Issue 39 — 

Daniel Degnan

Daniel Degnan

Winner of the 2010 Gival Press Short Story Award

Photo by Gregory Kershaw.

2011 Pushcart Prize for Fiction
The Best American Short Stories Anthology

Fat Tails

Praise for Fat Tails

"In this long short story, the reader is exposed to what at first seems like bewildering accumulating details about local color. The details are in fact meaningful images. As the story progresses, those details become resonant with meaning and offer us insight into the lives of the characters as well as ourselves. None of it is random details. All go toward a central thematic question: How well can we calculate the odds for the decisions of our lives?

Billy, a doctoral candidate with special expertise in game theory and decision-making, is in love with Meg. Meg is the center of a small family that makes its living as salmon fishermen in Alaska.

But Alaska is far from the soft sand and beaches of Santa Cruz, California. What Billy imagined was to have been a romantic summer of fishing and meeting Meg’s family turns into a time that engages him, and us, in ongoing uncertainty and drama. Meg’s family is dysfunctional in ways that make her father and brother codependent. Whether she will be able to break free of family entanglements to make a life of her own with Billy is at issue.

Removing salmon entangled in barbed nets is dangerous, bloody business; fat tail salmons in nets look like bell curves on graph paper; flesh of all sorts get gutted in the wilderness; poker is a pastime of mathematical calculations; romance for Billy and Meg is quick, furtive and always colored by a twinge of guilt in the close quarters of her family’s isolated Alaskan camp.

The threads of these rich images become more tightly tangled with each page. The skilled hand of an artist moves subtly behind the rendered details that seem at once to be “merely” about the lives of the characters, but plainly are threaded, complex metaphors for difficult human relationships. The story draws us to a powerfully surprising, yet inevitable, ending, achieved as much by plot as by intertwined images. When there are Jokers in the deck, all the mathematical certainties of decision-making expertise are insufficient to calculate matters of the heart."
—Perry Glasser, final judge and last year's winner

Click on the link below to read the story:

Fat Tails by Daniel Degnan


Daniel Degnan is a recent recipient of the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. His work has been published in the anthology, 2Do Before I Die, and online by Opium Magazine and Poets & Writers. He was a Sarah Lawrence submission to Best New American Voices and a finalist in Opium Magazine's 500-word memoir contest. In addition to writing, he is CFO of Winston Preparatory School, a school for learning disabled students with campuses in New York, NY and Norwalk, CT. He holds a BS in Art and Design from MIT and an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence. He lives in River Vale, NJ, with his wife, Dao, and his son, Daniel.