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.

The Burning

The Burning

Gail Upchurch

The burning comes right after and all at once.

The irony of calling out for a God you swore off back in high school—the day Shawn was shot in the head because his cherry-red Monte Carlo looked just like the car Keno drove—is not lost on you. It’s just that you can’t do anything else besides scream, “godgodgodgodgodgodgod” and clench the six-hundred-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets in your hands and splay your toes so wide the skin between the third and fourth ones tears and thrash your head from side to side on the down pillowcase whose lavender scent seemed innocuous at first but now crackles, livid and full of ire. You close your eyes against shiny red spears darting beneath your eyelids—your flesh and blood smoldering. You lie on the bed, cauterized, rigid as a board, waiting. And then, just like that, it leaves.

As Far as You Can See

As Far as You Can See

Jesse Lee Brooks

What was funny was that despite being a self-proclaimed visionary, a seer of fortune, an intuitivist at cards, Sam never could have anticipated when he returned home late from another shift at the tables that he’d find Lori locked inside the Honda and that this time he’d be unable to stop her from leaving, unable to open her bags and scatter her clothes or throw her keys into the woods or carry her over his shoulder back into the trailer.Not funny ha-ha, but funny in the sense that those used to be normal evenings. That that man used to be Jack’sfather. Where now Jack attended dinner parties with people who’d studied at liberal arts schools, who’d grown up staring at Giacometti statues, who assumed the same about him. Funny how he’d grown up in a place so absurd and inconceivable that he’d tried to hide it. Funny that where Jack came from had actually been destroyed the instant he left. Funny that he didn’t even realize until twenty years later.

The World As It Is

I am someone who tries to live his life diplomatically. It’s a style I first adopted on the playgrounds and schoolyards of Ammendale, Maryland, and over the years I guess you could say it blossomed into a principle. In high school, I chose Model United Nations over debate and drama—the country, I felt, having exceeded its quota of talking heads and thespians—and I wrote my senior essay on the career of Washington Irving, who served as US ambassador to Spain in the 1840s. I backed my friends. I settled disputes. At eighteen, when my parents divorced, I did my best to negotiate a comprehensive deal regarding major holidays. This kind of thing isn’t easy, of course, which is why I’m not a diplomat, just a novice historian. And yet I believe in the basic credo: there can be honor in compromise.