The drive up to Yosemite was long. My father played Bach the whole first half. We went through Milpitas, Pleasanton, Dublin, Manteca, Escalon, and Oakdale. We had been to Yosemite before with my mom, but that was when it was snowing. There wasn’t going to be snow this time and it was just me and my dad and my brother.

At the turnoff for the Old Yosemite Road, the sun turned tangerine and my dad took out the Bach and put in a tape of his meditation lady. My little brother and I chanted with her using funny voices, but that only lasted for a few minutes, then we were quiet again. My dad drove and hummed quietly to himself. My brother and I would trade the front seat at every rest stop. I was two years older, but I got carsick more easily, so I got the front longer. I had been in the front since East Oakdale. The Old Yosemite road was crooked and my dad drove slower. Soon the sky went gray, with purple above the mountains. My brother was asleep in the back, in slanted over with his face in all the puffy jackets.

“Dad, can I turn the heat up?”


I did and cupped my hand over the grate until it was too hot and I pulled it away. I wasn’t tired even though it was dark outside and we’d been driving for hours. I leaned forward but my seatbelt held me, so I undid it and leaned again and picked up my father’s old thick bible with pages falling out and a rubber band around it.

“Put your belt back on,” he said.

“I know,” I said. I clicked it in place. “I was just picking this up.”

“My bible.”

“I know,” I said. “Why are the lines colored?” There was yellow, and pink, and green highlighter, all faded, all over the pages.

“Those are passages I like.”

I asked him why.

“Because they help me.” I read a little. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. It meant nothing. I closed it.

“You go to church?”

“No,” he said. The lady and the people on the meditation tape chanted softly.

“Why do you have the bible?”

“I just open it when I get in the car. Whatever page it opens to, I read.”


“I told you, it helps me.”

I put the rubber band back around the leather cover and held the thick thing in my lap. We went through a town with only a few lights and my dad slowed. The headlights bounced off some signs into my eyes. Yosemite 30 miles. Then we were on the windy part going up the mountain. The tape came to the end and my dad ejected it and left it sticking out of the player. It was white. The bible tried to slip down my leg and I held onto it.

“Adam and Eve,” I said.

“Yup,” my dad said.



“Moses, Abraham. Jesus, David. The flood, killing the ram, the plagues, first there was light, then darkness, then water, then land, then the garden of Eden.”

“Where did you learn all that?”

“At Sunday school, where Mom takes us.”


“Yeah.” We got quiet as we wound up the mountain. The car went so close to the sides and there wasn’t always a barrier. Last time we did this part of the drive in the dark too and I hated it. I secretly held onto the side of the door with my right hand. There were pennies in the handle and I pushed them back and forth in the holder with my index finger. Dad’s AA medallion was in there, too.


Continued on the next page …

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About James Franco

James Franco is the author of Palo Alto, a short story collection. He lives in New York City.


  1. Forgive me for saying, but I found this story very dull and I don’t think anyone would give it a full read if it didn’t have a famous name attached.

    I don’t mean to bash. I just think it carries on at a very plodding pace, the descriptions of things are mundane (except when they’re elevated beyond the vernacular of the narrator — the waterfall is “a cataract, white and gushing, implacable”, for instance) and mostly irrelevant. I don’t get a good sense of cohesion throughout this story, and it seems more like a journal entry. When reading other short stories, I feel like the author began with the end in mind, or perhaps went through more than one draft. This one, well, on the third page there’s a typo. (“The next stop was El Capitan,.”)

    I’m not saying I’m an expert or anything, but my advice is to try and limit the descriptions to things that help move the story or set the tone. It’s okay to leave some details out, and doing so will make this feel less like a journal entry. Some of these passages — the tangent about Beatrice, or the candles in the cave, especially the bit about the different colours of puffy jackets! — need to either be more relevant or cut from the story. I’m sure the digression about leaving the Little Mermaid to duck into the Lou Diamond Philips movie is meant to indicate that our narrator is growing up and striving to find his own kind of independence from the family, a small rebellion, but it’s just laid flat by the other loose ends strewn all over this thing. I don’t know where to look for thematic significance, because there are so many scabs on knees, sugar sticking to teeth, divots like miniature cork impacts, and spicy mustards with the white wine boiled out. It doesn’t seem like very much thought has been put in to what any of it adds up to, and I feel like the writer may have been working with a minimum word count in mind.

    Loved 127 Hours, and you made a pretty good Green Goblin.

  2. I enjoyed it.Thank you.

  3. Creative…

  4. Raymond Carver much?

  5. I love this writing-the descriptions of the food, the interplay between the little brother and main character, It’s supposed to be slight, it’s a sketch, an impression of a vital moment before innocence is over..well done, Im buying the book!

  6. There should be a printable version of this

  7. I liked it. I think it captured the contradictions of childhood very well. It left me uneasy for awhile, a bit like a Cormac Mccarthy story.

    • No. Not even if Cormac McCarthy wrote short stories.

    • So you think this piece compares to, say, this passage?

      “The following evening as they rode up onto the western rim they lost one of the mules. It went skittering off down the canyon wall with the contents of the panniers exploding soundlessly in the hot dry air and it fell through sunlight and through shade, turning in that lonely void until it fell from sight into a sink of cold blue space that absolved it forever of memory in the mind of any living thing that was.”

  8. great job! love you as an actor and a writer

  9. Unpublished says:

    Hi James:

    It felt like you had written an incredibly touching and heart-warming story and then you went back into it and started to try and make it as jaded and cynical as possible.

    The heart of this story is contained in the mystery — is this a single/divorced dad taking his kids out? You establish this wonderfully by the one line about how he missed them. And the ending where he tells his kids how he and his mom made them with love. All that is so incredible. Really.

    But then you ruin it:

    a) by the ending about the burning bear. It was enough to have watched it burn. The main character didn’t need to transpose the bear into his thoughts at the end. That just sounds jaded for the sake of being jaded.

    b) by making the main character brush his teeth opposite of how his dad does it at the end. It would’ve been a much stronger story, if, despite everything, the main character reminds himself to do things the way his dad did it. The Yosemite trip would’ve been “worth it” in spite of the bear episode. And he would’ve learned that he came from a place of “love.”

    Your premise was exceptional and you really set up the story well. (The AA medallion touch was so perfect.) Frankly it feels like the ending just came out of nowhere, someone else. It should’ve been a much softer conclusion. That conclusion would’ve been more heart-wrenching — because we’d have been like: ah, shit, now the weekend is over and he’s going to have to go drop them with the mom.

  10. damn comatose

  11. i wanted to read this but that stupid audio ad for that anime game kept popping up. i couldn’t find it to shut it off. you need to create an environment that encourages people to read. blaring crappy music sends them clicking off (except for cranks like me who post to complain).

  12. Christian Bueno says:

    I enjoyed this piece. Great job, Mr. Franco.

  13. Mervyn Kaufman says:

    Franco is obviously multi-talented, and having him contribute a story to this new series was probably important. But I felt the piece was slight, certainly in comparison with its companion. I’d like to read more of James Franco, perhaps something pithier. He writes well, but in reading this piece, I kept waiting for him to have something of significance to say. Instead he gave us the suggestion of a thriller that remains unresolved.


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