Novel Excerpts

Autobiography of the Bomb: Teller in His Own Mind

Jim Shankman

The magazines and newspapers were saying all kinds of provocative, beguiling things about the man. He was Prometheus who stole fire from the gods for the benefit of mankind. He was Aladdin who let the genie out of the bottle. To the naysayers, he was the Dr. Jekyll whose potion transformed us all into Mr. Hyde. The guy had press like nobody has ever had press. He was a warrior saint, a holy knight of the realm.

Dancing With Lightning: Chapter 1

Ran Diego Russell

Banged up but still breathing, the exhausted vagabond kept his eyes jammed shut. Whatever twisted coordinates his loose feet had landed him on this time, he wasn’t ready to face. The excuse for a mattress he lay on had corrugated his back muscles into a wreck of knots. The air in the room was musty and unseasonably warm. He could feel the claustrophobic lean of all four walls without looking. As usual, well shy of paradise.

The Page of Fiction

Alexander Verdoni

At least working at the Middle Rapids Library ain’t so bad. It’s one of those fancy Carnegie libraries with brass chandeliers and porcelain tile work and stained-glass windows — all misplaced decadence for this rust-belt town. It’s pretty much a gothic castle complete with ghosts, labyrinthine hallways, black walnut paneled doors, dusty portraits of old, rich dead men no one wants to look at, and, most mysteriously of all, a turret housing the town’s large, defunct clock.

Death & Love

Scott Lambridis

I was ten. My mother was in bed, rags over her head, buried among blankets. She’d been sweating for days, could barely turn her head without vomiting. I cleaned the ceramic dish we used as a bedpan. It wasn’t just her; everyone was sick.
Ten years ago, we’d relocated. I was just an infant. Neighboring warlords were having a dispute, and the Legion was called in to make peace.

Autobiography of the Bomb: Chapter Nineteen

Jim Shankman

July 16. Five o’clock in the morning. Teller is a groggy, irritable man. They are twenty miles away from the tower where the gadget has finally been hoisted into place with the plutonium core nestled inside the wired aluminum sphere. There is no hint of sun yet in the sky. He wants to get this over with.

Accept All Changes

Caroline Cooper

A few of Natasha Boginya’s friends started a regular tradition of dining on Monday nights at a fine restaurant in Greenwich Village. Here was a New York besotted with heavy linens, Italian marble, the generous pour. Truffled potatoes. Sautéed spinach. Roasted meats. A larder full of bottles. The light fixtures hung low, bemused.
The place was an old stalwart of Tzarist times that smiled from behind a display of unwavering conquest and success.

Praise Orb

Gloria Nixon-John

We watched things change everywhere else in the world, but we never expected the whirlwind of change that showed up one day on our doorstep. (In our case, me, Mom, and Dad). The change came in the form of a little Rumpelstiltskin of a man carrying a black valise and a clipboard. (Odd, I thought, that he didn’t have a computer or smart phone.) He said he was from the Census Guard of The New Order, and that I was obliged to answer honestly. I didn’t dare ask who was doing the obliging, mostly because of the elephant-gray vehicle moving slowly down the street.

A Cypress Tree Has No Shadow: Chapters Three and Four

Kevin Gerard Neill

SYBILLA steered Justina by the arm out of the office and down a hallway of high, dulled walls that looked shadowy even in daytime despite the frail radiance of bulbs in widely spaced, brass chandeliers. There were few people around; mostly Palestinian staff with UN identity badges around their necks going from office to office. Others – Justina took them to be refugees – appeared to be drifting aimlessly.

Lowlands

Patti Witten

Cynthia had withdrawn, wrapped in a shroud of bedsheets, exhausted by weeping. In the darkened room, sounds were somehow louder — the rain, a car swishing by on the street, the faint barking of a neighbor’s dog. Water dripping from the eaves and mumbling in the downspout beside the open window. Six days since Maylin drowned. Tomorrow they would bury her.

Autobiography of the Bomb: Chapter Eight

Jim Shankman

He was at a gathering in Berkeley at the spartan home of a man named Peters. The cigarette smoke was mixed with alcohol and the hot breath of conversation. Peters was a physician who had escaped from Dachau. He had seen things. He chose not to speak of it unless someone was being particularly pigheaded or willfully ignorant or smugly uncaring, and then he spoke in such detail that he commanded the room with the authority of a Greek messenger. “I am come from Thebes with news I dare not speak.” “Speak, man, and you shall not be harmed, I vow.”

A Cypress Tree Has No Shadow: Chapter Two

Kevin Gerard Neill

ALLENBY had originally been designed by an Ottoman Empire army engineer to impress the future. At first glance, the barracks looked magnificent: a pile of chiseled stone comprising two tall upper stories stacked above a main floor, each of the wings spreading at least two city blocks to form a massive, four-sided citadel. Justina knew from old photographs seen in Vienna that the wings enclosed a vast courtyard, a setting for military parades or a bloody last stand.

The Poison Hill

Laura Canon

The photograph was square, with white edges, taken with their father’s camera last summer at the lake. Gertrude remembered it well: Louis had posed in his swimsuit, one hand on his hip.
But since then, someone had scribbled all over the picture. Large, crude loops of rough blue ink elaborated her brother’s swimsuit, flaring his trunks into a skirt and blotted his head with frizzy curls, flapper-short.

The Snitch

M.D. Semel

When Javan was around ten years old, his parents took him and his brother to Orchard Beach. It was Javan’s first trip to the beach. The night before the trip, he couldn’t fall asleep. He crawled into bed with his parents and asked them questions. He asked his parents to explain how the beach was made and if it was safe to go there. He asked them why people said the sand at the beach was white when it was really tan.

Autobiography of the Bomb: Chapter One

Jim Shankman

You may think you know me but you don’t. Our acquaintance only goes so far. You see how I act, but you do not know my thoughts and feelings. You do not know me from the inside. And so I often feel misunderstood and unfairly judged. You can infer a great deal about people from their actions. But literature confers one great advantage over life. It allows you to see a person as if from within. Perhaps this is only illusion.

Time Has Come

Julie May

Jessie woke up from a dead slumber and reached for the alarm clock — 10:30. She would be late for class again. She sat up and looked at the empty space beside her in the queen-sized bed. She lay back, relieved to be alone. Before she could gather her thoughts about anything, the pungent smell of hashish invaded her nostrils.
She rolled over and buried her head in the pillow. The idea of going into the kitchen sickened her. Eating breakfast shrouded by another cloud of smoke revolted her. The idea of a conversation with Gary was even less appetizing.

What Can Never Be Known

Katherine Joshi

My mother insisted she left the necklace by accident. In a rush, while packing. She left it sitting on the dresser in her hotel room and it must have still been sitting there when she left. She must have been in such a hurry to leave, so fearful of missing her flight, that she forgot to put it back on, that it remained in India while she returned to the United States.
“I thought I was going to miss my flight,” she told us, breathless, as we all sat around my parents’ kitchen table. It was late May, one month before her death.

A Cypress Tree Has No Shadow: Chapter One

Kevin Gerard Neill

IN a still, dark room smelling of disinfectant that stung his nose, the dazed, terrified boy lay silently crying. He was on his back atop a thin mattress, in a bed or trolley, his wrists and ankles secured with straps so tight he could barely move. His mouth was taped shut. He knew nothing about where he was or how he had gotten here. The last thing he recalled, the last normal thing, was going to the market with his father to buy grapes. After that, father and son walked to an apartment not far from the market to visit a man the boy did not know. They had tea and sweet biscuits, a treat for the child, who did not see his father often. He felt sleepy after drinking his tea. And then the boy awakened here, alone.

The Price of Sunshine: “Mahmi and Me”

Susan Wan Dolling

Mahmi has always felt to me part tame and part wild, part mother, part child. There is something vague about her I have yet to pin down. When people outside the family were about, she appeared like a grown woman, observing social etiquette, behaving as she was expected to behave, but she was somehow more fluid, more vulnerable, more changeable when we were by ourselves, just the two of us.

Gone To Ground

Morgan Hatch

The sun had just appeared over the rim of the mountains. The air was crisp and smelled of mesquite. Carlos got out of his truck and rode the boom lift thirty feet up to the viaduct. Six lengths of rail had been craned in yesterday, now neatly stacked on a set of four-by-fours. A final course of rebar had been laid lattice fashion on top of the first pour, and Carlos worked his way through the iron grid to check the ties that secured each rod.

All That is Under the Sun

Joaquin Bernal

“Mr Seixas, as you are well aware, you are charged on an indictment containing nine counts. These charges allege you are everything from a brutal slaver to a terrorist. What do you say in your defence?” The accused did not stir and in his sunken eyes caressed by the deep unflinching creases in his darkened skin, one could see the dying flames wrought within him…

Tempestad

Miguel Guerrero Becerra

The first time I took someone’s life I did so with a whisper.
I was just a child back then. Mamma owned a small pocket-size revolver that she had bought at a discount from a gypsy who was passing through one rainy afternoon, but I wasn’t allowed anywhere near it; therefore, all I had at my disposal to rid the world from the man who had tormented me to the very core of my bones…

The Healer’s Stone

Mary Paliescheskey

Nadia Kowalski snuggles closer to her husband, Josef, wrapping the wool blanket tight around them as her breath fogs the cold air. Traveling with all their possessions piled high on their cart has gotten harder as fall moves to winter, but now that a few months have passed with no pursuit from the authorities, they can use the better roads. Nadia watches the mules pull them through the puddles left by the rain. The slow movement and rhythmic clanking of the pots and pans lulls her to sleep.

The Price of Sunshine: “Returning”

Susan Wan Dolling

In 1990, I was invited to participate in a delegation of “U.S. writers and publishers” to visit China. Ever since I left Hong Kong all those years ago, I have often felt half in and half out of every place I have lived, not entirely belonging anywhere. On this trip, my role was particularly tricky, as the Chinese treated me as one of the visiting Americans, while the Americans saw me as Chinese.

City of Colour

C. H. Weihmann

Standing centre stage, I look out at the faces of farmers with straw-coloured hair and bland bovine eyes, eyes that have never seen the ocean. Only the yellow wheat fields that stretch horizon-wide and whispering. That’s the closest thing they have: the dry, dull wheat fields pretending at ocean depth, and the vast, unending sky. There is no underwater here. There is no freedom. There is no escape.