Gone

Gone 

Linda Wastila 

 

The late May morning I drove east from Chapel Hill, I didn’t pay much mind to the tracts of yellowed corn and soy or the tobacco-curing sheds standing derelict. As I headed home, Ma beside me, my junior year and final exams behind me, all that filled my head was catching up on sleep and getting ready for my summer internship at the National Institutes of Health. 

“Fred Jarvis had a heart attack over Easter,” Ma said. “Didn’t get the seed in. Probably a good thing, what with this drought.” 

“I hope you made him pay the lease,” I said. 

“Don’t be cold, Clayton. Poor man’s bedridden.” 

“Jesus, Ma. He has kids to help. We can’t afford to take on his two-hundred-acre problems.” 

She patted my thigh. “Don’t worry. I leased ten acres to a girl from up north. She’s farming daylilies.” 

The space behind my eyes pinched. “Flowers? Now there’s a real moneymaker.”  

Ma got quiet and scribbled in her sketchpad. I mumbled an apology. She coughed low in her throat, polite, like she was holding back.  

The Cadence of Waves

The Cadence of Waves 

Trent Hudley 

Leon showed up the day of the blackout in December of 1998, toward the end of some extreme El Niño weather we’d been having all year. It was actually snowing that day, big white flakes, like stars falling from the sky, that stuck to people’s hair and clothes but melted as soon as they settled on the sand of the beach and the street. He had come to apply for a maintenance job my father had posted in the San Francisco Chronicle. My father owned the Ocean Beach Motel, in San Francisco’s inner Sunset section, just two blocks from Ocean Beach. Not the most original name by any means, but he ran it well.  

I was nineteen years old. My mother had been dead eight years. The maintenance job was dirty and thankless, and we could never keep it filled. My father interviewed Leon in the dim light and shadows of flashlights and candles. He looked at Leon over the top of his glasses each time he described a required duty. Leon listened attentively and nodded. The job didn’t pay much, but it included a room and free rent. It demanded work on the weekends and, during the summer tourist season, sometimes seven days a week. Leon took the job and started that day. 

Palace Rock

Palace Rock 

by Mason Kiser 

On Mondays, we ruled the sea. Lightning lashed the whitecaps, and thunder shook the hull, and rain fell so slantwise that it ripped to shreds our sails. Despite it all, I stayed perched atop the  mast. I could not cave to frailty or fear and so doom us to the depths. 

On Tuesdays, we were pilots. Very fine ones. There was no craft we couldn’t commandeer or sky too turbulent to tread upon. My copilot and I learned the complexities of  fighter-plane cockpits and perfected the timing of the burners in our hot-air-balloon baskets. I watched as great Saharan dunes and Nepalese peaks passed just beneath our wings. 

On Wednesdays, he was made to attend church. 

On Thursdays, I was the queen of a high castle. I did not hide in my throne room or waltz in the marble ballroom. On Thursdays, we fought. On Thursdays, great hordes from far kingdoms laid siege to our home. They scaled ladders and flew in on trebuchets, set on razing our mighty stone walls to the ground. My king and I fought side by side under flame and fear of death. He was hasty to violence and forwent diplomacy, but I admired his courage in those days. 

One fateful Thursday, when a boulder launched from a trebuchet pinned me to a tower wall,  he pried the boulder away with one hand, all the while fighting off our enemies with the other. 

And the next Thursday, when he’d been struck down with countless arrows, I did the same for him. 

Comfort Animals

Comfort Animals 

Elise Juska 

Lionel still remembered a time when, walking around campus, his very presence commanded a certain respect. Even if students hadn’t taken his classes, they took notice of him, stood a little straighter when he nodded and passed by. Now they jostled him in the crowded stairwells, faces sandwiched between swollen headphones and sullen gazes sunk into cell phones. His wife said that with age she’d become invisible, and as Lionel made his way down the hallway, winded from the short walk across the quad in the cold, he conceded that perhaps this was now the case with him too. Time, its many indignities and betrayals, was weighing on his mind as he opened the door of the classroom where the monthly meeting of the humanities department was just beginning. 

Large Hairless Mammals

Large Hairless Mammals 

Rebecca Saltzman 

Daphne and Thiago move to Florida in the radiant swell of August, when she is still bleeding. The birth, four weeks ago, did not go well. She shoved the resident physician to the floor, and that wasn’t even the worst of it. Now the baby is here. Dough punched with eyes. She unbuckles him from the car seat and reassures herself: He’ll get cuter. 

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.