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“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 [...]
Word was that no one in all of Hyannis, where I grew up, was supposed to dig for clams at Scantling’s Beach. There was talk about some girls who had come to field hockey camp or whatever kind of camp girls go to. They set off wandering one day, ended up at the beach, took [...]
“See how it rocks back and forth, sister?” Uncle Vaughn wasn’t a big man, but with little more than a brush of his fingers, the stone fell forward and caught in the crook of rubble beneath. You could push it back from the other side, too, rocking it like a cradle. This boulder – roughly [...]
When Amy told Gloria about the biopsy and lost test results, Gloria called Dr. Howard a matasanos, spitting the word over her cubicle. She translated for Amy. “It means killer of healthy people,” which sounded even more ominous in Gloria’s accent, the vowels sharpened scalpel-like.
I was slapping at the welts on my shins one green evening when you told me to suck on the head of a match. Sulfur, you said, would get in my blood and keep the mosquitoes away. One match a month was all it took, you told me. I went back to catching fireflies. [...]
A strongman is lifting my car, his hands bolted tight to the front bumper. His trunky thighs and buttocks are facing streetward, and several women in the neighborhood have set up lawn chairs and are watching the spectacle from their front yards. His grunts are loud, like falling timber, and the birds perched on the roof have fled in search of friendlier shingles.
Weather grows from underground. Great storms explode, often from just below he soil, where they lie, begging to be let loose by a spade. When lightning strikes it’s like visiting a birthplace, digging to that brown pile of soil from which it sprung, to hide and be bright down there, amid the clouds below the soil. Sunburnt grandmothers knew this, and hated when their headstrong husbands went out to tend the gardens, unafraid of what weather they might unearth.
Salt wind had peeled the green, blue, and yellow paint from the Ferris wheel gondola that swept Joel and his family up into the night, sweetly launched them toward the evening star.
When I talked back, my father used to make me stand in the front yard holding milk jugs.