Jack’s piano instructor had high hopes for him. “It’s a matter choosing the right material,” she said. Mrs. Metzer was a thin, angular woman in her fifties. In her music studio, a giant gable of wood and glass, a row of autographed publicity photos lined a shelf that ran along the entire wall of windows. Many of these photographs were from regionally acclaimed musicians, mostly pianists, along with some world-renowned conductors, cellists, and violinists.
As he lay dying, Bug Boy remembered the first spider, the Argiope Aurantia, curled up against the glass of the Ragu jar that his father pulled from the freezer. Of course, no one called him Bug Boy then, and he didn’t have his thick-framed glasses with the coke-bottle lenses. Both the name and the glasses were years away on that summer day with the sun’s rays beaming through the clear panes of his family’s patio doors. He was only Todd Olden then. Not Bug Boy. Not a delinquent. Not a dropout. Not a user. Not a murderer.read more...
A blast of humid air swarmed Mallory’s head as he bent over his pedalboard. Sweat dripped down his neck, saturating the collar of his black T-shirt. The temperature inside the club was at least a hundred. The club staff had yet to turn on large fans on each side of the stage, around the seating area, and by the bar. The air conditioning was broken. Two weeks of ninety plus degree days had overpowered it, the manager told him. So unusual for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in June. The repair crew was on their way; with any luck they would be able to fix the problem before the show, but there were no guarantees. It was just Mallory’s bad luck to be there on this particular day.read more...
An earwig slithers across the little black plastic air-conditioning vent. I examine this earwig with intention as Father drives. I at once want and want not to touch it.
I do not like how Father drives the van. I find he is too slow the majority of the time, and then in little unpredictable bursts, too fast. Father is not prone to rage, but behind the wheel he is a different version of himself. Docile, with a chance of acrimony.
Sarah jerked awake on the couch, the dream still swimming in her mind. Or was it a visitation? Where was she? She looked around, face damp with sweat. Of course…long underwear, down sleeping bag, heat on full blast. Minnesota. She sat up and turned on the lamp, shook her head. Another dream about Esther. Every night since she’d died.read more...
Daniel remembered fishing with his father just four months earlier at a small lake near the Czech border. It had been a tradition for years, but Daniel knew now that it couldn´t continue. His father had never been a patient man, but he possessed a strong attention to detail, which only grew stronger over the years. Making sure the fishing pole had no scratches, ensuring that the line wasn´t about to wear out. And worms, always a full box of writhing earthworms.read more...
“Four bronzes,” I say before the man can even ask.
He lifts up a large striped fish off my makeshift table, inspects it and asks, “You gut and clean this, boy?”
I nod once.
“It’s well done. You been doing this long?”
“My father says I could gut a fish before I could walk.”
He was no longer alive; and for his oldest child, recollections of the words that had been spoken (and the thoughts that had been thought) at the funeral a few years before were becoming less distinct as they became more distant. As the anniversary of his father’s passing neared, Lee was once again regretting that he had more or less “squandered” the few opportunities for memorable communication that had presented themselves during the last year or so of his father’s life –read more...
It was a quiet October day, drizzling and cold as dusk edged its way over the hills. In southwestern Wisconsin, out in the hollows far from any civilization, a small cabin renovated into a viable home stood by an outcropping of trees. Smoke was billowing from the chimney while chickens scuttled around the wet grass. A glass storm door was the only thing preventing the cold breeze from seeping its way into the house. Through that glass door, a woodstove squatted low to the floor, casting heat to fight back the cold of the crisp autumn day. However, this wasn’t just any October day.read more...
I used to see Michael’s father nearly every day. He would be sitting on the steps of a church at the corner of Chestnut and Central, his face turned squarely into the bright sun and his eyes would be closed. He could be getting a suntan except that if you wait long enough you see that he periodically drops his head into his hands and remains like that, head bowed and cradled, his shoulders occasionally shaking. He looks like a statue…read more...
Only the bride was still.
The bride, LeighAnna Hope Camden, sat on the floor of the church dressing room in an avalanche of white. She had yet to put on the dress. The slip alone was thirty-eight yards of netting covered with a fine batiste. Batiste, Bastille. LeighAnna wondered if the netting was fomenting rebellion.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who believed that if she confessed her love to her best friend, her life would leave her body: she would move on. This would cause her best friend great pain, and to save Artemio from hurting, Esperanza suffered the pain of never telling him how she felt.read more...
Nine-year-old Liz Walters knew the old playscape was off-limits and had been for years. She hadn’t planned to climb the ladder. This was just going to be a reconnaissance mission.
By mid-afternoon on a Friday in late August, she’d crossed Johnson’s cow pasture and was standing behind the closed-up village school, contemplating the sad condition of its abandoned playground.
Janine wants me to write it all down. She still doesn’t believe me, despite everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve put her through. She wants me to write it down so then I’ll realise how crazy it sounds. The boat took me back. Right back to New Guinea in 1943. It wasn’t time travel exactly, but it has to be close.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The classroom is small, and there is a faint staleness in the air, like the scent of days-old burnt pastries in a kitchen. Chairs too small to fit adult bodies are stacked in the far corner beneath the one window of the room, and all the tables have been pushed against the perimeter, circling him and the others like an elevated moat of laminate wood. The walls are covered with crayon drawings from the children who are there during the daytimeread more...
It’s April 1963, the snow is mostly melted, the ice is gone from the sidewalks, and we’re streaking, we’re flying, we’re absolutely airborne on our bikes as we race to the center of town. Flash has a sleek new racer, one of those Schwinns, accented bright blue on the frame and handlebar. He’s hunched over in an aerodynamic crouch, so low you can’t see his eyes. The rest of us – Ziti, Rando, myself – we’re green with envy, so jealous we can’t see straight, but it doesn’t matter, not really; we know sooner or later our parents will give in and we’ll all get one.read more...
They are such nice clothes.
But how can I wear them, in light of how they’ve come to me?
With an exuberant air, Dulcianne presented me with two large trash bags. She was my aunt, but for as long as I could recall, always only Dulcianne.
“Her family left all of these behind,” she said.
Then: “They took only the jewelry and the furniture.”
And then: “I think they might be ‘bout your size.”
I accepted the bags with splayed fingertips. They’d been sitting in one of the sixth-floor apartment rooms with, I understood, two polished bookshelves and a dead body.
Sometime in the pre-dawn hours, outside of a Mexican village called the Three Sisters, a teenage boy had climbed to the top of a 500-foot-high transmission tower.
To us in the new day, our faces skyward, he looked like a tiny hovering angel, his gaze directed over the mountains of the Three Sisters, from which the village drew its name. He was oblivious to the shouts of his people so far below, in whose midst I stood.
Then suddenly as we watched, he dropped from the sky, and nearing earth, he took on flesh, while losing it, too, as the sheer-sided struts sliced through the falling body.