Date of Award

Spring 3-20-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree


Department of English, the Northeast Ohio MFA Program

First Advisor

Wasserman, Eric

Second Advisor

Imad Rahman

Third Advisor

Robert Pope


As a high school English teacher, I often ask my students to define abstract concepts. What is happiness? What is sadness? What is justice? What is injustice? My students often groan at such questions, as they do not know where to begin with such broad ideas. That is the point, however, as my hope is that they at least attempt to explore each broad idea and consider various facets. The funny thing is, some of the activities I often subject my students to are activities I would never have wished to do as a student. I personally have no idea where to begin with some of the aforementioned concepts listed above. Stranger however, is the fact that I have no idea where to begin, if someone asked me to define loneliness. Perhaps that is not entirely true. I mean, I, as well as anyone, can start off by saying that loneliness is the state of being alone, where there is no one else around a particular individual. Where, however, do I go from there? Do I suggest that loneliness is the feeling people feel when they realize that they have not had a substantial conversation with anyone during the day, after coming home from work to an empty apartment? Is loneliness the feeling they feel when they go on a trip by themselves, and after the third or twelfth cocktail, they wish there was someone sitting next to them? Is loneliness the feeling they feel when they find no way out of their loneliness, and the thought of even a longer stretch of loneliness is flat-out demoralizing? iv I am not sure how to answer those questions as Ryan Merriman, but, through this collection of short stories, I at least attempted to explore those questions through the eyes of a principal, unemployed son, coaster enthusiast, substitute teacher, bar regular, isolated officer worker, beer connoisseur, and priest. I hope they explored this topic to the best of their abilities, as they are experts on this topic. Somehow, someway, they are alone in this world.