All in Fiction

Strangers No More

I was riding home on the train when a stranger sat down across from me. He looked at me for a long time before speaking.

“I have a proposition for you,” he said, finally. I didn’t respond, but the man mistook my silence as interest.

“You kill my wife and I kill yours.”

“What the fuck,” I said.

The Girl Who Cried Diamonds

The baby’s mother went to nurse her and found her bassinet full of bits of glass, sparkling around her head like a halo. Panic stricken, the mother swept up all the crystals into her cupped hand, heart pounding, wondering how the glass ended up there—had a burglar broken in?

Boy

Since June, I’ve been working a sawmill job forty miles south of the place I’m living. There’s nothing to rent out there, even the single-wides eaten up by folks who’ve been in the mountains twenty years or more. But the mill pays better than waitressing, or bagging groceries at the A&B. It’s a temporary thing, the way I see it. A means of getting out.

Candy Mouths Are Made of Wax

“Tell me something nobody else knows about you,” he says, sitting across from you at the romantic table. In most settings, he looks like a boy, but sometimes he looks like a man, or a cat, or a telephone pole. He looks past your left ear when he speaks, like your eyes are the production assistant’s camera, like your eyes are the burning loins red foxglove on the mantel.

The Cuts

The day after she died, my wife comes back to cut up my clothes: little waning moons at the hems of my dresses, the necks of my sweaters, the sleeves of a heavy flannel shirt she had once given me for Christmas. The floor of our closet—which still smells like her, powdery and clean—is littered with scraps.

Protective Instinct

Arundhati moves across the country, east to west, after the Lyme. There aren’t any deer in California, someone buying pears tells her in the grocery store, and she passes that on to her teenage daughter and husband. She adds, I just want to be somewhere safe, and with how she survived for them, fought that infection once-nestled in her brain, who are they to argue?

When My Aunt in Guangzhou Bought Sheep’s Placenta and Found a Fetus inside, She Buried It under the Huangpi Tree That Grew in Our Back Yard

— SHORT FICTION AWARD —  A nutrient-rich organ, the placenta, and she probably cooked with it often. Its presence in soup could have restored her life or brightened her skin. She might have added cubes of blood or scraps of liver too, but I’m sure placenta was the star ingredient, the pièce de résistance she built the recipe around.

Heterosexuals

To [my/his] [left/right], [he/I] [is/am] looking ahead, minding [his/my] own business. We are engaging in strict urinal etiquette, ignoring the other’s presence entirely. [I/He] [am/is] glad that [he/I] [is/am] not a loud urinal user. [I/He] [have/has] always been freaked out by bathroom moaners.

I Had Already Become Less

I don’t remember a mouth. I remember disembodied words about: pain, impossibility, depression. I remember a box of tissues slapped across the table because it felt good to reject something. I remember the feeling of being a specimen to observe and pity, like the hard, dead frogs I was forced to rip apart and comment on in science class.

At the End of Osama bin Laden

Jaime and I started breaking up over coffee on a cold, spring morning.

He’d been unemployed since the previous year and over the last few months I had been paying for most things—his Metrocard, our lingering brunches in Williamsburg, the entrance to museums; little luxuries like tickets to see Chromeo perform a sold-out show at Terminal 5.

The Stockings

TW — Descriptions of Self-harm — I am writing to you because for so long I didn’t have a name for what transpired between us that night. You have a wife now. And a child. I am a sign you pass on the highway.

True Stories Never Satisfy

A woman broke up with her boyfriend. Then she went on a few dates using a popular website but nothing worked out. Her parents encouraged her to get out of the city, spend a weekend at the family cabin upstate even though it was out of season.

Buckshot

My husband—he’s a butcher—and he brings home the best meats. Livers, he likes those best. And he watches me slice them into long strips. I cook them up for him and I skin potatoes and other vegetables, put them in a pot and let the juices run together. He doesn’t lick his lips because he’s not an animal, he says. Says animals belong in a pot. He’s a man, he says. Just a man. A man who has an affinity for bloody meats and buckshot.

Inhalants

The autopsy report is as follows:

EXTERNAL EXAMINATION: the body is that of a thirty-five-year-old female with no distinguishing physical marks or lesions.

INTERNAL EXAMINATION: The autopsy revealed there were three inches of standing water in her lungs.

Baba Yaga's Delaware Youth

When I wake up, the house is on human feet. I think at first that I must still be sleeping, dreaming about dropping from the sky into Where the Wild Things Are. Stranger dreams have happened after drinking too much, and we did drink a lot last night. Remember?

6 Things That Suddenly Matter

The dryer emits a shrill, rodent-style squeak that precedes a period of silence. The sound resembles the screech of a child before refusing to speak without intervention by specialists. Because the dryer is unlike our son, who requires a regimen of speech therapy in order to be appreciated by fellow mammals, I think we should stop paying pros and purchase a new one.