The Geiger Counter

Matt Geiger is a Midwest Book Award Winner, a national American Book Fest Finalist, and an international Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist. He is also the winner of numerous journalism awards. His books include “Astonishing Tales!* (Your Astonishment May Vary)” and “Raised by Wolves & Other Stories.” He once won an axe-throwing competition.
admin's picture

Have I Got a Story for You...

Someone compared me to a little old lady the other day. 

I was talking to a new friend named Judy, who we met while on vacation in St. George, UT. She’s in her mid-70s and nimble as a bighorn sheep, spending her time hiking, playing pickleball and exploring the alien landscape around her, this New Englander in the desert, this widow to a husband of so many years now walking the world alone. She’s a storyteller, a raconteur in orthopedic shoes, and she makes the most delightful offhand comments. 

We visited her house while on vacation a couple weeks ago. She sat down at the kitchen table and rifled through several guidebooks and pamphlets, suggesting various places we should visit while there. 

“There’s a really good hiking trail in Beaver Dam,” she said, reading from a beige brochure, then looking at us over its pages with marked skepticism. “Well, I’ve never seen any beavers there.” 

admin's picture

In Dreams

We took our eight-year-old daughter to her first “grown up” concert last night. It was the luminous Sierra Ferrell at the Stoughton Opera House, and I fear we might have done our daughter a disservice. Ferrell and her band were so perfect that I suspect every other concert she ever goes to will be a disappointment. It was magical from start to finish.

admin's picture

The Dogs of Chernobyl

“Everyone up and left, but they left their dogs and cats. The first few days I went around pouring milk for all the cats, and I’d give the dogs a piece of bread. They were standing in their yards waiting for their masters. They waited a long time.”

“But the dogs and cats had absorbed heavy doses of radiation in their fur, and were liable, presumably, to wander out of the Zone. The hunters had to go in and shoot them.”

“The first time we came, the dogs were running around near their houses, guarding them. Waiting for the people to come back. They were happy to see us, they ran toward our voices. We shot them in the houses, and the barns, in the yards.”

“We met these strange dogs and cats on the road. They acted strange: they didn’t recognize us as people, they ran away. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with us until they told us to start shooting at them.”

admin's picture


I used to often stop and chat with an elegant woman named Cécile, who worked in an office a few steps from mine in the City of Middleton. I edited the local newspaper (which was essentially just an ongoing saga about how much the community’s leaders at the time loved concrete and development of literally any kind) and she worked at the nearby Chamber of Commerce.

She had red hair and freckles and narrow-framed glasses that sat like windows through which you could catch her eyes’ glint. She was, apparently, middle-aged, but she had the demeanor of someone in the jaunty days of youth, as if she was in on some kind of cosmic joke and recognized how funny the world was, just beneath all the griping and despair. She did not solve all the problems of the world, but you always walked away from a conversation with her a little lighter, a little better and a little less burdened by all that falls upon your shoulders.

admin's picture

My Wife Does Exist

From time to time, people tell me they are under the impression I am a single parent, because I never mention my wife in these columns. Actually, my wife, who exists and is named Greta, doesn’t appear here for one particular reason. 

The reason, of course, is that making humorous (read: true) observations about one’s spouse in a newspaper column is the type of thing that often ends up mentioned in court, during contentious divorce proceedings, and it’s my sincere desire that my columns never end up as “exhibit A” in any trial, particularly my own. 

The truth is my wife is simply too busy to be a character in these stories. She is a successful graphic artist, and when she’s not at work, she is usually busy cleaning up messes in our home. This sounds helpful, but she and I have very different definitions of the word “mess,” so it’s actually a bit complicated. 

admin's picture

Pickle Dog

It was so hot in Raleigh, North Carolina last week that it seemed like you could hear the sun. It was like a movie in which the sun was a character, and I was talking about it, only to pause mid-sentence and gasp: “He’s standing right behind me, isn’t he?!” We were visiting my little sister, who recently gave birth to her first child.

Cassie Geiger is six years younger than me, and in my mind, she is a sarcastic, independent, generous, Korean Peter Pan. One of my earliest memories is waiting for her at the airport with my parents, when I was six. It was as if she was being carried to us by a massive metal stork, in which passengers could still smoke cigarettes and move around the cabin, in those days. Today, I don’t only think of her as a baby, of course, but I do think of her always as my little sister, as a kid who tagged along, and each time I think of her, I must manually change her to an adult in my mind.

admin's picture

Wolf in the Story

Medieval people believed a wolf could steal your voice if it saw you before you saw it. Because of this, if you were with friends and stopped speaking, someone would often exclaim, “Lupus est in fabula!” which means “Wolf in the story!”*

I am unlikely to bump into many gray wolves where I live. Most of Wisconsin’s more than 1,000 large wolves live to the north of me. But I do see their wily cousin, the prairie or brush wolf, AKA the coyote, all the time. As a hunter and hiker, I spend as much time as I can in the woods, and, more often than not, as I sit quietly and observe, I see these ruddy canines loping, leaping and looking for something to eat. They trot by, through cornfields and under trees, fat and furry. They are yellow-eyed and sometimes they appear and then vanish without abiding by any rules of physics. 

admin's picture


One day, someone dumped a puppy at the gate of a ranch in Oklahoma. The dirt leading to it was hard umber, snaked with tire tracks. On the fence to the right hung a large, orange “NO TRESPASSING” sign. Far in the distance, low white buildings housed people and animals. Chestnut horses grazed on tawny grass inside the fence. 

admin's picture


My sister-in-law doesn’t like hobbits, she informed us at dinner last week.

“Why not?” my wife asked.

“Their feet,” she replied bluntly. “And their optimism.”

She still loves the stories and worlds they inhabit, of course, but she thinks their naivety is annoying. The fact that she has such strong feelings about them makes them feel even more real, though. She has never tried to argue that they don’t exist; only that she thinks they need to stop being such idiots (and maybe shave their feet).

The thing is, hobbits live in stories. So do countless dragons and heroes. And living in a story is more important than anything else. It is a bastion of immortality and a reservoir of meaning. People can live in stories even if they never set foot in the “real” world, and if we are very lucky and try very hard, we, too, can live on in stories long after our bodies decay and rot.

admin's picture

A Mangy Dog Story

Every year I try to write about a stray dog. 

It was 20 years ago, in Alabama. We were staying with my girlfriend’s family for the holidays, and we saw the miserable creature trotting down the side of a lonely, gothic country road one morning, through a haze. She looked like an extra in “The Walking Dead.” Her coat was nearly gone, the skin gnarled and blotted by mange. Her xylophone ribs insisted on the edges of the body. She seemed, and I didn’t even know this was physically possible until then, to be limping on all four legs. I couldn’t tell if her coat had been brindle, or if it was simply striped by scars and dried mud.


Subscribe to RSS - The Geiger Counter