Walking Down the Grain

The Bretspars lived in a tumbledown Cape Cod, but they were a long way from Massachusetts. The sky was the color of faded denim, not New England grey. The land green and yielding, not hard and unforgiving. The blood red and pumping, not Brahmin blue. A shelterbelt screened the Bretspars’ home from the road, spared […]

In the Yard

Ahsan opened the sliding glass door and stepped out. He inhaled deeply and broke into a cough. The air was thick, murky and filled with an unrelenting stink—as if a gang of motorcyclists had fired up their engines and aimed into the yard. Ahsan covered his mouth and walked out farther. His mother had explicitly […]

Following Joey

We weren’t supposed to be out after the streetlight came on. But here we were, my older brother and I, walking down the street to the corner store. Joey was supposed to walk me back home after getting me from my best friend Kayla’s house, but he had other plans. “I just have to meet […]

Twelve Stories of Aleppo

12. Two boys barely in their teens who want to be untethered, to fire a gun and become men in place of their missing fathers, climb the stairs to the apartment tower’s rooftop where lies hidden under a scorched plate of sheet metal is an old rifle, abandoned by a man now gone—dead, jailed, or […]

Бабий Яр [Babiy Yar]

March 21st, 1982: Cardboard televisions. My father and I are putting together cardboard televisions. He flips one right side up, slips two thick square tabs into the hollow slots they’re meant to go inside. Flanigan’s Family Furniture in Jamaica, Queens, has started using these, and that’s where she got the idea. My mother. Except now, […]

Chile, Wood Smoke, Masa

What I miss most is the smell of my hometown. The mix of chile guaco, wood smoke, and masa seared into every cell of my body. On hot August days I miss the torrential afternoon storms of the wet season. Sometimes in my dreams I hear the click-click of beetle wings and see the steep […]

The Payphone

A man wearing a navy paisley bandana and wire-frame glasses pedaled his bike to the corner, stepped over his seat, and coasted on one foot to the bike rack at the side of the liquor store. He slotted his front wheel in the rack, strode four steps over to the unsheltered public payphone, lifted the […]

Hunter and Pray

I don’t know why I’m here with Emery, other than I am drunkish and sad. She’s ignoring my questions, hiding behind a screen. I ask her, “What are we?” She looks at me and says, “I’d tell you if I knew.” She’s tumbled in bed sheets, hair reaching over the plateau of pillow. The tendrils […]

Phone Voice

You will oversleep, wake up disoriented in a too-quiet house. At first, you will only remember the dream, that scraping feeling of trying to scream but not making any sound. You will try to drag the details into your conscious brain, but they will evaporate as you become aware of the mattress springs pressing into […]

Cannonball

I was twenty-three and working as a caregiver to three autistic women in a house on Decatur Street. Jackie, Hazel, and Marcella had lived in institutions their whole lives, before the agency I worked for helped them get out and set up a life. None of them were verbal and they needed round-the-clock support. I did […]

Restless Dreams of Silence

The bar was always full on Christmas day, like most days in Muskogee. I never could resist counting the number of trucks and occasional cars lined up outside as I drove home. It bothered me when I first saw the symbol of the Nation on a bumper sticker, but not anymore. My thought was always […]

Thirsty for Our Future

Nothing distracted Gloria more than evidence of a baby in the room. The cold white crib delivered by the guest runner. The scatter of plastic objects that emit their soft whistles and rattles as she gathers them. Sometimes a tablet, its screen’s luster buried beneath layers of tiny fingerprints. She always took the extra minute to arrange these treasures on the glass […]

Practical Knowledge

When I’m on my way to meet Marco’s father for the first time, I can’t help but remember all the things I know about the guy. I know he flew into a rage when Marco was seven because he found him playing happily with his sister’s dolls. Afterwards, he discarded Marco’s own toys as a […]

Planting Seeds

She pauses in her slow crawl along the furrow that must yield beans, and wipes a dirty hand across her face. She squints skyward. The jets are in formation again. Practice. It must be practice. Please be just practice. She braces as the rush of the planes’ noise hits her. She pulls a handful of […]

You Don’t Have to Be So Afraid All the Time

A sonic crack and the ball soars like a comet, like it might remain another white speck in the night sky, like it’s a guaranteed walk-off home run. Except that the left-fielder, who, till now, has appeared hobbled by the rumors of his impending free agency, is tearing towards the wall, not even glancing up […]

Bruised Sage

Driving home from the ranch across the high desert, Enzo measures the length of a coal train, setting the odometer at the caboose and racing westward toward the engines. Tess photographs lightening that cracks the sky. Eight-year-old Sophie sleeps in the back, wrapped in the sweetness of trust. Home in Los Angeles, Enzo needs to […]

Fermenting Hearts

Calling Txiv thiab Niam At six years old, True wrapped his right arm over the top of his head and touched his left ear with his right hand. That was the test to get into primary school in Laos. His fingers inched towards the tip of his ear in hopes of getting into school. “You […]

One Librarian Survives the Apocalypse

She wakes up to a clatter. She opens her eyes and sees a raccoon skate across her counter, knocking her frying pan and all the empty cans of beans across the floor. From her place on the soggy couch (which is less soggy than it was yesterday, or the day before), she looks at the […]

Notes from My Hong Kong Travel Journal: Sightseeing with a Silver Comb

After the hairstylist finished shearing away my hair, I remember examining the glossy brown strands scattered around me. It had once been part of me and now no longer was. How easily I had been able to renounce it. I wish I could renounce my skin and thoughts and self as easily as I had renounced my hair; but no, I am forever doomed to live in this cage of bone and flesh.

The Moon-Bright Smile Rebellion

5:02 p.m. Looking out the window you wouldn’t know Chicago is disintegrating. Cotton-candy skies swirl across the horizon. I sip cold coffee on the thirty-sixth floor of an office building. Bean-flavored liquid, the consistency of cough syrup, slides down my throat. Too much sugar. In this moment, I pretend everything is normal. People scurry from […]

Find Your Happy Place

It was Father’s Day and Maeve was in Friendly’s. After all this time, she was still a sucker for a Conehead. She and her father had spent countless hours here scarfing down the clown-faced sundae with whipped cream for hair and Reese’s Pieces for eyes when Maeve was a child growing up in Levittown. They […]

Success Avenue

That night, I’d just opened all the windows in the living room and collapsed on the sofa. My husband was sitting out on our stoop, listening to the oldies station too loud. I took my first sip of coffee when I heard Sammy talking to someone. “Yeah, go on in,” he said, and the screen […]

Dominoes

Shaving’s my contribution to society. Like, who needs a brown guy with a beard sitting next to them on the plane these days, you know? Look, no beard, I come in peace brother. Wrong word! Beep. Don’t say brother. Like ever. You don’t want them looking at your backpack. Whatever. So I shaved this morning, […]

Sounds of Separation

Leslie thought about lighting a candle as the sun set, tinting her bedroom with a dimming tangerine glow, but she was down to her last box of matches and didn’t want to ask Alan for more. After twelve days of general quarantine, the electricity had gone out when too few workers could make it to […]

Arroz y Dulce

I walked over to the mirror and saw my pale arms sticking out of the light-colored dress. My legs were covered in bruises, scabs, and Band-Aids from my adventures in fence scaling, soccer playing, and wrestling with Jacob from next-door. I also had a tendency to mess with the wandering cats outside, and multiple scratches let me know they did not enjoy having their butts poked with sticks. …

The Black and Invisible Butcher

They crashed into a pit, half mud, half sand, like a meteor falling from the sky, or rather, like remnants of a tumbling meteor—their plane disintegrated mid-nosedive as though it was wrapped in papier-mâché, as though it was wrapped in the old newspapers back home that shared the same haunting headline at every street corner, […]

La Garroba

When I was nine years old my first love died. She liked to sit out in the sun, in front of Niña Marina’s whorehouse, her face to the sky, her long hair behind her, the tips touching the sandy soil of Acajutla, that little town where I grew up. People called her La Garroba: The […]

Stages on Life’s Way

Enitan woke up to the sound of Ogechi’s voice, she was shouting something. Her voice was hoarse—the first thing that had made him fall in love with her. He waited a while until she calmed down. “What was that?” he asked. She didn’t look at him. “It’s my mum,” she said. “What’s going on with […]

Small Packages

Paul hates talking on the phone so Connie’s the one who calls his daughter-in-law once a month to catch up. She doesn’t mind calling Vicky. She likes hearing about the grandkids growing up too fast in the new house in Simi Valley where they’ve never been invited. Emily’s ten and Noah is almost eight. “He’s […]

The Grey-Haired Man

The grey-haired man was back again today. He sat there for a few minutes, which isn’t very long for him. Then he looked out across the street and started the engine. He always pulls out carefully though there’s hardly any traffic. People don’t drive down our road because it doesn’t lead anywhere. If you came […]