fiance had been in California, hiking Mount Shasta, would I like to see pictures?

  • “Sure.”


Here is what happens when you pour a liter of lava into your volcano, and kick its external bubbler until it starts making a grinding gears noise:

  • It spits up, like a petulant baby.
  • It boils over, like a busted sprinkler head.
  • It melts into the dirt, leaving a stinky, blighted circle.
  • All the sod you buy to cover it up dies, so eventually you have to plant real grass.