Tangle

This little story came easy. Perhaps it was all there even before I wrote it. It knew what it was and how it wanted to go about telling itself. It had pace and tone down pat. It knew what it cared about and what it didn’t care about. I felt like a midwife at an easy and natural birth. There was nothing harrowing about it. I didn’t know anything about the story before I started to write it. All I had was an itch that produced the need to scratch it, that is, to write, an itch I have had many times before, but never with a result like this one. It took no more than part of an afternoon to write it. Then it was done. I changed a very few words, even spending just a little time feeling guilty that I didn’t feel the necessity of changing any more than these very few words. This little story was smooth and pure and powerful. I have been writing a long time and I have struggled with recalcitrant pieces for days, weeks, months, years, even decades, always feeling that something in the writing, something in myself was tenaciously resisting the process. I have been frightened and infuriated and depressed. I don’t know what has held me to it but something as implacable in me as the resistance I addressed. I don’t know if I ever wanted to be a writer. I was not one of those. Rather becoming a writer was something that happened to me, like a highway accident I was lucky to survive, but that changed my... read more

Look At Me, I’m Already Not Here

“It was terrifying last night, Aunt Becca. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I got up because I heard her. I wondered what she was doing at two o’clock in the morning. I know she hasn’t been sleeping well. She went down the stairs . She looked like she was floating in that pale green nightgown. I followed her. I don’t think she knew herself what she was doing. “Maybe she was walking in her sleep. She stopped just in front of the big living room window and looked out over the rhododendron bushes onto the front lawn. I stood behind her watching. The moonlight was shining down on the snow. It was so bright you could see the shadows of the branches of the trees. “Then she turned to go back upstairs. She saw me. Maybe she recognized me. I’m not sure. It wasn’t as if it made any difference that I was her own mother. No, I might have been a stranger on the street, a statue. She would have said what she said to the wall or to a chair if I hadn’t been there. Her voice was so soft it could have been a ghost’s. “‘Look at me,’ she said, not a trace of an expression on her face, ‘I’m already not here.’ “When I told Eddie about it, he looked at me like I was nuts. ‘Are you sure it wasn’t a dream?’ he asked me.“ “‘No, you idiot,’ I was tempted to answer him. ‘I’m not sure it wasn’t a dream. That’s why my blood ran... read more

The No-Brows

Didier Baa is the world’s leading authority on the no-brow movement. “The first thing to remember about me is that I am never sheepish,” said Didier,whom we met on the Left Bank in a small café on a gray winter’s day of 2011. “But you did not come here to listen to me talk about myself. I don’t know how they have done it, but the no-brows have accomplished the feat of being able to go under the low-brows while remaining over the high-brows. They have used the power of nothing, the power of emptiness, to catch both the low-brows and the high-brows in a delicate yet powerful pincer movement. Neither knows quite what has hit them or where it has come from. This is because it has come from nowhere. The no-brows have entirely given up the brow. This has bestowed on them great freedom and great power because they have nothing to lose.” Didier Baa gestured in a way at once anxious and emphatic. “You know, what is most remarkable is that you can Google the no-brows and what the search engine finds is absolutely nothing. The no-brows simply do not participate. That is their perfection, that they have no need to participate because they are looking for no reward, no power. They elude the high-brows, the middle-brows, the low-brows, even the search engines. This makes them very powerful.” “Can I meet one ? I’m very intrigued?” “Ah, I’m so sorry. It is, how do you say it, a sorrow? But I am the closest that you can get, “ responded Didier, tenting his fingers together. “Why... read more

The Bag Man

They took off for Buenos Aires from Kennedy at dusk of a perfect late October day. Sixty-nine year old Jeremiah Sapir had breakfasted on black coffee and strawberries that sparkled like rubies in cream in his room at the Essex House overlooking the autumnal splendor of Central Park. He had lunched among the fronds in the Palm Court of the Plaza Hotel with his daughter Sonia. They had had a nice visit. Sonia, nearing forty-five, was displeased with this and that. She tried to hide it from her father. But it glimmered through and roused him to indignation. It charged him with energy and made him feel young again. For an hour or so, she was once more his. He had given her a check for five thousand dollars. That was modest. Did his mind play tricks on him? Or did she look now exactly as Estelle had once looked? If Sam didn’t like it that he gave her money, then she didn’t need to tell him. Truth was always a relative matter. Where his daughter was concerned a father had ineradicable privileges. He’d paid for them. Magnificently awkward as Noah’s ark reincarnate in steel and aluminum, the 747 quivered and shook as it started down the runway. Yet it managed to lift itself up into the air, to become a shining snub-nosed creature of the ether. Jeremiah Sapir loved to fly. Jonah had never known the belly of a whale like this one. Jeremiah was of the generation for whom flying could never become matter of fact. Although he’d flown in his lifetime more than a million miles,... read more

Varienikii

Marinka’s voice on the phone was high and strained, like a collar caught cat struggling against strangling. Katerina knew immediately something was terribly wrong. Katerina lived in Delaware in sight of the ocean. The wind had been blowing in from the sea for three days. When it gusted it made whistling noises through the trees and against the houses. Katerina flew out to Michigan the next morning. He thought he had the flu, wouldn’t go to see the doctor. Now Ned, her daughter’s husband was in the ground under the oak up on the hill by the pond where the geese were. The sun was dazzling bright for the funeral. November wind blew and sculpted hollows in the water.† A few late leaves, brown and crisp, whirled down, hit and scuttled along the ground until they stuck.† Ned had died of a heart attack in the night, the same way his father had died at the same age, fifty-one. He left four daughters. Only Veronica, the second was married.† A short broad shouldered white-haired woman in a black dress, Katerina stood shoeless in the middle of the brick red linoleoum of the kitchen. She held her arms crossed, hugging her chest just below her bosom. The neighbors had brought food in pots and pans of all different shapes and colors. Crowding the counter top by the sink and spilling over onto the stove, they made a bright variegated society of their own. Marinka was upstairs in the bedroom, maybe resting, maybe not. Katerina knew Marinka needed to be alone. Her own husband, Marinka’s father, had died eighteen months earlier.... read more
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