Pineland

PinelandJason Brown

1966

Dear Lemuel,

For me, all the consequential decisions are in the past, except, as you will see, the decision to write this letter. You may rest assured that I am not writing to convince you to stay enrolled at university. I know your mother and sister have already done so several times, to no avail. Your father, I understand, has remained silent on the subject of your enlisting, except that he would like to know whether or not he should be expecting to send a tuition check in the fall. Silence is the lingua potestatem in our tribe, so I have no idea how much your father has told you about his time on New Britain or Okinawa. I am sure that the 101st Airborne subscribes to a code that will not strike you as altogether unfamiliar.

Reclamation

ReclamationDevin Murphy

My whole life I’ve had this feeling at my core that people wouldn’t remember me from one meeting to the next and was surprised, even touched, if they did. Looking back, I kept clear of people because of this and spent much of my youth in solitary endeavors. I hunted fossils and Iroquois arrowheads along the shores of Lake Erie, framed my own kites from balsa and tarps, and started my own fish tank to breed tropical lionfish. All this to say, I was a lonely boy. So to have had a friend—any friend, when younger—perhaps bound me to give over part of myself and follow wherever they led.

The Last Reported Sighting of the European Goldfinch

The Last Reported Sighting of the European Goldfinch in MichiganDavid M. Sheridan

When my friend Essa said, some years ago, that she had become a “birder,” I couldn’t place the word. I thought she was telling me that she had been diagnosed with some kind of mental condition. I think my mind connected the word with “birdbrain.” I grew to understand that she was merely saying she likes birds a lot. She had purchased an expensive pair of binoculars just to look at them. She and her daughter, Jade, had begun journeying to distant locations where rare birds are known to hang out, and occasionally Essa would text me a photograph of some notable species they encountered: a brown thrasher, an indigo bunting, an evening grosbeak.

The Body Was There

The Body Was There

Shakarean Hutchinson

Six months later she was pregnant. The curves of her hips opened up; her breast grew heavy. The blue cotton dress, the dye fading into something lighter and unhappy, whispered the secrets of her changing body to those who made it their business to know what was happening with the women on Bilkens Farm.

Patty was one of those women. She’d been born on Bilkens Farm sometime during the 1820s. when Bilkens’s father still ran the plantation. Her weathered face showed the signs of years of rice work, and her hands were nearly permanently callused and chafed. She kept a watch on all the young girls, particularly those who were married off on Marriage Day. During the day, as she directed the cutting of the rice stalks into large piles waiting to be stripped of their grains, she studied all the women slaves that came into her view. Young girl. Teenaged girl. Woman. After a woman’s gray hair grew in and the lines in her face settled deep into her face, Patty knew she could stop watching them. But until that point, Patty diligently monitored the women’s midsections for any signs of growth, their swollen feet. She even sniffed around the fields and the cabins at night for the acidic smell of bile held in the heated South Carolina air. For Patty, her mission, her main job on Bilkens Farm, was to catch every single pregnancy. She hadn’t missed one yet.

 

The Burial

The Burial

Samantha Xiao Cody

In the days after Mr. Huang was arrested for killing his son, we began seeing the dog everywhere. The Huang house was swarmed with reporters and curious passersby, but every time we crept near, we were swatted away and scolded for being nosy by one of the lao nai nais who were always standing there, soaking up information like sponges. The Huang house stayed silent, the shutters drawn, but we were sure Mrs. Huang was still inside. “I can’t even imagine,” our mothers whispered, shaking their heads. Some of our mothers, like Eddie’s ma, made food and left it out on the back lawn of the Huang house in the afternoons, and though we never saw Mrs. Huang emerge, the dishes were always back out on the lawn in the morning, empty and clean.

 

Heart-Scalded

Heart-Scalded

Daphne Kalotay

for Jude

 

Twilight’s hazy glow, the world covered in gray lint. Viv hailed a ride and set out toward the crumbling edge of town.

Though it was nearly November, leaves still clung to branches, some in the blazing colors of life, most a parched brown. Odd how warm it is, her driver said, as they rose over the bridge that just months ago she would have crossed on her bike. A cluster of figures slipped toward them along the walkway, dressed strangely, like characters in a play. She turned to look, but they were already past.

Fun plans for the evening? her driver asked. The streetlamps weren’t yet lit, and the fading sky looked thick enough to touch.

I’m going to a pig roast.

 

The Past

The Past

Danica Li

My new boyfriend and I have been fighting a lot recently. We’ve only been dating for six months or so, so it’s to be expected, I suppose, that things will come out, aspects of the other’s personality previously concealed or ignored, strange living habits, uncontrollable facial tics, troubled relations with one’s mother, preferences for whole grain mustard or Dijon, etc. I’ve been surprised by the theme of these arguments, although I suppose they aren’t arguments, per se. That would imply that our conversations lack civility, intent facial expressions indicating active listening, measured and thoughtful responses. Still, the fundamental thing about these conversations is that we can’t agree. We start far apart, and after an evening spent going back and forth, nodding thoughtfully at the other’s point of view, presenting our own, invoking our piecemeal knowledge of the relevant fields of academic study—sociology, biology, epistemology, phenomenology, zoology, and all the rest—we always find ourselves farther apart than before.

 

Babette Has Gone Missing

Babette Has Gone Missing

Becky Mandelbaum

 

I wanted to be alone, to have a break from my life, so I applied to an artist residency in the Southwest. I wasn’t a writer, but had, during a series of bored Sunday afternoons while my husband and sons watched European soccer, strung together enough sentences that a story accidentally formed. The sentences were about a woman named Babette who couldn’t decide what to eat for lunch, so she began to eat her family, first their fingers, then their eyes. It was a disturbing, comedic tale of domestic life, or so wrote the judge who decided I was worthy of two months alone in New Mexico to produce more tales of Babette.

“You’re doing what?” asked my husband, John.

“An artist residency.”

“Since when are you an artist?”

“Since now, I guess.”

“What if I woke up one day and told you I was running away to be a circus clown?”

“I’d be happy for you.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“Who’s going to take care of the children?”

“I suppose you could.”

He squinted at me. It was unusual for me to have something he didn’t. Or perhaps he knew I had applied in part to get away from him.

 

Keeping

Keeping

Thomas Dodson

It was a humbling thing, asking for help like this, needing it so badly. But removing his hat, brushing flakes of snow from brim and crown, Guy knew there was no other way. His neighbors’ fields, already stripped of corn and soybeans, would soon be a single plain of snow, patches of winter rye the only green for acres. Cold winds would blow freely across all that flatness, gathering strength until they reached the stand of pines at the edge of his apiary. The trees would provide a break, and he could wrap the hives in tar paper to keep out the frost, but it wouldn’t be enough. His bees, what was left of them, they wouldn’t survive an Iowa winter. He needed to take them west.

Naming Ceremony

Naming Ceremony

Mona Susan Power

It’s the spring of 1968 here in Chicago, and Mama says Old Mayor Daley has his big fists wrapped around our necks. She says he doesn’t care about brown people like us. “If this city had a proper name, it would be ‘Prejudiced, Illinois,’” Mama tells me while she braids my hair.

I’m in the second grade at school, so I know what that word is all about. It’s a mean word that says we can’t eat in just any restaurant, even if my parents have enough money, and we can’t move into just any neighborhood. If I got to name our city, I’d call it “Happy,” because sometimes you have to be nice to people and places and dolls if you want them to be nice back.