The Do-Over

When the ruddy-faced doctor at the Joshua Tree Medical Clinic announced, “It’s back,” Vera nodded, picked up her old purse from the floor and tucked it under her arm. She was still nodding when the pleasant red-headed receptionist called out, “Have a nice day,” as she exited through the sliding glass doors of the clinic. […]

Broken Horns

Yeah, so, they give us these little bathroom breaks every hour or so, cause it’d be a real shame if Rudolph Hornblower, the dancing Rhino, pissed his fluffy purple dress pants in front of these little whiney-ass children. Their parents, many in the death throes of potty training the little imps, would certainly be nonplussed. […]

Golem

“Please don’t misunderstand me.” She is barefoot and wearing a robe, all soft and white. This is in the nineties when we live in the house on Taney Avenue, about twenty-five miles from the edge of Harrisburg. She names herself Zephyr and our parents amiably allow it, granting her this little teenage rebellion. I want […]

I Don’t Know if I’m Dealing Very Well with Everything That’s Going On Right Now

“We’d be in more danger driving down the 101, Amanda,” Brandon says as we sit on the New York D train. “Statistically, you are literally one thousand times more likely to die in a Volvo after drinking half a glass of chardonnay.” As he talks, the subway hurtles into Brooklyn. Warm and oxygenless air presses […]

Since I Got Here

Since you always wanted to know. Since you’ve been asking me ever since I moved here. I had lost my job and she had lost her mother. We were great at losing things. She asked her therapist, how could we lose all these beautiful things in a small world? Where do they go if we […]

Don’t Say Anything

One month alone, and Jesse was still getting used to things. He was filling a saucepan for tea—Anna hadn’t let him take the kettle—and when he touched the stove and the faucet at the same time, he got a jolt up his arm. His arm jerked back and the saucepan flew off the stove and […]

The Day

“Come on, Daddy. Wake up! It’s time for our Saturday walk.” “Okay, okay, I’m waking up.” He opens his eyes expecting to see a child, but the sunlit room is empty. Where is he? He sits up, puts his feet on the floor, then looks around. Nothing looks familiar. Not right. Name things. Start naming. […]

Warmbloods

My new boss is a zombie. I do not mean one of those overworked and sleep-deprived corporate types; I mean rotting flesh, back from the dead, eat-your-family-at-night sort of beings. Think Night of the Living Dead. See Re-Animator. She is, however, gifted with speech. At our first staff meeting, she stood at the head of […]

Death Roll

“Is it dead?” I turn towards the tiny voice beside me. Moments ago she was spinning in circles with arms stretched wide. Her little pink skirt flying above the asphalt. She’s alone. I’m not sure who she belongs to. “It’s not dead, sweetheart,” I say. “It’s just not moving.” I grip the fence in front […]

Real Talk

Through the thin wall between the two classrooms, Miss Whitfield can hear everything Ms. Lucca says. “If you get married before you really know yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll end up divorced. Look at me! I married a man!” Ms. Lucca calls her advice “Real Talk” and the kids love it. So does Miss […]

Fatima, the Biloquist: A Transformation Story

In the ’90s you could be whatever you wanted—someone said that on the news—and by 1998 Fatima felt ready to become black, full black, baa baa black sheep black, black like the elbows and knees on praying folk black, if only someone would teach her. Up to that point, she had existed like a sort […]

Quilting Will Improve Your Health

Ultimately, our mother was made to realize her error. You would have thought she would have noticed it herself at some point, looking at the boldfaced headline from The Herald News. Quitting was the first word in both the headline and the article, one that she clipped from the paper and affixed by magnet to […]

Hand Job

It is Linda’s first night home after a four-day sales trip that takes her from Connecticut to Maine and back home again to Connecticut. She goes out on the road every other week. On the first night home after one of her trips we stay home, order in, get wrecked and do sex—mostly in that […]

Full of Foxes

Summer jobs are supposed to be fun. Earn a little money to help save up for a car or maybe college. There’s a whole bunch of movies about the people working for carnivals or as life guards. Even if they’re miserable, they still have adventures and get to make out a little bit. I work at […]

The Parable of Nick Burns

Nick Burns died a gruesome death, and when they found him he looked almost serene, seated such as he was in his beloved, careworn La-Z-Boy with his hands folded over his round belly. There was tea on the stovetop, more than enough for a man living alone. Both of his companionable blue eyes were gone, […]

Want Cokes?

Since sophomore year, the crew walks three blocks to the bakery with the bitchy lady at the counter. Sometimes we get the cheese-filled dough beuregs, but sometimes we get the ground-beef flatbreads for only two bucks each. You can smell the cheese wafting through the smog on Broadway, and it meets the sweet smell of […]

Intervention

On Monday, the neighbor’s kid is late coming over. When I hear her on the stairs, I call out, “Hey, you’re late. Nothing much is on.” Since returning from rehab five months ago, Syd’s been coming over to watch TV with me in my attic. Her parents asked me once if I’d mind keeping an […]

The Color of Love

She curled gnarled fingers around her copy of the poem. Over the many years it remained folded and tucked inside a red mitten, the single page of stationary had lost its crisp edge and took on the softness of the faded red yarn. She kept the pair in the far corner of her top drawer, away from the influence of an old lilac sachet […]

Down from Sugar Mountain

Snow is falling inside the house, said the boy. His voice was breathless from running. Go. Quickly. Fetch my magic robe, said the old lady. You promised to kill the hunter, said the boy when he returned. He gave her the robe and then his hand stole to his neck—scratch, scratch. Let us go then, […]

Contingencies

We go to the hospital together. I don’t want to go at all. The photos tucked behind grosgrain ribbon in the sterile room will contain our toothless grins, our Brownie vests, our prom dresses with spaghetti straps and cheap iridescence. We have come so far since our teenage years: the acne has retreated, our butterfly […]

Pools, Crabs, and Wikipedia

The pool stayed the same for most of the year. Just a few meters from the beach. The waves came in far enough, breaking across the sand into the tangle of mangrove trees and long grasses, to give it just enough water to stay level with the well-padded trail that led from the small Honduran […]

How He Leaves You

This is how he leaves you. Door pulled quietly closed, last glimpse of a weathered leather bag and brown hair matted to the back of his head. You sit on the couch in a pair of running shorts—knees up, legs crossed, heels tucked underneath you. He doesn’t look back. That night you drink orange juice […]

The Walls Are Too Blank, The Holes Are Too Deep

As my father did with me and Tobias, I took my family camping. When I told Roberta that it was time to prepare to lose one of our sons, she walked into our bedroom and packed. Her eyes were pooled with tears, but she didn’t cry. “Roberta,” I said, shutting the door behind me. “Please […]

The Wife of Michael Cleary

The day before the party, Valerie asked her boyfriend Andrew to buy her a book. Actually, that’s not how it happened. It was Andrew who volunteered to get Valerie a book, and in the end he bought her two. “I know tomorrow’s going to be hard for you,” he said. “Is there anything I can […]

A Nest of Arms

It was almost 6 AM and Heidi lay awake in bed, trying not to think about the war. Lately, when she looked at her girlfriend, Dara, she was reminded of a Sultanese woman—a civilian—that her unit fired on. The woman had been carrying a basket full of fruit, which from a distance posed a threat, […]

Leaving

They delivered the news of his death with a sharply creased flag. She was nursing their two-week-old girl-child on the worn couch, lulled by the glow of the television then the hard rap on the door snapped her awake. She yanked her breast back into the nursing bra and bounced the squalling baby in […]

You are a Woman

As told through the lips of Nước Hoa. I stood angry. I entered the waters of the Xepon in a wild and arrogant gait. Meiet, the tallest of all the village teenage girls, quieted my sloppy entry with a stare. It did not register with my tortured mind her appearance. She stood in the river […]

Orientation Week

In 1962 my parents packed four suitcases, one gray trunk with a brass lock, my stereo, my tennis racket (remnant of happier days and therefore a sign of their hope for my future), and me into our white Lincoln Continental. We headed up Route 301 to the University of Florida campus in Gainesville three hundred […]

Swagger

I know you. You’re a swagger. A badass. Someone who went and got his mettle tested and returned stateside to the tea drinkers and powderpuffs with a chip on his shoulder and ribbons pinned to your chest. The world had got a whole lot smaller while you were at war: one day walking proud, the […]

How Not to Drown

1. Don’t obsess about the reasons you ended it with him. Of course you could think of reasons but none of them would be true and also all of them would be true. Things like: the way he cut the mushrooms for dinner, one at a time instead of bunching them, irritated you. Things like: […]