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When her birthday did come, in the middle of July, it was Billy who brought the mask.
The day Gaëlle forgot language, I was arranging a bouquet of roses and eucalyptus at our house north of town. My husband Fred and I were supposed to have dinner when her nurse called and told me Gaëlle suffered a stroke. I walked out the door, forgot the flowers, and took off for the rest [...]
All complaints concern sky viewing. For example, wedged between my office door and floor last week I found a parchment written by Caldor Clemens with Tree branches are air-veins to be beheaded, down with them. I placed the parchment with the others. I too am a great admirer of colors above. Selah and I want [...]
I. How during the Hunger Winter the Dutch ate their tulips. How they peeled away the bulbs’ dry and papery tunics, licked their lips, and counted their children’s ribs. How they shaved smooth the hairy roots, sliced out the riotous yellow buds at the center, diced and fried the tulip meat with brown beans and salt. [...]
They called her La Baudilia, because she was the exact female version of her brother, that famous Baudilio Cartablanca, who later ended a long career as a Venezuelan revolutionary, dying a renegade. She had the same sharp nose, the same bulging eyes, and the same measured and gentle way of speaking that hid, or tried [...]
L drinks from a broken teacup and splits her lip. She doesn’t wipe the blood with a napkin but sucks it away, glaring up at her mother with crooked eyes.
And finally the tragedy. The boy’s parents selected a wooden casket with fine grained eddies streaking its polished sides, ready to be lowered into a family plot when they found him.
We discovered the house’s beating heart when Margaret poured the dregs of her papier mâché project down the kitchen drain.
“CAUTERIZE my heart,” I said, so he reached a branding iron down my throat and he did. Living hurts much less now, and the occasional remembered searing at my chest is a tolerable price. “Now you do mine,” he said, but I took the broiling spike of metal in my hand and looked down his pink [...]
Khufu’s funeral ceremony is in progress. This is the ninth time since Christmas vacation. Maryanne and Louisa carry Khufu’s organs into the middle of the auditorium in a big plastic container. The organs are really just oranges and apples and grapes, fruits that get slimy the longer they are left out. Earlier that morning we [...]
You would do anything to have your astigmatism back. As you stare at the police line-up through the one-way mirror, you see the guy who ripped off your knock-off Sean Jean t-shirt, the toys from your 10-step childhood, your one and only pair of ‘Lanes discovered in the Clybourn Salvation Army bin and the plastic [...]
The publisher’s database must be obsolete by decades, because they called my office. “We have a manuscript,” they said. “Of course,” I said. “You would, you always do.” “We need a preface,” they said. “We can provide a manuscript with the original coffee stains.” Unfortunately, I was interested. “My preface will be misleading,” I warned. [...]
Three bad crop years, too much drought, too much soil-wash, smuts and Hessian flies on the small grain, and armies of worms nibbling holes in the tobacco-leaves. Olivia’s father said he could hear the grinding together of all those tiny worm-mouths, it was the sound of a low constant wind, a dry rattling cough, in [...]
Do not go outside. Glimpses of marsh look pleasant. The water clean like metal. Ripe foliage two-feet-long, fleshy. But swaths of black flies and doughy maggots cover everything. The terrible smell cuts your throat. Fisk, across river, pierced by a proboscis as long as a sword. Straight into his gut on his hammock. A ten-foot [...]
Autumn when the sycamores turn we find ourselves on Earl Drabble’s field having taken up what armament is to be scavenged along the dirt road.
We were waiting for the mudslide and the night.
Sitcom Stars Storm the Beach At nightfall we ran aground. Faint stars and fainter tails of comets like bullwhips. Passengers fainting face first onto the sand. Turn them like this. Good. Make it more like the movies. We eureka-ed the MDMA powder with vacuum-like precision and soon enough our hands joined like people who [...]
“In love not with scenery but with distance, light is a stranger in this universe, a traveler passing through at 186,000 miles per second. “
Austin Smith’s idea to write this Flash came from Joe Brainard’s famous book, I Remember.
He thinks things about me I do not want him to think. He stops at my desk, his cologne invasive. He leaves himself behind. He wants to take me with him. Anywhere I want to go. He asks if I want to go to Paris. He asks if I have eaten escargot. I tell him [...]
The opaque yellow is the same as Serengeti—the color of elsewhere. Christophe, the light bulb maker, makes them the color of desert. Lighter than chardonnay. Before he meets her, Christophe believes adventure is for outcasts. Afterwards, he sees his bulbs in the shades of cardamom and camel. Alison is an original beauty, a girl who [...]
Miss Laura had a son, once, but he became an Esquire man and was lost to her. His father was an Esquire man, so it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. He always smelled like tobacco and ordered highballs and was certain he was able to speak to dogs, though the same neighbor’s Corgi [...]
There was an argument over who got to eat the yellowest pollen. It was a craze. The bee’s knees! People clotted the park, all of them young, but with the skin-smooth benefits who could be sure? The sun was out. The pollen, famous, on the news. Carbohydrates. Protein content peeking a whopping 35 percent. I [...]
We lay still in bed, out of sleep’s reach, buzzing electric in the dark. At the appointed time, we slipped from the house, careful not to wake the adults as we unlatched the back door. They’d packed us along on their family vacation, three girls for the price of one, and we were one—one mind, [...]
There was no boat, he says. What do you mean? she says, and a hand goes up to fiddle with her hair, pulling it this way and that. No boat, he says again. There is a sigh rising inside him and there is something he wants to prevent, something he has to stop from boiling [...]