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Casey Pycior Kansas Map; Kansas City, Shawnee, Wichita
Melissa Fite Johson

Casey Pycior

The Spoils book cover









































Casey Pycior was born and raised in Kansas City (on the Kansas side—it matters), and he earned his MA in Literature from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, his MFA in fiction writing at Wichita State University, and his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was awarded the 2015 Charles Johnson Fiction Prize at Crab Orchard Review, and his work has also appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal, Midwestern Gothic, Harpur Palate, BULL, Wigleaf, Yalobusha Review, and The MacGuffin, among many other places. His debut short story collection, The Spoils, is forthcoming from Switchgrass Books in March, 2017. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife and son.

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Samples of other publications:

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Writing Samples  

From The Spoils: Stories


Wild Bill is getting married tomorrow, so in this afternoon’s show everyone hits their marks, trying to prove they can fill Wild Bill’s boots. Fourth of July is easily the biggest weekend of the season for Old Town Abilene’s “Gunfight on Main Street.” We’d heard that Bill—the guy’s name who plays Wild Bill is actually Bill, I’m not making this up—was going to handpick one of us to fill in. Wild Bill is the only set part in the show; the rest of us rotate between the other roles. Bill’s a history professor at Wesleyan over in Salina, and he’s been playing Wild Bill for years. It’s not some summertime hobby for him; he takes it seriously, and all of us know this.

As Cowboy 3, I look like an extra right out of an episode of Gunsmoke, with dusty dungarees and boots, a denim Western-style shirt and red bandana. I’m leaning against the split-pine porch rail of the dry goods store, which doubles as the Old Town gift shop before and after the show. Across the wide dirt lane, Cowboy 5 hitches an old deaf horse to the rail in front of the false Post Office, Villains 1 and 2 hang around the horse stable, and several pairs of women in long, rough-cut dresses and off-white bonnets crisscross the lane. The set is modeled after the real 1870s Main Street in Abilene (two of the structures are even authentic): low-slung buildings with second-story false fronts, wooden porches, hitching posts, and even water troughs, like the stylized versions we recognize from TV shows and movies.
Unlike in the theater, where the stage lights keep us from seeing the audience, here, under the never-ending Kansas sky, they are right in front of us, corralled by a split-rail fence in front of the Bull’s Head Saloon in the middle of Main Street. When I’m playing one of the lesser roles, like Cowboy 3, I like to watch them watch the show. The most faithful are probably old folks, those bused in on day trips from retirement homes in Topeka, Manhattan, and Salina, and those of the over-the-road America bus tours that stop to see the Eisenhower Library, which is conveniently just across the street. I’d venture to guess that most of the rest are either on their way to Kansas City or Denver, and we’re just a kind of pit stop, a place to get lunch and stretch their legs, and Well look at that, an Old West show, and it starts in twenty minutes . . .


The video, shot from only a few rows up, comes in just at the end of my instructions, which sound garbled through the cheap PA. The camera work is shaky, jerking from the backs of people’s heads to the water-stained drop ceiling and then to the large bingo board on the wall, before finally settling on the ring in the center of the room. For the next four minutes, everything is as steady and in focus as the primitive cell phone camera will allow.
You might think you’re watching some kind of underground “fight club,” but it’s a professional boxing match, fully sanctioned by the state of Kansas. And you probably don’t notice me, but I’m there, right in the middle of the ring. It was my 137th bout, and after that many, you get a feeling about certain fighters. There’s something that you can’t see from anywhere but inside the ring. It’s in the eyes, and I know it when I see it, and I saw itthat night in the eyes of Manuel Cardenza. It’s an unsettling coldness that you can’t shake, not unlike, I imagine, looking into the eyes of a predator in the wild.

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Casey's Website

Midwestern Gothic

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